Where there’s smoke, there’s smuggling. Before the Ukrainian border became a dangerous war zone, it was a profitable bootlegging arena. ... In 2008 Ukraine, the international cigarette companies that control 99 percent of the cigarette market there manufactured and imported 130 billion cigarettes. And for a country that adores smoking like few others—according to the Tobacco Atlas, the average Ukrainian in 2008 smoked 2,526 cigarettes—you’d have to assume that all 130 billion would be gobbled up by the populace. You wouldn’t expect, however, that nearly 25 percent of them were not. ... Officially, according to the four leading international cigarette companies in Ukraine—Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Tobacco, and British Americano Tobacco—30 billion cigarettes were “lost.” The reality was that these cigarettes were sold wholesale to international cigarette traffickers. According to Tobacco Underground, a group of journalists determined to uncover the rampant cigarette smuggling throughout the world, cigarettes are the most smuggled legal substance on earth.
The shooting down of an airliner shows how reckless Vladimir Putin’s sponsorship of Ukrainian rebels has been ... For all his anti-Westernism, Mr Putin cares about his international image enough to want to avoid defeat. ... He cares even more about his power at home. The Russian people are keen on both the war in Ukraine and Mr Putin: his approval rating is a remarkable 83%. Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin consultant, wrote recently that Russians see the war as a “bloody, tense and emotionally engaging” television drama that has little to do with reality but which they want to see continue. Mr Putin prospers as the drama’s producer and leading man; he cannot rewind the narrative in such a way as to extricate himself. ... But the audience’s enthusiasm does not mean it wants to pay to keep watching. So far the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea have seemed of greater symbolic than economic importance, and this plays to Mr Putin’s strengths. In Russia he controls the symbols. But serious economic sanctions of the sort to which the EU seems to have inched closer could do him genuine harm, given the already stagnant economy. ... If concern along those lines led to Mr Putin’s efforts on the international stage, though, it does not seem to have changed the situation in eastern Ukraine, or the show being offered to Russian television audiences. ... One explanation for the lack of change could be that Mr Putin does not believe that Europe will act decisively. The evidence of history seems to be on his side. Though on July 22nd the council of ministers sent a stronger message than it had before, Europe retains a deep ambivalence about inflicting real economic pain on Russia. ... Ukraine, the rebels and Russia show every sign of eschewing any opportunity it might offer for reflection and reconciliation. The incompatibility of their interests has only been thrown into sharper relief.
The world is about to experience an unprecedented consumption boom, which presents both challenges and opportunities for investors everywhere. Animal protein consumption, energy, air travel, health care, and education are some of the most relevant sectors involved as the upcoming changes in population and income collide. ... The world in general—and India in particular— is in the midst of a fascinating transition right now. Taking a step back from our day-to-day focus to view the bigger picture can offer a different perspective on the dynamics of various countries in a volatile and uncertain world. Envision a map that is drawn to represent how economists view the world. Imagine a map on which the area occupied by a country as a percentage of total area is equivalent to its percentage of global GDP. Compared with traditional maps, in which country sizes are based on land area, the United States, Europe, and definitely Japan would appear bloated. Other regions would look smaller—for example, Africa or India. Africa especially is quite difficult to see on the economists’ map. ... Now, imagine another map on which land area is proportionate to the country’s percentage of the global population. If the United States is viewed this way, it will be much smaller than on the economists’ map. In the population map, Africa would become relevant and uncertainties about the importance of India and China would disappear. Focusing on the differences in these maps may permit us to realize our biases in viewing the world.
