A new semester is on its way, and in this special edition of the Monday Briefing, we present both news that refer to the past week and major global developments from the months in which we were all buried in the exam session. Between the Ukraine crisis, the US raid that killed the ISIS leader, inflation, the PartyGate scandal in the UK, the Winter Olympics and the re-election of Italian President, it is a rich edition. Have a great first week of classes and a great semester, and stay tuned this week as next Monday Tra i Leoni will start recruiting!
On December 6th, in the last Monday Briefing issue of the fall semester, the Spotlight session was already dedicated to the tensions surrounding Ukraine and Russia following the latter’s decision to mobilize 170,000 troops close to the border that separates the two countries.
Today, for this semester’s first edition of the Monday Briefing, our focus is inevitably still there. In fact, although the tension that was already recognizable two months ago has not escalated into a full-scale invasion, it hardly waned; on the contrary, the developments that followed the aforementioned mobilization arguably made the prospect of conflict both more likely and more dangerous for the international arena.
What are the forces at play here, though, and how do they affect the likelihood of a conflict truly erupting? It is certainly a complicated question that should be articulated in many different ramifications to get a complete overview, but certain facts allow us to get a clearer picture of the interests of each of the parties involved. For starters, in the 2008 Bucharest Summit, an informal promise was made to Ukraine that it would become a member of the NATO alliance, a promise that was not accompanied by any timetable or clear plan to be actualized.
According to many analysts, this promise is one of the focus points of this tension, and it puts everyone in an uncomfortable position. NATO cannot retract the promise without losing credibility and implying that it explicitly accepts the Russian influence on the country’s internal politics. Russia, on the other hand, feels threatened by the prospect of its neighbour becoming part of NATO. Ukraine is therefore currently between two blocs, with Russia demanding legal guarantees that Ukraine will never join NATO and the US demanding for the Russian troops currently on the border to be called back. The situation is rendered even more complicated by Europe’s dependence on Russia for gas, which makes various countries reluctant to openly take a stand against it, and by China’s involvement on Russia’s side.
As of right now, the US seem to be convinced that an invasion is now imminent, as President Joe Biden first explicitly said so in a press conference and then, on January 24th, 8,500 US troops were put on alert and the US Embassy in Ukraine started being evacuated, and yesterday a US administration note that was leaked to The Washington Post and The New York Times described the attack as “imminent”.
Whatever the outcome, the situation is far from being appeased and its future developments may have long-lasting consequences for the whole world.
Around the World
Major Developments of the Last 2 Months
Chile’s new progressive government. On December 20th, in the second-round of Chile’s Presidential election, the Chilean people elected as president 35-year-old Gabriel Boric, a leftist former student activist that promised to lead the country towards a more progressive dimension in various policy area. He will have to guide the country through the transition towards the new constitution that is currently being drafted by the Constitutional Assembly that was put together following last year’s referendum in which the popular will to disregard Augusto Pinochet’s 1980 Constitution was expressed. On January 21st, Boric announced the cabinet members of his government, and besides the uncharacteristic female majority in office (14 out of the 24 ministers), what caught media attention worldwide was the choice of Maya Fernández Allende as defence minister. Mrs. Allende is in fact the granddaughter of Salvador Allende, the socialist Chilean president who died on September 11th, 1973, during the coup d’état that gave power to Augusto Pinochet.
Boris Johnson’s Lockdown PartyGate. In January, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s direct involvement in the organization of some of the parties that were organized at 10 Downing Street, London in May 2020, meaning in the most acute phase of the first lockdown, became evident when the police that was investigating the case explicitly asked the government for clarifications. The scandal, which has been denominated PartyGate, is, according to many, bound to cause Boris Johnson to be removed as Prime Minister, as The Guardian claims that the only thing keeping his government going is the day-to-day uncertainty. Mr. Johnson first denied the allegations, but then had to apologize when pictures picturing him at one of those parties emerged. Now, his future as Prime Minister is hanging by a thread, as the Labour Party wants him removed, and the report that was put together by civil servant Sue Gray puts him in an even more unstable position.
