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Great-power rivalry to top G-20 agenda

GZERO


Geopolitical tensions will top the agenda as world leaders gather in Bali on Tuesday for the annual G-20, an international forum that brings together the world’s developed and developing countries to coordinate on economic, health, and climate policies. Russian President Vladimir Putin ultimately decided not to attend, but the war he launched in Ukraine will be an important topic of conversation. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden will meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Monday to try to clarify their respective red lines and build a floor under the US-China relationship. Great-power competition appears likely to overshadow any coordination efforts at this year’s meeting. We asked Eurasia Group expert Ali Wyne what to expect.

Why do you think Putin decided to stay away?

The Russian leader had widely been expected to attend to demonstrate that, contrary to US and European narratives, Russia has not been reduced to pariah status. Indeed, Moscow maintains robust trading relationships around the world, with some reports suggesting that the value of its exports has actually increased since it invaded Ukraine.

In the end, however, at least two considerations appear to have dissuaded Putin from coming to Bali. First, he may have feared not only being shunned by Western leaders but also uncomfortable interactions with China — Russia’s most important partner — and India, both of which have grown increasingly anxious about the course of the war. Second, he is surely concerned about the pace at which Russia’s military position vis-à-vis Ukraine is deteriorating. Its army’s retreat from Kherson city is a major setback for Moscow, and Putin will find it increasingly difficult to argue that Russia is quelling Ukrainian resistance.

Russia will not be entirely absent from the G-20, as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will lead a delegation from the country. Still, Putin’s absence is a major story, even if he opts to dial in virtually.

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A shopper looks at produce in a market in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Reuters

Though much of the world is suffering from uncomfortably high inflation as economies adjust to the disruptions brought by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, some countries are grappling with double- or triple-digit price increases. In Argentina, for example, a rapid acceleration of price gains in recent months has economists predicting inflation will reach 100% this year.

We asked Eurasia Group expert Luciano Sigalov to explain the runaway price increases in the South American country and how political leaders are responding to them (or not).

How did we get here?

This is not Argentina’s first bout of very high inflation. The last was in the late 1980s, when inflation topped 4,000%. After a period of price stability in the 1990s, inflation began to accelerate again in 2005 and then skyrocketed over the summer. Prices rose at an annual rate of 83% in September, one of the highest in the world.

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Annie Gugliotta

Mexico’s protectionist energy policies have caused a spat with its closest trade partners — the US and Canada — that appears to be heading into a high-stakes arbitration process.

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Malaysians wave flags during the 65th National Day celebrations parade in Kuala Lumpur.

EYEPRESS via Reuters Connect

Malaysia will hold early elections on Nov. 19­­, the government announced Thursday. Polls were not due until September 2023, but Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had come under intense pressure to bring them forward from senior figures in the ruling United Malays National Organization party and its Barisan Nasional partners. Several of these face criminal prosecutions they hope a new government would quash, while others argued elections should be held earlier to deprive the opposition of time to regroup.

Malaysia has gone through significant political instability — and three prime ministers – since the shock 2018 election defeat of UMNO, which had ruled the country since independence. Amid much greater parliamentary fragmentation and shifting political alliances, the country was led by two other coalitions – Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional – until BN returned to power in 2021 with Ismail’s premiership. BN and PN have governed Malaysia together since 2020, but PN was previously the senior partner whereas BN now is.

Will the upcoming polls result in greater political stability? Will they make much difference in the policy outlook? Eurasia Group analysts Peter Mumford and Fadli Yusoff explain.

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Starlink logo seen on a mobile device with Ukraine on a map in the background.

STR via Reuters Connect

Elon Musk’s Starlink is the most prominent of a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite networks making a name for themselves this year by providing internet service in conflict zones and other geopolitical hotspots. Instead of using a handful of expensive-to-launch high-altitude satellites, these networks deploy thousands of cheaper low-orbit systems. This type of network may still be more expensive to use than terrestrial cables, but it allows operators to beam the internet into places with limited infrastructure on the ground to support it.

We asked Eurasia Group expert Scott Bade to explain how these networks are being used and what the implications are.

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A man works at an illegal oil refinery site in Bayelsa, Nigeria.

REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Nigeria’s official oil output recently slumped to a two-decade low of less than 1 million barrels per day, spotlighting a longstanding problem with oil theft in Africa’s largest country. Mele Kyari, head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. Ltd, sparked debate locally when he provided an estimate of the magnitude of the problem: Thieves are stealing about 200,000 barrels per day.

These losses are particularly galling at a time when many oil-producing countries around the world are reaping the benefits of high prices. Nigeria, conversely, earlier this year said weak oil income had caused federal revenue to fall below its debt service obligations in the first quarter.

So, what’s going on? We asked Eurasia Group expert Tochi Eni-Kalu to explain.

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Paige Fusco

Alarmed by China’s progress in extending its influence among a series of strategically located islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, this week President Joe Biden is hosting the first-ever US-Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington, DC. The White House has invited the leaders of 12 Pacific nations to discuss climate change, economic cooperation, and security ties. We asked Eurasia Group expert Peter Mumford to explain the importance of the event.

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