Friday News Roundup — July 22, 2022

SIS Assessment of Russian Losses; Turkish Participation in Tehran Summit; What Putin Wants from Iran; Jair Bolsanaro and Brazil’s October Election; What we know about Abe’s assassination; Europe’s Heatwave and Energy Politics


Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of the Friday News Roundup in the penultimate Friday of July. Despite the dog days of summer, the CSPC team has been busy with plenty in the media and a roundup jam-packed with analysis this week.

Foremost in the news, intrigues and revelations continue to swirl as the January 6 Committee continues its work. In a Thursday night public hearing, the committee delved into former President Donald Trump’s continued belief in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election after the events of January 6. In outtakes of Trump’s January 7 address acquired by the committee, Trump appeared to struggle to admit defeat as part of his remarks, and explicitly refused to say that the election was “over,” only that it was certified. Communications to and within the White House and the administration urging a peaceful transfer of power, including some which raised the prospect of using the 25th amendment. With such revelations of Trump’s challenges to norms dominating the airwaves, the Thursday news that President Joe Biden had contracted COVID-19 quickly fell from the top of the headlines. Biden was reportedly experiencing mild symptoms, according to the White House. We hope for his speedy recovery.

On the Hill, the focus is on the middle of next week to see if the Senate can move a CHIP-plus bill to support U.S. competitiveness, semiconductor fabs, and R&D. Other measures being watched include the proposals on gun control, police funding, Medicare drug pricing, and reforms to the Electoral Count Act. Marking an interesting line in the nation’s ongoing cultural tensions, 47 House Republicans joined with the majority in codifying same-sex marraige equality. While conventional wisdom would have the legislation dead-on-arrival in the Senate, the prospects for its filibuster are murky.

Across the pond, the Tory’s leadership contest in the United Kingdom continues, with only former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss remaining in the race, meaning that the next Prime Minister of the UK will almost certainly be one of the two. In Italy, Italian President Sergio Mattarella accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mario Draghi and dissolved parliament. Stemming from a dispute between Draghi’s Democratic Party and its coalition partner the Five Star Movement over a critical vote regarding cost of living and political tensions over support for Ukraine. As a result, the country will hold snap elections on September 25, which polling suggests will favor a coalition of center-right and right-parties. Finally, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced a brokered deal with Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey to resume grain and agricultural exports.

This week Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence & Global Affairs Director, Joshua C. Huminski penned a piece for London’s Council on Geostrategy. Discussing the U.S.-UK relationship in Ukraine and beyond, Huminski argued that the partnership is critical for both practical and ideological reasons, allowing Washington to have a key partner in the Euro-Atlantic as well as the Indo-Pacific.

In Breaking Defense, Huminski raises four key questions about Russia’s war in Ukraine the West needs to ask, the answers to which could well shape the future of the fight, and beyond.

For the Diplomatic Courier, Huminski reviewed Katie Stallard’s “Dancing on Bones”. A look at the use and abuse, and wholesale fabrication, of historical memory, Stallard explores how Russia, China, and North Korea use history to buttress the political power of the respective regimes.

Also in the Diplomatic Courier, Research Fellow Wesley Culp published an analysis of the results of France’s June legislative elections, and what the new makeup of the National Assembly could mean for the future of French foreign policy, including towards Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In Air Force Magazine, Senior Fellow James Kitfield reported from the Aspen Security Forum how Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. assessed what an American response to a hypothetical Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons might look like, as well as what lessons can be learned from Russia’s invasion.

In addition, Kitfield also discussed Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond’s observations at the Aspen Security Conference on the role of space thus far in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and what lessons can be drawn from that impact.

