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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.
But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?
<p><strong>Weapons, hired guns, and access. </strong>Russia is now<a href="https://www.defenseworld.net/news/26576/Russian_Arms_Sales_Growing_in_Africa#.X8ceY6pKhBw" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> the largest arms supplier</a> in Africa, and it does a particularly brisk trade with governments that can't buy American or European weaponry. Two of Moscow's best new customers, for example, have been<a href="https://www.africanews.com/2019/04/06/russia-angola-sign-cooperation-deals-in-moscow/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> Angola</a> and Nigeria, both of which reached out to Russia when the Obama administration in the US started<a href="https://www.npr.org/2015/07/23/425654481/nigerian-president-u-s-refusal-to-provide-weapons-aides-extremism" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> blocking their arms purchases</a> over human rights concerns. Since 2015, Russia has inked arms deals with at least 20 African nations.</p><p>At the same time, Russia has been supplying a host of African governments either with mercenaries to help fight insurgents or with advisers to help crush their political opponents.</p> <p>The shadowy<a href="https://carnegieendowment.org/2019/07/08/putin-s-not-so-secret-mercenaries-patronage-geopolitics-and-wagner-group-pub-79442" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> Wagner Group</a> — a private military company believed to be owned by a Russian catering tycoon known as "Putin's chef"— has helped to battle an<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/29/africa/russian-mercenaries-mozambique-intl/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> Islamic State rebellion in Mozambique</a>, and has been<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/30/world/russia-diamonds-africa-prigozhin.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> paid in diamonds</a> for crushing an uprising in the Central African Republic. The group is also active in Libya, where the Pentagon now<a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/11/30/pentagon-trump-russia-libya-uae/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> thinks</a> it might be on the payroll of the UAE. In all, Wagner has ties to nearly a dozen African countries.</p><p><strong>What does Russia get in exchange? </strong>Cash, for one thing. But also influence over local decisions about who gets access to, say, lucrative mining projects. In Madagascar last year, Russian operatives staged a<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/11/world/africa/russia-madagascar-election.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> cartoonishly ham-fisted attempt</a> to meddle in the election — but just before the vote, "Putin's chef" got a big stake in a local chromium mine. Russian companies also have gotten<a href="https://www.mining.com/russias-comeback-in-africa-favours-profit-over-long-term-influence-analyst/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> access to key mining or energy projects</a> in Angola, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Mozambique, Sudan, and Zimbabwe – all countries where Kremlin-affiliated mercenaries or advisers are at work.</p><p><strong>Why now?</strong> Last fall, Putin hosted dozens of African leaders at a<a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-hosts-sochi-summit-as-russia-races-for-influence-in-africa/30231905.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> summit in Sochi</a>, billed as the Kremlin's triumphant return to the continent. And in many ways, the continent is now ripe for Russia to<a href="https://carnegieendowment.org/2019/10/16/late-to-party-russia-s-return-to-africa-pub-80056" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> make inroads there</a> without spending a lot of money or taking major risks.</p><p>Africa hasn't been a top priority for the US in recent years, and while China has lent billions to cash-strapped African governments, Beijing is also facing criticism that it has set debt traps for poor countries.</p><p>As a result, Russia has been welcomed in many parts of the continent as a no-nonsense transactional player who can deliver the muscle that governments need.</p><p><strong>Keep things in perspective.</strong> Russia's clout in Africa still lags far behind players like China and the EU – Africa's two largest trade partners – and the US, which has<a href="https://theintercept.com/2020/02/27/africa-us-military-bases-africom/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> nearly 30</a> military bases on the continent. </p><p>But Russia isn't really playing a game of scale on that level. Instead, the Kremlin is shrewdly seeking out discrete pressure points where, with minimal expenditure, it can win friends and influence people in ways that directly benefit the Russian state or affiliated cronies. </p> <p>Not a bad dish for Putin and his chef. But will the US, China, Europe, or African nations themselves eventually decide to push back harder?</p>
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Hard Numbers: Africa's vaccine worries, US limits Communist tourism, UN warns on pandemic poverty, cartoon puppy wins GIF race
December 03, 2020
60: Africa's top public health official said Wednesday that 60 percent (780,000,000 million people) of the continent's inhabitants need to receive a COVID vaccine in the next 2-3 years in order to achieve herd immunity across Africa's 54 countries, and avoid the disease becoming endemic throughout the region. Despite recent optimism about the efficacy of several COVID vaccines, global health officials are worried that African countries will be at the back of the queue in obtaining doses.
<p><strong>207 million: </strong>The UN <a href="https://sdgintegration.undp.org/accelerating-development-progressduring-covid-19" target="_blank">warns</a> that without massive investment by governments around the world, the economic effects of the pandemic and lockdowns could push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty globally by 2030.<br/></p><p><strong>1: </strong>New tourist visa rules issued by the Trump administration <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/03/world/asia/us-visa-china-communist-party.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">will limit</a> members of the Chinese Communist Party to 1-month stays in the US, with no possibility of re-entry. Previously, all Chinese citizens were eligible for 10-year visas. But it's unclear how US embassies in China will be able to tell who is among the Party's estimated 92 million members. </p><p><strong>1,061,535,526: </strong>Giphy, the world's leading GIF hub, has released its list of the <a href="https://giphy.medium.com/giphys-most-viewed-gifs-of-2020-f198557f0080" target="_blank">most viewed </a>GIFs of 2020. In the top spot, with 1,061,535,526 ganders, is a thank you to frontline workers, featuring a plump cartoon pup in a nurse's hat. Dancing Elmo clocked a mere half billion views. </p>
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December 03, 2020
Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on US politics:
Is Trump out of options now that William Barr said the DOJ found no election interference?
