Tuesday. 22/3/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Ways of seeing

Spend time on the fringes of Europe – as I did last week in Turkey for a diplomacy forum in Antalya, followed by a brief holiday – and you’ll realise how differently other nations and people view the war in Ukraine. The prevailing feeling in the West has been one of shock, outrage and sadness, brought on by the failure of an enlightened Europe to leave such awful territorial conflicts behind. Many, including president Volodymyr Zelensky, have framed this conflict as being about Ukraine’s right to self-determination. Yet such views aren’t shared by all.

Yes, sadness about the war is almost universal and there is a widespread belief in the need to respect territorial integrity. But in a world that has more autocracies than democracies, Ukraine’s right to self-determination gets shorter shrift as soon as you leave Western Europe. I spoke to one Kazakh woman who suggested that the cause of the invasion was what she saw as Ukraine’s curious need for independence of thought: if only the country hadn’t flirted with Nato or the EU and had accepted its role as a Russian satellite state – as Kazakhstan has done – this whole sorry war wouldn’t have happened. Surely Russia has a right to a buffer zone between it and Nato?

Even in Europe, there is some sympathy for a return to realpolitik. One former foreign minister I spoke to cautioned against framing Ukraine’s fight as a broader one between democracies and autocracies. “What is most unacceptable is the use of war as an instrument of pursuing political objectives,” he said.

In other words, for many, the goal of preventing conflict and dispelling the notion that “might is right” take primacy over protecting Western values. And yet, to my mind, the two are inextricably linked. This isn’t just about territorial integrity and the horrors of war. Rather, Russia cannot be allowed to undermine the right of Ukrainians to determine their own future – or any peace that is achieved will be illusory.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Italy & Ukraine

Divided audience

Italy will become the latest Western parliament to hear a virtual address from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky today – but not all of its MPs will be present. A small but vocal contingent of pro-Russian representatives has declined the invitation, with one suggesting that Vladimir Putin should be asked to address the parliament for the sake of parity. Many of the 20-odd refuseniks are independents but some are members of the populist Five Star Movement and the far-right League party. Though most MPs recently backed measures to send Ukraine weapons and support refugees (the law will be debated in the Senate this week), Italy’s pro-Moscow voices have offered Putin an opening. With Italy dependent on Russia for some 40 per cent of its natural gas, Moscow has indicated that there will be consequences for backing sanctions. Putin’s strategy has long been to divide nations and alliances from within. Italy would do well to keep its most vulnerable flank in check.

Image: Alamy

Politics / Pakistan

Sticky wicket

Pakistan’s parliament will convene on Friday to move a no-confidence motion against prime minister Imran Khan (pictured). It follows a wave of defections from his party, the Pakistan Tehree-e-Insaf (PTI), that has left his coalition short of the 172 seats required to remain in power. The former cricketer is accused of mismanagement and economic incompetence amid soaring inflation; he also appears to be falling out of favour with the military.

This is nothing new for Pakistan: no prime minister has ever completed a full term in office. Yet even as his government’s popularity plummets, Khan is continuing to fight for popular support. He is promising a “million-man” rally in Islamabad on Sunday and framing the defections as part of a Western plot related to his refusal to back sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. “Come back and I will forgive you like a father forgives his children,” Khan told defecting lawmakers at a rally last week.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Mexico

Flight of fancy

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (pictured) inaugurated a controversial new airport in the country’s capital yesterday, more than three years after scrapping a separate $13bn (€11.7bn) hub that had been launched by the previous government. López Obrador had dismissed the earlier project as an ostentatious, “bottomless pit” of corruption; its cancellation, which cost the government $1.8bn (€1.6bn), had strained his administration’s relationship with big business. So why a new airport now? López Obrador considers the modest new facility – built on an old military base and named after the revolution-era general Felipe Angeles – as a symbol of his fight against privilege and conservatism. But it’s unclear how many airlines will use it. Few flights have been scheduled and key road and rail links have yet to be built. In his eagerness to show voters that he can complete large-scale infrastructure projects before the end of his term, López Obrador might have jumped the gun.

Image: Shutterstock

Society / Japan

Floral tribute

Japan’s cherry blossom season has started in Tokyo. The country’s Meteorological Agency announced the arrival of the exquisite white-pink Somei-Yoshino blossoms on Sunday, four days earlier than usual. In a normal year, every scrap of open space with a cherry tree would be the scene of a hanami (blossom-viewing) picnic but, for the third consecutive year, revelry is being curtailed. Though many of Tokyo’s emergency coronavirus restrictions were lifted yesterday, the capital’s biggest parks – including Yoyogi Park, near the Monocle bureau – are banning picnics and restricting entry to areas with cherry trees. Anyone thinking about sneaking in a bottle of saké and hosting a spontaneous gathering will have to get past park attendants with megaphones stationed at entrances. The weather, which has changed from unseasonably balmy to cool and blustery, might also shorten the season. But since fleeting beauty is the whole point, none of this will dampen enthusiasm for one of the nation’s most cherished natural spectacles.

Monocle 24 / The Monocle Weekly

Kungs

In this special interview, Monocle 24’s senior correspondent Fernando Augusto Pacheco speaks to French DJ Kungs about his new album, Club Azur.

Monocle Films / Global

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