This week, Joshua Huminski writes about the head of the UK Secret Intelligence Service’s assessment of Russian losses in Ukraine. Ethan Brown discusses the impact of Turkey’s participation in Tuesday’s Tehran summit with Putin. Wesley Culp analyzes what Russia might seek to get out of its partnership with Iran that can be seen in the Tuesday summit. Sofia Piña Jaubert assesses the risk of Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro rejecting the results of Brazil’s October 2 general election. Hidetoshi Azuma summarizes the ongoing political developments in Japan following the assasination of Shinzo Abe. Last but not least, Robert Gerber covers the heatwaves affecting Europe and the impact on energy and climate politics.

Britain’s Intelligence Chief on Russia’s Losses

Joshua C. Huminski

SIS Director Richard Moore(Photo Credit, Secret Intelligence Service)

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in the United States, Richard Moore, the Chief of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, said that Russia was “about to run out of steam” in Ukraine. Moore added, “The Russians will increasingly find it difficult to supply manpower and material over the next few weeks. They will have to pause in some way and that will give the Ukrainians opportunities to strike back.”

Ambassador William Burns, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, echoed Moore’s comments, suggesting that Russia had lost 15,000 soldiers in Ukraine, with an estimated 45,000 wounded. There is a considerable variance in Western calculations of Russia’s losses. Speaking at the NATO summit in Madrid, the UK’s Secretary of Defence, Ben Wallace, said that Russia had lost upwards of 25,000 personnel in Ukraine. This is, however, believed to include not only the military, but also Russia’s National Guard (Rosgvardia), Wagner private security contractors, as well as personnel from the DNR/LNR militias. Russia classifies military casualties as a state secret.

Regardless of the calculus, the casualties the Russians are experiencing are significant, especially when weighed against the progress the forces are achieving. According to General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Russian forces have taken just six to 10 miles of new territory and “advances are measured in literally hundreds of meters”. Ukrainian casualties are also high. According to Burns, “Ukrainians have suffered, as well — probably a little less than that, but… significant casualties.” In June, Kyiv said that it was losing 100–200 soldiers per day.

It is also worth noting that this is not the first time that analysts have suggested that Russia cannot sustain its operation and that it will soon exhaust itself. In June similar arguments were put forward, and while one could argue that “soon” is a subjective determination, caution should characterize any analysis of battlefield performance and looming exhaustion.

The question of sustainability is very much open on both sides. Moscow’s personnel losses are considerable and it is undertaking, according to reports, increasingly desperate efforts to field replacement forces. Reports suggest that Russia’s Wagner Group is offering amnesty to prisoners in exchange for deploying to Ukraine. The military is pressuring conscripts, which are not legally allowed to deploy outside of the country except in a time of war, to shift to contract servicemembers, which would allow their deployment. The Ministry of Defence is training soldiers for just five days before sending them to the front. It is also offering higher than average salaries and other inducements for soldiers to join. Russia is maintaining the fiction that its war in Ukraine is anything but and, is in fact, simply a “special military operation”.

Moore is not wrong in saying that “It’s important, I think, to the Ukrainians themselves that they demonstrate their ability to strike back. And I think that will be very important for their continuing high morale.” But it also assumes that Ukraine will be in a position to strike back beyond that which it has already done and continues to do. The provision of the advanced HIMARS system in increasing numbers is providing Kyiv with deep-strike capabilities, but these merely staunch Russia’s advance. Retaking territory requires personnel and armored vehicles.

It, then, appears that both sides are increasingly heading for a longer-term war of attrition — something which necessitates a change in mentality in both Moscow and Kyiv, but also a shift in the West’s strategy of support. Russia’s maximalist objectives and expectations of success have clearly been drawn back to more limited operational goals in the Eastern part of Ukraine. At the same time, Kyiv’s success in both surviving, but also pushing back Russia’s forces have given way to more frequent discussions of Ukrainian victory (though what that looks like is far from well defined). Indeed, Ukraine appears to be settling into First World War levels of artillery engagements along relatively static battlefield lines, albeit buttressed by advanced technology and weapons of greater range, sophistication, and lethality.

