The World Today for March 07, 2022
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The Great Awakening
When Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded the former Soviet republic of Ukraine late last month, he claimed he was pushing back against aggressive Western powers that were impinging on Russian interests. If that was Putin’s strategy, it arguably backfired. A great awakening has spread across Europe as nations have banded together, abandoned their pacifist inclinations and strengthened their defenses under the banner of democracy and human rights.
“The EU’s illusions about the nature of the Russian threat to Europe have crumbled,” wrote the Financial Times. “Where European capitals once favored dialogue, they have turned to deterrence.”
Germany’s decision to spend more than $100 billion on defense in a one-shot expenditure and boost annual military spending to the two percent of the gross domestic product that NATO members are supposed to allocate to their militaries, as Deutsche Welle explained, is perhaps the greatest sign of the change that has occurred on the continent.
But it’s not the only one. European countries have overhauled their policies toward Russia, the Washington Post noted. They banned Russian-controlled media in the European Union, enacted tough sanctions on Russian institutions and, perhaps most importantly, spent EU funds to give Ukraine weapons.
Additionally, Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia are working on giving their Russian-made fighter jets to Ukraine – a potential game-changer in the country’s fight against Russia. As NBC News noted, they want assurances that the US will allow them to buy modern American jets to replace the ones they lose, however.
Even neutral countries like Finland and Sweden are getting into the act. NATO leaders are now including the two countries in their deliberations, according to Defense News. More than half of the Finnish public and more than 40 percent of Swedes now support joining the alliance. Neutral Switzerland, meanwhile, has joined the US and EU in imposing economic sanctions on Russian elites, Radio France Internationale reported.
Perhaps Putin has effectuated a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding a Europe unified against his homeland, the Los Angeles Times claimed. The Encyclopedia Britannica defined the psychology behind the concept as an “originally false expectation [that] leads to its own confirmation.” The idea is that Putin prophesized European aggression, took actions to counter it in Ukraine and thereby forced Europeans to become more aggressive, fulfilling his worst fears.
British journalist Peter Hitchens would disagree. Writing in the Daily Mail, he argued that such analyses ignore the West’s and Ukraine’s role in ratcheting up tensions with Russia over the years.
Either way, the possibility of World War III in Europe is more real than ever. Putin has described economic sanctions as the equivalent to “declaring war,” noted National Public Radio. Calls for a Western-imposed no-fly zone over Ukraine, for example, could force Russian jets to fight NATO jets in the sky over the country, warned Jacobin, a leftist magazine.
The Russian president might be assuming that Europe won’t spark a war in order to defeat aggression, violence and authoritarianism. He could be wrong. But he also might be harboring a death wish.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
Shades of Gray
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
A global anti-money laundering watchdog placed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on its “gray list” over concerns that the Gulf country has not taken enough steps to curb illegal financial activities, CNBC reported.
The French-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said that the UAE was subject to increased monitoring because of “strategic deficiencies” in its attempts to counter money laundering. Still, it acknowledged that the country had made efforts to thwart money laundering and terrorism financing.
The designation places the Gulf nation on a list of 22 others including Syria, Albania, and Panama. The watchdog said the “gray list” is not as severe as the “blacklist,” which includes Iran and North Korea.
The Emirates is the financial hub of the Middle East and hosts many international companies’ headquarters. But the UAE also has a reputation for being an easy place to move large sums of cash in and out of the country and lax inspection in certain sectors, such as real estate deals, according to the Financial Times.
Following the FATF’s report, officials said the UAE takes “its role in protecting the integrity of the global financial system extremely seriously.”
The inclusion in the list will impact the UAE’s reputation as a global financial hub, although Gulf-based bankers noted that the move will not stop financial institutions looking to set up in the country.
Fires, Missiles and Ballots
South Korean firefighters and troops battled a large wildfire over the weekend that tore through the country’s eastern coastal area, forcing thousands to evacuate and threatening two energy facilities in the region, the Associated Press reported.
The fire began Friday morning near the seaside town of Uljin and spread across more than 14,800 acres to the nearby city of Samcheok. More than 6,200 people have been evacuated and at least 159 homes and 46 other buildings have been destroyed.
The government deployed about 7,000 firefighters, troops and public workers, as well as 65 helicopters and more than 500 vehicles to contain the blaze.
The wildfire also threatened to spread to a liquid natural gas production facility and a nuclear power plant near Uljin but authorities were able to prevent the blaze from hitting them.
So far, no casualties have been reported. Officials said they are investigating the cause of the blaze.
The disaster comes just before South Korea holds its presidential elections, Bloomberg noted, adding to a growing number of stressors: Weeks before the March 9 polls, neighboring North Korea has been conducting various missile tests, including suspected ballistic missiles.
