World News Roundup

What Mobilization Means for Russia (Foreign Affairs): “… prior to the mobilization, the war retained the support of more than 75 percent of Russians. Such acquiescence was the best possible public response from the Kremlin’s point of view … Were Putin to pull back, Ukraine would grow in military strength and become further integrated into European and transatlantic institutions, an outcome that would make the war perfectly counterproductive and therefore unacceptable to Putin; it would be a Russian defeat. At the same time, Russia cannot win the war with the instruments it currently has … Russia has had many setbacks in Ukraine, but it is not a defeated country. It has the wealth and the population and the industrial capacity to keep the war going—but only if it mobilizes … calling for mobilization is much simpler than carrying it out, something Russia has not done for decades. Even if the military can master the logistics—and the experience of the first days suggests that the likelihood of this is slim—mobilization will be only as good as the strategy behind it. Mobilization for the sake of a losing strategy will create more problems for Putin than it will solve. It could even undermine Putin’s ability to govern … Rather than expecting a revolution or a palace coup, however, the world should gird itself for a long war in Ukraine. Repression will not necessarily speed up or streamline the mobilization, but it will keep the streets quiet and allow Putin to continue his aggression.”

Sabotaged Pipelines and a Mystery: Who Did It? (Was It Russia?) (The New York Times): “… it could take months to assess and repair the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which have been used as leverage in the West’s confrontation with Moscow over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine … But the central mystery remains: Who did it? … explosive gas pouring from the broken pipes made it too dangerous to get close to the breach … sabotage would fit neatly into Mr. Putin’s broader Russian strategy of waging war on multiple fronts, using economic and political tools, as well as arms, to undermine Ukraine’s allies and weaken their resolve and unity. It demonstrates to an already jittery Europe how vulnerable its vital infrastructure is, including other pipelines and undersea power and telecommunications cables.”

Nord Stream Pipeline Leaks Are ‘Catastrophic for the Climate’ (Al Jazeera): “The leakage could be equivalent to one-third of Denmark’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions … Danish emissions in 2020 were about 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) … The worst-case scenario is estimated to be 778 million cubic metres of gas leaked … Methane is a major contributor to climate change, responsible for a significant share of the climate disruption people are already experiencing. That is because it is 82.5 times more potent than carbon dioxide at absorbing the Sun’s heat and warming the Earth … The effects of the leaks are still coming into focus … but are likely to be significan … more than half of the gas in the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea had leaked into the atmosphere after being damaged by suspected sabotage.”

Putin’s Roulette (Foreign Affairs): “Putin appears to have forgotten that the real source of danger to his regime may not be the political opposition … but rather the ordinary Russians who have long provided the foundations of his rule. As long as they were provided with economic stability they could be counted on to approve of it, or at least to do nothing to oppose it. But now that has changed A pollshows that Putin’s approval has fallen six points, from 83 percent to 77 percent, and his level of trust has fallen four points, from 44 percent to 40 percent. These may seem like small shifts, but his numbers had been almost unmovable since April. That stability is now beginning to erode … Putin is dealing a powerful blow to another area in which Russia was already suffering: demographics. As it loses more of its youth, Russia’s aging and stagnating population will grow even older and smaller, providing Putin with support at elections but not giving his regime any legitimacy. He has already stopped being the president of all Russians … Conditioned over decades to remain inert, public opinion in Russia tends to change very slowly, as the small slides in Putin’s ratings show. Undoubtedly, the majority of the population—the 50 percent who remain firmly in favor of the war—will support everything the regime does, perhaps up to and including nuclear strikes. This is the hyper-obedient section of the population. But for another 30 percent, those who—until now—have simply found it easier to support rather than oppose the regime, Putin’s actions could have much more far-reaching consequences. These Russians are filled with doubt and dissatisfaction; for them, it is already clear that the mobilization isn’t partial, and if this impression begins to spread more widely, then the general attitude of Russian society at large could begin to shift.”

Russia’s Sending Its Ethnic Minorities to the Meat Grinder (Foreign Policy): “Russian officials have been deeply secretive about their battlefield lossesAnalysis by activist groups and the media have raised suspicions that ethnic minorities are dying at disproportionately high rates. The BBC’s Russian service examined reports of more than 6,000 confirmed battlefield losses and found that by the beginning of September, troops from Dagestan, Buryatia, and Krasnodar in southern Russia had lost the most soldiers—over 200 deaths from each region. By comparison, only 15 people from the Moscow region, which accounts for almost one-tenth of Russia’s population, had been killed in battle.”

