I have just spent an interesting day in Washington, part of which was spent listening to European and US officials discussing Ukraine’s decision to halt talks on a bilateral pact with the EU. This decision by the Yanukovitch administration is a big blow to both the EU and the US, which had been hoping to draw Ukraine decisively into the Western orbit. It also a minor triumph for the Russians. One disappointed western analyst says that – “It is the first time that the West has lost a soft power contest with Russia.”
And yet the reaction from Western officials was calmer than I expected. Broadly speaking, the view seems to be that it’s a great shame – but that the biggest loss is to Ukraine itself. In the long-term, it is hoped that this will become apparent and that the Ukrainians will look West again. There is also a strong view that the Russians won this particular struggle through the use of inducements that were not available to the West. As one analyst put it – “In the end, this came down to money. And not money for Ukraine itself. Money for particular groups in Ukraine.” Read more
The FT has chosen World Child Cancer as its partner in the 2013 Seasonal Appeal. In this video, Shawn Donnan introduces the charity, its model, and how it helps children with cancer in the developing world. Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ In India, prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi captures the attention of both bitter enemies and fanatical supporters. Even business leaders who admire him admit he could be a risky choice, write the FT’s Victor Mallet and Lionel Barber. Read more
Critics of Germany’s actions in the eurozone debt and banking crisis often berate Angela Merkel, the Christian Democrat chancellor, for lacking a “vision” for Europe. Not me. I am with Helmut Schmidt, West Germany’s plain-spoken Social Democrat chancellor from 1974 to 1982, who once said that people who have visions should go and see a doctor.
What is the view of Mario Monti, the distinguished former European Union commissioner, who worked closely with Merkel during his 17-month spell as Italy’s prime minister from November 2011 until last April? Monti now chairs a committee on promoting a united Europe at the Berggruen Institute on Governance, a non-partisan think-tank headquartered in California. I contacted him earlier this week in Milan, and as usual his thoughts were perceptive and full of common sense (and quite long sentences). Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ Twenty-three years after German reunification, a report shows that east-west migration is fizzling out. As the socio-economic differences become smaller, investors are pumping capital into the ex-communist east, writes the FT’s Stefan Wagstyl.
♦ Slovenia – which cruised to the EU as the wealthiest of the 10 ex-communist members – is now struggling to avoid a eurozone bailout.
♦ In the US, inequality is moving to the front line of politics. The rich-poor gap has long been an issue, but in post-crisis times it seems more difficult to raise hopes of upward mobility.
♦ “Keeping China moving will keep its leaders busy,” comments the FT’s David Pilling. Xi Jinping – “the world’s most powerful leader” – has nine years left at the helm of an economy that could be the world’s biggest by 2020.
♦ In post-revolutionary times, Arab countries are dealing with the task of rewriting history and figuring out how to teach it. Egypt, Lybia and Tunisia are removing from school textbooks the praise they once heaped on former dictators, writes The Economist.
♦ A video report from the Wall Street Journal follows citizens whose lives were upended by the conflict across Syria’s northern border. “I always try to make my students forget what they saw in Syria”, says a teacher in a refugee camp in Turkey. Read more
The tug of war over the future of Ukraine
Ukraine finds itself caught between Russia and the EU ahead of a summit next week in Vilnius, where the country’s president Viktor Yanukovich will have the opportunity to sign a major free trade deal and political association agreement with the EU. Russia has intensified pressure on the country recently not to sign the deal in favour of joining a Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Neil Buckley, Eastern Europe editor and Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief to explain how the situation is likely to develop.
By Luisa Frey
♦ Women are leading the revolution in Chile, writes the FT’s Benedict Mander. Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei, who will face each other in the second round of presidential elections, and young communist Camila Vallejo are good examples.
♦ As corruption scandals are revealed in Malawi, even the president has admitted that she does not know where the money has gone.
♦ In Libya, the increasingly violent rivalries between the militias that overthrew the Gaddafi regime are rendering the elected government even more powerless.
♦ “How is Hamid Karzai still standing?” asks the New York Times. As the deadline for registering candidates for next year’s presidential election approaches, Afghanistan’s future seems to depend on the fraught internal family politics of the Karzais.
♦ The New York Times describes how a law from 1938, which allowed Nazis to seize thousands of artworks seen as un-German or Jewish, now makes their recovery difficult.
♦ The Guardian says walls are being built to divide people from their neighbours around the world - from a luxury community in Brazil to barriers along the US/Mexico border and walls that separate ethnic groups in Homs, Syria. Read more
France's Benzema celebrates after scoring the second goal for the team during their World Cup qualifying playoff match against Ukraine at the Stade de France Reuters
If any country is in need of a morale booster, it is surely France. President Hollande’s popularity ratings are in the low 20s. The economy is shrinking. The country’s credit-rating has just been downgraded again. The far-right is on the rise. And a crazed gunman is on the loose in Paris. But amid all this gloom, something good has happened. And the positive news has come from an unlikely source, the national football team. Last night “les Bleus” overcame the odds and notched up the 3-0 victory they needed to defeat Ukraine and get to the World Cup in Brazil. Even the high-brow “Le Monde” had the footballing triumph as its banner headline, this morning. Read more
Michelle Bachelet on the campaign trail
Chile is about to have a new female president, Michelle Bachelet. Brazil already has one, Dilma Rousseff. So too Argentina, in the figure of Cristina Fernández. Add up their three economies, and a combined gross domestic product of $3,000bn will soon be presided over by female leaders. Moreover, this is in a continent more often noted for machismo than women’s rights. It just goes to show how often stereotypes can be wrong. Or are they? Read more