The Guardian – Patrick Wintour / Spy scandal has sent UK-Russia relations tumbling. What next?
- Theresa May’s assertion that it is highly likely that Russia has committed an act of aggression by poisoning the double agent Sergei Skripal plunges Anglo-Russian relations into their worst state since the cruise missile crisis in the 1980s.
- No one expects the Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, will even try to convince the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, that the Russian state simply lost control of the poison.
- The Foreign Office will likely have to compile an effective unilateral response, but also gather European and American support for multilateral measures. However, Western politicians will be guided by bigger strategic choices including relations over Syria, Iran, Ukraine and commerce.
- Regarding unilateral measures, none of the options are simple, and in the end they will only confirm Putin in his apparent determination to define Russia by its opposition to the west, and especially Britain.
Politico – Matthew Karnitschnig / Berlin’s EU plan: More muddle in the middle
- Europe finally gets a new German government this week. But, while everyone agrees Berlin needs to respond to Macron’s EU reform proposals, there’s still no clarity on what it will say. The coalition pact offers few details on EU strategy.
- As it stands, it will be a challenge even to win the support of Merkel’s conservative parliamentary group. “It’s going to be difficult to keep the group together on Europe because there are number of red lines,” predicted one MP from the Christian Democratic Union.
- By definition, the return of the “GroKo” was going to be anything but radical. On trade and defense, for example, Germany will likely offer more of the same.
- However, Germany’s reputation as a green energy champion takes a hit in the new coalition deal, as the parties have backtracked on a 2020 target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and declined to impose a deadline for phasing out coal-fired power.
- On immigration, the current agreement takes a much more cautionary view than the 2013 agreement, saying that “a situation like 2015 should not be repeated.”
The New York Times – Somini Sengupta / Hotter, drier, hungrier: How global warming punishes the world’s poorest
- According to recent research, the Horn of Africa dried faster in the 20th century than at any time over the last 2,000 years. Four severe droughts have walloped the area in the last two decades.
- Chris Funk, a climatologist at the University of California, has linked recent drought to the long-term warming of the western Pacific Ocean as well as higher land temperatures in East Africa, both products of human-induced climate change.
- More than 650,000 children under age 5 across vast stretches of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are severely malnourished. The risk of famine stalks people in all three countries; at least 12 million people rely on food aid, according to the United Nations.
- In Somalia, after decades of war and displacement, 2.7 million people face what the United Nations calls “severe food insecurity.” During the 2017 drought, international aid efforts averted a famine.
The New York Times – Michael Greenstone / Four years after declaring war on pollution, China is winning
- In 2014, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang told the National People’s Congress: “We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty.”
- Four years after that declaration, the data is in: China is winning, at record pace. Cities have cut concentrations of fine particulates in the air by 32 percent on average.
- To do so, China prohibited new coal-fired power plants in the country’s most polluted regions. Existing plants were told to reduce their emissions. Large cities restricted the number of cars on the road. The country also reduced its iron- and steel-making capacity and shut down coal mines.
- China’s early reductions in air pollution have been achieved through an engineering-style fiat that dictates specific actions, rather than a reliance on markets. It’s an approach that has come with some real costs, as the many people left without heat this winter could attest.
- China’s fight against pollution has already laid the foundation for extraordinary gains in life expectancy. Residents nationally can expect to live 2.4 years longer on average if the declines in air pollution persist.
The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.