Monday 17 July 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 17/7/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Now you’re talking

There will be an increase in the number of private jets flying over the Rocky Mountains this week as the Aspen Security Forum gets under way. The forum is North America’s principal talking shop for those who work to keep our nations safe. It brings admirals, foreign ministers and spy chiefs (plus your correspondent, though not flying private) to the ritzy ski slope town. For all the mountain air and Colorado sunshine, this get-together is rarely awash with optimism but this year could be a little different.

At last year’s forum, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was relatively recent and there was a great deal of hand-wringing from Nato. A year on, however, the alliance is expanding as we speak and its deputy secretary-general, Mircea Geoana (pictured), will jet into Aspen somewhat triumphant after the recent Vilnius summit. This will hearten military top brass attending the event, even if they know that Nato is growing to meet a more dangerous world.

Then, of course, there is China. Beijing sent its US ambassador to last year’s conference for a fireside chat, which ended up getting rather heated. (His newly-installed successor is coming this year.) Despite the efforts of Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, who lands in Aspen after weeks of talks with China, the two powers are more distant and suspicious of each other than ever. And that is the mood of the moment in Aspen – the UK parliament has just put out a scathing assessment of Britain's readiness in the face of Chinese spying and intrusive technology, which will have many talking. There will also be panels on the scramble for critical minerals and the need to secure new supply lines of microchips. China might not headline these conversations but the question of what a restive Beijing will do next – and how to prepare for it – will be front and centre.

Christopher Lord is Monocle's US editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Affairs / Russia & Ukraine

Popular demand

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal agreed upon by Russia to allow for the safe transport of Ukrainian exports via the sea, was extended last week. The move comes after months of speculation about whether Vladimir Putin would pull out of the agreement. The deal was originally brokered by the UN and Turkey last year in an effort to reduce global prices of food commodities.

Earlier this month, Putin warned that Russia’s supply and export demands for ammonia, grain and fertiliser were not being met. However, in a public statement on Friday, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told the media that Putin had agreed to extend the deal. The Russian leader will visit Turkey this August – his first trip abroad since his international arrest warrant was issued. While Putin has recently shown cracks in his domestic leadership, it will be interesting to see how his forthcoming visit to Ankara will play out.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / France & India

Special invitation

Emmanuel Macron has invited controversial leaders to Bastille Day celebrations before. Who can forget Donald Trump’s visit in 2017 and the bizarre tug-of-war handshake that ensued? This year he invited India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi (the two engaging in a more traditional hug).

While the French president might be bolstering an alliance with an emerging power and seeking to increase collaboration over everything from defence to trade, he has been subject to criticism for failing to address human rights concerns. Modi has been accused of stoking the fires of Hindu nationalism both as governor of Gujarat and now as prime minister, a position that he has held since 2014. Yet Macron isn’t the only Western leader to recognise India’s growing geopolitical importance: when Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet in June, there was certainly a level of realpolitik at play.

Image: Getty Images

Infrastructure / Angola & DRC

Set in train

Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have announced plans for a $555m (€494m) rail project to revive the connection between Kolwezi – in the mineral-rich region of the DRC – and the Angolan port of Lobito within the next three months. The 1,700km railway is partly financed by the US and will allow for quicker import and export to Europe and the Americas.

The DRC is the world’s largest producer of cobalt and Africa’s premier copper manufacturer, both of which are essential for the production of green technologies. Once completed, the project will decrease the journey time between the DRC and Lobito to fewer than 36 hours and a minimum of six trains will run every day. The construction of the rail line is a significant step towards boosting the economic development of both countries, supporting intra-Africa export capabilities and helping to satisfy a rising global demand for minerals.

Image: Jim Stephenson

Architecture / UK

Places to call home

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced its selection of four projects shortlisted for the 2023 Neave Brown Award for Housing. As a cost-of-living crisis in the UK continues to affect renters and homeowners alike, projects that tackle the issue of affordable housing with innovation and style are certainly to be commended.

The shortlist includes the New Lodge Community in Yorkshire, which features a flexible design for age-in-place needs for the elderly and A House for Artists in east London, an apartment complex with a street-facing exhibition space. “Housing design has a significant role to play in addressing wider social issues,” says Alice Brownfield, director at Peter Barber Architects and a member of the jury. The winner of the prize will be announced in October this year. In the meantime, the projects will hopefully inspire architecture studios around the world to tackle the issue of affordable housing with flair.

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Design

Brian Clarke, interiors and workwear

Stained glass artist, Brian Clarke, shares the importance and challenges of modernising the ancient art form and architect Massimilano Locatelli discusses his approach to designing interiors and buildings. Plus, curator Eldina Begic reflects on the utopian, political and artistic potential of workwear.

Monocle Films / Travel

How to enjoy life

Join us for a whirlwind tour around the cobbled streets, cocktail bars and jazz lounges of Paris to explore how to enjoy the small things in life and find out why hedonism (in moderation) matters.


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