Protests in Kazakhstan. At the beginning of the new year, following the rise in gas prices that came as a consequence of the government removing the price ceiling that had kept them affordable, thousands of Kazakhs reversed on the streets to protest. Kazakh president Tokayev, as a response, dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency, and ordered armed forces to repress the protests by any means necessary, which resulted in at least 44 deaths and 3,000 arrests. The protests were successfully repressed thanks to the contribution of Russia, which sent troops to the country to help the Government. It is interesting to note, though, that it is the first time in recent history that the authority of the Kazakh President is challenged so explicitly, and that while this protest may have been repressed, the situation is hardly likely to remain stable.
High inflation in EU and US. Inflation in the Eurozone hit new highs on December, with a 5% price increase. In the US, the rate of inflation even reached 7%. The surge is mainly linked to rising costs of energy and raw materials, together with shipping. However, there are concerns that the phenomenon is not going to be temporary as some central bankers have claimed. The US Federal Reserve has signalled that it could raise interest rates as many as three times in 2022, while the ECB has taken a more dovish stance for the moment.
New This Week
Macron will meet Putin to avoid a European war. President Emmanuel Macron of France will travel to Moscow, where he will meet President Vladimir Putin of Russia, and later to Kyiv this week. With the US adopting a hard line and Germany lying low, Mr. Macron has positioned himself at the centre of the diplomacy in Europe. This new mediating opportunity may offer him the chance to move Russia closer to Europe and weaken its ties with China, his aides hope, but also to reap consensus ahead of the domestic elections.
The EU seeks to avoid an energy crisis in case of war. Brussels is examining how to protect EU consumers from a potential energy crisis in case of a military escalation in Ukraine. The plans aim at weakening the link between gas prices and the cost of wholesale electricity and at securing increased flows of liquefied natural gas from big producers. The EU’s dependence on Russian gas has long been seen as a limit in its ability to sanction the country.
The 2022 Winter Olympics have started. The 2022 Winter Olympics have started last week, despite lacking snow. The Chinese government went to such lengths to host the Olympics in Beijing that it diverted the scarce water in the area and resettled hundreds of families to be able to supply enough artificial snow. And unpredictable weather conditions are raising concerns.
Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II has become the first British monarch to reach 70 years of reign. The platinum jubilee is seen by the Johnson government as one of a series of events that could lift the national mood after two years of pandemic-induced restrictions.
Islamic State leader killed during raid by US special forces. During the night between Wednesday and Thursday, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of Islamic State and one of the world’s most wanted men, has been killed during a raid by US special forces in north-west Syria. The pre-dawn attack on a house in the village of Atme, just south of the Turkish border, led to up to 13 casualties, among them women and children.
Investors are reconsidering big tech. After years of big gains, some big tech companies’ shares have dropped last week, including Netflix and Facebook’s parent Meta. Investor are weighing in the possibility to adopt a new strategy, targeting specific big tech firms that show signs of resilience or broadening their tech portfolios to other players.
Mattarella bis, il giuramento alla Camera: “Nuova chiamata alla responsabilità, non mi sottraggo” | “Ora è necessaria una profonda riforma della giustizia” . Giovedì Sergio Mattarella ha prestato giuramento nell’Aula della Camera in occasione del suo secondo mandato da Presidente della Repubblica. “Il Parlamento e i rappresentanti delle Regioni hanno fatto la loro scelta. E’ per me una nuova chiamata, inattesa, alla responsabilità, alla quale tuttavia non posso e non ho inteso sottrarmi. Bisogna riannodare il patto tra italiani e istituzioni. Ora è necessaria una profonda riforma della giustizia”. Il discorso del Presidente della Repubblica, durato circa quaranta minuti, si è concluso con un lungo applauso da parte dei deputati.
