Tuesday. 22/2/2022

The Monocle Minute

Back track

In honour of our magazine’s 15th anniversary, we’ll be featuring a series of voices throughout this week to explore how the world has changed between 2007 and today. Join us for a range of viewpoints and don’t forget to pick up a copy of our special anniversary issue, which is out today.

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Mark Galeotti

What Putin means

In 2007, Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at the Munich Security Conference (pictured) lambasting the US for trying to create a “world in which there is one master, one sovereign” through the use of an “almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations … that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts”. He warned that Nato’s enlargement “represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust”. But that Russia, “a country with a history that spans more than 1,000 years”, would neither be cowed nor abandon “an independent foreign policy”.

The consensus was that he was not serious – or that, if he were, he would come to realise that Nato enlargement was no threat. The consensus was that Russia, which many still saw through the lens of the chaotic 1990s, could not be a serious player on the world stage – or that, if it tried, it would be a second-tier power forced to play by the West’s rules. The consensus was that the overblown fear of Nato enlargement would recede. Yet here we are with it being one of the drivers behind the prospect of the largest land war in Europe since 1945.

We have 15 years of lessons, successes and failures to draw on since then but a crucial one that the West might not have learnt is this: while Putin can and does lie and obfuscate as well as any Westminster politician, when it comes to the big issues he actually tends – unfashionably enough – to say what he means. Maybe we in the West are just too cynical to accept that what we see and hear really is what we are likely to get.

Mark Galeotti is a Russia expert, regular Monocle contributor and author of ‘The Weaponisation of Everything’ and ‘We Need to Talk about Putin’. For more on how the world has changed over the past 15 years, and what’s next, subscribe to Monocle now for a copy of our 15th-anniversary issue or pick one up on newsstands from Thursday.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Ukraine

Time is money

With the US repeatedly warning that an invasion by Russia is imminent, Ukraine has suffered major outflows of investment and struggled to access debt on foreign markets. So the question (beyond “will Russia invade?”) is: how long can Ukraine’s economy survive under such conditions? The country’s finance minister, Serhiy Marchenko, tells Monocle that a strong economic performance in 2021 and efforts last year to cut its budget deficit meant that Ukraine had built up reserves that are carrying it through the current tensions. But that will only hold for another month or two; at that point, Marchenko expects emergency loans and financial assistance from the EU, Canada and the US to kick in. And then? “When you cheat once, the next time the person will realise,” says Marchenko. “Key investors next time will realise that Putin is cheating and that it’s not a real invasion.” In other words, Marchenko hopes that investors will start to see through Russia’s games.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Asia

Taking flight

In Asia, international air traffic dropped 93 per cent in 2021 compared to 2019, the biggest regional decline in the world. But as skies start to open, Asian carriers are hoping that those losses will shrink this year. Japan’s big two airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, are taking a more measured approach but in Southeast Asia, where tourism accounts for a bigger slice of the economy, the mood is bullish.

As popular destinations, including the Philippines and Thailand, begin to drop quarantines for vaccinated travellers, routes are being relaunched across the region. Singapore Airlines is hiring cabin crew after a two-year recruitment freeze; Indonesian airline Garuda is restarting direct international routes to Bali; and aircraft deliveries to the Asia Pacific region are set to rise by more than 60 per cent. Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A (formerly AirAsia), anticipates that air travel will recover by the end of the year and foresees a return to profitability by 2023. Get ready for takeoff.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / UK

Promise of youth

With many major names absent, London Fashion Week, which ends today, returned to its experimental, underground roots. A new wave of designers, who graduated during the pandemic and are hungry to make up for lost time, showcased their approach to revitalising the stagnant fashion landscape, while London stalwart Simone Rocha piled on characteristic layers of tulle and pearls in her pretty-yet-twisted collection influenced by traditional Irish horror stories. From the kooky to the sleek and sophisticated: up-and-coming Greek designer Eftychia Karamolegkou showcased a soft, sensual take on tailoring (pictured). Like 1990s luminaries Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, young designers today are working against a backdrop of economic and political instability but the lack of certainty seems to be encouraging them to push their creativity to new extremes. Buyers from major international retailers were back in town after a two-year hiatus and The Monocle Minute understands that many are negotiating and competing to get the work of these young talents onto their shop floors.

Image: Brian Guido

Design / USA

Boom town

Modernism Week is underway in Palm Springs: 11 days of talks, tours and through-the-keyhole visits to the mid-century housing stock for which this SoCal desert city is famous. Yet this year’s event is happening against the backdrop of a boom: the pandemic has prompted a wave of newcomers from the US and Canada who are snapping up second homes in the city and in some cases flipping homes to drive up prices. “The pendulum always swings too far the other way,” says Peter Moruzzi, a historian of mid-century design who moved to the city in the 1990s and lobbied to save some of the area’s architectural marvels that were then lying fallow. “As the years have gone by it has become really expensive and hard for people like we were in the 1990s, who could only afford a second home because they were so cheap.”

Listen to a report from a weekend visit to Palm Springs by Monocle’s US editor Chris Lord on the latest episode of ‘Monocle on Design’, which premieres today at 20.00 London time.

M24 / Meet the Writers

Coco Mellors

Coco Mellors has written for The New York Times, The Stack and Flash Fiction Magazine among many other publications. She has now turned her hand to novels and her debut, Cleopatra and Frankenstein, details the whirlwind romance and marriage of 24-year-old British artist Cleo and forty-something advertising executive Frank. She speaks to Georgina Godwin about her book, which goes beyond a conventional love story.

Monocle Films / Husavik

Ísbíltúr: Iceland’s ice-cream road trips

We hit the road with journalist Egill Bjarnason, finding the best spots to grab a cone on a journey into the Icelandic custom of ísbíltúr. It’s one of many Nordic lifestyle concepts that can teach us a thing or two about quality of life. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, available now from The Monocle Shop.

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