Thursday 9 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 9/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Alexis Self

Known unknowns

The Nord Stream sabotage is a case with enough mystery to launch a thousand podcasts. An underwater attack off the coast of Denmark on a key component of Europe’s energy infrastructure during the continent’s largest land war in 70 years would be sensational in itself. But when you add into the mix the myriad potential perpetrators – Russia, the US, Ukraine – all with different motives, it’s not surprising that the world’s media is feverishly reporting every new theory, however lacking in veracity.

On Tuesday, The New York Times alleged that US officials possess fresh (though vaguely attributed) intelligence suggesting that pro-Ukrainian actors were behind the sabotage. Die Zeit has also published new findings suggesting a Ukrainian link. Both accounts refute Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh’s claim last month that a team of elite US military divers placed C4 explosives on the pipelines during a Nato naval exercise to prevent Russia from weaponising European gas supplies. Annoyingly, for amateur sleuths, the same motive could be ascribed to nearly all of the main suspects.

In this conspiracy-obsessed era, journalists should look to the facts first, then the most rational explanations for events. Russia is the most likely culprit: not only did it have the most to gain from the sabotage by destabilising Nato and driving up prices of natural gas, but it is also one of the only actors that would realistically have carried out such a risky attack. While the Swedish and Danish investigators who probably hold the only conclusive evidence remain tight-lipped, exactly what happened at the bottom of the Baltic last September will in all probability remain a mystery. This is frustrating. In the information age, even a little secrecy can create serious ripples.

Alexis Self is Monocle’s foreign editor. For the latest insights, analysis and ideas, as well as stories that you won’t find elsewhere, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Indonesia

Driving ambition

The demand for electric vehicles (EVs) in Indonesia is expected to accelerate after the government unveiled its first subsidy for motorists who go green. Almost 300,000 scooters and cars will be eligible for the state-funded scheme this year. Officials claim that they want EVs to account for 10 per cent of all car sales in the country by the end of 2024. The driving force behind the new policy, however, seems to be job creation rather than the reduction of carbon emissions. Read the small print and you’ll see that the subsidy will be available only to cars and scooters that meet a minimum “Made in Indonesia” threshold, as part of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s plan to bring foreign manufacturers and higher-skilled employment to the archipelago. It seems to be working: Hyundai began to produce electric cars in the country last year and Jokowi is publicly courting Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk. Though Thailand leads the pack as the region’s leading auto-manufacturing hub, a Tesla factory would supercharge Indonesia’s efforts to catch up.

Image: Reuters

Geopolitics / Europe

Raising the drawbridge

The UK’s home secretary, Suella Braverman (pictured), is under fire for proposing draconian new measures to stem the tide of illegal migration. At the heart of the proposal, which many argue will violate existing human rights laws, is the threat of swift deportation for people who land on British shores having crossed the English Channel and the stripping of their right to seek asylum in the UK.

Migration is a volatile issue for politicians across Europe but harsher rules and rhetoric rarely have the intended consequences. For a vision of the future, Braverman need only look to southern Europe. Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, is currently being blamed for the deaths of 72 people following a shipwreck off the coast of Calabria last month. The decision of the country’s far-right government to cease search-and-rescue operations hasn’t stopped the flow of arrivals. Talking tough might appease certain cohorts of the electorate but it would be far better to work with neighbours to find an approach that is both multilateral and humane.

Aviation / USA

Ready for takeoff

Flying to, from or through New York is a smoother experience thanks to the recent revamp of LaGuardia Airport and the €2.5bn investment in Newark Liberty International’s just-opened Terminal A (pictured). Run by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and managed by a subsidiary of Munich Airport, Newark has successfully created a distinctive sense of place with work by New Jersey artists and branches of local businesses such as Bang Cookies, homeware shop Bold and Jersey City restaurant Kitchen Step.

“What’s interesting is that it’s not billing itself as ‘the other New York airport’ – it’s trying to champion New Jersey,” our transport correspondent, Gabriel Leigh, tells our new travel show and podcast, The Monocle Concierge. The terminal’s airy design comes courtesy of London’s Grimshaw Architects, while software and scanners by Swiss firm Xovis help to manage the flow of passengers. “Anyone passing through will be very pleased in comparison to what they’ve seen in the past,” says Leigh.

‘The Monocle Concierge’ is our first dedicated travel show and podcast. Listen now to the maiden voyage.

Image: Alessandro Oliv

Fashion / Italy

Blasts from the past

The fashion world hinges on novelty but Pierpaolo Piccioli (pictured), Valentino’s creative director, has long looked to the past for inspiration. He also wants to establish more sustainable practices in his industry. These are the ideas behind Valentino Vintage, a project that opens up the Roman brand’s extensive archives and gives its timeless designs new life.

Several vintage items have been made available online; Valentino has also teamed up with retailers from Relik in London to Janemarch Maison in Seoul to sell archive pieces. The luxury brand is also donating pieces to seven fashion schools and universities to start a dialogue with students about sustainability. “It’s only when you’re aware of the past that you can create a different future,” Piccioli tells Monocle. “I believe in the value of looking back without nostalgia and using history to paint a new picture of the world.”

For the full interview with Pierpaolo Piccioli, pick up a copy of Monocle’s March issue, on the newsstands now – or, better yet, subscribe so you’ll never miss a story.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Wilding the city

As urban areas grow, how can we ensure that the link between nature and our cities isn’t severed? We visit Bangkok’s recently opened Benjakitti Park, discuss Ben Wilson’s new book Urban Jungle: Wilding the City and go hiking in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon.

Monocle Films / Lisbon

Meet the Photographers: John Balsom

The Jogos da Lusofonia are an Olympics-style sporting event for people from the world’s Portuguese-speaking nations. We dispatched John Balsom – a photographer known for his powerful portraits – to the 2009 games in Lisbon. In our latest film, Balsom shares his memories of the assignment and how he captured such a fast-paced sports story on vintage film cameras. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy now.


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