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DIE WELT
Die Welt ("The World") is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.
Photo of a demonstration of anarchist protesters in Rome in November
Geopolitics
Ginevra Falciani

Anarchist Revival? Italy Risks Turning Alfredo Cospito Into A Martyr For A Lost Cause

Until a few weeks ago, Alfredo Cospito was a faceless holdout from a largely forgotten movement serving a life sentence for two separate attacks in the name of anarchism. But now his hunger strike has become a rallying cry for anarchists across Europe following a series of attacks protesting his prison conditions.

An anonymous telephone call breaks the morning quiet of a newspaper office, warning that a “major bombing” will soon happen in response to the treatment of a jailed anarchist.

As much as it sounds like 1970s Italy, when bombs went off in train stations and piazzas, and politicians and business executives were kidnapped in broad daylight, the telephone call arrived three days ago at the Bologna headquarters of the Italian newspaper Il Resto del Carlino.

It’s the latest twist around the case of Alfredo Cospito, a member of the Informal Anarchist Federation, whose ongoing hunger strike has dominated Italian public debate for the past several weeks, and become a rallying cry for an anarchist movement across Europe that many thought had faded away.

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Photo of a Ukrainian woman mourning her son in Irpin Cemetery
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Christoph B. Schiltz

Why It's Now Almost Impossible For Ukraine To Win The War

It’s hard to admit, but every day, the chance of a Ukrainian victory moves further away. Kyiv is running out of troops and equipment. The enemy is better prepared and has significant reinforcements at its disposal. It’s no surprise, then, that the talk among Western diplomats is of a truce.

-Analysis-

At the start of the year, Ukraine seemed optimistic about its prospects in the terrible war of Russian aggression that has been inflicted on the country for almost a year now.

This year, military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov has said, would bring “peace and victory.” But how realistic is a Ukrainian victory?

It is almost impossible for Ukraine to emerge from this war as the victor. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s definition, victory would mean regaining all occupied territories, including Crimea. But as things stand – and above all, given the West’s half-hearted support – this is impossible. Around 18% of Ukrainian territory is currently occupied by Russia. In the future, unfortunately, this proportion may well rise rather than fall.

Reason 1: The debates of the last few weeks have made it clear that the U.S., Germany and other NATO members are more afraid of the war spreading to NATO territory than of the threat to Western security posed by Russia’s territorial gains in Ukraine. Western decision makers believe that supplying Ukraine with more effective, deadly and targeted weapons will increase the danger of the war spilling over. The West is suffering from a kind of self-deterrence, so it is only offering Ukraine enough support to keep it from having to capitulate straight away.

Crippled infrastructure, troop depletion

Reason 2: So far, Russia has destroyed between 60 and 70% of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. It seems unlikely that the West will supply Kyiv with enough of the air defense weapons that it needs to stop this wave of Russian destruction, including the IRIS-T, NASAMS and Patriot weapons systems. In fact, the paltry weapons that the West has supplied so far will be seen as an open invitation to the Russian military, which – according to Erik Kristoffersen, head of the Norwegian Armed Forces – still has a huge arsenal of missiles and drones at its disposal.

Ukraine is becoming less and less able to repair its destroyed infrastructure. Equipment and materials that would usually come from Russia are running out. Energy shortages are making it harder and harder to keep the Ukrainian people supplied. And the Ukrainian armaments industry desperately needs electricity.

Ukraine is running out of soldiers.

Reason 3: the Russian army is combatting Western precision weapons with sheer numbers, and it has enough resources to fall back on. That is especially true when it comes to tanks. According to London thinktank the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Russia could have over 4,000 operational tanks – a huge number, which not only poses a significant threat to Western Leopard tanks, but could also allow Russia to launch an offensive at any time.

Reason 4: As the war drags on, Ukraine is running out of soldiers. Depending on how you measure it, the current mobilization drive is at least the eighth wave, and men over 60 are being sent to the front. By contrast, Russia will soon call up 200,000 new conscripts, and there could even be up to a further 500,000 to come in summer. Moscow has around 30 million people who could potentially be called up.

Reason 5: Russia could emerge from this war not only as the military victor with territorial gains, but also as the political victor. According to the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (WIIW), Ukraine’s economic recovery could prove significantly more difficult than the National Council for the Recovery of Ukraine has predicted.

