Thursday 13 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 13/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

No end in sight

An awkward truth was aired at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington this week, as analysts scaled up their forecasts for Russia’s economy. After a mild downturn of about 2.1 per cent last year, stepped-up defence expenditure has pushed the country back into the black for 2023 (which is more than can be said for the UK). Meanwhile, Russia is presiding over the UN Security Council in New York this month. In some circles, people are increasingly wondering, “Why haven’t Western sanctions hit harder?”

Leaked Pentagon documents have detailed Ukraine’s chronic ammunition shortage and exposed the risks of losing control of the skies. Allies are rushing to send additional supplies but there are concerns among US military officials that Ukraine’s planned spring offensive will be far from decisive. There’s slightly better news on the economic front: Ukraine’s GDP collapsed by 30.3 per cent in 2022 but the IMF projects that the country will return to growth this year. A ministerial meeting in Washington yesterday could point to a $115bn (€105bn) global support programme to cover Ukraine’s gaping budget shortfall but it is unclear how much this would move the needle.

The West has done well in terms of keeping Ukraine afloat but has fallen short when it comes to punishing Russia for its actions. Almost 14 months since the invasion, Ukraine is showing remarkable resilience against its powerful foe. Yet if financial and military support from the West can only achieve a stalemate, not a victory, these rather horrific circumstances – the invasion of a sovereign state and Russia’s new role in the world – could become the new normal. Unless the West can help Ukraine steer this conflict towards an outcome, it might not be a new normal that we like.

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

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Brazil & China

Turning point

Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (pictured), is in China today, hoping to forge closer political and economic ties with Beijing. Accompanying him is a large delegation that includes more than 240 Brazilian business leaders. His visit to the country follows diplomatic overtures from France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, earlier this month. Relations between Brazil and China soured during Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency as Lula’s far-right predecessor attempted to cosy up with the then US president, Donald Trump. “China is Brazil’s largest trade partner,” Joana Ramiro, a journalist specialising in Brazilian politics, tells The Monocle Minute. “This visit is a nod from Lula to the conservative benches. Agribusiness is Brazil’s largest political lobby. Lula will be keen to jolt the country’s economy into action with further trade agreements outside the US-EU axis, especially with growing economies including China.”

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Turkey

Battle lines

This week, Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched his presidential campaign ahead of the country’s elections on 14 May. In almost any other democratic country, his chances of holding on to power would be slim: inflation was topping 85 per cent by the end of last year, while the devastating earthquakes in February exposed corruption in the construction sector and rot in the state’s disaster-response agency.

Though support for the incumbent has fallen, polls still show him narrowly in the lead against his main challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Erdogan (pictured) has previously shown that he is prepared to use every lever of state power to ensure victory. The opposition coalition is recruiting tens of thousands of volunteer ballot-box monitors and is hoping to win so conclusively that the results cannot be contested. As well as his secularist base, Kilicdaroglu has the backing of nationalists, Islamists and Kurds. The odds might be stacked against him but this is the opposition’s best chance in a generation to beat Erdogan.

For more on Turkey’s forthcoming presidential elections and Erdogan’s bid to remain in power, tune in to Thursday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio, airing at 07.00 London time.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / France

Making amends

As demand for Hermès’s leather bags surges, the French luxury house has opened a new factory in Louviers, Normandy, that will specialise in the production of Kelly bags and saddles. It’s the latest example of a European luxury brand investing in production closer to where it is based. The factory, which was designed by French-Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh, provides training and employment opportunities for 260 artisans.

Maintaining such high standards of manufacturing requires capital but it is an investment that Hermès, whose market cap has now surpassed €200bn, is prepared to make. Elsewhere, Italian brand Fendi has bought a new facility in Bagno a Rapoli, Tuscany, where it will also hold a show at the next Pitti Uomo menswear fair. Meanwhile, Burberry has acquired a technical outerwear factory, also in Italy, for €21m as part of its rebranding strategy. All three moves suggest a much-needed shift away from typical fast-fashion practices.

Image: EXPO CHICAGO/ Justin Barbin

Art / USA

Close to home

Expo Chicago, one of North America’s most prominent art fairs, opens today on the midwestern city’s Navy Pier. The annual event, which runs until Sunday, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and will gather about 170 international galleries inside its main lakeside venue. Like many such fairs around the world, it hopes to forge a meaningful connection with its host city and its residents. This year the event has a better chance of achieving this than many of its counterparts.

As well as bringing public installations and special shows to the city, the programme features a special initiative showcasing homegrown talent. Attendees will be able to visit artists’ studios and various exhibitions on the sidelines of the main expo around the often neglected South Side area. Chicagoans Chance the Rapper and artist Theaster Gates will present projects supporting underrepresented artists and reviving forgotten parts of the city. It’s a model that other fairs around the world would do well to adopt.

For more on the sights and sounds of Expo Chicago, tune in to Friday’s edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle Radio, airing at 18.00 London time.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Beirut’s pathfinders

We continue our culinary exploration of Beirut to see how the Lebanese capital is gearing up for the return of tourists. Monocle’s Markus Hippi meets the local entrepreneurs who are helping the city to recover.

Monocle Films / Portugal

Portugal: The Monocle Handbook

Part of a new travel series, Portugal: The Monocle Handbook is a practical guide that will introduce you to the best the country has to offer as we present our favourite spots across the country. Order your copy today.


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