Trump's problem isn't William Barr not finding election interference, it's that he lost the election and he lost it by millions of votes, and he lost it in the most important key states by tens of thousands of votes. Now, this was a very close election. The three closest states, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona, Trump only lost by 44,000 votes so far, and if he'd ended up winning those three, we'd have an Electoral College tie. But the election was not close enough that Trump's strategy of trying to kick this to the courts and then getting it to go all the way to the Congress, with an alternate slate of electors, it just wasn't possible. Had the election been a little closer, he might've had a shot. But as it is, his chances are over. Joe Biden's going to be inaugurated on January 20th.
<p><strong>Will Biden's new economic team be able to make progress on a COVID stimulus plan? </strong></p><p>This is really out of the hands of Biden's economic team, and it's all about what Congress wants to do. We've seen a lot of progress this week, starting with a bipartisan proposal that came out of the Senate, that a bunch of House members quickly signed up for that forced Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to come down from their $2 trillion number much closer to the compromised $900 billion number. Now the ball is in President Trump's court. If he wants to get a deal, he can send signals to Senate Republicans that he wants to move closer to that $900 billion number. And if no deal gets done, they always have the fallback position of simply extending some of the expiring provisions of the Cares Act into January or February of next year so they can come back and fight another day.</p><p><strong>Reports that Trump discussed pardons with his three eldest children begs for an important question, what about Tiffany? </strong></p><p>Well, poor Tiffany has always been the forgotten daughter, but I think the reality is these reports are pretty ridiculous. There's no clear crimes that any of the children have been accused of, and where this came from was a conspiracy theory by Sean Hannity that the Biden administration would retaliate against President Trump once he was out of office by going after his adult children. Unfortunately, in order to pardon them in advance, which the President could certainly do, he would need to be pardoning them of an accusation of a specific crime, and in the absence of that, there is no pardon that's available. What probably is going to happen though between now and the end of Donald Trump's term is that the President's going to use his very broad power to commute sentences and part of people to forgive high profile accused criminals, people in his political orbit, and people that are being pushed to him by lawyers like Alan Dershowitz, who's representing a known accused criminal, trying to get a pardon. The President could also commute or pardon people who are in jail for low-level drug offenses, which is something that he did over the summer and he used it to his political benefit. Watch for this to happen if the President truly wants to run again in 2024. He may think there's a new base of voters of convicted felons who are free who love Donald Trump now. </p>
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December 03, 2020
Listen: Benjamin Franklin famously called on American business leaders more than two centuries ago to "Do well by doing good." To him, that meant creating companies that were not just about the bottom line, but also that helped foster happier and healthier communities. Now, as 2021 approaches and the world recovers from the greatest crisis of our lifetimes, sustainable investing is a bigger discussion than ever. What does it mean, and how does it not only help the environment and societies but also build your bottom line? That's the topic of the latest episode of Living Beyond Borders.
<p>Moderator Caitlin Dean is joined by Harlin Singh, Head of Sustainable Investing at Citi Private Bank; Elree Winnett Seelig, the Head of ESG for Markets and Security Services at Citi; Rohitesh Dhawan, Director of Global Energy and Natural Resources at Eurasia Group; and Gerry Butts, Eurasia Group's Vice Chairman.<br/></p>
<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.gzeromedia.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg1MzE0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODg3OTY0OX0.OV0uGM4ML6GnSPqS3GbcHZEKALKX3dhDHLaYMba61mI/image.jpg?width=980" id="88058" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6484b1fdf8045f2db20b5031c8fa89da" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Elree Winnett Seelig Head, ESG, Markets & Securities Services, Citi" /><p><strong>Elree Winnett Seelig</strong></p><p>Head, ESG, Markets & Securities Services, Citi</p>
<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.gzeromedia.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg1MzEzNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMTY4MzgxNX0.c6LRl5lbfP2u3476clmwjZsEQlVz5DnPMOojKTK9UxA/image.jpg?width=600&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=600" id="ebe50" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6df3d54567288a4e528631f5dab61c9e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Harlin Singh Head of Sustainable Investing, Citi Private Bank" /><p><strong>Harlin Singh</strong></p><p>Head of Sustainable Investing, Citi Private Bank</p>
<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.gzeromedia.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg1MzExMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDE0NTcxN30.UU96U46NE4a3C7MVjv2copDfP9qH2Hap0MTyuDFHWhY/image.png?width=980" id="fc471" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="22d48248112c8ed524fc1195d81037ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Gerald Butts Vice Chairman, Eurasia Group" /><p><strong>Gerald Butts</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Vice Chairman, Eurasia Group</p>
<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.gzeromedia.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg1MzExNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjk0MzcwOH0.gY0ZCcMb6bzyblr9ei0yDeX24ZdB-6jRpHcCsFfBQJA/image.jpg?width=980" id="9512e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2f2210fbcc101847eb09d659a77a8045" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Rohitesh Dhawan Managing Director, Energy, Climate & Resources, Eurasia Group" /><p><strong>Rohitesh Dhawan</strong></p><p>Managing Director, Energy, Climate & Resources, Eurasia Group<br></p>
<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.gzeromedia.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg1MzE2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODQ5NDQ4NH0.Bk0eXw7hUJe1npP4bikFshrTg1cDc0G6le-yndqNTZU/image.jpg?width=980" id="74bac" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c13aa9fb88b12851da2de65993ce7aa8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Caitlin Dean Practice Head, Financial & Professional Services, Eurasia Group" /><p><strong>Caitlin Dean</strong></p><p>Practice Head, Financial & Professional Services, Eurasia Group</p><div></div>
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