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Tea Leaves

Not everyone sees Ukraine as the main issue

Emerging countries accuse the West of hypocrisy

Tourists and locals in Bangkok celebrate Songkran by spraying each other with water guns and partying on Khaosan Road on April 13. Much of Southeast Asia is disconnected from the far-off war in Ukraine. (Getty Images)

Comparisons are useful checks on reality. Having spent decades observing the nature of Asian politics and society, it was instructive to spend two months in Africa at a time when both Asia and Africa are being challenged by the most serious security crisis the world has faced since the Cold War. Or is that really the case?

To be sure, prices are rising in both regions. Long queues outside gas stations in Nairobi in April reflected less of a fuel shortage than haggling between the government and suppliers over how high the price should go. In drought-stricken areas of Somalia there is a fear of shortages of essential foodstuffs as the war in Ukraine threatens to drastically affect global grain supplies. But when I suggested to grumbling residents of Nairobi that the war in Ukraine was to blame, they shrugged and said it was government corruption.

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