Monday 29 May 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 29/5/2023

The Monocle Minute


Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Maintaining resolve

When Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured), appeared on-screen to remotely address last year’s Globsec conference in Bratislava, there was standing room only in the marquee pitched on the banks of the Danube. It had been little more than three months since Russia launched its absurd full-scale assault on Zelensky’s country – and Slovakia’s neighbour. Unsurprisingly, and quite rightly, the dominant mood of Globsec 2022 was one of outraged determination in the face of Russia’s aggression.

The team from Monocle Radio’s The Foreign Desk is at Globsec once again this year. The three-day conference begins today and it will be interesting to see how solidly that mood has held. Ukraine’s fight for survival is now in its 15th month and there seems, regrettably, little reason to anticipate that it will end soon.

Two related dangers loom to the collective resolve. One is the weariness, even irritation, that can beset witnesses to a crisis that does not concern them directly. The other is that the longer a conflict continues, the greater the confidence of assorted sophists, opportunists and cranks who wish to declare it something other than what it is.

Returning to Globsec seems as good a cue as any for a recap. Russia chose this war and is entirely responsible for it. Ukraine is an independent sovereign state that is entitled to seek alliances with whichever other states or international bodies it pleases. The decisions that Ukraine makes in this respect are as much the business of Russia as they are the business of Fiji or Bolivia. Moscow’s rampage is one of those things that actually is as simple as it looks. No good can come of it getting away with this and the apathy of onlookers will only help it succeed in that respect.

Andrew Mueller is Monocle’s contributing editor and host of ‘The Foreign Desk’, which airs on Monocle Radio on Saturdays at 12.00 London time. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images


Loan ranger

Brazil’s finance minister, Fernando Haddad (pictured), is travelling to Shanghai today to ask for financial aid from other members of the Brics group – Russia, India, China and South Africa – on behalf of Argentina. Earlier this month, Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernández, made an urgent request for help as his country faces its worst economic crisis since the depression that ended in 2002. The response from Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was swift. “I will make every sacrifice so that we can help Argentina in these difficult moments,” he said. Haddad will meet with members of the New Development Bank, a multilateral institution established by the Brics group, to push for new loans and financing for Brazil’s neighbour. Ahead of the 15th annual Brics summit in South Africa this August, where discussions about a common currency and Vladimir Putin’s potential attendance will dominate proceedings, Brazil’s move to broker aid for its neighbour marks an opportunity for Lula to demonstrate his country’s renewed influence on the global stage.

Image: Bundeswehr/Christian Timmig

Defence / Norway, Finland & Sweden

Show of strength

Today, Sweden, Norway and Nato newcomer Finland will begin the Arctic Challenge Exercise. One of Europe’s largest air-force exercises, it will cover the three countries’ northern regions and will last until 9 June. About 120 aircrafts and 2,700 military personnel from 14 countries – the US, Germany, France and the UK, among others – are expected to train alongside the three host nations.

This year’s drill will also be the first major exercise using F-35 jets in a European context. “The aim of the exercise is to give air forces the ability to co-ordinate with each other’s resources and facilities, which is an extremely complicated task,” Elizabeth Braw, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, tells The Monocle Minute. “The inclusion of Sweden alongside Nato forces is also sending a message to Moscow that the rest of the member states support its swift inclusion to the bloc.”

Image: Felton Kizer/Rebuild Foundation

Culture / USA

Listen in

Artist Theaster Gates might have recently made headlines with his plans for Liverpool’s waterfront revival but his seminal work in Chicago’s South Side is also quietly continuing apace. Building on the activities of his Rebuild Foundation, which works on community spaces, Gates has been acquiring vacant lots that he has transformed into public gardens, as well as abandoned houses and a former school that he plans to use for residencies for artists of colour.

His latest project is Miyagi Records, a vinyl shop opened in collaboration with the eponymous label, stocking musical genres from blues to house. “We’re at the beginning of a 50-year project,” Gates tells Monocle. “You need to create a problem that’s big enough for it not to be just yours to solve.”

For agenda-setting stories on culture and the arts, pick up Monocle’s June issue, which is on sale now. Or subscribe so you never miss an issue.

Image: Lauri Laan

Hospitality / Estonia

In good taste

In a landmark moment for Estonia’s hospitality industry, Tallinn’s 180° restaurant has become the first in the Baltic nation to be awarded two Michelin stars. Headed by German chef Matthias Diether and located in the Noblessner district by the capital’s seafront, the restaurant received the honour in this year’s Michelin Guide Estonia, released last week. Some 35 restaurants from across the country currently feature in the guide, which is remarkable considering that just 1.3 million people live there.

As there are no universal criteria for what makes a great restaurant, the status of Michelin stars remains divisive. However, while Estonia is working on shedding its budget-holiday associations, the attention will rightfully boost the country’s reputation for quality food and warm hospitality.

For more on 180° restaurant and Monocle’s interview with Matthias Diether, tune in to ‘The Menu’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Villa Mairea, Pori

Petri Burtsoff takes us to one of Alvar Aalto’s most famous buildings: a modernist demonstration of what mass housing was lacking at the time.

Monocle Films / Portugal

Inside Portugal’s tinned-fish industry

Tinned sardines are an icon of Portugal. We visit a family-run shop and one of the country’s last artisanal canneries to discover why sardines are cherished by the Portuguese, how the industry started back with Napoleon and what is driving the revival of canned fish. Discover more from the country with Portugal: The Monocle Handbook.


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