The question ultimately becomes one of whether Western support will withstand a potentially harsh winter and economic pain, is willing to support Kyiv through this period, and whether Ukraine will be able to sustain the fight — at the end of the day it is Ukrainian fighters dying on the battlefield.

Turkey continues to harm NATO credibility

Ethan Brown

Russian, Iranian, and Turkey’s leaders at this weeks Tehran Summit (Photo Credit: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office )

The impact of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine has had wide-ranging impacts on more societal components than previously imagined-impacting global economies, information, defense spending-and now, regional politics and the continued questionability of Turkey’s role as a credible and reliable member of NATO.

The linkage between the two was highlighted this week when Tehran hosted the trilateral summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin, new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The timing is, of course, not surprising after President Biden made a tour of the greater Levant to reassure allies and regional partners of Western investment in regional stability. The relationships between Tehran and Moscow, Moscow and Ankara have long historical ties and the interests of those three states have been generally parallel for some time, something I alluded to in my very first Roundup contribution years ago. However, Russian influence has waned in recent years, leading Turkey towards actions that threaten to foment discord between it and Moscow as well as with NATO and the United States.

The flavor of this week’s summit came with significant sinister undertones, and the complexity of Turkey’s involvement with these discussions justifies some criticism and questions regarding Ankara’s commitment to and credibility in NATO.

First, some positive movements resulting from the summit were the signals that Russia might be inclined to lift the Russian naval blockade in Black Sea ports, allowing precious grain supplies to leave Ukraine and return to the global market. Ukraine, as is well known, is one of the world’s leading grain exporters, making the economic impact of such a change fairly significant in the wake of the Russian invasion, prompting Western actors to consider lifting certain sanctions in the exchange should it actually occur. Erdogan has played a central role in trying to resolve the concerns regarding the blockade and the very real risk of world hunger — as we have seen in the agreement announced today.

Turkey, for its part, is largely responsible for ensuring such freedom of traffic, owing to a obscure but critical binding treatise on Black Sea traffic and Ankara’s responsibility in its assurance, known as the 1936 Montreux Convention. In this accord, Turkey presides (with military force) over the historically significant Sea of Marmara, and the Straits of the Bosporus and Dardanelles-vital access points between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean-which see on average over 85,000 ships per year loaded with goods originating from the Balkans and Central Asia, and of course Ukraine. The Montreux Convention is one of Turkey’s most critical obligations as a standing NATO member, making this arrangement a vital turning point (if it bears fruit).

Now for the negatives, and the greatest source of criticism for Turkey’s persistent angling amidst the global crisis that is Ukraine. One of the main agenda points for Tehran in Erdogan’s invitation to the Summit (and careful inclusion of Putin) were discussions on deterring Ankara from executing a special military operation of its own on the Turkey-Syria border. Turkey has sought to exploit Moscow’s distraction in Ukraine to further its own regional ambitions near its borders, something that Putin-who has an interest in securing continued relations with Turkey as well as Syria, who is at the fulcrum of this gambit-has made efforts to discourage in the past.

Turkey has planned to conduct offensive operations in Northern Syria to “drive away” US-backed Kurdish militias from near the border, in order to create a safe zone that would allow Syrian refugees to return to the war-torn rural locales in Syria’s northern flank, as well as major population centers around Manbij, Khobane and near Raqqa. By drive away, the presumed motive is continued violent repression and execution of the ethnic group that Turkey, and Erdogan in particular, have vilified as terrorists for having spoken against such repressions in previous years. Recall that Turkey threatened mere weeks ago to block Finland and Sweden’s NATO applications over the alleged harboring of Kurdish personalities by the Nordic states.

These same Kurds, whose history is rife with violent repression and victims of genocide, were at the forefront of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State threat from 2015–2020, have requested assistance from Moscow and Tehran in curbing Erdogan from carrying out his ongoing extermination of the Rojavan people. I must admit some bias here, having long been an open supporter of Kurdish independence and worked with vetted Kurdish militias on deployments during my time in the military. So the criticism stems from both personal experience and an academic interest in the history of the Kurdish people, who have been at the short end of the geopolitical stick for more than a century.

