Friday 16 June 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 16/6/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Tim Mak

Taste of war

Earlier this week, Ukrainian authorities reported that four Kalibr missiles had been launched at the southern port city of Odesa. The missiles damaged several buildings, including a residential complex, an educational institution, a business centre and a branch of McDonald’s. The last of these was especially notable because the fast-food chain has recently been in the middle of a propaganda tussle.

Not long ago, Tymofiy Mylovanov, who heads the Kyiv School of Economics, posted a video of a busy McDonald’s in the centre of Kyiv. His aim was to show that the people of the city were defying the near-nightly bombardments and to refute claims that young people had fled the country. Soon afterwards, anti-Ukraine conservatives in the US – prevalent among pro-Trump Republicans – claimed that the video proved that the West had been lied to and that the war in Ukraine wasn’t serious enough to warrant spending billions of US taxpayer dollars on.

But it is folly to think that the presence of McNuggets means that a war against Russian authoritarianism and brutality isn’t happening. That businesses and people have been able to eke out moments of normality amid the violence is a testament to human resilience. Yes, you can get a burger in Kyiv this evening but it is absurd to present this as some sort of black mark against Ukrainians. What the McDonald’s video doesn’t show is that after their meal, people go home before the curfew and wait for the sound of air sirens. They then run to seek cover from missiles and drone barrages. The double cheeseburger offers a taste of relief amid the near-nightly terror – a piece of their pre-war routine.

Tim Mak is a war correspondent based in Kyiv and founder of The Counteroffensive. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Reuters

Diplomacy / USA & China

Live and in person

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, arrives in Beijing this weekend for his first visit to China since taking office. The trip, originally scheduled for February, was delayed as a result of tensions that followed spying allegations from both sides. Blinken (pictured) is the highest-ranking diplomat in Joe Biden’s administration to visit the country so far.

According to the US State Department, he is expected to meet senior Chinese officials and discuss “the importance of maintaining open lines of communication”. This Wednesday, however, Blinken downplayed expectations of a substantial breakthrough. His trip might not do much to ease the strained US-China relationship but the merits of an in-person visit will always outweigh those of a phone call.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Italy

The show must go on

Italy’s centre-right Forza Italia party might be a shadow of its former self but there is still a scrappy fight under way to secure its future after the death of its founder, Silvio Berlusconi, earlier this week. The party, which received just over 8 per cent of the vote in last year’s elections (its peak was 37 per cent in 2008), remains a member of the current coalition government. Italy’s foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, who took over the running of the party during Berlusconi’s later years, has been appointed the party’s interim president.

Tajani, however, is not universally popular and there is concern that some Forza Italia MPs will defect. Centrist agitator Matteo Renzi (pictured) is hoping to lure supporters – and possibly stir up trouble in the current coalition – but it’s unlikely that a few individuals will be able to shift the balance of power. The key question is whether a party built around a charismatic former leader now has enough going for it to survive without him.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Canada & Singapore

Staying connected

Air Canada announced this week that it will launch direct flights between Singapore and Vancouver in April 2024. The news follows Singapore Airlines’ decision earlier this year to drop the route from October, citing a need to adjust its capacity in response to demand. Air Canada’s service will use its flagship Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, configured for 298 passengers.

The 16-hour flight is scheduled to take place four times a week and has been designed to allow passengers to connect with other parts of North America seamlessly via Vancouver International Airport. As well as boosting traffic at the airline’s transpacific hub, the route is a great way to keep this channel open.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / France

Fertile ground

France’s prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, has unveiled a “rural plan” to revitalise the countryside. Her proposals hope to win the favour of the nation’s 22 million pastoral inhabitants. The measures are backed by €90m of funding, spread across more than 30,000 municipalities. One of the goals of the plan is for local authorities to improve their transport systems and incentivise businesses to relocate.

Borne’s project also involves the deployment of 100 “médicobuses” to regularly visit isolated villages where medical care is not easily accessible. Other policies include public funding for 76 business projects and the protection of biodiversity. Governments all over the world are often guilty of pouring resources into cities and leaving rural communities in the dust. Let’s hope that Borne’s plan will sow the seeds of sustained development.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Barranco, Lima

Monocle’s Diego Lopez takes us on a gastronomic adventure around the streets of Barranco, the Peruvian capital’s historic district and an area known for its rich and diverse food scene.

Monocle Films / Film

Monocle preview: June issue, 2023

Ever dreamed of ditching the rat race for a life on the land? We meet the new Mediterranean farmers doing just that in the latest edition of Monocle. Issue 164 also includes an Art Special that puts collectors, galleries and this year’s Art Basel in the frame. Plus: a guide to the Venice Architecture Biennale and a rare venture into Syria.


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