Joining NATO would be impossible for the foreseeable future after a truce or peace talks, and even the most generous timeline for joining the EU would take far longer than Kyiv currently hopes.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky at the first European Commission-Ukraine intergovernmental consultations summit in Kyiv

Sarsenov Daniiar/Ukrainian Presi/Planet Pix/ZUMA

Why is the West pushing for a truce?

And what is the current situation on the battlefield? While the West – embodied by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – is proving slow to deliver on its promises to “do everything in our power to help Ukraine,” Kyiv is running out of time to end the stalemate and go on the offensive.

Russian troops are using this time to dig in, lay mines, strengthen their positions and send in fresh soldiers and equipment, so that they will be better equipped for both attack and defense. The promised battle tanks – Ukraine asked for 300 and is only getting around 130 – will not enable Ukraine to launch successful counter-attacks on Kreminna or Zaporizhzhia, in order to cut off supply lines to Russian troops in Crimea.

To launch a successful tank attack towards Crimea, Ukraine would also need short-range missiles with a greater range (ATACMS), more armored personnel carriers (100 have been promised, while Kyiv asked for 500–600), more artillery systems (70 promised, 500 requested) and fighter jets (none have been promised, while Kyiv asked for 180 F-16 jets).

Kyiv is running out of time – and the West is simply standing by and watching.

Kyiv is running out of time – and the West is simply standing by and watching. Europe and the U.S. are afraid of crossing the “red line” that Russian president Vladimir Putin has drawn, so they are doing nothing to disrupt Russian satellite communications, which would have a huge impact on Moscow’s offensive capabilities.

The international community is doing a lot to support Ukraine. But it is still not enough to allow Kyiv to regain the territory that rightfully belongs to it. We can only assume this is deliberate. Western diplomats are speaking more and more about fears of escalation, of democratic societies growing tired of war, and of their hopes that there will soon be a truce.

The current levels of Western engagement will naturally lead to a truce – although, of course, those in charge won’t admit it. The result will be a divided Ukraine.

Photo of a technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium
Economy

Russian Diamonds Are Belgium's Best Friend — But For How Much Longer?

Belgium has lobbied hard for the past year to keep Russian diamonds off the list of sanctioned goods. Indeed, there would be a huge impact on the economy of the port city of Antwerp, if Europe finally joins with the U.S. and others in banning sale of so-called "blood diamonds" from Russia. But a 10th package of EU sanctions arriving this month may finally be the end of the road.

Since Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has agreed to nine different packages of sanctions against Russia. With the aim to punish Moscow's leadership and to cripple the war economy, European bans and limits have been placed on imports of a range of Russian products from coal, gas and steel to caviar and vodka — were successively banned over the past 11 months.

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Still, one notable Russian export is a shining exception to the rule, still imported into Europe as if nothing has changed: diamonds.

Russian state conglomerate Alrosa, which accounts for virtually all of the country's diamond production (95%) and deals with more than one-fourth of total global diamond imports, has been chugging along, business as usual.

But that may be about to change, ahead of an expected 10th package of sanctions slated to be finalized in the coming weeks. During recent negotiations, with 26 of the 27 EU members agreeing on the statement that ALSROA’s diamonds should no longer be imported, the one holdout was not surprisingly Belgium.

The Belgian opposition to the ban is explained by the port city of Antwerp, where 85% of the rough diamonds in the world pass through to get cut, polished, and marketed. There are estimates that 30,000 Belgians work for Alrosa.

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Photo of a window pane with water droplets reflecting Facebook's thumb up logo, with one big thumb down in the background
eyes on the U.S.
Ginevra Falciani and Bertrand Hauger

Eyes On U.S. — California, The World Is Worried About You

As an Italian bestseller explores why people are fleeing the Golden State, the international press also takes stock of unprecedented Silicon Valley layoffs. It may be a warning for the rest of the world.

-Analysis-

For as long as we can remember, the world has seen California as the embodiment of the American Dream.

Today, this dream may be fading — and the world is taking notice.

A peek at the Italian list of non-fiction best-sellers in 2022 includes California by Francesco Costa, a book that looks to explain why 340,000 people moved out of the state last year, causing a drop in its population for the first time ever.

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Why are all these people leaving a state that on paper looks like the best place in the world to live? Why are stickers with the phrase “Don't California my Texas” attached to the back of so many pick-up trucks?

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Photo of German Army Leopard 2 A7V tanks
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Klaus Wittmann*

Shame Of A Nation: History Will Judge Germany For Holding Back Tanks From Ukraine

A retired German general spells out in clear language what the choice is for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and what the long-term consequences of half-hearted support for Kyiv as it battles for survival against the Russian invasion.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The German television newscaster cheerfully predicted last Friday morning: “Today the German evasive maneuvers are ending...” And yet, the high-level meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at the Ramstein military base, proved this prophecy completely wrong.