Neither Tehran, nor Damascus, nor Moscow, want Turkey to proceed with this operation. Moscow, of course, has its hands full with the war of attrition in Ukraine, and is short-staffed in Syria after withdrawing many of its military advisors from Syrian soil to engage in the invasion. Tehran seeks to prevent further regional unrest which it and US government officials assert will only benefit terror groups still active in the region: “ISIS is going to take advantage of that campaign, not to mention the humanitarian impact”, said Dana Stroul, a DoD official for Middle East affairs. Iran has a multitude of clandestine and proxy forces scattered throughout Northern Syria with the aim to continue pressure on what remains of the Islamic State, making the potential for crossfire and errant Turkish bombardements — for which they are known to employ against Kurdish targets-a risk to Iranian forces.

Both Moscow and Tehran have invested significant military and financial resources in Syria with the simple aim of keeping President Bashar al-Assad in power, and while there have not been outright hostilities between al-Assad and Erdogan, Iran is concerned with Turkey’s increased cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Russia of course is balancing ongoing engagement with Turkey despite the latter’s critical NATO membership, which makes for a delicate state of affairs and one that rightly questions Ankara’s commitment to the alliance.

Regional politics and power brokering is one thing, but for the world and NATO to continue to ignore the activities of Turkey in the case of the Kurdish people, especially in the tumult resulting from the Ukraine invasion, demands accountability. It is telling that Turkey has been efforting this operation while the world is distracted by Russia’s invasion, and that Erdogan continues to press the issue despite contention from both international and regional counterparts. The main motivation lay in the reality that Erdogan faces an upcoming election, and this operation has plenty of public support within Turkey as the Kurds have labored under the terrorist label for so many years.

But for NATO to stand by while such activities occur without protest or condemnation, to say nothing of other actions that have harmed NATO credibility, owing to Turkey’s importance to the alliance — its critical geographic location, and role as a power broker — all make this a bitter pill to swallow. And for Western adversaries and antagonists like Tehran and Moscow leading the effort to deter such actions only enhances the reality that NATO must demand greater accountability from Turkey.

Putin Goes to Tehran

Wesley Culp

Presidents Putin and Raisi (Photo Credit: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office )

While Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trilateral summit with the Presidents of Turkey and Iran did not feature any major diplomatic breakthroughs, the summit can instead be seen as evidence of Russia’s continued eastward tilt in search of new markets and partners following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

On July 19, President Putin met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. This was Putin’s first trip outside of the former Soviet Union since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. While the meeting was sparse in terms of agreements between the three respective parties, President Putin labeled the meeting a success. The three leaders pledged to deepen and continue cooperation to fight “terrorism” in Syria and agreed to meet again in Russia later this year. As Ethan discusses within his contribution to this week’s roundup, that promise comes at a moment in time where Ankara has threatened to move its forces deeper into Syria to push back Syrian Kurd groups further from the border.

Despite its lack of serious substance, the Tehran gathering was feted as a successful meeting and a breakthrough for Russian diplomacy. The three leaders officially gathered under the auspices of their status as guarantors of the Astana process, the Russian-led format for a Syrian ceasefire which first met in 2017, in the Kazakhstani capital (now named Nur-Sultan). Russian state media highlighted Western media accounts of the meeting that raised the prospect of deeper Russia-Iran cooperation. In fact, most of the reported triumphs of the meeting were centered around Russia’s relationship with Iran and Tehran’s reciprocal support for Russia. Russian media drew attention to Iranian statements of support for Russia’s version of its invasion of Ukraine and Tehran’s promise to help Russia “respond” to Western sanctions. Before their bilateral meeting, President Erdoğan, however, arrived nearly 50 seconds late to his rendezvous with Putin, causing Putin to nervously tap his foot and visibly fidget, which Russian media highlighted as a breach of protocol on Erdoğan’s part.

