A massive Putin miscalculation: the West's support of Ukraine holds firm
Vladimir Putin thought the West would wind up divided over the backing of Ukraine, yet a year later with new survey numbers out, it appears one of the most crucial errors in launching his invasion.
PARIS — Among the many miscalculations of Vladimir Putin in this conflict was his poor evaluation of European public opinion. The sudden rise in energy prices in the early weeks of the war led the Kremlin — and its political allies — to hope for the emergence of a popular movement opposed to support for Ukraine. This did not happen anywhere in Europe.
Where Russia was not wrong, however, was in gauging the reaction in what we call the Global South, where Westerners are paying the price for so much arrogance of the past. In these countries, the rulers are in line with a popular opinion that does not have the same critical view of Russian action.
Multiple studies support this observation, where the West's stance is supported at home, but continues to be weakened on the global stage.
In Europe, things are clear.
A Eurobarometer published yesterday shows a solid majority of Europeans supporting Ukraine, almost unanimity for humanitarian aid and refugee reception, 77% for humanitarian aid, and 65% for EU financing of the purchase and delivery of military equipment to Ukraine. In France, on the question of arms, it is slightly lower than the European average: 60% in favor.
A year ago, it was striking how the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine had provoked the same emotions from one end of Europe to the other. I had observed this in Portugal and Poland, two very different countries, in the same month. Rarely are events felt so far away with the same intensity.This was seen in particular in the reception of Ukrainian refugees, millions of whom were received without any resistance — a striking contrast, and let's admit it, embarrassing — with the rejection of Syrian refugees six years earlier.
One year later, millions of Ukrainians are still dispersed throughout Europe, and solidarity has not weakened.
As the figures show, there has been no "Ukraine fatigue," no movement of selfish cowardice of the sort: "we like them but we prefer to stay warm," — and no "Munich" reflex aimed at appeasing the aggressor by sacrificing its victim.
This is remarkable, especially when there is no shortage of political forces in France and elsewhere that were, and sometimes still are, complacent towards the Kremlin master.
The situation is different in the rest of the world. A study by the European Council on Foreign Relations shows how distrust of the West benefits Russia in some major non-European countries.
Of course in China, whose propaganda organs systematically relay the Kremlin's line; but also in Turkey, a NATO country, India and Brazil, the perception of this war is absolutely not the same. At the United Nations on Thursday, 32 countries abstained from a vote calling for the "immediate" withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, including China and India. There were 141 votes for, and seven against.
However, this divide is of little consolation to Vladimir Putin because it has little impact on the course of the conflict. Years of Kremlin investment in dividing Western opinion have not succeeded in countering the effect of the images of this unacceptable war. Europeans want to end this war, but not by sacrificing Ukrainians.
— Pierre Haski / France Inter
What do you remember from the news this week?
1. During his anti-West diatribe of his state of nation address, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia’s withdrawal from what treaty?
2. China rolled out a monthly cash subsidy for low-income residents, worth: $5.80 / $58 / $580
3. Why were Venice’s iconic gondolas out of service this week?
4. A visitor accidentally kicked a $42,000-sculpture off of its podium at a contemporary art fair in Miami. Who was the artist?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
A Polish woman went viral on social media after posting that she may be Madeleine McCann, the British girl who disappeared from a holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007, at the age of 3. Julia Wendell, 21, created an Instagram account named @iammadeleinemccan to plead her case and ask for help to connect with Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine’s parents. Over the past few days the account has garnered more than 1.1 million followers and inspired thousands of TikTok videos discussing or contradicting the “evidence” Wendell has provided. While the parents have reportedly agreed to a DNA test, investigators have voiced skepticism that Wendell is their daughter.
• Debate explodes around the rewriting of Roald Dahl books: Critics are accusing the British publisher and estate of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s books of censorship after it updated works such as the BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda to make them more acceptable to modern readers. Some passages relating to weight, mental health, gender and race that were considered offensive and stigmatizing have been changed, sparking a debate in the literature world and beyond, with personalities such as Booker prize-winning author Salman Rushdie criticizing the choice.
• Famed manga artist Matsumoto Leiji dies at 85: Japanese manga and anime creator Leiji Matsumoto, whose real name was Akira Matsumoto, has died aged 85. In a statement, Studio Leijisha said he died of acute heart failure on Feb. 13. Matsumoto was known for his epic science fiction sagas, including Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999, Queen Emeraldas and Space Battleship Yamato. His work often included anti-war themes and emotional storylines.
• Dubai's Museum of the Future welcomes one million visitors in its first year: The Museum of the Future has welcomed one million visitors from 163 countries since opening one year ago. It has a series of experiences created by designers, artists and filmmakers that combine elements of traditional exhibitions and immersive theater to present visitors with a future they can explore and interact with. Since its opening, the museum has won 10 international awards and was listed by National Geographic as one of the 14 most beautiful museums in the world.
