Friday. 8/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

The time is now

There’s a question at the heart of Western sanctions and policies against Russia at the moment: what exactly is the goal? Is it to stop the war in Ukraine as soon as possible? Is it to spark a coup or revolution to oust Vladimir Putin? Or is it to isolate Russia and its people from the international community?

For the moment it feels as though Western leaders are taking an “all of the above” approach. But the goal matters; it dictates whether the West is playing a long or short game. Take Germany, where economy minister Robert Habeck (pictured) has pledged to almost totally wean Germany off Russian oil by the end of this year and natural gas by 2024. For a country that imports more than half of its natural gas from Russia, that’s extremely quick. But what does this move actually achieve? Will it stop the war now?

The conflict in Ukraine is only six weeks old – it may have felt like an eternity, especially for those on the ground in Ukraine, but in the context of global geopolitics, that is hardly a long time. Surely the focus of sanctions, weapons deliveries and boycotts should be on the present; how to quickly exhaust Putin’s financial and military resources, while boosting those of Ukraine; and how to encourage Russian citizens, military officials and politicians to oppose Putin’s actions or find another leader. That means suspending gas deliveries and starving the Russian president of cash today – not two years down the line.

Yes, future relations with Russia might need to be entirely reordered if Putin holds onto power and turns his nation into a permanent pariah. But it’s too early in this conflict – and too many people are suffering in Ukraine today – for the West to be playing the long game just yet.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Australia

Ripple effect

Australia made headlines last September when it announced the Aukus security pact with the US and UK. The milestone deal provided it with nuclear-powered submarines but cancelled an existing AU$90bn (€62bn) contract for French vessels – to much Gallic chagrin. The move so enraged France that it recalled its ambassadors from the US and Australia and the loss was a huge economic blow to the French defence industry. Now, it turns out, it will hurt Australians’ wallets too. During recent questioning by Aussie Senate opposition leader Penny Wong in a hearing, a government defence official said that the scrapped deal could cost taxpayers up to AU$5.5bn (€3.8bn). Australia’s next election takes place in May and prime minister Scott Morrison has already faced public criticism for inadequate government support over high living costs. Now voters can add the failed contract expenses to the tab.

For more on Australia’s submarine costs, listen to journalist Karen Middleton on ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Condor

Aviation / Germany

Lines of flight

German leisure carrier Condor is bringing a sense of optimism back to the air with a new, cheery and clever colour scheme for its liveries. The planes, featuring bold striped patterns, instantly evoke nostalgia for sun-soaked parasols and the towels (and beaches) beneath them. It’s a wise move from a brand that knows a thing or two about the power of good design.

Condor’s classic signet, which sits on the plane’s empennage, was created by renowned German graphic designer Otl Aicher and has been tweaked as part of the overhaul; staff uniforms have also received a sunny spruce-up. “Our goal was to endow Condor with a special visual independence,” said Remo Masala, owner of Berlin’s Vision Alphabet, the agency behind the update. “The rationale is united in Condor’s brand essence: the invention of the vacation flight and the vacation code: the stripes of summer, joy and freedom.”

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Montréal

Walk this way

Pedestrians in downtown Montréal will have more room to roam during the summer. Mayor Valérie Plante announced earlier this week that 10 city streets will be fully pedestrianised from June until the end of August. The city is also investing CA$12m (€8.8m) over the next three years to finance improvements such as street furniture. It’s a significant move that reflects the success of previous pedestrianisation efforts in Montréal, which were put in place temporarily during the pandemic. While some cities have shelved pandemic-era road closures, this move, which is supported by business associations in Montréal, confirms that increased foot traffic brings a positive boost to neighbourhoods and independent businesses. Other cities seeking to spur the recovery of their neighbourhoods’ economies should take note.

Image: Alamy

Culture / Japan

Drawing crowds

The popular Japanese manga Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) is being adapted into a traditional Japanese Noh performance. Since its debut in 2016, the story about a boy’s battle with demons has sold about 150 million copies worldwide, been made into a film and been brought to a global audience via a series on Netflix, making it one of Japan’s biggest recent soft-power exports. The shift from international fame back to a Noh adaptation is a good fit since demons are a common feature in these theatre performances, which have been around since the 13th century.

Mansai Nomura, well-known in the genre, will play the main antagonist Kibutsuji Muzan, as well as the protagonist’s father. The stage version will be about two hours long and audiences can enjoy the show in Tokyo in July and in Osaka come December. Global fans will no doubt be hoping for a world tour as soon as Japan’s borders fully reopen.

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Wol Hide

Leah D’Ambrosio founded small-line knitwear brand Wol Hide in Philadelphia in 2016. She discusses the benefits of keeping her company small, growing it incrementally and countering the fashion industry’s more environmentally intensive production practices.

Monocle Films / Denmark

Samfundssind: community spirit in Denmark

Housing co-operatives are numerous in Denmark, providing residents with affordable places to live, keeping community spirit strong and cultivating samfundssind: the Danish concept of putting society’s needs ahead of individual interests. Monocle visited the Jystrup Savværk co-housing community, an hour outside of Copenhagen, to explore the meaning of the word. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, which is available now from The Monocle Shop.

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