Monday 27 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 27/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Taking sides

Over the past year, I’ve had more than one argument with people who have backed Russia’s desire to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence or blamed Nato for expanding after the Cold War. My answer has been simple: whatever the geopolitical context, none of it justifies the brutal invasion of an independent nation and the slaughter of innocent civilians. Perhaps that’s why, of all the US coverage coinciding with the war’s anniversary, I was struck most by an article in The Washington Post about the evolving views of the Global South, where nations are siding with Russia thanks to economic and historic ties or because of the West’s history of colonialism and invasion.

Of Russia’s allies, China is the most complex. The US warns that China might provide lethal arms to Russia, which would prolong this war exponentially. It could also turn the tide. However much Joe Biden claims to be in this for the long haul, Vladimir Putin has a good chance of outlasting the democratic West with the military backing of another authoritarian power such as China.

That leaves the US with an extremely delicate balancing act. The Biden administration needs to convince Xi Jinping (pictured) that arming Russia is a lost cause – that it’s not worth risking further isolation. However, that would only work if Beijing believes that its relations with the West aren’t already a lost cause. This becomes less likely when rhetoric against Beijing is overblown and Nato shifts its focus to China.

There is a real geopolitical threat from Beijing that needs to be dealt with. But Xi Jinping isn’t Vladimir Putin – not yet, anyway – and using Nato to confront China only plays into Moscow’s narrative. Lumping these two nations together creates more trouble than it’s worth. And it could leave the people of Ukraine caught in the crossfire for far longer.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s Washington correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Geneva

Louder than words

Dignitaries are descending on Geneva for the latest session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which starts today. The assembly will run until early April but high-level addresses will take place this week. The council will focus on capital punishment tomorrow; some politicians are expected to walk out as Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, begins his speech. There has been a vocal campaign to boycott it, led by activists, lawmakers and celebrities, including Iranian-born Bollywood star Elnaaz Norouzi. In recent months there has been plenty of unrest in Iran, which still uses capital punishment, following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini. This wouldn’t be the first protest at the council; at last year’s opening, more than 100 diplomats walked out during a speech by Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov (pictured, on screen). Diplomacy maintains peace in so much of the world but it has its limits.

Retail / Germany

Talking shop

International retail trade fair EuroShop opened in Düsseldorf yesterday. This year’s iteration, the fair’s first outing since 2020, focuses on bricks-and-mortar retail. Its director, Elke Moebius, has told industry media that the timing couldn’t be better. “EuroShop 2023 comes at just the right time because the pandemic has brought retailers throughout the world completely new, big challenges,” she said.

To address these, Moebius and her team encouraged exhibitors to respond to a host of “hot topics”, ranging from the importance of city centres and enjoyable visitor experiences to the value of customer-centric design. More than 90,000 visitors are expected to stream through the doors of the 16 trade halls over the coming days. It’s a reminder that while online shopping has grown across the globe since the last EuroShop event, the appeal of well-designed, in-person retail still generates enormous footfall.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Spain

Costa del Crime

As a long, grey winter drags on (in northern Europe anyway), many of us would rather be living in sunnier climes further south. But how far would you be willing to go? Spanish police have reportedly squashed two criminal rings that were illegally helping UK citizens to obtain residence permits with forged documents. They arrested 47 people who were hiding out in Marbella and in one of Spain’s tiny African enclaves, Ceuta. The networks apparently supplied these sunseekers with fake papers, such as bank statements and rental contracts.

The UK’s sloppy exit from the EU stung many expats when their rights to live and work in the continent were stripped away, though the terms of the withdrawal agreement in Spain have allowed those who can prove that they lived there before the start of 2021 to secure residency. There were almost 300,000 British citizens enjoying la buena vida in 2022. This latest news shows what some are willing to do for a slice of it.

Art / St Moritz

Constructive engagement

Art-and-design showcase Nomad drew thousands of people to its four-day winter 2023 edition in St Moritz. Held in the historic art nouveau Grace La Margna hotel, the event, which wrapped up yesterday, featured gallery installations, special exhibitions and panel discussions. The hotel had been due to finish its almost decade-long renovation for the event but it didn’t quite manage to do so in time. Yet, according to Giorgio Pace, Nomad’s co-founder, the works in progress provided guests and exhibitors with “a more interesting experience”.

“St Moritz has been the most successful edition of Nomad,” Pace tells The Monocle Minute. “It attracted serious collectors who became increasingly interested in the showcase.” Sustainability was the main theme this year, from disused Murano glass fashioned into tables to a collection of recycled wood sculptures from Rolf Sachs. Next up? Time to slap on the sunscreen as Nomad heads to Capri in early July.

Listen back to the special edition of ‘Monocle on Sunday’ from St Moritz.

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Lawrence Steele, Kusheda Mensah

Lawrence Steele, creative director of Italian label Aspesi, takes us through his vision for the clothing brand. Plus, London-based maker Kusheda Mensah shares her creative journey in crafting a modular furniture collection.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: March issue, 2023

Is the future electric? That’s the question that Monocle is asking in its future of the car special. Our forward-looking report offers our verdict on self-driving cars, the auto industry’s next moves and the companies in pole position to take advantage. Plus: Australian architecture, Spain’s costume-makers and Spam – no, really. Grab a copy today from The Monocle Shop.


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