Coups in the Kremlin (Foreign Affairs): “… even if Putin’s deputies conclude they want Putin out, removing him from power will be difficult. Moscow has experienced no coup attempts, successful or unsuccessful, since the Soviet Union fell. There have not even been serious plots—publicly known ones, at least … the constitutional amendments [Putin] … pushed through in March 2020, which made it more difficult for former presidents to be stripped of immunity, were designed to let him retire, that prospect now seems inconceivable … Putin has likely decided to stay in office. But as his reign of corruption and infamy approaches its 23rd anniversary, and as Putin nears 70, it is almost certain that his would-be replacements are carefully eyeing one another and thinking through potential succession scenarios.”

Putin’s Conscripts Won’t Win His War But May Drag It Out (Bloomberg): “… 300,000 reservists … is likely to extend the war rather than influence its outcome. Still, it could buy [Putin] time to execute a wider strategy — including exacerbating Europe’s energy crisis and threatening a nuclear strike on unspecified targets — aimed at undermining foreign military and financial support for Kyiv’s war effort … basic math suggests the phased recruitment program will prove to be more about rebuilding capability and rotating exhausted combat troops, than providing a fresh force capable of throwing Ukraine back onto the defensive … Not only has Russia lost about 80,000 soldiers dead or wounded in Ukrainebut with insufficient manpower for rotation many troops are now spending their eighth month in the field.”

Ignore Putin’s Fake Referendums and Keep Helping Ukraine (The Economist): “… Putin’s referendums … were not designed to be believed, but to threaten … surrendering to nuclear blackmail will only invite more of it … If the risk of escalation is growing, it is not because of the charade of the referendums, but because Mr Putin is losing the war. He has always faced the problem that defeat would spell humiliation and possible overthrow. That is why he has repeatedly brandished the nuclear card since February. He could have gone nuclear before the referendum but, despite many setbacks, he has not. Equally, annexation would not oblige him to: it is better seen as a desperate attempt to signal that he means business … The West should prevail upon China and India to make clear that they, too, would be against a nuclear strike.”

Russia’s Defeat Would Be America’s Problem (Foreign Policy): “Although success in Ukraine is something we should all wish for, it is likely to strengthen the same political forces in the United States that produced the counterproductive excesses of the unipolar era. Victory in Ukraine will bolster claims about the inherent superiority of democracy and encourage renewed efforts to spread it abroad. Unrepentant neoconservatives and ambitious liberal crusaders will crow, having finally notched a success after 30 years of failure. Having profited handsomely from the war, the military-industrial complex will have many more millions to spend convincing inattentive Americans that they can only be safe by garrisoning the world and spending more on defense than the next seven or eight countries put together. With Russia greatly diminished and an economic recession looming, current pledges to increase European defense capabilities will lose steam, and America’s NATO allies will go back to relying on Uncle Sam for protection. Despite many past failures, proponents of liberal hegemony will claim vindication, at least temporarily … a victory in Ukraine will not put the United States in a position to reshape the global order to its liking. That goal was beyond its reach at the height of the unipolar moment, and overall conditions are less favorable now given China’s rise, Europe’s economic fragility, and the ambivalent attitude of many countries in the developing world toward the United States. If American policymakers see victory in Ukraine as a new opportunity for a global liberal crusade, they are doomed to fail once again … success in Ukraine should prompt a careful reflection on the past 50 or more years of U.S. grand strategy, to identify which approaches have worked well and which have not. Here’s a quick back-of-the-envelope assessment.”

Why Did Modi Push Back on Putin? (Foreign Affairs): “… after avoiding confronting Russia about the invasion, India has finally decided to distance itself for compelling reasons. On one level, New Delhi has become increasingly uncomfortable with Moscow’s willingness to cozy up to Beijing, its principal and long-term security threat. On another, India wants to avoid alienating the United States … some members of the Indian foreign-policy establishment have concluded that India’s uncritical stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine does not serve its long-term interests … Given the growing significance of the U.S.-India security partnership, New Delhi can’t really afford to keep ignoring U.S. concerns.”

If Brazil’s President Attempts a Coup, What Will the Police Do? (The New York Times): “Mr. Bolsonaro, who is trailing in the polls, has gone to great lengths to sow doubt about the validity of Brazil’s election, claiming, for instance, that the country’s electronic voting machines will be manipulated to sway the vote in favor of his leftist opponent … Despite Mr. Bolsonaro’s friendly relations with the military, he seems to lack the institutional support that he would need to stage a successful coup. And if he loses by a large margin, he may conclude that it is more prudent to accept the result than to try to overturn it … But riots, popular uprisings and other forms of mass unrest are different from traditional coups. The police are usually the first line of response to such mass action. And that gives them tremendous power to affect outcomes, for one simple reason: They can decide whether or not to show up.”

