Monday 6 November 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 6/11/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Admiral Rob Bauer, head of Nato’s military committee

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Julia Lasica

Fork in the road

Temperatures are dropping across Europe and Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure are intensifying. Fighting continues across the country and there have been attacks close to the borders of Nato-backed Poland and Romania. But with US interest in the war beginning to wane, Europe’s leaders have been left out in the cold. That’s why they urgently need to come together to offer solutions of their own. Admiral Rob Bauer, head of Nato’s military committee, has made a start by calling for the standardisation of European shell production and looking for ways to boost Ukraine’s supplies of arms and ammunition. However, if Ukraine is to weather the coming storm with less support from the US, more must be done.

There are rumours that Donald Trump will pull out of Nato if he is elected president next November. Last week, Europe’s fears were compounded when the US House of Representatives passed a bill authorising military assistance to Israel without including the expected package for Ukraine. This has set the stage for a showdown in the Senate, where bipartisan support for Kyiv remains strong. Though American help will arrive, the episode has highlighted the extent of the country’s investment in defending Europe.

Much can change before the US election, from Trump’s position on Ukraine to his ability to run for a second spell in the White House. But Europe’s leaders can’t rely on wishful thinking. With the continent’s global image weakened by its hesitation over the Israel-Hamas war, it must centralise its defence policy and rely less on US leadership.

For many, Ukrainian membership of Nato is a hope rather than a likelihood but former Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen has added his voice to the chorus calling for it. Whatever Nato decides, Europe must face the reality that the solutions might need to come without US backing.

Julia Lasica is a researcher at Monocle. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Defence / USA & China

Talking warheads

Sun Xiaobo, head of arms control at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visits Washington today for talks on nuclear non-proliferation with the US Department of State. According to analysts, the meeting should be viewed in the context of the Ukraine war. “The use of nuclear weapons has been consistently raised as a threat by Russia,” Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy in East Asia at King’s College London, tells The Monocle Minute. “There’s a genuine significance in China and the US agreeing on talks over nuclear arms control standards.” Today’s discussion foreshadows a possible meeting between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden in San Francisco later this month, where the question of nuclear weapons is expected to be high on the agenda. “I doubt that there will be a significant announcement because talks of this kind haven’t taken place since the Obama administration and it’s a very thorny issue,” says Patalano. “In terms of positive action, we’ll have to see what comes from Biden’s side.”

Thinking outside the box at the Asos warehouse

Image: Getty Images

Business / Europe

Eco chic?

Fast-fashion giant Asos’s annual sales have dropped 10 per cent year-on-year as losses have inflated from £32m (€36m) in 2022 to £297m (€341m) in 2023. Despite tripling its profits in 2021 and acquiring high-street heavyweight Topshop, the outlet has failed to maintain its forward momentum, with shoppers making more sustainable fashion choices. Asos blames a significant increase in free returns as one of the reasons for its financial downturn. More worryingly, however, the retailer lacks a positive brand identity.

While Asos hired Anna Maria Rugarli as its non-executive director and chair of its Environmental, Social and Governance Committee earlier this year, it has struggled to convince shoppers of its eco-conscious intentions. This week, Swiss sustainability group Better Cotton announced that it added new functions to its platform, which major retailers use to trace materials through their supply chains. Asos, which was quick to join the initiative in 2017, stated that it wants to source 100 per cent more sustainable cotton by 2025 – let’s see whether it manages to stick to its green goal.

Image: Alamy

Food / Japan

Scaling up

When Japan’s government announced that it would begin discharging treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, local fishing communities feared that they would lose business. But, as it turns out, they had less to worry about than they had imagined. Consumers around the country are reportedly eating more fish than ever, helping to mitigate the effects of China’s ban on Japanese seafood.

Hundreds of people in South Korea protested the decision to release the wastewater when it was first announced. But, in Japan, things are going swimmingly. For many, it’s a question of national pride – and a way of standing up to Beijing. Some reports indicate that people are specifically asking for Joban-mono, fish from the waters near Fukushima. And, in Kyoto, a group of world-renowned chefs is creating menus that focus on Fukushima seafood, signalling to other countries in the region that they shouldn’t be so quick to worry. Nothing fishy to see here.

Beyond the Headlines

In print / Issue 168

In the balance

Åland, a rugged group of islands in the Baltic, has been demilitarised since 1865. But as war rumbles on in Europe, can it retain its peaceful status? Monocle explores the archipelago to find out.

Åland architecture

Image: Felix Odell

Border guard Markus Åkerfelt

Image: Felix Odell

Protestors outside the Russian consulate

Image: Felix Odell

Tranquil nature

Image: Felix Odell

Subscribe to read the full article here or log in to your account if you are already a subscriber.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Community development through hip-hop

We discuss how hip-hop has improved cities around the world, explore plans for a new coastal-redevelopment megaproject in Athens and find out how to mitigate the effects of floods in our urban environments.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00