The Global Affairs team share some of the most important weekly headlines that you may otherwise have missed.

A note from the editor

President Putin was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on Thursday, signaling the first time a Western media has spoken to him since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war. The two hour discussion focused on the historical justification for the invasion, with many critics disproving the historical narrative.

In the UK, the Labour party has taken a u-turn on a £28 billion target for public green investment, and is planning to spend just £15 billion on green infrastructure.

In Hong Kong, anger erupted towards Lionel Messi for missing a match due to injury, despite playing in Japan four days after.

From politics to sports, we hope this week’s Outside OX1 helps to bring some global perspective and distraction from the week 5 blues!

Ex-Fox news host Tucker Carlson controversially interviews Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin

Nick Marshall

@World Economic Forum/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED via Flickr

President Vladimir Putin was interviewed on Thursday by conservative US media personality Tucker Carlson in Moscow, marking the first time that a Western media outlet has spoken to the Russian leader since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The interview, as confirmed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, took place on Tuesday, and was broadcast two days later at 18:00 EST on Thursday.

Putin seemingly used this platform to raise doubts over Western nations’ provision of aid to Ukraine, coming only days after the EU, USA, and UK announced new aid packages for Kyiv. Putin stated: “If you really want to stop fighting, you need to stop supplying weapons. It will be over within a few weeks. That’s it.” Adding to this, he directly addressed his American audience, saying it was up to the US to bring Ukraine to the negotiating table.

Over 2 hours and 7 minutes, the majority of the discussion centered around the historical justification used by the Kremlin in their Ukrainian invasion, with Putin declaring Ukraine an “artificial state that was shaped at Stalin’s will”. Most of these historical claims have since been disproven or contextualized by various historians.

Critics have highlighted the lack of acknowledgement of alleged Russian war crimes on Ukrainian territory, which have prompted international condemnation. An arrest warrant was issued in March 2023 by the International Criminal Court based in The Hague, which accuses Vladimir Putin of the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine into Russia. The UN has further expressed concern that Russian forces are responsible for rapes, and “widespread” torture and killings in Ukraine.

Carlson has declared that he wanted to make this trip because “most Americans are not informed” on the conflict that is “reshaping the world,” blaming mainstream media. In the past, Carlson has been vocally sceptic towards Ukrainian war efforts, calling President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a ‘dictator’, and Western interviews with Zelenskyy ‘fawning pep sessions’. In the introduction to the interview, Carlson declared that “not a single Western journalist has bothered to interview” Putin. This comment has received widespread criticism, with the Financial Times’ Moscow bureau chief, Max Seddon, commenting on this complaint’s obscurity on X when two American journalists were “in jail right now for doing just that”.

The journalists in question are the Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich, and Radio Free Europe’s Alsu Kurmasheva, both of whom were held in pre-trial detention in 2023 under suspicions of spying for the US. In the interview, Putin stated that there was space for discussions about the release of Gershkovich in exchange for the free of assassin Vadim Krasikov, though not mentioning him by name, who is currently jailed in Germany for the 2019 murder of a Chechen dissident in Berlin.

Carlson was one of the most prominent conservative spokesmen on Fox News between 2016 and 2023. He left his fixture abruptly after allegedly falling out with Chairperson Rupert Murdoch and began a talk show on X, as well as launching his site tuckercarlson.com

Another Labour U-Turn 

@Keir Starmer/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED via Flickr

Eric Balonwu

Starmer announced last week that it was U-turning on a £28 billion target for public green investment. Labour had originally pledged to invest £28 billion a year during its conference in 2021 for green infrastructure, such as home insulation. However from 2021, this pledge had been watered down significantly, as last year Labour said that the £28 billion a year would only happen during the second half of the parliament. However, Labour have fully scrapped the £28 billion target, citing a worsening economic situation and higher interest rates (which they ascribe to Liz Truss’ mini budget). Labour now plans to only spend £15 billion (of which only £4.7 billion is new spending). 

The home insulation scheme has faced some of the most significant cuts, as Labour had initially promised to insulate 19 million homes over 10 years (at the cost of £6bn) but now is only committing to insulting 5 million homes in its first 5 years of government. Labour still promises to achieve clean power by 2030 and is keeping a pledge to create a nationalized clean energy company.  This policy shift demonstrates that Labour is prioritizing its fiscal rules (reducing debt as a percentage of GDP over a 5 year time-span) over any other manifesto commitments. 

The u-turn was arguably prompted by Conservative attacks over the £28 billion figure. The Conservatives had planned to use the Green Prosperity Plan to attack Labour’s credibility on the economy and raise the fear that Labour would increase borrowing or taxes. However, the Conservatives could use the U-turn to attack Labour as not standing for anything.

In terms of policy announcements, Labour’s decision to stick with the fiscal rules will likely pose further challenges for the party.  Since, the government can set the fiscal baseline, all opposition policy announcements are judged in opposition to the government. If the Government follows through with its rhetoric about pre-election tax cuts (which would reduce the amount that a future Labour government could spend).  Since Labour is reluctant to support any large tax increases, then Rachel Reeves may be in this position again of having to not commit to increased public services funding – as currently departments are projected to have record level real-term budgets cuts.

Messi stirs anger in China

@Payayita/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED via Flickr

Emi Tanimoto

Fans of Lionel Messi excitedly turned up to the Hong Kong Stadium on Friday to watch Inter Miami CF and its captain play. Some have paid as much as HKD 4,880 (GBP 497), and even higher on resale sites to get a glance of the eight-time Ballon d’Or recipient, the most of any other football player in the world. 

The fan’s excitement slowly turned into disappointment as Messi remained on the bench during the entire match. With no prior announcement, the fans looked for Messi in the substitute bench wearing trainers and tracksuit whilst everyone else on the team was dressed ready to play on the pitch. According to the contract between Inter Miami and the match’s organizer, Tatler Asia, the contract did not explicitly indicate that Messi would play. The decision was left to the coach and Messi himself if any injuries were to deter his performance and health. Hong Kong officials stated that the contract specifically stipulated that Messi would play at least 45 minutes unless he was injured or ill. 

The fans and the Chinese official’s outrage was intensified when Messi played in Japan just four days after the match in Hong Kong. On the day of his match in Japan, Messi posted an apology on social media to not only apologize but also elaborate on his injury, which was followed by many angry comments. A Weibo user commented “No need to apologize, just don’t come to China again. Just because you play football well does not mean you are a good person.” The government in Hong Kong commenced on Sunday: “Regarding Messi not playing the match today, the government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed about the organizers’ arrangement. The organizers owe all football fans an explanation.”

To add insult to injury for fans in Hong Kong, the match in Hong Kong drew 40,000 people, whilst the Japan National Stadium only drew 28,614 people with many unoccupied seats.  

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