Tuesday 12 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 12/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Bringing the big guns: Macron (centre) holds a drone-catching weapon at an arms presentation near Reims

Image: Reuters


On the defensive

The past couple of years have not been a golden age for Russia’s defence sector. Not only has Brand Russia been tarnished – assaulting a blameless neighbour will do that – but Russian-made kit has also been found wanting under battlefield conditions. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it has lost more than 3,000 tanks in Ukraine, roughly as many as it had when the war began. Moscow’s loss appears to be Paris’s gain. Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute shows that France has overtaken Russia to become, for the first time, the world’s second-largest arms exporter.

Russia’s arms exports more than halved between 2019 and 2023, while France’s increased by 47 per cent over the same period. While the war in Ukraine has rightly prompted European countries to spend more on defence, France is also selling further afield. Its biggest customer is India, which accounts for almost 30 per cent of its arms exports.

This is good news for Emmanuel Macron, whose ambition to establish his country as Europe’s default military leader is barely disguised. (He has a point: since Brexit, France has been the only country that is a member of the EU, Nato and the UN Security Council’s permanent five – and it’s now the EU’s only nuclear-armed nation too.) Whether it is good news for Europe’s defence, however, is less clear.

A word that has been deployed with increasing volume and exasperation by defence types since February 2022 is “interoperability”. This is the idea that Europe’s defence industries should surmount their own national interests and regional rivalries, and make kit that can be swapped around easily – to spare, for example, Ukrainian gunners trying to persuade German shells to fit into Italian cannons. The world’s largest arms exporter, by a distance, remains the US. That’s partly because many European countries are still buying from it. Maintenance and resupply are simpler when everyone is using similar stuff. The lesson is well understood. It now needs to be learned.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe today.

The Briefings


Show of force

Caribbean leaders have convened in Jamaica this week to discuss the crisis unfolding in Haiti. Criminal gangs now control 80 per cent of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and are pushing to remove the country’s prime minister, Ariel Henry, who has ruled as an unelected leader since the assassination of president Jovenel Moïse in 2021. With violence rising in the western hemisphere’s poorest country and Henry currently stranded in Puerto Rico, diplomats are urgently seeking a solution.

Under pressure: Haiti’s prime minister, Ariel Henry, in Nairobi

Image: Getty Images / Alamy

Time to go: protesters calling for Henry’s ousting in Port-au-Prince

Image: Getty Images / Alamy

“The hope is that the Caribbean bloc can make an appeal to larger countries,” Christopher Sabatini, senior research fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, tells Monocle Radio’s The Briefing. “The original plan to put together about 1,000 Kenyan troops with a vague UN endorsement was half-hearted. The Caribbean bloc needs to make an appeal to the UN for a broader, more aggressive force to restore a semblance of stability and peace in the country.”

For more on Haiti’s affairs, tune in to Monday’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.

Sunny outlook: Mipim property fair on the French Riviera



Building better

Some 20,000 people are expected to gather in Cannes for international property festival Mipim, which kicks off today. More than 460 speakers, including Thailand’s prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, and Finland’s former prime minister Sanna Marin, will be exploring the key issues facing the housing and construction sector, from climate change to shifting demographics.

This year a stage will be dedicated to trends and challenges in the UK marketplace, with the participation of engineering company Arup and Czech architecture firm Chybik + Kristof. With its wide-ranging programme that features about 2,500 exhibitors from 90 countries, Mipim continues to be the world’s leading property fair for investors, developers, planners, local leaders and anyone seeking to build better cities. The conference runs until Friday.

Monocle’s team of reporters will be covering Mipim throughout the week. Tune in to Monocle Radio’s ‘The Globalist’ from 07.00 London time for a live check-in from the event. Plus, our special Mipim-themed episode of ‘The Urbanist’ airs on Thursday at 20.00 London time.


Sights to behold

Kyoto has announced that it will launch a new bus service in June that will ferry tourists from the city centre to many of its attractions. The move is part of its plan to ease the pressures of growing visitor numbers on its strained transport network. Kyoto’s mayor, Koji Matsui, was elected last month pledging to tackle the issue.

While just 1.44 million people call Japan’s ancient capital home, more than 40 million domestic and foreign tourists visit it every year. Numbers have continued to rise, especially since the lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions; overall tourism to the country is expected to surpass its record 2019 levels this year. The planned service is a welcome development for residents, who have been grumbling about the disruption to their daily lives and overcrowding on city buses. It’s also good news for tourists, who will be able to move around the city more quickly.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Jonas Huckstorf

Q&A / Romy Kowalewski

Heaven scent

German-born, Barcelona-based Romy Kowalewski is the founder of unconventional perfume brand 27 87. The self-taught perfumer has made her mark with her distinctive scents, smart packaging and minimalist logos. Monocle met her in Milan to discuss her latest creation, Per Se, and what makes her brand unique.

Tell us about your brand.
It is different from perfumes that originated in France and Italy. Modern perfumery is the focus of 27 87. If you wanted to make a parallel with food, it is similar to molecular cuisine, which also started out in Spain.

What makes the brand different?
I’ve never worked in perfume before. I was inspired by the fact that some perfumes from other brands evoked emotions. I always liked that concept and wanted to create perfumes inspired by the here and now. One of our first scents was called Hashtag. We created a perfume that mixes the scent of metal, which I associate with technology, with the freshness of washed clothes. We create perfumes that customers haven’t smelled before, so when they wear them, they create their own memories.

Tell us about your latest creation, Per Se.
The inspiration behind it is the concept of “now”. At the date of release the main ingredient is orris but the use of it is time sensitive. The idea is that the main ingredient will keep changing so every time customers buy the perfume it will be different. It’s a daring concept within the perfume industry as customers tend to stay attached to the products that they like. But the idea is to accept that time is always moving. It’s a modern approach and my intent is to make an antithesis of the classic perfumes out there.

For our full interview with Romy Kowalewski, tune in to episode 639 of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Radio / The Stack

Desire in print

We explore desire in print with the celebrated magazine Erotic Review, which is back as an art and literary platform. Plus: Frank Strachan from Crotch Magazine, a hedonistic title with plenty of sex appeal.


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