Monday 20 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 20/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Time and again

The unofficial theme of the 2023 Munich Security Conference, which wrapped up yesterday was: Ukraine, one year on. Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour commenced four days after the 2022 conference concluded and many of the delegates at this year’s event – including US vice-president Kamala Harris, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak – had spent much of the past 12 months preoccupied with its ramifications.

The 2023 event was opened on Friday – inevitably, and correctly – by Volodymyr Zelensky. Ukraine’s president appeared in person last year – clean-shaven, wearing a suit and tie. Back then he warned, “The architecture of world security is fragile and needs to be updated.” Five days later, Vladimir Putin proved him tragically right. This year, speaking from Kyiv clad in his now-customary khaki, Zelensky set the tone by declaring, “There is no alternative but to defeat Goliath; I am grateful to everyone who gives Ukraine a sling.”

The conference agenda wasn’t exclusively concerned with Ukraine but the wider topics discussed did make it bracingly clear how many other issues have been forced into focus by Russia’s rampage in Ukraine. There were discussions on energy security, food security, global trade, hybrid warfare, ungoverned migration, disinformation threats and democratic resilience. This demonstrates the degree to which, as Zelensky also reminded us, Russia’s war is not merely against Ukraine but against every principle for which the West has long flattered itself that it stands.

Other discussions served as rueful warnings against Western hubris: an interview with Mohammed Shia’ Sabbar al-Sudani, the 19th Iraqi to have a go at being prime minister since the US tried to found a stable democracy in his country 20 years ago, and a panel perhaps optimistically subtitled “Prospects for Afghanistan”. Yesterday’s crises remain, very much, today’s crises. Western leaders must learn from the past.

Andrew Mueller is Monocle’s contributing editor and host of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle 24. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Canada & Haiti

Friend in need

Gang violence in Haiti has deteriorated to such an extent that Canada will be sending warships to the western hemisphere’s poorest country. The navy vessels will conduct surveillance, gather intelligence and help Haitian national police to gain control of the situation. According to Justin Trudeau, the mere presence of the ships in Port-au-Prince Bay will probably discourage gangs from using the waters for criminal activities. Haiti’s problems with organised crime have received more attention since the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moïse, which was followed by an increase in kidnappings and murder. The country’s prime minister, Ariel Henry (pictured, on left, with Trudeau), requested help from the UN Security Council in October. Swallowing one’s pride and asking for assistance should not be underestimated in the often self-regarding world of international diplomacy but Haiti’s humanitarian, political and economic problems are many and varied; solving them will take more than just a helping hand from Canada.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / USA

Lights out

Driverless cars could make traffic lights obsolete in the next 20 years, according to Smart Mobility Living Lab, a research centre that recently conducted successful government-funded trials in London. That success came as Tesla recalled 362,000 vehicles over concerns that its self-driving software could cause accidents. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declared that the vehicles risked “exceeding limits of travel through intersections in an unlawful or unpredictable manner” – a rare federal rebuke of the private sector.

The setback comes ahead of Tesla’s investor day next week, when Elon Musk is expected to promote the company’s artificial intelligence developments. Self-driving cars aren’t for everyone, though. “Champions of driverless cars don’t seem to realise that people actually like driving,” says Monocle’s senior correspondent Robert Bound. “Many of us enjoy being in control of a vehicle that can whisk us far beyond our immediate horizon.”

For a full appraisal of the state of driverless and electric cars, check out the March issue of Monocle, which is on newsstands now.

Image: Lesha Berezovskiy

Society / Ukraine

Committed to memory

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, places such as Kyiv, Bucha and Kherson were lively cities and picturesque leisure spots. Political consultant Aliona Hlivco enjoyed childhood summers harvesting watermelons at her family’s farm in the Kherson region, where they would drive from mountainous western Ukraine. “Those are the memories that you really carry for the rest of your life,” she told The Monocle Minute, recalling singing Ukrainian folk songs on the long car journey.

As for Kyiv, it remains “one of the most vibrant cities in central Europe”, says reporter Nataliya Gumenyuk, with busy restaurants and a vibrant nightlife (see issue 156). In suburban Bucha, where some of the war’s worst atrocities occurred, is a park where Monocle’s Kyiv correspondent, Olga Tokariuk, once took her young daughter. “I know that it is rebuilding,” she says. “Although, of course, there will be scars. And I think in the park we used to visit, there will be a memorial.”

This is the first instalment of our week-long series looking at Ukraine and how the conflict has shaped different parts of the country, to mark one year since the start of the war. Listen to the full report on today’s episode of ‘The Globalist’ and join us tomorrow for part two.

Image: Getty Images

Retail / Japan

Making a meal of it

The pandemic meant that Japan’s diners did less eating out and more eating outside. That has sparked a renaissance for the country’s beleaguered vending machines, with companies such as Sanden Retail Systems creating machines that offer ever-more upmarket meals to those looking for haute cuisine on the go. In 2021 the company launched a new vending machine that dishes out frozen meals from ramen to nabemono. It has also branched out into offering wagyu steak and caviar for those who just couldn’t shake that craving for sturgeon roe.

The move has been a big hit. Both major restaurant chains and small independent outlets such as Minoringo, a curry house in Harajuku, have introduced such machines outside their doors to supplement shorter opening hours or cater to those who are cautious of eating inside. By 2027 the number of frozen-food vending machines is expected to rise to about 7,800, from 6,000 or so last year, meaning that it’s only food – and not sales – that will be dropping.

Image: MACH

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Sprucing up for spring

Monocle’s design editor, Nic Monisse, ponders one goal that a design practice or studio should consider.

Monocle Films / Athens

Meet Europe’s first chief heat officer

Athens is the hottest capital city in mainland Europe and temperatures continue to rise. That’s why Eleni Myrivili was appointed as the city’s – and continent’s – first chief heat officer last summer. We meet her on Philoppapou hill to hear about how urban design can help to build resilience against rising temperatures.


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