Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 34 n° 201

A vulnerable Russia might be more scary than a self-confident one

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 12 Maggio 2022

Vladimir Putin is not a man who worries about making enemies. You might think given that Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, he would not need to threaten the mild-mannered secretary general, António Guterres. Nonetheless, Mr Putin seemed to offer nothing to his visitor in Moscow last week, and then Russia sent missiles flying into central Kyiv when the UN boss was there to see Ukraine’s government. Presumably the intention was to humiliate his interlocutor and to show how ineffective the international body has been in this conflict.Still, it isn’t clear what Mr Putin gained by making another enemy. Chalk up his action as just the latest mis-step in his deadly misadventure in Ukraine. He has provoked the West into spending ever more on supporting Kyiv’s brave resistance. Joe Biden (and perhaps, soon, Congress) is pledging to give tens of billions of dollars to support the war effort in Ukraine. Other Western countries should follow suit. This week European countries might well agree upon an oil (though not gas) embargo against Russia. Meanwhile America is once again adopting the position of being the arsenal of democracy, though it will struggle to maintain the role.In contrast, Russia is finding that its own military forces are significantly less impressive than Mr Putin once thought—and others used to fear. The sinking of the Russian flagship, the Moskva, in April suggested the navy is not well run. We have asked how deep the rot is within the Russian army, where corruption, poor communication, lack of motivation and other problems explain its chaotic showing in Ukraine. The answer: the rot goes deep indeed.Neither Ukraine, nor the West, should be complacent. A vulnerable nuclear-armed power, after all, might be more scary than a self-confident, well-run one. Mr Putin has various options for extending his conflict. One threat is in Transnistria. Another possibility is that Mr Putin could declare full-scale war in Ukraine, calling for a general mobilisation of men to join the Russian army. It seems the world had better get used to the idea of conflict in Ukraine being one for the long haul, with all the military, economic, humanitarian and other consequences that entails.Beyond Russia and Ukraine, we’ll be keeping close watch on China, in particular Beijing, as officials in the capital try to repress a covid outbreak while avoiding the deeply unpopular shutdown that was imposed on Shanghai. The coming days could bring more infections, plus stricter restrictions on schools, offices and homes, or both. This is proving to be a serious and difficult test for Xi Jinping. As for the economy, we’re focusing on the consequences of the great unwinding of the Fed’s balance-sheet, and the impact this is having on the bond market and beyond. After the unexpected contraction of GDP in America in the first quarter, there are more jitters around than before. Both the Fed and the Bank of England hold meetings this week, where fears over rising inflation are likely to overshadow concerns about slowing economic growth, even concerns that a recession might loom. Further rate rises are widely expected.Last, in Britain, we will be observing the fallout from local elections later in the week. These matter in Northern Ireland, where Sinn Fein could become the largest party in the regional legislature. More generally in Britain the elections are a chance for voters to punish Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. How bad would results have to be to put Mr Johnson’s job at risk? My hunch is that he will be safe however grim the showing for the Conservatives. Many of you wrote to disagree with my praise, last Sunday, for Emmanuel Macron in France (several writers preferred to call him duplicitous or narcissistic rather than decent). Some also disliked my criticism of Marine Le Pen. I’ll stick by my views, but respect yours of course. Thanks to Bern, who wrote to tell me about a factory where he worked, in Britain in the 1980s, where the owners bought a machine that had previously made flechettes and converted it into one that churned out spokes for bicycle wheels instead. A real tale of swords into ploughshares. Bob Hearn in New Mexico disputed our take on the Fed and inflation. He argues that “putting the entire load of controlling inflation on the Fed is unrealistic”, and calls for the Fed this week (and beyond) to sit tight and not raise rates. A bold call, but I suspect the committee won’t heed it. By Adam Roberts Digital editor The Economist

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