What If Bolsonaro Won’t Go? (Foreign Affairs): “Bolsonaro has made unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud and publicly insists that the only way the opposition can prevent him from winning a second term is by stealing the election. His rhetoric is finding favor among his supporters: of the roughly 50 million Brazilians who say they will vote for Bolsonaro, about one-quarter are so radicalized that they have told pollsters the president should not recognize the result if he loses … the leadership of Brazil’s military—an institution that has accumulated significant political power during Bolsonaro’s tenure—has failed to condemn the president’s antidemocratic rhetoric … If Bolsonaro loses and refuses to concede, Brazil faces three possible scenarios. The president could insist that the election was stolen but refrain from attempting to stop the transition. Bolsonaro could take a page from his political idol, former U.S. President Donald Trump, and attempt to create a ‘Brazilian January 6th’—that is, he could incite mayhem that nonetheless stops short of impeding a democratic transition. In the worst case, his supporters could engage in political violence and the armed forces could fail to protect democracy, impeding a normal transition.”

How Not to Run a Country (The Economist): “By unveiling £45bn ($48bn) of unfunded tax cutsMr Kwarteng spooked financial markets in spectacular fashion. Most of the tax cuts and emergency spending had been signalled, but the vaunted supply-side reforms needed to pay for them were vague and the new government’s approach to the public finances was cavalier. Worse, the backdrop to Mr Kwarteng’s epic budget-busting was a slump in bond markets that raised borrowing costs for even the most creditworthy governments. As investors took fright, gilt yields surged, prompting the Bank of England to say on September 28th that it was ready to buy unlimited quantities of long-dated bonds to restore order to financial markets. Earlier, the pound had crashed to its lowest level ever against the dollar. Although sterling has since rebounded, markets still imply a 40% chance that it will reach parity with the dollar. Comparisons between Britain and emerging markets swirled; the IMF slammed Mr Kwarteng’s plan. After the worst start to a new administration in memory, people are already asking how long the new prime minister, Liz Truss, may last … Britons are lukewarm about a growing economy and wary of the sacrifices required to achieve it … only 49% of voters agreed that growth does more good than harm. By 53% to 16%, they agreed that ‘the government should spend more on health care and pensions, even if that means spending less on infrastructure and science’. Insularity is pervasive. By a margin of 57% to 24%, respondents said they would favour giving priority to the views of local residents and protecting the countryside, even if that produced less housing … a large chunk of the public said they would oppose a university or college opening in their town if ‘the town attracts more people from elsewhere’. The localism of MPs reinforces this insularity. The share of MPs born in the same region as the constituency they represent has risen from 45% to 52% in a decade; for new MPs it is 60%.”

Why the U.K. Economy Is Taking a Pounding (Foreign Policy): “Britain’s economic crisis … comes after the largest tax cuts in over 50 years were announcedand are set to be funded by increased government borrowing. New Prime Minister Liz Truss has defended tax cuts for some of the country’s top earners, arguing that it will ultimately drive economic growth. But skeptical investors rushed to offload the British currency and government debt, briefly driving the pound to $1.03 … while the appeal of British bonds utterly tanked, rising to the highest borrowing cost in decades, putting pressure on pension funds and other big holders of debt, which threatened a systemic collapse … Sterling has lost more than 20 percent against the dollar so far this year—and has further to fall … In the near term, a fall in the value of the pound will make imports more expensive, further driving up the cost of living and inflation for an island nation that imports about half of its food and fuel as well as other staples. Economists expect the Bank of England to announce a hike in interest rates in response, putting it in the unusual position of trying to pump the brakes while the government tries to rev the engine.”

