Current affairs

Apr 1st 2022
EXTRACT: "For Putin, the past that matters most is the one the dissident author and Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn exalted: the time when the Slavic peoples were united within the Orthodox Christian kingdom of Kievan Rus’. Kyiv formed its heart, making Ukraine central to Putin’s pan-Slavic vision. ---- But, for Putin, the Ukraine war is about preserving Russia, not just expanding it. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently made clear, Russia’s leaders believe that their country is locked in a “life-and-death battle to exist on the world’s geopolitical map.” That worldview reflects Putin’s longstanding obsession with works of other Russian emigrant philosophers, such as Ivan Ilyin and Nikolai Berdyaev, who described a struggle for the Eurasian (Russian) soul against the Atlanticists (the West) who would destroy it. ---- Yet Putin and his neo-Eurasianists seem to believe that the key to victory is to create the kind of regime those anti-Bolshevik philosophers most detested: one run by the security forces. A police state would fulfill the vision of another of Putin’s heroes: the KGB chief turned Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov."
Apr 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of Europe, is struggling to export last year’s harvest, and may be unable to produce much this year either. In addition, the war has caused a global fertiliser shortage, which will push up food prices around the world too. Coming at a time when the global pandemic had already increased food insecurity and depleted resources around the world, many countries may not be resilient to a major food crisis brought on by the war. Back-to-back global catastrophic events like this have not happened for close to 100 years." ----- "Another useful analogue is the case of Germany during the first world war. When war broke out in 1914, the German authorities had anticipated a short conflict – not too dissimilar to Russian assumptions a few weeks ago. Just like in Ukraine now, the first world war severely disrupted German farming."
Mar 31st 2022
EXTRACT: "The horrors of World War II – the death camps, slave labor, and inhumane experiments on people – produced a global commitment never to permit such crimes to be repeated. This began a transformation of international politics whereby appreciation of the value of every person’s life and dignity ensured that even most authoritarian governments at least paid lip service to human rights.  ----- But the Soviet Union and many of its successor states, particularly Russia, never internalized this change. More than three decades after the USSR collapsed, most post-Soviet countries are still governed according to the old “imperial” paradigm. So, it should come as no surprise that we are now witnessing a clash between fundamentally different sets of values and ultimate goals for statehood."
Mar 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "Referencing past legacies as a justification for present-day political decisions is often effective – such appeals trigger emotional reflexes and contribute to thinking about politics in terms of rivalry and defence. The irony within the tragedy of the current situation is that Putin will assuredly go down in history as the figure that did more to unite the Ukrainian people (albeit against Russia) than any other in recent memory."
Mar 24th 2022
EXTRACT: " Despite the death and destruction that Russia rains down daily on them, the vast majority of Ukrainians are bullish about the future: 77% believe the country is moving in the right direction, 93% think they can beat back Russia, and 47% expect to win in the next few weeks.  Ukrainian policymakers are no less bullish, driving a hard bargain in negotiations with the Russians. Several factors account for this remarkable optimism."
Mar 21st 2022
EXTRACT: "As Russia’s war in Ukraine continues, China’s role has been thrown into sharp relief. Prior to the war, some commentators suggested that China would openly side with Russia or seek to act as a mediator – so far Beijing appears to have resisted doing either. As Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to the US, wrote recently in the Washington Post, Beijing has nothing to gain from this war, arguing “wielding the baton of sanctions at Chinese companies while seeking China’s support and cooperation simply won’t work”. Ambassador Qin also stressed that Beijing had no prior knowledge of the conflict,...."
Mar 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "The second source of Russian power is of course the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. Nuclear weapons would not deliver victory in a conventional war, but they could destroy a country in the blink of an eye. This brings us to a terrifying question: What will Putin do when he realizes that he cannot win his war in Ukraine by conventional means?"
Mar 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "An influential Shanghai-based academic commentator on international affairs, Hu Wei, recently advanced a cautionary argument that has been circulated widely in Chinese-language publications. In his commentary, which is unlikely to have been published without the approval of some of Xi’s senior courtiers, Hu wondered how Chinese communists would react if the war escalated beyond Ukraine, or if Russia was clearly defeated." ------- "For Hu, the answer for China’s leaders is simple. They should wash their hands of the relationship with Putin, ....."
Mar 12th 2022
EXTRACT: "Meanwhile, Xi seems to have realized that Putin has gone rogue. On March 8, one day after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had insisted that the friendship between China and Russia remained “rock solid,” Xi called French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to say that he supported their peacemaking efforts."
Mar 7th 2022
EXTRACTS: "........Russia has been isolated by draconian Western sanctions that could devastate its economy for decades,...." ---- "Russia’s prospects are bleak, at best; without China, it has none at all. China holds the trump card in the ultimate survival of Putin’s Russia."
