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SPOTLIGHT: BREXIT LANDS IN JAPAN

Why would Shinzo Abe care what British voters think about Europe? The Japanese Prime Minister, currently hosting the G7 summit, joined leaders of the world's other top economic powers in a surprise declaration today to urge the UK to vote to remain in the European Union in next month's so-called "Brexit" referendum. "A UK exit from the EU would reverse the trend towards greater global trade and investment, and the jobs they create and is a further serious risk to growth," the statement said.


By now, the ties that bind the world economy are clear to all — the question is whether we are bound for the better. From Brexit supporters in Britain to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders backers in the U.S. to striking French workers, and a generation of "No Global" demonstrators everywhere, such summits as the current gathering on Kashiko Island are part of the problem. Still, there may be a quieter majority that suggests a certain faith in nations working together. A survey published in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter found that 76% feared negative consequences for the EU if Britain pulls out, and 56% worry that Sweden itself will suffer. And it's not just a cynical bet on a relatively strong economy: Polls last year showed that most of Europe was also opposed to Greece leaving the European single currency. Since the global financial crash of 2008, it's still hard to find open expressions of optimism about our economic future. Perhaps that's the best reason of all to stick together.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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