In many ways, Russia’s reinforcement of its relationship with Iran is a symptom of a predictable Eastward turn following its invasion of Ukraine. With the West uninterested in repairing relations with Russia after its attack on Ukraine, Russia has sought to demonstrate how it supposedly has no need for such relationships. Russia’s turn to Iran is also facilitated by the deep-seated, almost reflexive paranoia or suspicion through which Moscow and Tehran view the West. Russia’s reported order of “hundreds” of Iranian drones could indicate that Russian military leaders have also begun to view Iran as a possible alternative relationship to source equipment from, even if cooperation between the two in the military sphere has been sporadic. Similar to Moscow, Tehran sees the future of world affairs as favoring itself, Russia, China, and other countries of “the East,” and views its relationship with Russia as a key element of that future. However, as highlighted by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns, cooperation between Iran and Russia is naturally constrained by competition between the two in the field of energy production as well as a general lack of trust between the two powers.

Iran is not the only power Russia has sought to court since its invasion of Ukraine. In particular, the so-called BRICS bloc — which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — has been floated by Moscow as a new direction for Russian foreign policy now that a Western thrust is not possible. In this year’s June BRICS summit, Putin appealed to the conference’s attendees to push back against the West, claiming the West was responsible for the ongoing crisis in the Russia-West relationship. The Russian President also asserted that Moscow was in the process of “rerouting” its exports formerly sent to Western countries to the BRICS, as well as opening Russia to companies of other BRICS states. Interestingly, following the June meeting, Iran applied to join the BRICS bloc, another possible point of collaboration between Iran and Russia in the future.

Moscow sees its relationship with China as another outlet post-invasion. An ever-opportunistic China is happy to purchase discounted Russian energy, and amplify Russian media’s anti-West disinformation campaigns, yet Beijing has sought to distance itself from the assertion that their “no limits” partnership constituted an alliance. While Russia is eager to signal that it is deepening its cooperation with Iran or the BRICS countries, real questions remain as to whether Russia’s economic and technical needs can be met by Russia’s motley coalition of “partners” it has assembled, or if they are truly interested in assisting Russia in that regard at all.

Brazil Elections: Is Bolsonaro Laying the Groundwork to Reject Election Results?

Sofia Piña Jaubert

President Jair Bolsanaro (Wikimedia Commons)

On October 2, Brazil will stage general elections, and President Jair Bolsonaro is up for reelection. Bolsonaro faces headwinds in achieving a second term, with polls showing him trailing behind former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003–2010). On July 18, Bolsonaro invited a dozen or so diplomats to the presidential palace to express his concern that Brazil’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraudulent manipulation. Bolsonaro cited a Federal Police report on alleged hacking of electronic voting machines, despite Brazil’s electoral authority indicating they did not assess it to be an indication of electoral fraud. Bolsonaro also suggested the country needed to ensure safe elections via a deeper involvement of Brazil’s military.

Brazilian officials have expressed concern over Bolsonaro’s address to the diplomatic delegation. Rodrigo Pacheco, the President of Brazil’s senate said, “The safety of the electronic machines and the fairness of the electoral process can no longer be put in doubt. There is no just cause and no reason for that. That questioning is bad for Brazil in every respect,” Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Fachin, who currently heads Brazil’s electoral agency, commented that “there is unacceptable electoral denialism by one public figure”, making “very serious allegations of fraud without any evidence.” Moreover, the federal police’s lead investigator into the hacking of electronic voting machines testified before the Supreme Court that no evidence of fraud was found during the past elections. The non-profit Human Rights Watch expressed on Twitter that “The international community should make it clear that any attempt to undermine the democratic system and the rule of law is unacceptable,” and that the meeting further proved that Bolsonaro “continues his dangerous disinformation campaign about the electoral system.”