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The burning issue of Germany stalling and blocking the approval of battle tank deliveries to Ukraine continues to burn.

As intense as the international pressure was, Berlin has once again refused to make a commitment. Rhetoric about the difference between what one wants and what one can achieve, the endless counterarguments, the citing of numbers...none of it however, make them any more credible. In reality they are excuses, with which Chancellor Olaf Scholz shirks the responsibility which, after all, the great, prosperous Germany will not be able to escape.

[A Sunday evening comment by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that Berlin "would not stand in the way" of other countries providing German-made Leopard tanks is only provisional, and still mentions nothing about Germany sending its own tanks.]

The final decisions are ultimately in the hands of Scholz, and one wonders if he is unable to be swayed from an idea he's committed to. Or perhaps he continues to listen to Angela Merkel’s former advisor, General Erich Vad, who said before authorizing the sending of tanks to Kyiv, it would first have to be clear whether the Russian forces should be driven out of Ukraine at all.

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photo of a mother and son at beijing airport with masks
Coronavirus
Nike Heinen

Why China's COVID Coverup Raises The Risk That New Variants Will Spread

No one knows the true number of coronavirus infections in China, but it could be up to 4 million a day. Experts fear that new variants could emerge undetected that may prove dangerous for the rest of the world. Time is ticking.

Ravindra Gupta, an internationally recognized coronavirus expert from Cambridge, UK, is worried by what he can't see.

“We are unfortunately blind to what is happening there right now.” The what and the there Gupta is referring to is the rapid spread of COVID-19 in China. In his lab, Gupta researches how viruses develop under certain conditions. In order to better understand how new coronavirus variants evolve, he incorporates new mutations into so-called pseudo-viruses, then analyzes what these changes mean from a medical perspective.

In this way, he was able to predict that the dangerous Delta variant that first appeared in India in 2021 would spread across the world so quickly.

And now? “The Chinese government is not only preventing us from knowing the transmission pattern and death rate of the outbreak there.," Gupta says. "We are also not receiving any representative data about the variants in circulation.”

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photo of pope benedict waving
Ideas
Friedrich Wilhelm Graf

The Protestant Twist To Pope Benedict's Theological Legacy

In his Spiritual Testament, Pope Benedict XVI only cited Protestant theologians – not a single Catholic thinker. Were the Catholics not interesting enough for him? And what do Joseph Ratzinger’s pre-modern understanding of the concept of reason and inaccurate Kant quotes have to do with it?

-Analysis-

MUNICH — Joseph Ratzinger first became known to an educated readership in 1968 when he published Introduction to Christianity. The book was widely read, selling 45,000 copies in its first year of publication.

However, in the small, elite world of German-speaking theology professors, the book came in for heavy criticism. In 1969 Walter Kasper, who was then Professor of Dogmatics at the University of Tübingen, wrote a scathing review in which he accused his colleague of having a false, overly subjective understanding of Christian theology.

Kasper claimed Ratzinger had relied too heavily on the existentialist thought of Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard and interpretations of Kierkegaard’s work by Rudolf Bultmann, a Lutheran theologian and Professor of the New Testament at the University of Marburg. This meant that, according to Kasper, Ratzinger’s work played fast and loose with “the objective ecclesiastical form of the Church within the Christian faith.” In other words, Ratzinger’s “existentialist interpretation” risked “tipping over into a purely spiritualistic understanding of the Church.”

That was serious criticism. Kasper, who decades later moved to Rome when he was made a Cardinal of the Roman Curia and President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was accusing Ratzinger of being too heavily influenced by Protestant thought.

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Putin posing in front of Russian soldiers
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Pavel Lokshin

In 2023, Putin Has These Three Choices In Ukraine

Victory is not on the list....

It has been more than 300 days since Putin invaded Ukraine. He has not achieved his aim of forcing a regime change in Kyiv, and Russia has recently suffered serious setbacks. Putin has many options – some of which could prove dangerous.

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Since Ukrainian troops liberated the area around Kharkiv and retook Kherson, the Russian army has come under such pressure that criticism of the military campaign is beginning to spring up even within Russia, where free speech is tightly controlled. Of course, these voices are calling not for peace, but more war.

Up until now, Putin has considered the demands of pro-war figures including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner Group mercenary company — but only to a point.

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