Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 16 July – Sunday 23 July:

On Sunday, Spain’s 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz defeated seven-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic in an incredible four-hour and 42-minute final on the most famous grass court in the world. Djokovic’s 34 consecutive winning streak at Wimbledon was put to an end by world number one Alcaraz, who previously won the US Open in 2022. After winning the US Open, Alcaraz became the youngest man in history and the first teenager in the Open Era (beginning in 1968, professional players were allowed compete in major tournaments, including Wimbledon) to top the singles rankings, at 19 years, 4 months, and 6 days old. After the match, Djokovic praised his opponent, saying: “I haven’t played a player like him ever, to be honest…Roger and Rafa [Nadal] have their own obvious strengths and weaknesses. Carlos is a very complete player. Amazing adapting capabilities that I think are a key for longevity and for a successful career on all surfaces.” Alcaraz said of the match: “It’s something that I will never forget, that’s for sure. It’s great for the new generation, as well, I think to see me beating him and making them think that they are capable to do it, as well. It’s great for me and I think for the young players, as well.” 

Early on Monday morning, two explosions targeted the 19km (12-mile) Kerch Strait Bridge (which links Crimea to mainland Russia), resulting in the death of a couple who were crossing the bridge in their car and the injury of their daughter. The explosions were caused by two waterborne drones and occurred at 03:04 and 03:20 local time. Russia’s Transportation Ministry said that the explosions caused damage to the motorway, but claimed that the piles supporting the bridge structure remained untouched. However, at least one section of the road bridge has collapsed entirely. The railway line running parallel to the bridge, was undamaged. In October 2022, the bridge was partially closed following a huge explosion. It was fully reopened in February. President Vladimir Putin in televised remarks said: “Another terrorist attack was committed on the bridge last night…I am waiting for specific proposals to improve the security of this strategic, important transport facility.” Russia’s Investigative Committee said the “terrorist attack” was “committed by Ukrainian special services” in an official statement issued hours after the attack. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that Russia was not planning any immediate retaliatory actions against Ukraine. “In the long run, the answer will be achieving all the goals of the special military operation that will go on”. The attack comes as Ukraine’s counteroffensive has made only minor gains since it began in early June. Kyiv may have attempted to break that deadlock by disrupting Moscow’s arms supplies across the Kerch bridge, which is the only connection between Russia and the Crimean peninsula.

Hours after the attack, Russia retaliated by announcing it was withdrawing from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the shipment of Ukrainian grain out of three ports on the Black Sea, and warned that any ships could be considered military targets. The deal was brokered in July of last year by the United Nations and Turkey. Russia launched overnight missile attacks on the ports of Odessa and Chernomosrk which destroyed grain silos and equipment. Ukraine said 60,000 tonnes of grain was destroyed in Chernomorsk. Russia claimed it had destroyed thousands of tonnes of fuel oil as well. Russian strikes on Ukrainian port infrastructure continued throughout the week. Speaking on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of the need to “neutralise” the bridge, as it was “the route used to feed the war with ammunition and this is being done on a daily basis”. 

Before dawn on Wednesday, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles to protest the arrival of an American Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) in South Korea. The missiles, launched from an area near Pyongyang, flew about 550km before landing in the Sea of Japan to the east of the Korean Peninsula. This is the first SSBN to visit the country since 1981. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the submarine visit would contribute to bringing the region “to the brink of an unprecedented nuclear war”. His sister, Kim Yo Jong, speaking on Monday said that Pyongyang believes the U.S. has raised tensions to a level “far beyond” what they were in 2017 with actions such as the submarine deployment. She concluded by warning Pyongyang would accelerate its nuclear weapons development and that U.S. strategic asset deployments would push North Korea further from the negotiating table. Later on Wednesday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol stepped aboard the USS Kentucky, at Busan Naval Base – a joint U.S.-ROK in the south of the country. Yoon claimed he was the “first leader of an ally” nation to board a U.S. SSBN and that the gesture “demonstrates the U.S.’s routine deployment of strategic assets and the will of the two countries to defend the ability to execute extended deterrence”. He also warned that North Korea that any nuclear provocations would spell the end of the regime in Pyongyang. “The U.S. and ROK will continue to make an overwhelming and resolute response to the advancing North Korean nuclear missile threat with the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) and routine deployment of strategic assets like SSBNs,” he added. On Thursday, North Korea’s defence minister Kang Sun-nam said the Kentucky’s deployment may fall “under the conditions of the use of nuclear weapons specified in the DPRK law on the nuclear force policy”. 

On Wednesday, Netflix has announced the addition of nearly six million new subscribers following its crackdown on password sharing. In an earnings release on Wednesday, the streaming giant said it ended the last quarter with about 238 million subscribers, up 5.9 million since the company began restricting the sharing of accounts to a single household.

On Thursday, the Russian invasion of Ukraine entered its 73rd week. More than six weeks into a Ukrainian counteroffensive, neither side seems to be making significant territorial gains. A Ukrainian spokesman said progress in the area around Bakhmut on the eastern front was slow because of extensive Russian minefields. Ukrainian forces face the same issue of “complex and dense minefields” along the southern front as well, while the Ukrainian military has received less than 15% of the mine-clearing equipment that has been requested from the West. 

On Thursday, India announced an immediate ban on non-basmati white rice exports from the country in a bid to curb domestic inflation after heavy monsoon rains damaged crops. Non-basmati rice white rice accounts for around 25% of India’s rice exports. The ban does not apply to basmati rice – India’s best known variety and a higher-grade rice. India is the world’s largest rice exporter, producing more than 40% of global rice exports. The ban has raised fears of further increases in global food prices following Russian termination of its Black Sea grain deal with Ukraine. 

The most ridiculous story of the week: also on Thursday, Republican Party Congressional members announced during a press conference that they will be hearing testimony from former military and intelligence service members about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs), the new term for UFO, on Wednesday. As of April, the Pentagon is tracking around 650 incidents of unidentified aircraft. These sighting demonstrate “unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities.” John Kirby, the national security spokesperson, said the administration was taking the UAP issue seriously.

On Friday, it was reported that Canada has seen 11.4 million hectares (5 times the yearly average) of land burned in this year’s wildfire season, which is the worst ever recorded. The western state of British Columbia has seen over 1.4 million hectares burned. On Sunday there were 1,033 active fires, with 647 out of control. Even with support from overseas, the wildfire agencies are overwhelmed. More than 155,000 people have been evacuated from their homes at some point – sometimes more than once – and three firefighters have been killed. Smoke from the fires has wafted down into the United States and across to Western Europe, darkening skies and turning the air quality hazardous.

At around 04:00 local time on Saturday, North Korea fired several cruise missiles towards the sea to the west of the Korean Peninsula in what seems to be another protest over the arrival of a nuclear-armed American submarine in the Korean Peninsula. 

On Sunday, Spaniards headed to the polls for the 2023 Spanish general election. All 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies are up for election, as well as 208 of 265 seats in the Senate.

In the week ahead:

The next Federal Open Market Committee meeting will be held on July 25-26.

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