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Geopolitics

Qatar: When The World's Richest Country Has An Identity Crisis

A mix of rapid reform, incalculable wealth and a pious Islamic tradition leaves the Gulf emirate sorting out an uncertain future.

Walking away from the
Walking away from the
Benjamin Barthe

DOHA - On either side of the wide bridge leading into The Pearl, there is a Rolls-Royce dealership on the right, and a Ferrari dealer on the left. The scene leaves little doubt about the level of economic prosperity in this corner of Doha. Built on an artificial island in the north of Qatar's capital, with its villas and private beaches, 50-story palaces and marinas for pashas, The Pearl - or the "Arabian Riviera," as its promoters call it - is the latest real-estate folly in the wealthy emirate.

But since the sale of alcohol was banned at the end of December 2011, a good number of The Pearl's residents have lost their enthusiasm. The managers of upscale restaurants adjacent to the world's best-known couture boutiques and Western jewelers are complaining of a 50% drop in turnover.

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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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