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Each day FT Leader writers on the Editorial Board meet to discuss the topics to be considered for Leader columns. Here are the issues that dominated this week:

The Editorial Board responded to Vladimir Putin's latest show of aggression - the mobilisation of 300,000 reservists and a thinly veiled nuclear threat - by urging no deviation from the west's resolve. "The world’s response must be as cool as it is resolute."

In a leader directed at the central banks of the US and UK, we recommended similar toughness in countering the inflationary threat.

We acknowledged that higher interest rates and more onerous debt servicing costs would stretch budgets already under pressure, particularly from mounting energy bills, but we concluded: “The risk of high inflation becoming entrenched is the greater danger. Thelonger it stays elevated the greater the damage it will do to households and businesses.”

We will return in the coming days to the UK economy and the cost of living crisis, as we pass judgment on Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's Friday mini-Budget

Why Putin is raising the stakes

Putin’s partial mobilisation of army reservists to support Moscow’s faltering military campaign in Ukraine came with a warning to the west: Russia would use nuclear arsenal if its “territorial integrity” was “threatened”.

Putin frames his threat as self defence. He is mobilising 300,000 reservists before stage-managed referendums on joining Russia to be held this week in four occupied regions of Ukraine.

Why is Putin raising the stakes now? Seven months into the war, his actions are a gamble that underscores Russia’s shrinking options at home and in Ukraine. Russia has lost thousands of square kilometres of territory in recent weeks after a successful Ukrainian counter-offensive. President Zelenskyy told the UN that Russia is avoiding serious negotiations and that Moscow “wants war”.

Western allies have vowed to keep up Ukraine support, with officials treating Putin’s threats as a bluff. Ukraine’s top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, says he is unfazed.

Experts point out it will take Moscow months to train reservists and form new units with commanders and logistical support. Our analysis sets out the reception at home and in the west.

The Fed raised interest rates by 0.75 per cent in a clear “higher for longer” signal as the US central bank attempts to stamp out soaring inflation caused partly by high energy prices.

Fed chair Jay Powell warns there is no “painless” way to tame inflation, but Claire Jones detects a growing backlash against the Fed’s strategy. The dollar hit a 20-year high as investors moved to haven currencies on Putin’s address.

Trussonomics tested

In the UK, energy prices for business are to be cut by more than half as part of the government’s hasty subsidy scheme to stop a wave of corporate insolvencies and protect jobs this winter. The scheme is expected to cost tens of billions of pounds, but it is limited: support will last only for six months.

Chancellor Kswasi Kwarteng will unveil a mini budget on Friday to include a cut in national insurance; a halt to planned rise in corporation tax, a potential cut in stamp duty and moves to push benefit claimants into work.

But Prime Minister Liz Truss does not have long to prove her economic strategy of deregulation - which includes an end to a cap on bankers’ bonuses - and cutting taxes in an attempt to unlock growth. Economists at Citi and the Institute for Fiscal Studies say her plan risks setting the country on an “unsustainable path”. Martin Wolf describes it as “fantasy”. But Robert Shrimsley argues that politically, it could work.

The UK government is battling a cost of living crisis and inflation, made worse by Russia’s restriction of gas supplies to Europe. Households are already supported with a £150bn package to help with surging gas and electricity bills for two years. Government borrowing hit £11.8bn last month, twice the level the independent fiscal watchdog had expected for August.

The stage is set for a recession - with no US trade deal in sight.

Workplace news

Are the British really the world’s worst idlers? Truss and Kwarteng characterised the UK workforce as lazy in the 2012 book Britannia Unchained, which claimed: “We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.”

As Sarah O’Connor points out, those claims do not stand up to scrutiny. Low UK productivity is down to a lack of investment in equipment and technology to help people do their jobs more efficiently, rather than laziness.

Meanwhile, Citigroup’s Málaga programme, where 27 junior investment bankers live and work in the Spanish city on the promise of eight-hour days and work-free weekends - with a lower salary than their peers, is a fascinating insight into the banking industry’s long-hours culture.

Brooke Masters warns the junior bankers could easily find themselves on a version of the 1980s “mommy track” - which sidetracked careers of women who wanted to balance parenting with demanding jobs.

The fund management industry, too, is making little progress on female equality. Where are all the women in asset management, asks Helen Thomas.

She points out that an industry that lectures others about the benefits of diversity for better decision-making is doing badly itself: the percentage of female fund managers is stuck at 12 per cent globally.

Best of business

Three French companies snapped up a slew of British assets this week, from a slice of the UK’s biggest telecoms group to a buyout of one of the country’s oldest technology companies. That underlines how overseas buyers are taking advantage of depressed valuations caused by high inflation, low investment confidence and a weak currency.

A top -25 shareholder in software developer Avena, which Schneider Electric has agreed to buy for £9.5bn, described the sale as “yet another example of a world-leading UK-listed company whose share price has been smashed to pieces being taken over”.

Meanwhile, JD Sports is to pay Peter Cowgill, its former chair, more than £6mn in severance following an acrimonious split.

Cowgill was ousted from the board this year, after an 18-year tenure as executive chair during which the company’s revenue,profits and market value soared. He had run the company without a chief executive for eight years, but was under pressure to switch to a more conventional arrangement. His tenure was characterised by his “robust personality and no-nonsense approach”, which led to regular bust-ups.

And is California’s car culture ready for net zero? Governor Gavin Newsom enacted his plan to phase out sales of petrol-fuelled cars by 2035, part of the state’s goal of reaching zero carbon emissions by 2045. But it has set him on a collision course with its citizens’ “almost erotic love afair with the car,” writes Christopher Grimes.

“I can’t even imagine electric low riders,” says one organiser of a vintage car rally on Sunset Boulevard.
Energy Transition (FT special report)
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