breaking news from the world of ideas

by Aris Roussinos
Saturday, 14
May 2022

Ukraine summons its folk roots for Eurovision victory

The country continues to confound expectations

The war in Ukraine has confounded many expectations (including my own), with Russia’s unexpectedly faltering military campaign on the one hand, and Ukraine’s unexpectedly sophisticated and dogged defence on the other. But one prediction seems safe to make: Ukraine will very likely win tomorrow night’s Eurovision final in Turin, with their representatives Kalush Orchestra already the favourites by a large margin.

As this excellent recent article notes, while Eurovision is always a political event — in which the points awarded between countries more often resembles the alliance-building preceding the 1910s Balkan Wars than a talent contest — Ukraine’s entries tend to be more entwined with the country’s turbulent recent history than most. Ukraine’s winning entry in 2016 after all, following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, was a mournful ballad, 1944, about Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Tuesday, 22
March 2022

Putin’s invasion has thrown Erdogan a lifeline

Turkey has been welcomed back into the Western fold

There are few silver linings for anyone concealed within the increasingly bloody and destructive war in Ukraine, but there may be one notable exception: Turkey, and its mercurial autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Until the war began a few weeks ago, Erdogan was an increasingly marginalised figure, shunned by the Biden administration, and heading towards an election overshadowed by Turkey’s catastrophic economic collapse. But Putin’s invasion has thrown the ailing sultan a lifeline. 

The ambiguous relationship with Putin’s Russia that once saw Turkey relegated to NATO’s awkward squad now appears more like a valuable backchannel for diplomacy. When we add in Turkey’s close relationship with Ukraine (including major defence cooperation such as the sale of the TB2 drones currently used by Ukraine to destroy Russian armour), Erdogan can now bask in the glory of a role as honest broker in the peace negotiations ongoing in Antalya. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Thursday, 10
March 2022

Ukraine’s bloody spring will gift the world a hungry winter

An impending wheat crisis could push millions into starvation

You might be forgiven, observing the arrival of Spring, to feel the customary sense of relief and optimism at another winter past, but you would be wrong. The coinciding of the season’s turning with the war in Ukraine heralds a looming disaster for the entire world. Ukrainian farmers obviously have more pressing priorities right now than sowing their fields. And in any case, the Russian blockade and conquest of most of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast will prevent exports of wheat to the countries that rely on them most. 

Between them, Russia and Ukraine account for a third of the world’s supply of wheat, but in fragile countries across the Middle East and Africa, where wheat bread is the staple food, the dependency on Ukrainian grain is even higher: Tunisia relies on Ukrainian wheat for half of its bread supply, as does already-collapsing Lebanon. In Yemen, battered by a decade of war and famine, Ukrainian wheat accounts for around a third of the country’s needs.  ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 4
February 2022

What’s causing Africa’s coup epidemic?

The Western intervention in Libya may have played a crucial role

The past two years haven’t been productive for most people, with one notable exception: African coup plotters. The successful coup in Burkina Faso last week, like the unsuccessful putsch attempt in Guinea-Bissau on Tuesday, are further evidence of what UN Chief Antonio Guterres has called an “epidemic of coups d’etat,” spreading across the continent, often to popular acclaim, a wave of de-democratisation comparable to an Arab Spring in reverse. 

The current cycle of coups kicked off in Mali, a country beset by a decade-long counterinsurgency campaign against jihadists and ethnic separatists in the north and centre of the country, and a sense of growing instability the French military presence has been unable to quell. First Mali’s president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (or IBK) was overthrown by middle-ranking officers in August 2020. And when the military-installed interim government removed military officers from key posts, that too was removed from power by a second military coup in May last year. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Saturday, 29
January 2022

The Edge of Europe: On patrol at the Poland-Belarus border

Aris Roussinos joins the Polish army to investigate the migrant crisis at the Poland-Belarus border

UnHerd reporter Aris Roussinos joins the Polish army to investigate the migrant crisis at the Poland-Belarus border.

by Aris Roussinos
Saturday, 15
January 2022

Ricardo Bofill gave us a vision of an alternate modernity

The architect's death is a reminder that there are other ways of living

We do not live in an age of giants: no wonder then that the loss of a cultural giant like the Spanish-Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, who died yesterday aged 82, strikes us as so profound. A visionary of the spectacular, Bofill worked with a sense of grandeur and ambition so rare today that his buildings appear to us like the monumental structures of some alien civilisation.

Indeed, the outpourings of praise his death has occasioned highlights the fact that the postmodernist vein of architecture he pioneered is currently undergoing a critical revival. Viewed just a decade ago as the worst sort of kitschy excess, the playfulness and monumentality of postmodernist architecture now seems resonant and thrilling. We are today starved of ambition and daring in public buildings: and no-one was more ambitious or more daring than Bofill. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Tuesday, 7
December 2021

Zemmour is just the beginning

France is moving dramatically Rightwards — and it's time the Brits took notice

Considering the amount of turmoil Britain’s relationship with Europe has caused in the past half-decade, you’d think British commentary would be paying more attention to the French election, and the dramatic Rightward shift of the French electorate it has already revealed. The entire French Left, representing every shade from Communism to soft-Left social democracy, can barely muster 20% voter support combined. The centre, represented by Macron, has shifted further towards a traditional perception of Right-wing politics than anyone on the Tory benches, railing against woke American cultural imperialism, shutting down Islamist NGOs and moving towards a markedly civilisationist discourse about what it means to be European. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Wednesday, 1
December 2021

Is this the end of Europe’s asylum system?

The EU has ruled that it will suspend access for at least six months

British political discourse always seems wildly divorced from that of our closest European neighbours, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the responses to the flow of predominantly economic migrants from Iraqi Kurdistan simultaneously massing on the EU’s borders, and making their way across the English Channel. 

While the British state is paralysed by balancing its legal commitment to offer asylum to those in need with the desire of the vast majority of voters to limit mass irregular migration, the European Commission has today taken the simple step of acceding to Poland, Latvia and Lithuania’s request to limit the access to Europe’s asylum system for the Kurds huddled on its border. ...  Continue reading