Tuesday 26 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 26/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Affairs / Andrew Mueller

Pointing the finger

For obvious reasons, it has not been easy over the past couple of years to scrape together much sympathy for any hardship or setback endured by Vladimir Putin. He is nevertheless entitled to the standard condolences extended to any leader of a nation afflicted, as Russia was last Friday, by a hideous terror attack. As of this writing, at least 137 people are believed to have been killed by gunmen who stormed a show by Russian group Picnic at Crocus City Hall in Moscow’s northern suburbs.

Bad call: Putin receives condolences on the phone over the Moscow terrorist attack

Image: Alamy, Getty Images

Rough justice: Russian officers escort a man suspected of involvement in the killings

Image: Alamy, Getty Images

Putin deserves no commiseration beyond that, however. It seems self-evident that his security services paid insufficient heed to intelligence announced publicly by the US on 7 March that “extremists” planned to strike large gatherings in Moscow: concerts were mentioned as a likely target. Indeed, days before the attack, he scorned the warnings as some sort of American psy-ops plot to destabilise Russia.

If Putin was complacent beforehand, he has been no less cynical afterwards. Despite Islamic State’s punctiliously evidenced claim that it had carried out the massacre at Crocus and the arrest – and apparent torture – of four suspects from Tajikistan, Putin has attempted to direct blame towards Ukraine. So there is understandable concern that he might leverage this attack to justify escalating Russia’s onslaught against its neighbour. There has been speculation that Sunday’s missile strikes on Kyiv might have been the beginning of exactly that.

But while Putin might believe that accusing Ukraine serves a short-term purpose in deflecting scorn for the failures of his security services, it will make no long-term difference to the war. Russia has demonstrated repeatedly that it is willing and able to assert the most astonishing nonsense in the service of its belligerence. If it wasn’t this, it would be something else. What matters is what Russia does. We should have ceased to expend energy wondering why long ago.

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

The Briefings

Top of the morning: A host serves breakfast onboard a European Sleeper night train

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Europe

Sleep training

From today, train travellers will be able to doze off in Brussels and wake up in Prague on the new extension to night-train operator European Sleeper’s service. The Dutch-Belgian company’s The Good Night Train was inaugurated 10 months ago with a route connecting Brussels to Berlin. The 16-hour journey from the Belgian capital to Prague will pass through Amsterdam, Berlin and other major cities.

Night trains are rising in popularity, if the new sleeper services that have been popping up across the continent in the past few years are anything to go by. Austrian Federal Railways’ Nightjet introduced an overnight connection from Paris to Berlin in 2023; meanwhile, start-up Midnight Trains is aiming to link Paris to Venice in 2025.

Diplomacy / China & Africa

Seats of influence

Chinese companies have secured deals to build two new stadiums in Africa. In Tanzania, state-owned China Railway Construction Engineering Group has been awarded a $112m (€103m) contract to construct a 30,000-seater in Arusha. In Nairobi, the China Road and Bridge Corporation will erect a 60,000-capacity arena. Both venues are slated to host football matches during the Africa Cup of Nations in 2027 and are widely seen as part of Beijing’s efforts to extend its influence across the continent through large-scale infrastructure projects. In recent decades, stadiums have become a crucial part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Though the initiative has helped to bring some major infrastructure to African nations, there are concerns over the costs of its projects and the debts that they saddle these countries with.

Urban paradise: A rendering of The Star’s terraces

Image: Foster and Partners

Urbanism / Los Angeles

Star of the green

The Star, a new office tower on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, will feature spiralling exterior gardens, according to plans released by Foster + Partners. The $1bn (€922m), 22-storey building is expected to house entertainment firms and, according to the London-based architecture firm, “Hollywood’s top content creators”.

Plans for The Star show a circular tower with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and plant-covered outdoor terraces. There will also be community gathering spaces, a gallery, a screening room and a rooftop restaurant. If approved by the city, construction will start in 2026 and is expected to be complete by 2029. The Star would not only be a dynamic addition to Los Angeles’ skyline but could also set a precedent for integrating vertical gardens into the city’s architectural landscape.

Beyond the Headlines


On the money

Valor Econômico is Brazil’s biggest financial daily and a reliable resource on the country’s economic outlook. Monocle spoke to the newspaper’s editorial director, Maria Fernanda Delmas, at its headquarters in São Paulo.

How would you introduce ‘Valor Econômico’ to an international audience?
Launched 24 years ago, Valor Econômico is now Brazil’s main vehicle for business news. It belongs to Grupo Globo, which also owns TV Globo and O Globo newspaper, alongside several other news outlets. We’re based in São Paulo because it’s a business hub but we also have offices in Brasília and Rio de Janeiro, which are home to many important companies’ HQs and government offices.

Do your print and digital operations complement each other?
Our online subscriptions are growing. Interestingly, many of our digital readers like to read our PDF version, which is a replica of the newspaper. People enjoy looking at the front page to see the headlines and get a sense of what’s at the top of the agenda. We work 24/7. We want to offer readers a place where they can come to understand the world.

What does 2024 look like for ‘Valor Econômico’?
This year we’ll be keeping an eye on the US presidential elections but also on Brazil’s local elections. We cover politics through its huge influence on economics. It’s a big part of our role to report on it because there’s a lot of important information to consider before you make financial decisions. We have plans to expand our international presence too; we’re currently adding more content to our English-language website, Valor International.

For our full interview with Maria Fernanda Delmas, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Raffael Waldner

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Saturday

Monocle’s Hanami Market

Monocle’s editorial director, Tyler Brûlé, joins Emma Nelson from Zürich to talk about the Japanese spring market at Dufourstrasse 90, as well as The Chiefs conference in Hong Kong, which kicks off on Wednesday. Plus: communications consultant Simon Brooke flicks through the global papers and we discuss the week’s news, from Moscow’s concert hall attack to the response to the Princess of Wales’s cancer diagnosis.


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