The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 6 April 2018

Defence

Image: Getty Images

On thin ice

Russia’s Arctic manoeuvres have landed it in hot water with Nato.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau hosted Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg in Ottawa this week where the meeting’s discussions centred on Russia. While election meddling has dominated recent headlines, Nato members have grown increasingly concerned about Russia’s naval activity in the Arctic. In response, Stoltenberg, flanked by Trudeau, announced that Nato is establishing a new Atlantic Command military headquarters – thought to be somewhere in the US – to protect the alliance’s interests in the region. Further details are expected at July’s Nato Summit in Brussels. Stoltenberg emphasised the aim is not to isolate Russia but stressed that there must be costs to violating international law and order, albeit in a “proportionate and measured” way, so as to “keep tensions low in the high north”. Will such a move have any impact on Moscow’s decisions? That’s far from certain but Stoltenberg also warned that Russia has “underestimated” Nato’s resolve and unity.

Elections

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Return to form?

The return of a prodigal Democratic splinter group could help New York’s governor maintain control.

New York City may be solidly blue but the state government is a much more complex (and conservative) affair – and one that has bitterly divided Democrats. That is, until this week when a rebel faction that split from the mainstream Democratic party seven years ago agreed to re-enter the fold in a bid for party unity ahead of upcoming gubernatorial elections. It’s surely music to the ears of New York’s Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo, who is facing a challenge to his continued rule from actor and political newcomer Cynthia Nixon, set to run against him in the Democratic primaries. This show of unity could work to Cuomo’s favour by casting him in the dappled light of “unifier” – even if the US has recently shown that it likes to flirt with the idea of an outsider.

Politics

Image: Shutterstock

Taking a stand

Could a tough stance from Sierra Leone’s new president be the canary in the coalmine for Chinese-African trade?

Sierra Leone welcomed a new president this week after more than a decade under Ernest Bai Koroma. Retired brigadier Julius Maada Bio didn’t waste any time when it came to being sworn in – he requested a quickie oath in a hotel after the election – or in overturning his predecessor’s work. Breaking with years of policy, not to mention many other African nations, Bio has denounced China, one of Sierra Leone’s biggest investors, as a profiteer. China-Africa trade was worth €180bn in 2014. Much of the money goes to the mining industry – one of Sierra Leone’s major economic sectors – and China’s state-owned Shandong Iron and Steel Group (SISG) purchased the largest iron-ore concession in the country only three years ago. But Bio is adamant that Chinese investment in Sierra Leone profits only the corporations, not the people. It’s a view that will rile many but could garner some potent popular support.

Development

Image: Alamy

Gift from the games

Smart investment by Gold Coast officials means the Commonwealth Games’ legacy will benefit the city for years to come.

The Gold Coast, the tourist town once favoured more for booze-soaked weekends than sunny escapes, has grown up and found some real urban groove. First-time visitors to the city for the Commonwealth Games this week may not be surprised to find smooth public transport seamlessly zipping them across various venues – this after all is fairly common in developed cities. Yet, a new nippy light-rail system is just one part of a massive infrastructure facelift the Gold Coast has enjoyed thanks to smart government investment in the event. Despite endless rhetoric about legacy, many cities fail to leave useful infrastructure behind when building for major events; Rio de Janeiro and its now-crumbling stadiums from the 2016 Olympic Games being a case in point. But on the Gold Coast, existing sports venues have been extended rather than redeveloped, while more funds have gone towards transport upgrades that will be used for years to come by the growing city.

From Monocle 24

Image: Getty Images

Want a treat?

The Urbanist

Ljubljana is a dog-friendly city. So much so that an entrepreneur decided to cross Slovenians’ love of pastries with their passion for canine company. The result? A dog bakery.

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The South Korean capital is energetic and sprawling; our comprehensive guide is brimming with insider tips.

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