How China Targets the Global Fish Supply (The New York Times): “Over the last two decades, China has built the world’s largest deep-water fishing fleet … with nearly 3,000 ships. Having severely depleted stocks in its own coastal waters, China now fishes in any ocean in the world, and on a scale that dwarfs some countries’ entire fleets near their own waters … Given the growing demands of an increasingly prosperous consumer class in China, it is unlikely to end soon. That doesn’t mean it is sustainable … China can fish on such an industrial scale because of vessels like Hai Feng 718, a refrigerated cargo ship … known as a carrier vessel, or mothership … It … carries fuel and other supplies for smaller ships that can unload their hauls and resupply their crews at sea. As a result, the other vessels do not need to spend time returning to port, allowing them to fish almost continuously. Over the course of a year beginning June 2021, the Hai Feng 718 met at least 70 smaller Chinese-flagged fishing vessels in various locations at sea … Each encounter, known as a transshipment, represents the transfer of tons of fish that the smaller ships would have had to unload in port hundreds of miles away … The arrangement of transferring catch to another vessel is not illegal, but … the use of the motherships makes it easy to underreport the catch and disguise its origins … The Hai Feng 718 alone has more than 500,000 cubic feet of cargo space, enough to carry thousands of tons of fish.”

△ The Change Chileans Really Want (Foreign Affairs): “Chile’s current constitution was inked in 1980, during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Even though it has been amended more than 70 times since, it remains unpopular: in 2020, nearly 80 percent of voters cast ballots in support of rewriting it. The new charter, supposed to secure gender equality, guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples, strengthen environmental protection, and address income inequality, was championed by Hollywood celebrities and by a group of intellectuals Chileans disagreed: 86 percent of eligible voters showed up and, by a margin of nearly two to one … Young people were angered by what they saw as a dearth of economic opportunity, and many felt that the Chilean political establishment had become closed and ossified young adults from working-class families were now reaching college but facing discrimination and glass ceilings in the labor market. But ultimately, Chileans wanted to fix capitalism, not overthrow it … voters … want a new constitution, but they do not wish to repeat the mistakes of the failed process that produced the one.”

Despite Iran’s Efforts to Block Internet, Technology Has Helped Fuel Outrage (The New York Times): “Among Iranians, growing online outrage has helped fuel successive waves of protest against the autocratic clerics who rule them, culminating this month in countrywide demonstrations that have challenged the foundations of the Islamic Republic. Though the battle is being fought with bodies in the street, with women burning their head scarves and Iranians of all classes confronting security forces, it was protesters’ phones that first swept them there … Nearly 80 percent of Iranians use some form of social media Even many government officials are on Twitter, even though it is banned in Iran, in a tacit acknowledgment of its reach. Recognizing that the internet blackouts could smother the protests, the Biden administration changed regulations last week to give American tech companies more room to offer services to Iranians without running afoul of United States sanctions on Iran. But it is unclear how quickly they could act.”

Iran’s Tired Regime Is Living on Borrowed Time (The Economist): “Revolutions are often sparked by individual acts of courageSeveral times in the past dozen or so years Iranians have erupted against their regime, only for huge demonstrations to fizzle out under the lash of a well-practised system of repression. Might this time be different? It is impossible to predict, as Iran is closed to the world’s press. Anger is certainly more widespread than ever before. The unrest has drawn in young and old. It has encompassed Iranians from every corner of the country, including Kurds and other minorities. So far it is women who have shown the most exhilarating bravery. But if Iran’s men weigh in with equal valour, the removal of a vile system … may no longer be inconceivable. The dominant part played by women in the protests is new. Another difference is that the demands are more drastic. Young people, connected to their contemporaries elsewhere on social media, are chafing more furiously than ever under the rule of grey-bearded clerics. Since 2012 income per head has stagnated, leaving legions of Iran’s 85m-plus people destitute. Inflation has soared. The environment has palpably suffered. Rivers have run dry. Farmland is parched. For many Iranians the only path to a decent life is emigration. And the regime is more rotten than ever. It is keen to blame Iran’s ills on foreignersbut the chief perpetrator of the people’s poverty is the regime itself. Under its corrupt theocracy swathes of the economy are controlled by military men and ayatollahs whose policies, even at the best of times, seem designed to scare off foreign investors. Hardliners dominate Iran’s parliament, and most relatively reform-minded politicians have been barred from running in elections. Moreover, after decades of aggressive foreign policy, Iran is isolated. It backs militias in Iraq and Lebanon and brutal leaders in Syria and Yemen. It menaces the Gulf states. And it persists with nuclear plans that terrify Israel and unnerve the region. Recent efforts to revive the un-backed deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme look doomed.”

Women Take Center Stage in Antigovernment Protests Shaking Iran (The New York Times): “The nationwide protests challenging Iran’s authoritarian leadership … have fed on a range of grievances: a collapsing economy, brazen corruption, suffocating repression and social restrictions handed down by a handful of elderly clerics … Tossing head scarves into bonfires, dancing bareheaded before security agents, young women have been at the forefront of these demonstrations, supplying the defining images of defiance.”

