Longform’s Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

Guang Niu/AFP/Getty Images; SEBASTIEN FEVAL/AFP/Getty Images; Franco Origlia/Getty Images; JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images; Courtesy of Erich Ferrari
Guang Niu/AFP/Getty Images; SEBASTIEN FEVAL/AFP/Getty Images; Franco Origlia/Getty Images; JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images; Courtesy of Erich Ferrari

Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.


The Chinese Military Machine’s Secret to Success: European Engineering, by David Lague, Reuters

German diesel engines now power China’s stealthy submarines — among the many weapons and parts Beijing has sourced from America’s European allies.

Emulating the rising powers of last century — Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union — China is building a powerful submarine fleet, including domestically built Song and Yuan-class boats. The beating hearts of these subs are state-of-the-art diesel engines designed by MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH of Friedrichshafen, Germany. Alongside 12 advanced Kilo-class submarines imported from Russia, these 21 German-powered boats are the workhorses of China’s modern conventional submarine force.

With Beijing flexing its muscles around disputed territory in the East China Sea and South China Sea, China’s diesel-electric submarines are potentially the PLA’s most serious threat to its American and Japanese rivals. This deadly capability has been built around robust and reliable engine technology from Germany, a core member of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization.


Cows Might Fly, by Veronique Greenwood, Aeon

When the land is all filled up, it’s time to get creative with it, as small countries like Switzerland already know

The sheer difference in national size means that US farms, though enormous — the average Swiss farm is between 40 and 50 acres, the average US farm around 10 times as large — are not much encountered by the average grocery store customer. Swiss cities are smaller and more permeable. It is not hard to see farms and cows. In fact, it is unavoidable, once you are a negligible number of minutes from a city’s center. And the herds themselves are far smaller, thanks in part to the paucity of land.

This closeness between city and farm means that the culture is less comfortable with treating animals inhumanely, suggests Moser. ‘The bigger the farms are, the less individually animals can be treated,’ he said. ‘This creates a distance between yourself and the other.’ In the 19th century, Swiss agronomists travelling to the US were floored by what the inhabitants were doing with the enormous amount of land available to them, and at the same time shocked by the way animals were treated, Moser said.

In modern Switzerland, those old feelings have translated into strong animal protection laws and direct payments to farmers for treating animals well, along with those for maintaining the landscape — for instance, for taking their cows out into the fresh air.


Who Am I to Judge?, by James Carroll, the New Yorker

A radical Pope’s first year.

“Who am I to judge?” With those five words, spoken in late July in reply to a reporter’s question about the status of gay priests in the Church, Pope Francis stepped away from the disapproving tone, the explicit moralizing typical of Popes and bishops. This gesture of openness, which startled the Catholic world, would prove not to be an isolated event. In a series of interviews and speeches in the first few months after his election, in March, the Pope unilaterally declared a kind of truce in the culture wars that have divided the Vatican and much of the world. Repeatedly, he argued that the Church’s purpose was more to proclaim God’s merciful love for all people than to condemn sinners for having fallen short of strictures, especially those having to do with gender and sexual orientation. His break from his immediate predecessors — John Paul II, who died in 2005, and Benedict XVI, the traditionalist German theologian who stepped down from the papacy in February — is less ideological than intuitive, an inclusive vision of the Church centered on an identification with the poor. From this vision, theological and organizational innovations flow. The move from rule by non-negotiable imperatives to leadership by invitation and welcome is as fundamental to the meaning of the faith as any dogma.


Hunting the Lynx with the Old Believers, by Ben Judah, Standpoint

The Old Believers rejected Peter the Great’s reforms to the Russian Orthodox Church. Ben Judah travels to southern Siberia to lift a veil on this untouched-by-time community.

They were Old Believers. Their fore-fathers had first come to Tuva in search of Belovode. This was the first Russian utopia: a mythical land the peasants believed existed out in Siberia down the rivers in the farthest east; a magical kingdom of plenty where the white Tsar ruled with true justice. Whole migrations went in search of it in the 1840s. Peasants believed Tolstoy had been there. It was as late as 1898 that the last Cossack expedition set out to find it. 

The Old Believers are the remains of Russia’s great schism. While Peter the Great was building St Petersburg, his Patriarch Nikon set out to reform the Russian Orthodox Church, to purge it of paganism and inconsistency with Greek Orthodoxy. Rituals and the spelling of Christ were modified. The way men crossed themselves was changed. 

… On the eve of the revolution the Old Believers made up maybe 20 per cent of Russia’s population. It was said that if the anathemas on them were ever lifted, half the peasantry would convert to this anarchic, priestless village faith which ruled itself through meeting halls. Today there are only about two million — mostly in exile. And of the priestless a few tens of thousands live out in the most remote forests of Siberia. 


Stuck on a U.S. Government Blacklist?, by Jamila Trindle, Foreign Policy

Call Erich Ferrari, the lawyer who makes a living defending alleged drug kingpins and arms dealers.

The U.S. government’s financial sanctions programs have been credited with bringing I
ran to the negotiating table by decimating its economy and driving the value of its currency to record lows. But they’re not just used against Tehran. Alleged drug kingpins, associates of deposed war criminals, and supporters of various dictatorships also find themselves on the Treasury Department’s target list. The key innovation in these modern sanctions is the ability to target individuals and companies and make it illegal for U.S. banks and companies to interact with them. Putting trade embargoes into place against countries like Cuba hasn’t worked, but pressuring specific individuals and companies has. Ferrari is one of a small group of lawyers making a good living relieving that pressure.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola