Hi there Intriguer. There must be a better word than “anniversary” to describe where we are: one year into Russia’s “over in days“ invasion of Ukraine. The word doesn’t quite capture the hell Putin has unleashed, nor the hope Ukraine has inspired.
Today’s briefing is a 4.5 min read:
- 🇺🇦 Where the Russo-Ukraine war stands now.
- 🌍 The war’s global impacts.
- ➕ Plus: An ode to poorly timed tweets, how the papers are covering the anniversary, and some intriguing recommendations to ring in your weekend.
– VC & EP
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇰🇷 South Korea: South Korea has broken its own record for the lowest fertility rate in the world, with women there now having 0.78 children on average. Government efforts to reverse the decline (like baby payments and free childcare) aren’t working.
- 🇪🇺 EU: The European Commission has banned the popular social media app TikTok from Commission employees’ devices, citing data protection concerns. Last year, TikTok admitted its HQ in China could access user data anywhere in the world.
- 🇮🇩 Indonesia: Jakarta has warned farmers to expect a drier climate due to the El Niño weather phenomenon. Authorities are worried about wildfires getting out of control due to dry conditions.
- 🇲🇽 Mexico: Lawmakers passed a controversial bill to drastically reorganise Mexico’s electoral body by cutting its budget and laying off staff. Activists have pledged to challenge the reform in the Supreme Court before next year’s general elections.
- 🇮🇶 Iraq: The Iraqi Central Bank announced that the country will settle its trade with China in yuan rather than US dollars. Chinese state media cited this as proof of the yuan’s global importance, but the move excludes oil sales (the majority of Iraqi exports).
🇺🇦 UKRAINE | RUSSO-UKRAINE WAR
One year later: the scene on the ground
Briefly: Russia now controls around 17% of Ukraine’s landmass, and the two sides have reached an uneasy stalemate.
Estimates suggest some 200,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded. Ukraine’s losses are likely over 100,000. To put these staggering figures in perspective, the Soviets lost 15,000 troops over nearly a decade in Afghanistan.
Zooming out: Russia now has…
- Fewer friends: 141 countries backed yesterday’s UN resolution condemning Russia
- More foes: Once unthinkable, Finland and Sweden are now on the cusp of joining NATO
- And they’re tougher foes: NATO unity is rock solid, and its defence spending is on the up.
But that doesn’t mean Russia is alone:
- 39 countries didn’t back yesterday’s UN resolution calling for Russia to withdraw, and
- China and India’s record consumption of Russian oil is keeping its economy afloat.
Intrigue’s take: This year has upended so many assumptions. Here’s just a few:
💣 “The era of mass conventional warfare is over”: it ain’t
🕵️ “Intel is best kept secret”: bringing it into the open helped pre-bunk Russian disinformation
📉 “Russia’s economy will collapse”: it’s now forecast to outgrow the UK this year, and
🎖️ “Russia’s military is world-class”: turns out a good parade ≠ an effective military
Governments are scrambling to hit ctrl-z on plans that were based on these assumptions. In the meantime, it’s hard to see an end to the war – the West has pledged to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, while Putin is clearly preparing for the long haul.
And it’s hard to see Beijing’s expected peace plan winning Ukrainian approval the same week China’s foreign minister was in Moscow to “deepen” cooperation with Russia.
Also worth noting:
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How different newspapers covered: The first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
We really like newsletters, and we’ve got another recco comin’ in hot: The Current by RocaNews.
Here’s what we like about it:
- It was founded by people who don’t like the negative, partisan, and alarmist style of news,
- It favours facts over opinions,
- It tells you what you need to know for the day (so you can hold your own at happy hour).
🌍 EARTH | RUSSO-UKRAINE WAR
How the war is shaping the world
A quick snapshot of some of the many ways the war is impacting the globe:
- 🛢️ Energy: Europe stunned everybody by kicking its Russian hydrocarbon habit quickly, going almost cold turkey in a year. The EU now gets only 17% of its natural gas from Russia (down from nearly half) and imports almost no Russian crude.
- 🌾 Food: Ukraine grew 10% of the world’s wheat and 15% of its corn in 2021. But Ukrainian grain exports have since collapsed, global prices have soared, and 345 million people were food insecure last year (up by 20%).
- 🚶 Displacement: The war has displaced a third of Ukraine’s population, driving 8 million people into Europe (plus millions more displaced internally). Most say they want to return home. In the meantime, services across the continent are under pressure.
Intrigue’s take: In geopolitics, it’s also key to analyse how this war has not changed the world. Billions of folks elsewhere have continued on with life. China has emerged from covid-zero. Nigerians are choosing a new president tomorrow. Markets have calmed.
The long journey ahead will depend on whether Ukraine’s will and the West’s support are enough to trump Russia’s numerical advantage and high pain threshold.
Also worth noting:
🐦 (POORLY TIMED) TWEET OF THE DAY
As Russian troops were pouring into Ukraine last year, we were all a little surprised to see Grammy Award-winning artist The Weeknd churning out these exuberant tweets.
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
Speaking of the weekend, here are some recommendations to ring it in. If you have:
- 3 minutes: Listen to ‘Stefania’, the Eurovision song contest winner from 2022.
- 1 hour: Watch any of the 5 episodes of Netflix’s nature documentary ‘Our Great National Parks’, narrated by none other than former US president Barrack Obama.
- 2+ days: Read Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi ‘Dune’ for geopolitical intrigue and an OPEC-lookalike (or just cheat and watch Denis Villeneuve’s excellent 2021 film adaptation).
🗳️ POLL TIME!
What’s on your mind, a year into the Russo-Ukraine War?
Yesterday’s poll: Is the US War on Drugs about to undergo a major makeover?
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🛡️ Yes, the evidence against the current approach is damning (68%)
🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️ ⚔️ No, what other viable options are there? (32%)
Your two cents:
- 🛡️ R.B: “It’s a failed policy, drugs are cheaper, stronger, easy to access. What has been accomplished? When something fails for decades, a new approach is needed.”
- ⚔️ J.G: “Legal corruption in American politics is remarkably high. Don’t expect change. It’s too beneficial.”