President Jair Bolsonaro’s broadening of his vote-fraud claims to an international audience has heightened fears that he would contest the upcoming election. The polarized atmosphere in Brazil and Bolsonaro’s illiberal inclinations have potentially worrying implications for the future of Brazil’s democracy. “People who owe favors to them (da Silva and his Workers’ Party) do not want a transparent electoral system,” Bolsonaro told the assembled diplomats, “They insist all the time that after the election results are announced your heads-of-state need to recognize them.” The peaceful transition of power has historically been a cornerstone of Brazil’s democracy. Moreover, a state’s capacity to conduct international relations is one of the criteria of statehood as laid out in the Montevideo Convention (1993). However, in recent years, not just Bolsonaro but also former U.S. President Donald Trump and current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have each questioned the trustworthiness of their respective national electoral systems. Brazil’s undermining of democratic norms unfortunately reflects a broader erosion of freedom of expression and association in other democracies such as Hungary, Poland, and South Korea — raising concerns of an emerging global “democratic recession.”

The increasing questioning and discrediting of a nation’s electoral body constitute a dangerous precedent that must be avoided to prevent an undermining of democracy. Brazilian civil society must continue to uphold the nation’s electoral system and institutions, with non-governmental agencies helping inform and hold the executive power accountable. Likewise, the international community should make its concerns known, both in private and in public forums.

The Assassination of Shinzo Abe: What We Know So Far

Hidetoshi Azuma

The Headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party in Tokyo on July 15, 2022 (Photo Credit: Hidetoshi Azuma)

The assasination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on July 8 in Nara, Japan was truly an unsettling spectacle for a country renowned for its domestic peace and stability. Japan is still reeling from the shock of the heinous act of terrorism on its own soil, leading many across the political spectrum to decry the demise of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in history. The author personally attests to the enormous grief currently enveloping the Japanese public with his encounter with the endless queues of ordinary citizens seeking to pay their last tribute to the slain leader at the headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) even days after his funeral. While the ongoing police investigation will continue to shed new light on Abe’s demise for days to come, it is instructive to summarize the ongoing political developments in Japan to gain a perspective on the significance of the consequential terrorist incident earlier month.

First, the suspect, Tatsuya Yamagami, claimed that he specifically targeted Abe due to the politician’s deep ties to the Korean Christian cult, the Unification Church, and denied harboring any political motives. Yamagami hailed from a troubled family marked by his father’s early death followed by his mother’s participation in the Unification Church and his older brother’s suicide. In particular, his mother donated the entire family assets to the cult, significantly affecting the suspect’s childhood, including his access to higher education. Yamagami’s tribulation stemming from his mother’s ties to the cult drove the suspect to seek vengeance on the church leadership. He viewed Abe as the lynchpin enabling the symbiotic relationship between the Unification Church and the LDP, leading him to specifically target the former prime minister.

Second, Yamagami’s blood vendetta on Abe inadvertently opened the Pandora’s Box containing secrets surrounding the LDP’s covert support from the Unification Church. Indeed, the LDP has historically relied on the Unification Church for campaign funds and resources, and the Japanese ruling party’s unrivaled political power is inextricable from the influence of the Korean cult. While the LDP-Unification Church alliance has been well-documented, it long remained a political taboo and deflected public scrutiny until Abe’s assasination earlier this month. In fact, Abe epitomized such a bizarre alliance largely because his grandfather, former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, was one of the key proponents of the Unification Church and played a key role in founding its conservative political wing, the International Federation for Victory over Communism, in the 1960s. Abe’s tragic demise suddenly raised public awareness of his longstanding ties to the Korean cult and its significant influence on domestic Japanese politics.

