Wednesday 9 March 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 9/3/2022

The Monocle Minute


Latest headlines

• The Russian army has opened up a new front in its attack on Kyiv as existing attempts to take control of the Ukrainian capital continue to meet stiff resistance. CIA director William Burns warned of an “ugly next few weeks” for Ukraine as Russia steps up its military campaign.

• Residents of the northeastern city of Sumy have evacuated, according to a Ukrainian government official, in what is being seen as the first successful “humanitarian corridor”. A similar evacuation is currently underway in the city of Irpin, near Kyiv.

• Poland has surprised Washington with an offer to send its fleet of Russian-made MiG fighter jets to a US airbase in Germany, from where they could be deployed to Ukraine. A US defence department spokesman described the unexpected proposal as untenable.

• The US and the UK yesterday announced bans on Russian oil imports. But Washington’s efforts to increase global oil supplies have hit a snag in the Gulf, where the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are reportedly refusing to take calls from US president Joe Biden.

• McDonald’s has announced that it will temporarily close all of its more than 800 restaurants in Russia. CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a statement that the “conflict in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis in Europe has caused unspeakable suffering to innocent people”.

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Adam Rasmi

Critical reactor

If there has been a questionable actor in the years following the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, it would undoubtedly be the US. In 2018, under Donald Trump, it unilaterally abandoned the accord, despite his administration having twice certified Tehran’s compliance with the agreement. The decision prompted Tehran to say in 2019 that it would once again start to enrich uranium past the limits set out in the original deal. Fast-forward to today and Russia just might have become the most cynical party.

The 2015 accord was a result of two years of painstaking negotiations (pictured) between Iran and six other world powers: China, France, Russia, the UK, Germany and the US. For months, headlines have suggested that its revival was on the horizon as the Biden administration and a new government in Tehran ironed out their remaining differences. Then, over the weekend and amid talk of an imminent deal, Russia said that it would have to consider its own national interests before getting back on board and sought assurances that Ukraine-related sanctions wouldn’t affect its economic relations with ally Iran. This is a sign that Moscow is willing to use any tool at its disposal to ramp up pressure on the West as it faces a stern diplomatic response over the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s power-play comes at a critical time: US and European officials have been warning since the summer that any further progress Iran makes on its nuclear programme could render the 2015 agreement obsolete. The White House says that the sanctions on Russia “don't have anything to do” with the nuclear agreement. Iran appears to agree; its foreign minister said on Monday that it would not “allow external factors” to affect the talks. Russia’s eleventh-hour comments are a reminder that the war in Ukraine can have ripple effects in far-flung destinations. But perhaps, looking at the American and Iranian reactions, they can also be a source of common ground for longtime foes.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / UK

Never surrender

At 17.00 London time yesterday, UK members of parliament turned their heads – and headsets – towards a large screen that had been specially installed in the House of Commons chamber. On it Volodymyr Zelensky, taut and bullish in his now-signature khaki apparel, made another impassioned plea from his Kyiv office. After a fortnight of historic occurrences, here was another: until that moment, no foreign leader had ever addressed the British parliament in its own chamber (remotely or not). During his speech, Zelensky evoked two famous Britons: Shakespeare and Churchill. Referencing a wartime speech in the Commons by the latter, he said: “We will fight in the sea, in the air… We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.” Instead of explicitly repeating his calls for a no-fly zone, Zelensky listed atrocities committed by Russia in the air. When he had finished, parliamentarians broke with the centuries-old protocol that forbids them to clap in the chamber – as they also did a week ago during a visit by Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK.

Image: Alamy

Elections / South Korea

Out of favour

Voters in South Korea head to the polls today after one of the ugliest presidential election campaigns in the country’s democratic era. Frontrunners Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party and Yoon Suk-yeol (pictured) of the opposition People Power Party have engaged in relentless mud-slinging and both have been mired by a slew of personal scandals. With their shortcomings dominating headlines, less attention has been paid to the issues that are expected to dominate the next president’s agenda: relations with North Korea, skyrocketing property prices and the economic recovery from the pandemic.

Lee and Yoon were neck-and-neck in the most recent opinion polls but Yoon is thought to have edged in front after forming a late alliance with another conservative candidate, Ahn Cheol-Soo, who dropped out of the race last week. The eventual winner of South Korea’s so-called “unlikeable election” will celebrate this evening – but winning the public’s approval over the next five years is going to be a much tougher challenge.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Sweden

With friends like these…

When Russia published a lengthy list of “unfriendly countries” this week, the inclusion of the US, UK and all 27 EU members came as no surprise. Russia and its companies will now pay foreign-currency debts to the listed countries only in roubles – a currency that is fast plummeting in value – and new restrictions to trade will be imposed. Among those that have escaped this fate are China, North Korea and, rather unexpectedly, Sweden. Shortly after Russia’s invasion, the Nordic state committed to sending military equipment to Ukraine, abandoning its long-held policy of withholding arms assistance from nations in active conflict. Online video footage that emerged earlier this week shows Ukrainian soldiers brandishing Swedish AT4 anti-tank missile launchers (pictured). Sweden has traditionally presented itself as steadfastly non-aligned and avoided Nato membership. Yet polls show that Russian hostility in Ukraine is making the Western military alliance ever more attractive to Swedes – however friendly the Russians might currently view them.

Image: BFI Distribution

Cinema / Switzerland

Real life

Fictional films set in state-run institutions are often created without the participation of those with first-hand experience. They run the risk of becoming unrealistic representations of such environments, which many of us have little understanding of. A new Swiss film attempts to buck this trend: set in a care home for at-risk young people, La Mif explores the stories of the girls who live in the home and their staff. The film’s director, Fred Baillif, is a former social worker and chose to employ an entirely non-professional cast (pictured). The actors all had experience of the care system and Baillif weaved their stories into the plot. For the director, the film wasn’t just a way of telling realistic stories about the care system but also an important creative outlet for the cast themselves. “The fiction helped them express themselves, be heard and believe in themselves”, he told Monocle 24.

Hear the full interview on the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Geraint Lewis/ArenaPAL

M24 / Monocle On Culture

Derek Jarman: ‘Pharmacopoeia’

Director and artist Derek Jarman is remembered for his unique ability to capture the natural world on the page, as well as the garden he created at Prospect Cottage in Dungeness. A new book, Pharmacopoeia, brings together the best of Jarman’s writing on nature. This week we discuss Jarman and his legacy with author and curator Philip Hoare, and hear about a garden inspired by Jarman on the banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

Monocle Films / London

A 3D-printed basketball court

Designer Yinka Ilori discusses the design inspiration behind his temporary installation in London’s Canary Wharf and the importance of play in adulthood.


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