World News Roundup

Source: The Atlantic

Photos: Two Months of War in Ukraine (The Atlantic)

How Not to Invade a Nation (Foreign Affairs): “Successful military campaigns usually follow several central principles. Military leaders must choose the most important objective and then assign the right amount and right kind of military forces to ensure its achievement. Rather than trying to do everything at once, they must prioritize and sequence operations to make achieving this objective as easy as possible. And they must design campaigns to make sure that they will bring the combat power necessary to win the war’s last battle and to attain their political objectives … Russia’s invasion was sweeping and unprioritized rather than sequential and deliberate. It mismatched its forces to tasks and gave Ukraine’s defenders clear ways to fight back. In fact, Russia’s design choice was so poor that the invasion would have likely failed even if the supply arrangements had been sound.”

Russia’s Army Is in a Woeful State (The Economist): “The charitable interpretation is that the Russian army has been hobbled in Ukraine less by its own deficiencies than by Mr Putin’s delusions. His insistence on plotting the war in secrecy complicated military planning … the army then chose to plough into the second largest country in Europe from several directions, splitting 120 or so battalion tactical groups (BTGs) into lots of ineffective and isolated forces. Bad tactics then compounded bad strategy: armour, infantry and artillery fought their own disconnected campaigns. Tanks that should have been protected by infantry on foot instead roamed alone, only to be picked off in Ukrainian ambushes. Artillery, the mainstay of the Russian army since tsarist times, though directed with ferocity at cities such as Kharkiv and Mariupol, could not break through Ukrainian lines around Kyiv … the question of ‘how much of this war is a bad army, which in important ways it clearly is, and how much is a truly terrible plan’ has not yet been answered. And yet answering it is essential … a war-averting peace deal would reflect the relative power of the two potential belligerents. But the two sides can fail to reach such a bargain because that relative power is not always obvious.”

On the Trail of Russian War Crimes (The New York Times): “Lyudmyla Denisova … Ukraine’s human rights commissioner … said she was in no doubt there was sufficient grounds to bring charges against Russian leaders not only of crimes against humanity, but also of genocide. Two things have convinced her of that: the extent and the circumstances of sexual violence, which she says has been used as a weapon against Ukrainian women, and has even been described that way by the perpetrators themselves; and the forcible removal of children from Ukrainian territory to Russia.”

Why Russia’s Economy Is Holding On (Foreign Policy): “Despite Western restrictions on Russia’s financial sector, oil exports are up to 3.6 million barrels a day in April, compared with 3.3 million barrels a day the month before … Those revenues have driven Russia’s current account surplus to new highs. For the first three months of the year, it amounted to $60 billion, versus $120 billion for the entire year in 2021, supplying the Kremlin with fresh revenues to counteract the sanctions, even though Russia is far less able to buy supplies and parts from abroad due to sanctions bans … The biggest percentage increase is from India, which has refused to join in the sanctions or condemn Putin’s invasion. Taking advantage of Putin’s big discounts in prices, India in just the last two months has taken in 17 million barrels of high-grade ‘Urals’ crude from Russia … compared with 12 million for all of last year.”

The West Pushes for “Victory” Against Russia in Ukraine (The Economist): “America says the heavier equipment is needed in the next stage of the war. Having given up on taking Kyiv, Russia has massed its troops in the south and east, where the terrain is more open. Ukraine thus needs ‘long-range fires’ and the ability to manoeuvre. Ukrainian officials say they do not yet have enough to go on the offensive. Russia has been making slow progress. It has taken over a succession of villages and has all but established an eastern land corridor between Crimea and Donbas … Russia may be hoping to take enough land to declare success by May 9th, when Russia celebrates Victory Day, marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany … For all the talk of winning, the West’s aims are unclear. Ms Truss [Britain’s combative foreign secretary] speaks of ‘going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine’. Mr Blinken [U.S. secretary of state] is more cautious. He has spoken of the need for a cease fire, and has said that ‘the end-state should be determined by the Ukrainians as a sovereign, independent country.’ “

In Worsening Gang Fighting in Haiti, 20 Dead, Thousands Displaced (Al Jazeera): “… gangs grow more powerful and seek to control more territory amid the power vacuum following the July 7, 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise … the violence is likely to escalate in the coming days, leading to more casualties and more people displaced from their homes.”

