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What We’re Watching: Global Gateways vs Belt and Road, US-Russia tit-for-tat, Germany’s COVID challenge

The EU rivals China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The European Commission has unveiled its Global Gateways plan, which aims to invest €300 billion globally in infrastructure projects by 2027. Indeed, Brussels is positioning its plan as a better alternative to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. This announcement comes as Beijing has been steadily upping its investment in the Global South, including a pledge this week to supply Africa with an additional 1 billion COVID vaccine doses over the next three years, as well as doling out $10 billion of trade finance to support African exports. But European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen points to several advantages for the European plan. One, Global Gateway focuses both on physical infrastructure – like fiber-optic cables, transportation, healthcare and clean energy resources – as well as investment in research and education. And unlike Beijing’s plan, which saddles recipient countries with debt, the EU will provide cash “under fair and favorable terms.” Its plan will also include buy-in from Europe’s robust private sector. Beijing has not commented on the development, but the Chinese foreign minister’s visit to Ethiopia on Wednesday was likely intended to signal Beijing’s enduring commitment to the region.

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What We’re Watching: NATO tries to deter Russia, Ethiopia’s war widens, India targets a laughable enemy

NATO looks to deter Russia, but how? With Russia having massed more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian frontier, NATO says it’s looking to deter the Kremlin from launching a potential attack. But how? Though both the EU and US back Ukraine economically and militarily, the country isn’t a NATO member – and won’t be soon – so there’s no automatic defense treaty in place. And while NATO’s toolkit includes options from increased defense operations, to cyber attacks on Russian targets, to the threat of retaliatory strikes on Russian forces, it has to play the deterrence game carefully: any consequences that it threatens must be both serious enough to scare Russia and credible. After all, Vladimir Putin loves to call bluffs, and it would be a massive fail for the world’s most powerful military alliance to draw a red line only to watch the Kremlin prove that NATO forces won’t defend it. Lastly, a NATO miscalculation could accidentally provoke the wider conflict everyone wants to avoid.

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What We're Watching: A coup in Kyiv?

A coup in Kyiv? "I have received information that a coup will happen in our country on 1 December." So said Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky during an extraordinary news conference last week. The plot, according to Zelensky, involves one of Ukraine's wealthiest men with the backing of sinister (presumably Russian) forces. The accusation comes at a time of high anxiety in Kyiv as Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine's borders for reasons that Russia hasn't clearly explained. What's happening here? We've already written that Ukrainian and Western fears of a Russian troop invasion of Ukraine are highly exaggerated. Russia would win any battle fought with Ukrainian forces, but a war and occupation of Ukrainian territory would come with big costs and risks for the Kremlin. But there's also no reason to believe that Ukraine's military or population would tolerate, let alone support, a Russian-backed coup in Kyiv. Tensions are high and likely to run higher, but war and revolution remain highly unlikely outcomes.

Concerns increase over Russian military activity near Ukraine

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What are the Russians up to with Ukraine?

Well, we don't know. But what we do know is that they are concentrating quite substantial military forces, moving towards the borders with Ukraine at the same time as they are de facto stopping the diplomatic dialogue with them. Very strong message coming from Washington and from the European capitals that they should abstain from early military operation. But you never know. It is a fairly sort of worrying situation.

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