The war in Ukraine is entering its sixth month. Is there any way to assess the likely prospects for the rest of the year? Russia and Ukraine agreed a deal, in recent days, to allow the export of grain from Ukraine—a tentatively encouraging sign. But within hours Russian missiles hit Odessa, prompting Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, to accuse Russia of “barbarism”. It may still be in Russia’s interest to appear to allow the food to flow, even if in practice it does not. After all, its foreign minister pays a visit to Africa, starting on July 24th. That trip will go more smoothly if Russia is not blamed for high food prices. Nonetheless, any sort of rapprochement should be welcomed, along with Turkey’s efforts to play as a peacebroker.

There is evidence that Russia is dug in for the long haul. A gruesome war of attrition could drag on until winter, or indeed beyond. It is hard to be sure how many casualties—both deaths and injuries—have already been inflicted on soldiers and civilians in the war. See our latest article on the subject. Undoubtedly, the deaths must be counted in the tens of thousands. Russia alone has probably seen 15,000 soldiers killed. Injuries, many of them devastating, will be far higher yet. Vladimir Putin launched this unprovoked war of choice, back in February, without explaining his purpose to the Russian people. Indeed he still pretends this is a “special military operation”, not a war. Mr Putin is responsible for large-scale ruin and suffering, yet he can’t spell out what he is trying to achieve.

If that isn’t a gloomy enough prospect, this week is likely to bring some more economic reasons to worry. We have just published our latest assessment of the state of the world economy—asking whether recession is looming all over the place. One question is whether America itself will officially fall into one. One definition of a downturn, often cited by journalists, is two consecutive quarters of negative growth. On that basis, America is probably destined for recession when new GDP figures are released later in the week. Yet there are other ways to decide if one is under way, for example by looking at personal incomes and unemployment rates. On these scores, America’s economy looks rosier.

As mentioned, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister will spend five days in Africa this week, shoring up diplomatic support (relevant at the UN General Assembly for example) and preparing for a summit later in the year, in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. His plane may yet cross vapour trails with that of France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, who is visiting three African countries himself. Mr Macron will pay most attention to questions of terrorism and migration.

Wrapping up the diplomatic jet-setting calendar, keep an eye on Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, who will be in China for two days. Why does that matter for the rest of us? It’s significant, I think, for what it says about the state of mind of Xi Jinping, China’s leader. Put aside the Winter Olympics, back in February, when foreign leaders including Mr Putin showed up in Beijing. Other than that, Mr Xi has not welcomed anyone to China since 2020, when strict covid-19 rules were imposed. At some point he needs to find ways to open up China again, not least to get its economy running.

Last, let me flag another of our reading lists. Have you ever wondered why some countries are able to escape poverty and improve the lives of their people, while others linger much longer without developing. We’ve pulled together a very short introduction to an essential list of texts that help to puzzle out why that is. I’d love to hear if you agree with our selection..

Please continue to write to me at, and, on Twitter, you’re most welcome to follow me.

Adam Roberts

[Courtesy: The Econimist]

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