Haiti’s State of Paralysis (Foreign Affairs): “Because Haiti’s political dysfunction and criminal takeover reinforce each other, it is hard to say which problem needs to be solved before the other. But it seems unlikely that Haiti will become a safer place if it does not address its political crisis first … Rampant kidnappings have reshaped daily life, compelling parents to keep their children at home and hampering international relief efforts: aid workers have been forced to rethink how to get provisions from the capital to the south, where the August earthquake hit, because armed bands control the ports and the roads connecting them to the rest of the country … The outsized role that foreign actors have played in Haiti throughout its history does not make international engagement in the country straightforward, or even welcome, but Haitians cannot alleviate their current crisis without support and encouragement from outside.”

Afghanistan: Former Army General Vows New War Against Taliban (BBC): “… eight months of Taliban rule has convinced many Afghans that military action is the only way forward … But in a country shredded by more than 40 years of conflict, many Afghans are weary of war, desperate to leave, or struggling to survive in the midst of a deepening economic crisis. The UN speaks of a country marked by ‘combat fatigue’ with millions on the brink of starvation … Multiple groups are now united by their goal of ousting the Taliban but they’re also divided along ethnic lines, and loyal to rival commanders.”

Elites Are Getting Nationalism All Wrong (Foreign Policy): “If you go to the World Economic Forum conference held in Davos, Switzerland, every year; do business deals all over the world; hang out with like-minded people from lots of different countries; and are as comfortable living abroad as you are in your native country, it’s easy to lose sight of how people outside your social circle retain powerful attachments to places, local institutions, and their own sense of belonging to a nation. Liberalism’s emphasis on the individual and his/her/their individual rights is another blind spot, insofar as it directs our gaze away from the social bonds and commitments to group survival that many groups view as more important than individual freedom.”

A Country of Their Own (Foreign Affairs): “Liberalism’s most important selling point remains the pragmatic one that has existed for centuries: its ability to manage diversity in pluralistic societies. Yet there is a limit to the kinds of diversity that liberal societies can handle. If enough people reject liberal principles themselves and seek to restrict the fundamental rights of others, or if citizens resort to violence to get their way, then liberalism alone cannot maintain political order. And if diverse societies move away from liberal principles and try to base their national identities on race, ethnicity, religion, or some other, different substantive vision of the good life, they invite a return to potentially bloody conflict. A world full of such countries will invariably be more fractious, more tumultuous, and more violent. That is why it is all the more important for liberals not to give up on the idea of the nation. They should recognize that in truth, nothing makes the universalism of liberalism incompatible with a world of nation-states. National identity is malleable, and it can be shaped to reflect liberal aspirations and to instill a sense of community and purpose among a broad public.”

Venezuelans Flee Again, This Time to the U.S. (The Wall Street Journal): “… nearly 130,000 Venezuelans … have migrated to the U.S. in the 11 months from April 2021 through this past February, from both Venezuela and other countries such as Peru and Colombia … In the 12 months that ended in March 2021, Border Patrol records show, just 4,470 Venezuelans were apprehended at the U.S. border … More than six million Venezuelans have fled the Venezuela of President Nicolás Maduro since 2014, about four million of them settling elsewhere in Latin America. Many of them … are being uprooted again … They have been largely welcomed in the U.S. because many tell border authorities they are fleeing from Venezuela’s Socialist regime.”

On the Scene: A Tense Ramadan in Sudan (The New York Times): “Even in a season of worship, Sudan’s turmoil kept pressing in. Nearly 100 people have died in street protests since the military seized power in a coup in October. The tumult continued through Ramadan.”