Mar 3rd 2022
EXTRACT: "Although Ukraine’s armed forces are outnumbered by those of Russian President Vladimir Putin invading our country, we take heart from the growing support we are receiving from friends abroad. Nobody should forget that this is not just an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine; it is an assault on the free world. ---- Putin has been at war with the free world for decades. "
Mar 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "Moreover, with China sharing the Kremlin’s interest in containing the advance of liberal democracy around the world, Putin could count on the Chinese to provide an additional economic lifeline by purchasing Russian gas. But this new relationship will not be costless. As the world continues to divide into separate technological and economic blocs, Russia will become even more dependent on China, implying a loss of strategic autonomy. Russia may have a powerful military; but with a GDP similar to that of Spain and Italy, it is far from being an economic power."
Mar 1st 2022
EXTRACT: "The financial measures just announced against Russia are unprecedented for a country of its size. This of course means it’s impossible to predict exactly how their impacts will reverberate around the Russian – and global – economy. And we still need to see the exact details of the plan. But on their face they threaten the collapse of the Russian ruble, a run on Russian banks, hyperinflation, a sharp recession and high levels of unemployment in Russia, as well as turmoil in international financial markets."
Feb 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "Putin apparently assumes that China will back him. But while he launched the invasion just weeks after concluding something akin to an alliance agreement with Xi in Beijing, Chinese officials’ reactions have been very distant with calls for “restraint.” Given Putin’s near-total reliance on China for support in challenging the US-led international order, lying to Xi would have no political or strategic advantage. That is what is so worrying: Putin no longer seems capable of the calculations that are supposed to guide a leader’s decision-making. Far from an equal partner, Russia is now on track to become a kind of Chinese vassal state."
Feb 25th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Russia’s ascent to global power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries resulted in numerous tragedies not only for the neighbors it subjugated and gradually absorbed, but also for its own people. China’s current leaders, in particular, should be mindful of this history, considering that imperial Russia seized more territory from China than from anyone else." ----- "Putin is taking Russia hurtling back toward the nineteenth century, in search of past greatness, whereas China is forging ahead to become the defining superpower of the twenty-first century. While China has achieved unprecedentedly rapid economic and technological modernization, Putin has been pouring Russia’s energy-export revenues into the military, once again cheating the Russian people out of their future."
Feb 18th 2022
EXTRACT: "........ Xi did what was needed to lock Russia into a vassal-like dependency on China. And Putin chose to walk straight into his trap, thinking that partnership with Xi would help him in his confrontation with the West. ---- What could be better for China than a Russian economy completely cut off from the West? All the natural gas that does not flow westward to Europe could flow eastward to an energy-hungry China. All Siberia’s mineral wealth, which Russia has required Western capital and expertise to exploit, would be available only to China, as would major new infrastructure projects in Russia." ---- "Putin seems to be ignoring that China’s leaders and people view Russia as a corrupt country which stole more Chinese territory in the nineteenth century than any other."
Feb 14th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russia’s large-scale military mobilization on Ukraine’s border has grim historic precedents. But should the Kremlin pull the trigger, it will encounter a hazard that no invading army has ever faced before: 15 nuclear power reactors, which generate roughly 50% of Ukraine’s energy needs at four sites. The reactors present a daunting specter. If struck, the installations could effectively become radiological mines. And Russia itself would be a victim of the ensuing wind-borne radioactive debris. Given the vulnerability of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors and the human and environmental devastation that would follow if combat were to damage them, Russian President Vladimir Putin should think again about whether Ukraine is worth a war."
Feb 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "Yet Putin gives Xi precisely what he wants: a partner who can destabilize the Western alliance and deflect America’s strategic focus away from its China containment strategy. From Xi’s perspective, that leaves the door wide open for China’s ascendancy to great-power status, realizing the promise of national rejuvenation set forth in Xi’s cherished “China Dream.” "
Feb 10th 2022
EXTRACTS: "It has become abundantly clear that the United States has an inflation problem. What is not yet clear is how big the problem will turn out to be and how long it will last. ---- "Alarmed observers point to parallels with the 1970s, when commodity prices shot up,..." ------ "Today, in contrast, inflation expectations remain firmly anchored. The Michigan Survey of Consumers shows that respondents expect inflation to approach 5% over the coming year, before falling back to just above 2% in the subsequent four years. The inflation rate implicit in the price of five-year inflation-indexed Treasury securities shows basically the same thing: inflation averaging 2.8% over the next five years."
Jan 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "Over the past three decades, bonds have offered a negative overall yearly return only a few times. The decline of inflation rates from double-digit levels to very low single digits produced a long bull market in bonds; yields fell and returns on bonds were highly positive as their price rose. The past 30 years thus have contrasted sharply with the stagflationary 1970s, when bond yields skyrocketed alongside higher inflation, leading to massive market losses for bonds."

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