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Geopolitics

“Are They Ready?” Questions Loom Ahead Of UN Showdown On Palestinian Statehood

Making the Palestinian economy and civil society function are key steps toward statehood. A current snapshot shows very mixed results, though continued border checks by Israeli are blamed for choking back progress.

Young and old on a Ramallah street (gregor.schlatte)
Young and old on a Ramallah street (gregor.schlatte)
Benjamin Barthe

RAMALLAH - The offices of the Palestinian Ministry of Planning, in Ramallah's upscale Al-Masyoun neighborhood, were all abuzz last week. The civil servants on staff were just finishing a much anticipated report due to be submitted at the end of September, just in time for the meeting in New York of the United Nations general assembly.

The report is an assessment of what is known as the Fayyad plan, named after the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad. This middle-aged man is well-liked by Western government leaders, who never miss the opportunity to praise his talents and integrity. In August 2009, Fayyad had announced that he would give himself two years to build the foundations of a legitimate nation, which could then be promptly proclaimed to the international community.

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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.

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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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