How the Ukraine War Is Changing Japan (Foreign Affairs): “Commentators seeking to explain Japan’s outpouring of support for Ukraine often point to the particulars of Ukraine’s present suffering, which are peculiarly reminiscent of many of Japan’s past traumas … Many Japanese have experienced forced dislocation due to natural disasters, such as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and empathize with Ukrainians longing to return home. For many ordinary Japanese, the war in Ukraine has led to the realization that they cannot take their own security for granted … the valor of the Ukrainian forces has spurred a rare philosophical debate within Japan about what countries should fight for.”

War Is Making One of the Richest Countries Even Richer (Bloomberg): “…Qatar’s energy exports were already due to reach $100 billion this year for the first time since 2014 based on trends from the first quarter … The $200 billion economy is set to grow 4.4% this year, the most since 2015 … Gross domestic product per person will soar to almost $80,000 … Much of the money will be used to bolster Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund … That would enable the Qatar Investment Authority, already a major investor in companies from Barclays Plc to Volkswagen AG, as well as New York and London real estate, to accelerate its push into technology stocks. Qatar could also use the fund to further its regional goals. Last month, the government pledged $5 billion of investments in Egypt.”

Rebels Without a Cause (Foreign Affairs): “Whereas most armed groups on the continent once aimed to topple governments or secede and found new countries, those who take up arms these days are more likely to do so as a means of bargaining over resources. Some government officials in Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, and elsewhere have sought to prolong and even instigate conflicts, so long as they did not threaten their survival, and rebel groups in these and other countries have often challenged governments as a way of extracting payouts and other concessions. Although battles for state power haven’t disappeared altogether … war in many African countries has become an economic bargaining tool, a way of life, and even a mode of governance.”

Are Nigeria’s Bandits a New Boko Haram Cell or Rival ‘Terrorists’? (Al Jazeera): “Since 2010, gangs of bandits have run riot in vast swaths of northwest Nigeria but only in the last few years has the crisis ballooned into national prominence in Africa’s most populous country … bandits were responsible for more than 2,600 civilian deaths in 2021 – a lot more than those attributed to Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the same year – and almost three times the number in 2020 … the bandits comprise dozens of unaffiliated groups often competing for territory or spoils from raids and have no unified chain of command or single objective, complicating state efforts to conclude disarmament deals.”

Are Traditional Political Parties Dead in France? (The New York Times): “In the first round of voting [for this month’s presidential election] … the Socialist candidate, got only 1.75 percent of the vote … the Républicain candidate, got 4.78 percent … President Emmanuel Macron, whose centrist party was created just six years ago, then battled Marine Le Pen, of the far-right National Rally party, and won a second term. The stark collapse of the Socialists and Les Républicains capped a yearslong downward spiral for both parties, which have struggled to persuade voters that they could handle concerns including security, inequality and climate change … The old left-right division has given way to a new landscape, split into three major blocs. Mr. Macron’s broad, pro-globalization center is now flanked by radical forces: on the right, Ms. Le Pen and her anti-immigrant nationalism; on the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a fiery politician who champions state-led policies against E.U. rules and the free market.”

Food Crisis, Drought Risks Fueling Islamist Militancy in Somalia (Bloomberg): “Islamist militant group al-Shabaab is stepping in to help Somalian communities cope with the most severe drought in decades, a move that could bolster its ranks and raise the risk that it will intensify a violent insurgency within the country and further afield … Al-Shabaab, which wants to impose its version of Islamic law, has been trying to topple Somalia’s government since 2006, and has been kept in check by an African Union peacekeeping force … About 6 million Somalis, or almost 40% of the population, are facing extreme levels of food insecurity, double the number at the beginning of the year … More than 90% of Somalia’s wheat imports came from Russia and Ukraine prior to the war, but those supplies have now dried up.”

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