Chile will create a large national park to protect the country’s hundreds of glaciers melting because of climate change, Agence France-Presse reported.
The new National Glacier Park will cover more than 185,000 acres of the Andes mountain about 40 miles from the capital, Santiago.
Outgoing President Sebastian Pinera hailed the park as “a fundamental step that our country is taking to combat the destruction of nature.” He said the initiative will protect 368 glaciers, as well as preserve species native to the region, such as pumas and foxes.
The president added that the glaciers hold 32 times more water than the reservoir that serves Santiago’s seven million population.
The park’s establishment comes amid global concern that the warming climate is melting glaciers around the world. A study by the University of Chile found that glaciers in the central part of the country – where the park is also located – are shrinking because of global warming.
Chile ranks among the top 10 nations in the world in terms of glacier surface area. The list also includes Canada, the United States, China and Russia.
- A second day of attempted evacuations of residents of the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol failed Sunday as both Russia and Ukraine accused each other of violating a ceasefire agreement, Reuters reported. And as Russian forces continued to bomb Ukrainian cities – and target civilians, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – world leaders began raising questions of Russian war crimes. Meanwhile, Ukraine is set to ask the United Nations’ highest court Monday to stop Russia’s invasion – the International Court of Justice adjudicates legal disputes between states. Separately, Ukraine is dispatching teams to bombed sites to gather evidence of possible war crimes at another international tribunal.
- Russian police detained more than 4,500 people in 49 cities across Russia who were protesting against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Al Jazeera noted. The Kremlin has also blocked social media platforms Facebook and Twitter in the country over alleged “discrimination” against Russian media, CBS News reported. Meanwhile, major western media outlets such as Bloomberg and the BBC and social media companies such as TikTok pulled out of Russia because of a draconian new media censorship law.
- The United Nations estimated that more than 360 civilians have been killed in Ukraine, although Ukrainian officials put the death toll at more than 2,000 civilians, the Washington Post wrote. Meanwhile, the UN said about 1.5 million have fled the country, describing the exodus as the fastest and largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- More than 500 Russian soldiers have been killed and about 1,600 injured during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Among the dead are three Russian generals, including Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky, a top figure in the Russian military, the Independent reported.
- The United States and Poland are considering providing Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine to fend off invading Russian forces, NBC News wrote. Meanwhile, NATO and other Western officials have refused to establish a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine, citing fears that such a move would exacerbate the conflict, Politico noted. Russia said Sunday that countries hosting Ukrainian combat aircraft could be viewed by Moscow as parties to the conflict.
The Russian invasion prompted many Ukrainians to take up arms and learn guerilla tactics to defend their country against their larger neighbor.
Google data showed a spike in searches for “how to make a Molotov cocktail,” with the search interest being considerably high in the northeastern regions first attacked by Russian forces, including Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, the Washington Post reported.
The improvised hand grenade is made by pouring flammable liquid into a glass bottle and plugging it with a cloth that will act as a “fuse” before setting it on fire.
So far, thousands of Molotov cocktails have been made, using soda, wine and beer bottles. Some bottles are filled with grated Styrofoam, which is said to make the flaming liquid sticky.
Molotov cocktails were first documented to be used in 1936 during the Spanish civil war but their famous name – along with heavy usage – came during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Finland during the Second World War.
The Finnish army employed the device as a way to repel Soviet forces and named it after Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov.
Molotov had claimed that Soviet planes bombing Finland were actually dropping humanitarian supplies and that the army was “liberating” the country. The Finns thus called the bombs “Molotov’s Picnic Baskets.”
The device was later used in Hungary in 1956, when dissident Hungarians rebelled against the oppression of the Soviet-backed government, prompting the Soviet Union to send tanks to quell the unrest.
To this day, Molotov cocktails have become the go-to weapon for rebels, agitators and citizen soldiers, and sometimes protesters.
For some Ukrainians such as 19-year-old Evgeny Belinkyi, it’s an important weapon: “I came here to defend my land,” he said. “To defend my homeland, my loved ones.”
COVID-19 Global Update
Total Cases Worldwide: 446,281,612
Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,999,254
Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 10,594,975,161
Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*
- US: 79,271,466 (+0.01%)
- India: 42,967,315 (+0.01%)
- Brazil: 29,056,525 (+0.05%)
- France: 23,238,166 (+0.20%)
- UK: 19,256,835 (+0.00%)**
- Russia: 16,698,139 (+0.00%)**
- Germany: 15,897,578 (+0.40%)
- Turkey: 14,358,888 (+0.23%)
- Italy: 13,026,112 (+0.28%)
- Spain: 11,100,428 (+0.00%)**
*Numbers change over 24 hours
**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country