A charismatic showman with a penchant for provocative bombast, the motorcycle club's leader is perhaps Russia's most recognizable nationalist star. Over the past decade, he has transformed a once-underground biker gang into a self-styled vanguard of patriotic holy warriors, reportedly 5,000 strong, with close ties to the Kremlin. In the Russian media, he can regularly be heard trumpeting the country's greatness while warning that its enemies — America, Europe, homosexuals, liberals, traitorous "fifth columnists" — intend to undermine Mother Russia. He and the other Night Wolves often hold motorcycle rallies to promote Russian patriotism and Orthodox Christianity, making rumbling pilgrimages to churches and holy sites. He has vowed to defend the Kremlin from Maidan-inspired protesters and has pledged to die for Vladimir Putin, the country's president. He has famously declared that "wherever the Night Wolves are, that should be considered Russia." Recently, the club held a three-day anti-NATO rally in Slovakia. Lately, the Surgeon has taken to praising Stalin. ... The Surgeon and his Night Wolves have flourished in this nationalist ecosystem. The club has reportedly received more than $1 million in grants from the Kremlin to support patriotic performances like the Sevastopol bike show. On several occasions, Putin himself has famously mounted a three-wheel Harley and ridden alongside the Surgeon. In 2013, Putin awarded the Night Wolves' leader an Order of Honor for his "patriotic education of youth." In June, the Russian press announced a cosmonaut would carry the club's flag into space. ... the Surgeon tells me the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. had left him deeply embittered. "All the values were lost, everybody started kicking their history, spitting on their own granddads," he says. "All these pretenders I always hated — they painted themselves so quickly from Communists to capitalists." His disillusionment, he explains, led to a time of desert wandering, a search for answers. Eventually he identified those responsible: proponents of democracy, liberalism, Wall Street.
One Thursday in January 2001, Maksym Igor Popov, a 20-year-old Ukrainian man, walked nervously through the doors of the United States embassy in London. While Popov could have been mistaken for an exchange student applying for a visa, in truth he was a hacker, part of an Eastern European gang that had been raiding US companies and carrying out extortion and fraud. A wave of such attacks was portending a new kind of cold war, between the US and organized criminals in the former Soviet bloc, and Popov, baby-faced and pudgy, with glasses and a crew cut, was about to become the conflict’s first defector. ... The once-friendly FBI agents threw Popov in an isolation room, then returned an hour later with a federal prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a take-it-or-leave-it offer: Popov was going to be their informant, working all day, every day, to lure his crime partners into an FBI trap. If he refused, he’d go to prison. ... Popov was shocked. He’d been played for a durak—a fool. He was placed under 24-hour guard at an FBI safe house in Fair Lakes, Virginia, and instructed to talk to his friends in Russian chat rooms while the bureau recorded everything. But Popov had some tricks of his own. He pretended to cooperate while using Russian colloquialisms to warn his associates that he’d been conscripted into a US government sting. ... There seemed no escape from a future of endless jail cells and anonymous American courtrooms. ... Except that in a backwater FBI office in Santa Ana, California, an up-and-coming agent named Ernest “E. J.” Hilbert saw that the government needed Popov more than anyone knew. ... They called the operation Ant City. Now that he was back online, Popov adopted a new identity and began hanging out in underground chat rooms and posting on CarderPlanet, portraying himself as a big-time Ukrainian scammer with an insatiable hunger for stolen credit cards. ... One thing Popov had always known about Eastern European hackers: All they really wanted was a job.
The Cyber-Cassandras said this would happen. For decades they warned that hackers would soon make the leap beyond purely digital mayhem and start to cause real, physical damage to the world. ... Now, in Ukraine, the quintessential cyberwar scenario has come to life. Twice. On separate occasions, invisible saboteurs have turned off the electricity to hundreds of thousands of people. Each blackout lasted a matter of hours, only as long as it took for scrambling engineers to manually switch the power on again. But as proofs of concept, the attacks set a new precedent: In Russia’s shadow, the decades-old nightmare of hackers stopping the gears of modern society has become a reality. ... And the blackouts weren’t just isolated attacks. They were part of a digital blitzkrieg that has pummeled Ukraine for the past three years—a sustained cyberassault unlike any the world has ever seen. A hacker army has systematically undermined practically every sector of Ukraine: media, finance, transportation, military, politics, energy. Wave after wave of intrusions have deleted data, destroyed computers, and in some cases paralyzed organizations’ most basic functions. ... In a public statement in December, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, reported that there had been 6,500 cyberattacks on 36 Ukrainian targets in just the previous two months.