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TL(PM) DIGEST: All we are saying is give Ukraine's peace terms a chance
Plus continued low national economic confidence, cease-fire talks break down in Sudan, and America's cities begin to rebound...sort of
1. Ukraine moots big peace push before NATO summit
What happened? In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, President Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak outlined plans to hold a gathering of global leaders ahead of this July’s NATO summit in Vilnius that would advance a peace plan with terms acceptable to Kyiv. Yermak said European leaders like French President Macron were heavily involved in the initiative, and that they hoped the leaders of India, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia would attend.
Why does it matter? With Beijing sending symbolic peace feelers to Ukraine and the Kremlin-sympathizing Brazilian President Lula freelancing, it’s important for Kyiv to offer its own plan to end the war and remind the world that Moscow is the real obstacle to peace. This summit could provide Ukraine with some forward diplomatic momentum if the Ukrainian military’s anticipated counteroffensive kicks off beforehand and makes noticeable gains.
TLP’s take: A diplomatic offensive to go along with a military counteroffensive makes a good deal of sense for Ukraine and its backers, all the more so if the Ukrainian military shows signs of progress against Russian troops. It’ll also show just which countries are actually interested in peace—and which ones tacitly believe the Kremlin should just get whatever it wants.
2. Economic confidence remains low among Americans
What happened? Gallup released its latest Economic Confidence Index, finding continued negative ratings by Americans of both current economic conditions and prospects for the future.
Why does it matter? The economic confidence index runs from -100 to 100 with a historically high rating of +56 in January 2000 and the lowest rating of -72 recorded in October 2008. The current index stands at -43, slightly above the lows of last summer but still highlighting ongoing pessimism about the state of the wider economy.
TLP’s take: Americans have been down on the economy for a long time now despite positive news on employment and new national investments—though they’re more bullish on their personal finances than they are the overall economy. The lingering effects of high inflation and now higher interest rates to combat it have clearly taken a toll on economic confidence, and dysfunctional politics in Washington don’t help matters.
Hopefully the Congress will avoid more self-inflicted wounds this week by passing the debt ceiling agreement forged by President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
3. Sudan cease-fire talks break down
What happened? Sudan’s military pulled out of U.S.- and Saudi-sponsored talks to achieve a wider cease-fire and increase humanitarian access amidst the violent power struggle between the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. A weeklong truce had been extended a further five days on Monday, but both sides accused each other of violating the terms of the deal as clashes persisted in the country’s major cities.
Why does it matter? Fighting will likely escalate in the absence of active diplomacy to at least tamp it down and allow more humanitarian aid into the country. That means more ordinary Sudanese will flee the country and increase the chance that foreign players will intervene even more deeply in Sudan’s power struggle.
TLP’s take: U.S. and Saudi diplomats shouldn’t give up despite the apparent failure of ceasefire talks or the only partial effectiveness of temporary ceasefire deals. If diplomacy can’t bring the conflict to an end, it may at least be able to keep it from escalating further.
4. American cities starting to rebound—at least in thriving residential areas
What happened? The Wall Street Journal reports that big city population losses associated with the Covid pandemic and economic downturn “have since slowed or reversed, according to Brookings Institution analysis of census data.”
Why does it matter? Although central business districts and associated businesses continue to slump as more workers do their jobs from home, residential parts of cities are thriving by providing services to many of these same workers. These gains are not uniform as most of the benefits seem to accrue to more well-off neighborhoods:
Many residential neighborhoods benefit from remote work. As people spend more time at home, they frequent local shops, gyms and restaurants, boosting the economy of places such as Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Ditmas Park and Williamsburg, as well as Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown.
Data from Placer.ai, which tracks people’s movements based on cellphone usage, shows a stark divide between office and residential districts. In Downtown Los Angeles, visitor foot traffic is 30.7% below prepandemic levels, while Downtown Chicago’s visitor foot traffic is 27.2% lower. By contrast, in the residential areas of South Glendale and Highland Park near Los Angeles and in Chicago’s residential Logan Square neighborhood, visitor foot traffic has been rising and is nearly back to prepandemic levels.
TLP’s take: Cities and businesses must accept the reality that many people in professional jobs do not want to commute to big downtown office buildings anymore when they can just as easily and effectively work at home. Big cities also do themselves no favors by turning blind eyes to rising crime and social disorder in public spaces.
If they want people to come back to central business districts, municipal governments should make these places worth spending time in once again—like many outer neighborhoods in these same cities seem to be doing now.
Just one more thing…
We bought…a lighthouse? The federal government is putting up four lighthouses for auction to the public, with a further six to be made available to other federal agencies, state and local governments, and non-profits. But beware: the Penfield Reef Lighthouse in Fairfield, Connecticut is said to be haunted.