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Italy

Upside To The Chaos? Papademos, Monti May Have The Right Stuff To Save Euro Zone

It is a showdown for the ages: Europe’s top economists (turned impromptu national leaders) and the European Central Bank vs. a panicking global investor pack.

Italy and Greece are at a crossroads that could determine the future of the euro zone
Italy and Greece are at a crossroads that could determine the future of the euro zone
Alexander Hagelüken

MUNICH - These days you might find yourself with the twisted thought that there may actually be an upside to all the turbulence surrounding the euro. After all, the crisis succeeded in doing something Italians couldn't for 17 years: getting rid of Silvio Berlusconi. The longest-serving post-War Italian prime minister leaves an atrocious legacy. If former EU Commissioner Mario Monti -- and not one of Berlusconi's protégés -- succeeds him, the country will get something it sorely lacks: an internationally respected economist who is incorruptible, both in the political positions he takes and in his personal moral standing.

Similarly, the nomination of Greek central banker Lucas Papademos as prime minister is also a step in the right direction. He understands better than other possible candidates what signals to send foreign creditors. However, Papademos is not entirely untouched by the sins of the past: he headed Greece's central bank when the country qualified for the euro zone based on manipulated budget data – and at the time he didn't denounce the tricks nearly as clearly as he later claimed he did. Still, Papademos is not a part of the incompetent political system that brought Greece to the abyss -- so in that sense he offers some hope for the country.

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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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