Iran Has Never Seen a Protest Movement Like This (Slate): “Iran has a very young population—something like 80 percent of the country is under the age of 40. The government is mostly the ruling elite. They’re all deeply traditional and, frankly, geriatric men. They are all 70-plus, more or less. The supreme leader, for instance, is 83 and has been ruling since 1989. He is the only supreme leader many of these young protesters have ever known, and they’re not happy about it.”

A Year Under the Taliban (The New York Times): “On the surface of the city, life goes on. Street markets are buzzing, though perhaps not as much as they did before because of the crumbling economy. Cafes that have managed to keep their doors open have regulars who come in for a cup of tea. But it is often a quiet cup of tea — the Taliban have pressured cafes to stop playing music, along with radio and TV stations, even at wedding halls. Radio stations have replaced songs with readings from the Quran. Cafes have settled on silence … The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is now the Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music is now a Taliban base. The British Embassy has been turned into a madrasa … People, too, have had to redefine themselves overnight, especially the members of the old armed forces and employees of the previous government. Those who once wore uniforms or suits and rode around the city in armored vehicles now find themselves wearing traditional Afghan clothes and driving a modest car, or even pushing a vegetable cart.”

Tunisia’s Perfect Economic Storm (Foreign Policy): “Food prices … have outpaced salaries, forcing many people to cut back. Instead of purchasing their usual cuts of meat, for example, families are forced to buy what one butcher described as the parts usually reserved for dog food … This year, the country also faced shortages of basic necessities, including sugar, cooking oil, semolina, flour, and one of the country’s most culturally symbolic foods: bread … The crisis had a political dimension as well, as President Kais Saied sought support for a new constitution in a national referendum this summer. Many analysts viewed the constitution as a shift away from democracy and the referendum as a power grab. It passed in a landslide, though voter turnout was relatively low. Tunisia is one of the world’s top consumers of wheat products and is a net-importing country. It relies heavily on Ukraine’s wheat production in order to feed its people, particularly the poor … this trade imbalance is reinforced by financial support from global institutions—which has effectively discouraged Tunisia from growing the food it traditionally consumes. The country is currently negotiating a new aid agreement with the International Monetary Fund, and a deal is expected by the end of October.”

Floods Devastate West Africa (Foreign Policy): “The most affected areas in Cameroon and Nigeria are agricultural districts that supply the majority of food in the region, particularly rice fields. There is a looming health and nutrition crisis; in Kano State alone, more than 14,000 farms have been destroyed while a cholera outbreak is spreading among communities already displaced by insurgencies. There are reports of corpses being washed up from inundated cemeteries. In Chad, the worst downpours experienced in 30 years continue and have affected more than 400,000 people since late AugustIn Niger, over the last week, the number of people affected by the floods increased 60 percent to 226,000 people … Poorly maintained drainage networks across Nigeria and a planned dam release this month in Cameroon have not helped matters … Many houses and unofficial settlements in Nigeria—particularly in the financial capital of Lagos—are built in flood plains, leaving poorer communities dangerously vulnerable … Africa—despite making up 17 percent of the world’s population—contributes just 3.8 percent of global carbon emissions but is experiencing the greatest effects.”

Who Speaks English? (Foreign Policy): “Nigeria, home to roughly 1 out of 6 Africans, is no ordinary Anglophone nation. Today, it is home to approximately 216 million people … Nigeria is on track to have roughly as many people as the United States in just 28 years … Producing accurate long-term population projections at the national level is a notoriously difficult enterprise, but … by 2100, the country will have well over 500 million people … by the end of this century, this single West African nation will boast roughly as many English speakers as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand combined. When one considers that English is also an official language in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, among other similarly fast-growing African countries once colonized by Britain, one begins to understand that the future of the English language itself is profoundly bound up with the future of the African continent … The world, in other words, is long overdue for the abandonment of the unstated but powerful hegemony that exists around the great imperial languages of centuries past. This has always sought to enforce the idea that to ‘properly’ speak English, French, Spanish, or, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, Portuguese (because of the size of Brazil) means to express oneself in ways that model whiteness. Down to the present, this hegemony has been so all-encompassing that for many people its hold goes unnoticed … As much as Western countries dream of limiting African immigration, rapidly aging populations and shrinking demographics on both sides of the North Atlantic will mean that Western countries will become increasingly dependent on Africa for workers. As anyone who visits Paris today, for example, knows, this is already evident among workers in lower-wage jobs, from hospital orderlies to construction workers to bus drivers.”

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