WORLD ROUNDUPChina’s Covid Fog | This Is Not 1943 | Britain Is Worse Off Than It Understands, and more

Published 6 February 2023

··  Czech Voters Deal a Blow to Populism
The election of Petr Pavel is important to Czechs—and to Americans.

··  This Is Not 1943
How Putin twists the history of World War II

··  The World’s Most, and Least, Democratic Countries in 2022
The EIU’s global democracy index shows several authoritarian rulers tightened their grip

··  Britain Is Much Worse Off Than It Understands
Things weren’t nearly this bad in the 1970s—but the country’s leaders haven’t grasped that yet

··  Germany’s Scholz Calls for a New Approach to the Lithium Rush
On a visit to South America, the chancellor pitched partnership rather than exploitation

··  Don’t Underestimate Xi’s Ambitions Toward Taiwan, CIA Says
Xi had ordered his military to be ready to conduct an invasion of self-governed Taiwan by 2027

··Belgium Looks to Extend Lives of Oldest Nuclear Reactors
Citing a need to “reduce risks in the energy supply”

··  In China’s Covid Fog, Deaths of Scholars Offer a Clue
Obituaries of China’s top academics offer clues about the true toll of the outbreak

··  In West Bank, Settlers Sense Their Moment After Far Right’s Rise
The most right-wing government in Israel’s history emboldens Jewish settlers

Czech Voters Deal a Blow to Populism  (Tom Nichols, The Atlantic)
Only a few years ago, democracies around the world seemed to be turning toward the pluto-populists, the wealthy men and women who convinced millions of ordinary voters that liberal democracy had run its course. They’re still out there—but their star may be dimming.
In 2017, the Czech government was led by a pro-Russian president, Miloš Zeman, who was soon to be joined in the government by a populist prime minister, Andrej Babiš. A billionaire, Babiš campaigned on the high-minded slogan that “everybody steals” and vowed to run the government like a company. (That should sound familiar to American voters who had to listen to similar cynical bloviations from Donald Trump for so many years.) Zeman won a second term in 2018, and Babiš remained prime minister until late 2021. Pro-Western sentiment in the Czech Republic, as well as in other former Warsaw Pact nations that had since joined NATO, looked to be fizzling out.
Last month, Babiš not only lost his bid for the Czech presidency but also lost it to Petr Pavel, a retired Czech general who once held a senior position in NATO’s military leadership. Pavel is a newcomer to politics, but he clobbered Babiš—who by sheer virtue of name recognition and money should have been the favorite—garnering 58 percent of the vote in an election with a record 70 percent turnout. That’s not a squeaker; that’s a repudiation. Babiš, especially when faced with the coronavirus pandemic, was lousy at governing, as populists almost always are. But the Russian onslaught against Ukraine also seemed to break the spell for many Czechs, and this election is likely one more example of Vladimir Putin’s brutality in Ukraine undoing years of the careful propaganda that once bolstered Russia’s position in the world.

This Is Not 1943  (George Packer, The Atlantic)
Yesterday Vladimir Putin went to Stalingrad. It was the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the city once named after the Soviet dictator. The current Russian dictator solemnly bowed his head and knelt before a wreath laid to honor the heroes of the battle that turned the tide of World War II. The day before the ceremony, a bronze bust of Joseph Stalin had been unveiled in the city, whose name was changed to Volgograd in 1961. By then Stalin, perhaps the 20th century’s greatest mass murderer, was out of favor. (Cont.)