Third, Abe’s death has opened a gaping hole in his own LDP faction, the Seiwakai faction with profound implications for the intra-party power relations. While the LDP has succeeded in achieving de facto single party rule since its founding in 1955, the party’s own factionalism has largely driven politics, spawning various policies colored by their respective characteristics. Prior to the July 8 incident, the LDP’s factional dynamics largely revolved around the emerging rivalry between Abe’s neoconservative Seiwakai faction and prime minister Fumio Kishida’s liberal Kochikai faction. Indeed, the two factions differed over many fundamental issues, ranging from monetary policy to Russia, and Abe’s towering influence overshadowed the trajectory of Kishida’s nascent administration. Abe’s unexpected departure shook the very foundation of the Seiwakai faction and, in turn, handed its rival, the Kochikai faction, a windfall opportunity to expand its influence. Given the Seiwakai’s waning clout and the weak Opposition, Kishida will likely navigate the next three years largely unhindered by domestic politics.

Fourth, the emerging golden age of the Kochikai faction under its own leader and incumbent prime minister looks to fundamentally transform Japan’s grand strategy. In fact, Tokyo has repeatedly allowed internal power struggles to shape its own grand strategy, frequently leading to crippling strategic ambiguities. This was particularly palpable in Japan’s recent Russia policy largely driven by Abe’s vision for a peace deal and Kishida’s policy of non-engagement. Indeed, their differences on Russia were fundamentally over the perennial question of the Cold War-era pro-US grand strategy known as the Yoshida Doctrine, which still remains the guiding framework for Japan’s national security. Since the 2000s, Abe and his Seiwakai allies had sought to replace the Yoshida Doctrine with a more muscular, hard power-centric grand strategic paradigm. By contrast, Kishida himself is the foremost proponent of the Yoshida Doctrine in Tokyo and has been delineating counters of a new grand strategy based on international alliances and solidarity against the global rise of authoritarianism. Abe’s sudden death has undermined the Seiwakai’s efforts to craft an alternative to the Yoshida Doctrine, ironically resurrecting the Cold War doctrine for a new era on his rival’s watch. The upshot is Japan being once again transformed into Asia’s bulwark this time against the global ascendancy of authoritarianism led by Russia and China.

Abe’s assasination has exposed numerous internal contradictions while virtually turning Japan’s domestic political dynamics upside down. The July 8 incident evoked memories of the 1920s and 1930s during which the veritable “politics by assasination” swept across Japan, claiming the lives of three prime ministers and exacting total destruction of party politics along the way. Perhaps, history is returning to Japan once again in the second decade of this century. Kishida is poised to gain the most from the untimely demise of his party rival and now confronts a growing crisis of Japanese democracy. His predecessors in the last century failed to remedy the similar crisis to a catastrophic end. While virtually reigning without peers in domestic Japanese politics, Kishida now finds himself with the momentous task of defending democracy at home and abroad.

Heatwave Adds to Government Woes in Europe, U.S.

Robert Gerber

(Photo Credit: Max Pixel)

Emergency services in Spain, Portugal, Greece, France, Switzerland, and Italy have been fighting fires for days. Rivers are drying up in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, while the government has issued ozone warnings as temperatures reached 40 C (103 F) this week. The UK logged record high temperatures. Portugal has reported over 1000 heat-related deaths. Older people are of course particularly vulnerable, and Europe has a large population of seniors. The heatwave is part of a “global pattern of rising temperatures” which has engulfed the United States and Europe, and is expected to hit China in late August, according to Reuters reporting.

So what are the near to medium-term implications?

Higher energy prices. Oil prices have dipped slightly this week, but the price of natural gas — which generates 40% of American electricity — is up 45% this month due mostly to increased demand for air conditioning. (Axios, Wall Street Journal)

Economic consequences for Europe and the United States: heat kills crops, impacts factories, can turn an airport runway into caramel, and has cracked bridges and roads in the United States. The latter represents a cost setback for the tranche of U.S. infrastructure spending that congress approved last year. Some German politicians have demanded shorter working hours with full wage compensation based on what they call the “right to not heat.”

An added burden for governments that are already struggling with COVID prevention, rampant inflation, and an energy crisis.

