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Geopolitics

Free For All: Who Wants a Piece of Myanmar?

Aung San Suu Kyi's historic victory overshadowed another piece of equally important news: a new exchange rate came into effect, the first step in transforming Myanmar into a more open, market-based economy. Pretty soon, the whole world will be fi

Money-giving celebrations at a Nat Festival in Myanmar (Antonio López Torregrosa)
Money-giving celebrations at a Nat Festival in Myanmar (Antonio López Torregrosa)
Frank Stocker

NAYPYIDAW- By now the whole world has heard about the sweeping victory of pro-democracy, Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's party in Sunday's special elections. On the same day, however, there was another piece of news from Myanmar that will have major consequences but didn't capture nearly as much attention.

The news is that, on April 1, a new exchange rate came into effect -- a reference rate at 818 kyat to the dollar. The country is changing at breakneck speed, politically and economically.

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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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