Green pass illimitato: importanti novità dal 7 febbraio. l Green Pass avrà scadenza illimitata dopo la terza dose. E lo stesso vale anche per la Certificazione dei guariti dopo due dosi. Dopo I primi casi di contagi tra persone vaccinate, segno che la protezione del vaccino stesso stesse iniziando a ridursi, il Green Pass con solo prima e seconda dose non poteva più essere considerato una garanzia di protezione dal virus. Tuttavia, a seguito dell’introduzione della terza dose, dal 7 febbraio il Green Pass avrà durata illimitata almeno fino a quando non verrà stabilita l’eventuale necessità di una quarta dose.
Le nuove regole per gestire i contagi a scuola. Mercoledì il governo ha annunciato che cambieranno le regole sulla gestione dei contagi da coronavirus nelle scuole, uniformandole per tutte le fasce d’età e riducendo il numero minimo di giorni in cui è prevista la didattica a distanza (DAD). In pratica, come già avviene al momento nelle scuole medie e superiori, anche alla scuola elementare le restrizioni in caso di contagi in una classe verranno differenziate per alunni vaccinati e non vaccinati. Come ha detto in conferenza stampa il ministro della Salute Roberto Speranza, «i vaccinati non andranno più in DAD» e per i non vaccinati la DAD durerà cinque giorni e non più dieci.
Milano-Cortina, Bormio dice sì alla tangenziale delle Olimpiadi: 7 milioni per liberare il paese dal traffico. Un progetto del quale si parla dagli anni Novanta si prepara a diventare realtà grazie alla spinta acceleratrice delle Olimpiadi Milano-Cortina. Bormio ha infatti detto sì alla nuova strada che collegherà l’area delle funivie al paese di Santa Lucia, attraversando la piana dell’Alute lungo l’argine del torrente Frodolfo. Obiettivo migliorare la viabilità e l’accesso allo ski stadium, arrivo della pista Stelvio dove si svolgeranno le gare maschili di sci alpino, e liberare il centro dal traffico.
Salvini: “Il centrodestra si è sciolto come neve al sole”: A seguito delle tensioni emerse dopo l’elezione di Mattarella al Quirinale Salvini dichiara che “è evidente che alla logica di squadra qualcuno preferisca quella del singolo”, riferendosi al fatto che la canditata del centrodestra non avrebbe ricevuto dal partito ben 70 voti. Salvini continua: alla prova dei fatti sono stato tra i pochi a credere all’unità della coalizione che si è sciolta come neve al sole”
Notizie importanti degli ultimi mesi
Rielezione di Sergio Mattarella come Presidente della Repubblica. Dopo sei giorni di discussioni e indecisioni, Sergio Mattarella è stato riconfermato Presidente della Repubblica. Nonostante le sue dichiarazioni riguardanti la sua volontà di non rimanere al Quirinale per altri sette anni, gli è stata inviata richiesta formale da parte dei capigruppo parlamentari e dai rappresentanti di Regioni e comuni (i “grandi elettori”), simbolo della volontà della maggioranza.
Bocconi has launched a “walk at home” initiative for students of the Dubini, Isonzo and Spadolini residences. During the evening, students will have the possibility to be accompanied by university personnel through Parco Ravizza, an area which has seen a series of robberies recently.
While there tends to be a widespread perception that foreign aid can somehow contribute to the development of the country that receives it, evidence of the exact opposite happening has been empirically evident for decades. For this week’s Long Read, we suggest a more detailed read into the Haiti case as evidence of this. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and when it appears in widespread media, it is usually because of a natural disaster or because of a particularly violent exemplification of political instability. 8% of the Gross National Income that Haiti has produced between 2000 and 2019 was foreign aid, and yet the economic conditions of individuals, as well as the country’s human development indicators, have hardly improved over this span. To better understand why, you can start from here.