Although European policy prioritizes climate change adaptation, Europe is no better prepared for hotter climates than is the United States — as anyone who has spent a summer vacation in Europe knows. European buildings tend to be well shielded from cold but largely forgo air conditioning. In recent decades in the United States, our homes have been primarily built from lumber and sheetrock, which are energy inefficient (not to mention a fire hazard). Use of energy efficient heat pumps-based is rare in the United States.

Climate change is hitting home, and it is no longer just the developing world, the Arctic, and island nations who have to worry. The good news is that existing technology can mitigate a portion of the human and economic costs on the back end of the problem. “Better building materials and purposeful use of smarter building technologies will help. For example, use of energy efficient heat pumps, green roofs, and smart windows can help lower indoor temperatures, and lead to measurable energy savings,” said Rob Murchison, principal at Intelligent Buildings, a North Carolina-based advisory company. And there are simple things communities can do like replacing utility poles with trees. There are movements afoot like the U.S.-based Smart Surfaces Coalition, which advises cities like Baltimore on ways to address the “urban heat island” effect. A coalition of NGOs and UN agencies recently launched the Heat Action Plan, a tool designed to reduce the human and economic impacts of extreme heat at the regional or municipal level. These kinds of measures won’t solve climate change, nor the current energy crisis, but they could help societies be more resilient in the face of higher summer temperatures, which appear to be the new norm.

News you may have missed

Janet Yellen Urges Friend-shoring

On July 19, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen encouraged friend-shoring (or as we prefer to call it, friend-sourcing) as a means to prevent China from dominating key industries such as chip manufacturing and electric vehicles. Specifically, friend-shoring means that the United States will prioritize trading with its allies, such as South Korea, rather than geopolitical rivals like China and Russia. Speaking at an LG Group research facility in South Korea, Secretary Yellen praised the robust economic partnership between the United States and South Korea and highlighted the importance of this relationship in combating Chinese economic exploitation and building supply chain resiliency. “We cannot allow countries like China to use their market position in key raw materials, technologies, or products to disrupt our economy or exercise unwanted geopolitical leverage,” she said. In the current economic and geopolitical context, friend-sourcing signifies a structural shift in international trade and the global supply chain and could create trading blocs that are defined by strategic alliances.

Russian Parliamentarians Allege Ukrainian Development of Supersoldiers

As part of a hearing on alleged U.S. “biolaboratories” and bioweapon development on Ukrainian territory, Russian members of parliament alleged that blood tests of Ukrainian soldiers revealed extensive evidence of experimentation, which turned them into the “cruelest monsters.” According to Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs committee, and Duma Deputy Chairman Irina Yarovaya asserted that the blood samples in question revealed massive concentrations of a variety of pathogens in their blood, which the legislators claimed was a U.S. invention which spurred the supposed cruelty of Ukrainian soldiers. However, no proof was offered, biological or otherwise, to suggest that such bioengineering had taken place at all. The legislators also did not identify any turning points in the so-called “special military operations” where Ukrainian supersoldiers routed Russian troops.

Bank runs, scenes of tanks in streets, mortgage boycotts roil Xi Jinping’s domestic economic outlook

As Xi Jinping has moved ahead towards an unprecedented-since-Mao third term in office, the domestic economic picture in China is more roiled than ever, as zero-Covid lockdowns and supply chain woes have slowed the world’s second largest economy. In rural Henan, the collapse of rural banks has depositors-turned-protestors angrily seeking compensation — with social media showing authorities deploying tanks to the streets. Of course, Beijing has claimed the tanks were part of a pre-planned drill. Elsewhere across China, the slowdown and impact on real estate construction — with some developers collapsing or near collapse — now have mortgage holders “boycotting” payments on unfinished homes and apartments. Authorities have to tread carefully as many Chinese families across the growing middle class pool intergenerational wealth in these savings accounts and home equity.

The views of authors are their own and not that of CSPC.



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