Historians will judge 2022 a momentous year. If when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 it heralded the end of history, by that logic Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 ushered in the beginning of a new historical epoch.
In reviewing the year it easier to start with the most recent events and work backwards and what better event to begin with than Argentina – Campiones del Mondo.
It was a thrilling encounter last Sunday between Argentina and France in the World Cup final – the best ever according to the BBCs football pundits.
The genius of Lionel Messi was matched by his teammate at Paris Saint Germain (PSG) Kilian Mbappe. PSG is owned by Qataris in whose country the World Cup was staged, controversially but successfully once the politics receded; all’s well that ends well.
President Emmanuel Macron of France attended but Argentina’s president did not attend. Apparently for fear of jinxing his team, which is also why English fans should stop singing ‘It’s Coming Home’ in every World Cup because it jinxes England – either it’s that song or the tabloid press or both. But spare a thought for England’s captain, Harry Kane, who missed a vital penalty that could have taken England to the semi-finals – having to take a penalty is a poisoned chalice and no one should be expected to take one twice.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland died in September aged 96 and was succeeded by King Charles III who came to the top job just shy of his 74th birthday when most people are well into retirement. It was a long wait, and the hope is that it was worth the wait
By far and away Elizabeth’s greatest achievement, apart from the sheer longevity of her reign, was presiding over the transition from Empire to Commonwealth – a voluntary club of nations that like the monarchy exercises soft power rather well.
Elizabeth’s longevity as British monarch was in contrast to the brevity of her last prime minister whom she appointed two days before she died. Liz Truss took over from Boris Jonson as prime minister on September 6, 2022, resigned and handed over to Rishi Sunak on October 25. She tried to emulate Margaret Thatcher except she forgot Thatcher’s dictum that you can’t defy the financial markets.
It was a tumultuous year in British politics that will reverberate for years to come. My take on Sunak’s tenure is that he will be booted out in the next election if not earlier over his stubborn refusal to level-up NHS workers who served the country so well during the darkest days of the Covid pandemic. It is a myth that every wage rise is inflationary when you consider that the inflation we are now experiencing has nothing to do with wage rises. Most people feel NHS staff are a deserving special case and to hell with figures and graphs.
By the end of 2022 Donald Trump had become yesterday’s man and may even end up behind bars. Last week Congress recommended criminal charges against him for conspiring to prevent a peaceful transition of power during the interregnum on January 6, 2021. It was treasonable conduct, and the US ministry of justice will consider whether to bring charges pursuant to Congress’ recommendation; the evidence against Trump is strong but public interest considerations may save him.
The most important celestial event of the year was in September 2022 when a redirection test was carried out by Nasa on Dimorphos, an asteroid moonlet in orbit around a bigger asteroid called Didymos. Planetary defence is not foremost in people’s minds but threats from asteroids crashing on planet earth are of a piece with threats from pandemics and global warming in that they require global solidarity.
The moonlet was struck by an American missile on a dummy run to test whether the trajectory of any sizeable asteroid bound for planet earth could be altered. The test was successful because subsequent data show that the smaller asteroid’s orbit was altered. It is ironic that we could defend our planet against asteroids but extremely difficult to defend it against manmade global warming.
2022 saw the gradual end of the Covid pandemic that is still around but not spreading as much fear as previously, thanks to the scientists who developed vaccines to fight it. Now there is talk about the use of vaccine know-how to fight other fatal conditions such as cancer which goes to show the truth of the Chinese saying that every crisis is also an opportunity.
In January Britain and the US began to warn of a massive buildup of Russian forces around Ukraine and leaders from the EU flocked to Moscow to plead with President Vladimir Putin not to invade Ukraine. Russian propaganda, including assurances given by her foreign minister, was that no such invasion was imminent, but British and American intelligence knew better. How come they knew better than the Russian foreign minister?
Like most wars it is a stupid war on all sides. Russia could have achieved its aim of stopping Nato’s further eastward expansion by showing power but stopping short of actually invading and keeping its economy and relationship with the West intact.
The Ukrainian leadership could have prevented all the death and destruction wrought by the Russian invasion with a little common sense about the dangers of contriving to join Nato contrary to the wishes of Russia.
As for Nato, instead of discouraging Ukraine in its bid to join a military alliance historically geared to fight Russia, Nato encouraged Ukraine to believe it had the right join any military alliance of its choice irrespective of the security concerns of Russia.
2022 has been a terrible and terrifying year, but as this is the Cyprus Mail it would be remiss of me not to mention the status of the Cyprob in all the turbulence in world affairs, if only to report what everyone knows already – it remains in stalemate mode. Happy Christmas.
Alper Ali Riza is a king’s counsel in the UK and a retired part time judge