• McCartney & Stones collab: Paul McCartney is set to feature on a new song by the Rolling Stones. While a Variety report from earlier this week stated that both McCartney and Ringo Starr would play on the new Stones record slated for release later this year, a representative for the Stones clarified that McCartney plays bass on one new song, and that Starr has not been collaborating with the band.
• Diesel's Milan Fashion Week show opens against a backdrop of 200,000 condoms: Guests arriving to Diesel's Milan Fashion Week show on Wednesday might have been surprised by finding out that a giant mountain of Durex condoms was the set for the runway. The backdrop nodded to both sex positivity and a forthcoming collaboration with the contraceptive company, and the entire collection explored themes of freedom, pleasure and experimentation, with models strutting around the condom avalanche in ultra-low-rise jeans, denim garments with sheer meshed lace panels and ripped silk dresses held together by precarious-looking chains.
After Turkey's devastating earthquakes, rescue workers were still working in increasingly hopeless circumstances. Altan Sancar with Turkish news outlet Diken reports from the scene, with a heart-wrenching account of families awaiting news that is almost always devastating.
Read the full story: Listening For Voices, Losing Hope: A Turkish Earthquake Diary
As more young people in Taiwan use Chinese social media, drawn to the fun and glitzy elements of life on mainland China, they need to learn to distinguish real life from propaganda. For The Initium, Bosong Xu talked to Taiwanese teens who are obsessed with Chinese-run social media apps.
Read the full story: Pop And Propaganda — How Taiwan's Teens Are Lured By Chinese Social Media
In the Côte-d'Or department of eastern France, the country’s national state-owned railway company SNCF is testing an anti-collision device to prevent trains from running over wild animals. The system uses solar-powered captors to detect the presence of animals near the tracks and blast hunting sounds through loudspeakers spread out through at-risk areas.
Sometimes TikTokers go viral for their dancing skills. Sometimes it’s because they get photobombed by a very perplexed Bernie Sanders.
Here’s the latest Dottoré! piece from the notebook of Neapolitan psychiatrist and writer Mariateresa Fichele:
The geopolitical relevance of misheard Sting lyrics
As a child, I learned English by listening to Sting’s songs and translating them. I remember being mesmerized by his voice and I also loved how clearly he would pronounce the words, which made it easy for me to understand.
That’s why I was amazed, to say the least, when Stefano told me:
“Dottoré, have I told you that I’m studying English and I learned to sing a Sting song?”
“Really?! What song did you learn?”
“That anti-war song about Napoli!”
“And what song is that? I don't think I know it!”
“What do you mean you don’t know it? The one that says that Russians love their children!!!”
“You mean “Russians”? But it doesn’t mention Naples!”
“Yes it does, I wrote it down! It says: There is no Napoli on common sense.”
“No, no! The right lyrics are: There is no monopoly on common sense / On either side of the political fence.”
"Well I liked my own version better. It was a little more poetic.”
“Meaning that, unfortunately, common sense among politicians is not like in Naples. We can make war between adults, but the kids should not be touched — whether they’re Neapolitan, Russian or American.”
“Stefano, what can I tell you. It may well be that deep down, you are right. Maybe we’ll find that when Sting wrote What might save us me and you. Is if the Russians love their children too, he was thinking of Mario Merola’s famous E figli so piezz'e core… (‘Children are pieces of your heart’).”
➡️ Read more from our Dottoré! series on Worldcrunch.com
• Nigerians will head to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president to replace outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari.
• After months of stalling, Hungary’s Parliament will start discussions on whether Budapest will support Sweden and Finland’s application to NATO on March 1, with a final vote on the issue expected in the following week. The Nordic countries need support from all 30 members of the Alliance for their application to be approved and only Hungary and Turkey’s signatures are still missing.
• Twitter CEO Elon Musk has said the social media platform’s algorithm will be made open source next week.
News quiz answers:
1. Vladimir Putin held his yearly “state-of-the-nation” address in Russia, during which he blamed the war in Ukraine on the West, and announced that Russia will halt participation in the New Start nuclear arms treaty, the last major remaining nuclear arms control pact with the U.S.
2. Beijing announced it would give out a monthly cash subsidy of 40 yuan (about $5.80) to low-income residents as food inflation accelerates in China. The modest allowance was not well received by the public.
3. Venice, where flooding is normally the main concern, has faced unusually low tides and weeks of dry weather, leaving gondolas, water taxis and ambulances beached in the Italian city’s canals.
4. A $42,000 blue balloon dog sculpture created by artist Jeff Koons broke into tiny shards when a visitor accidentally kicked its podium during the opening cocktail of the Bel-Air Fine Art, at Art Wynwood, a contemporary art fair in Miami.1.
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*Photo: Museum of the Future's Facebook