Friday News Roundup — July 8, 2022

Welcome to this week’s edition of the CSPC Friday News Roundup on July 8, 2022. This morning, we woke up to news that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot and killed at a campaign stop. The attack happened in the city of Nara, where Abe was delivering a speech outside in support of a candidate for the House of Councillors of his Liberal Democratic Party party. While details are scant on the motives of Abe’s assassin, it appears that he harbored a distaste for Abe’s leadership as Prime Minister, a post Abe held twice, the second time for almost eight years.

Shinzo Abe’s death is already being mourned across Japan and the world, where the former Prime Minister was a respected and experienced advocate for Japanese interests. In a country where political violence is exceedingly rare, the news came as a seismic shock to the Japanese body politic and population. The assassination was condemned across the political spectrum of parties contesting this Sunday’s House of Councillors election. Already, a small shrine of flowers and other offerings has sprung up at the site of Mr. Abe’s assassination, a sign of how deeply his murder has rattled Japanese politics.

U.S. President Joe Biden, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Emmanuel Rahm, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed their shock at the news, and highlighted the U.S.’s respect for Abe’s statesmanship. Abe will be remembered for his long tenure as Prime Minister, during which he pushed for Japan to rebuild its military capabilities by revising pacifist clauses to its constitution and pursuing a macroeconomic policy of high fiscal spending and monetary easing. While Abe resigned two years ago while continuing to suffer bouts of health issues, the former Prime Minister remained a larger-than-life figure in Japanese politics, particularly in the Liberal Democratic Party. Abe will be missed by those who worked with him, and his death has already been received with shock and sadness by the Japanese public.

This week, Joshua C. Huminski, the Director of the Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence & Global Affairs sat down with Shashank Joshi, the defense editor of the Economist for a wide-ranging conversation on the future of warfare. The video is now available on YouTube. The video for last week’s roundtable with Lt Gen David Barno (USA, ret.), Dr. Nora Bensahel, and Michael Kofman on military adaptation is now live, as well.

On Saturday, the Diplomatic Courier published Huminski’s review of Serhii Rudenko’s biography of Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. An episodic look at the life of Zelensky, it offers a much more nuanced and complex look at the president, which makes his wartime leadership all the more impressive. Originally written in, and swiftly translated from, Ukrainian, it has a number of winks and nods to references Ukranians would get, but are lost on Western readers. It is nonetheless a welcome portrait.

In this week’s roundup, Hidetoshi Azuma eulogizes former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe following his July 8 assassination, Joshua Huminski covers Boris Johnson’s resignation as leader of the British Conservative Party and his coming exit as Prime Minister, Wesley Culp examines Russia’s Donbas campaign after the fall of Lysychansk, Ethan Brown analyzes the principal issues in military recruiting today, and Sofia Piña Jaubert looks at the U.S. relationship with lithium-ion batteries.

Requiem For Shinzo Abe, Japan’s 21st-century Statesman

Hidetoshi Azuma

(Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Defense)

Earlier today, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe succumbed to a heinous act of terrorism. The tragedy occurred in Japan’s ancient capital of Nara on a hot summer day in the run-up to the Upper House election this weekend. The suspect, a former sailor in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), reportedly harbored no political motive, but held personal grudges against Abe and his affiliated religious organization. The significance of this incident will undoubtedly remain palpable for years, if not decades, to come and could undo the very foundation of Japanese democracy as the similar events of the 1920s and 30s did 100 years ago. In thinking about the future of Japanese democracy, Abe’s legacy merits a revisit and the author’s personal recollection.

Abe’s most significant legacy is that he successfully put Japan on the geopolitical map. While his first term (2006–2007) was short-lived due to his illness, his second political comeback in December 2012 led to his unrivaled seven and half years of reign. He re-emerged against the backdrop of years of political inertia caused by weak leadership under the Opposition, the Democratic Party. Indeed, one of his predecessors even earned a mockery for being “loopy” by the US media, symbolizing the political disarray overshadowing Japan before Abe’s return to the office. During his long second term, he led numerous ambitious, if not oft-controversial, initiatives ranging from his signature Abenomics to even the accelerated peace talks with Russia. While the lost decades of 1990s and 2000s slowly pushed Japan to geopolitical irrelevance, Abe’s leadership resurrected the country as a proactive regional player with global influence.

One of his most enduring achievements was his peculiar approach to diplomacy focused on forging personal bonds with world leaders. In fact, he had a particular knack for such personal diplomacy and certainly excelled in it. He befriended many world leaders, most of whom were strongman types, such as former US president Donald Trump, Russian president Vladimir Putin, and Turkish president Recep Erdogan. His enthusiastic diplomacy with these men, especially Putin whom he had met 27 times, often raised eyebrows, but his indefatigable summit diplomacy undoubtedly put Japan back on the world stage.

Abe was a man of deep conviction determined to “take back Japan” as his campaign slogan proclaimed. His conservative, if not restorationist, worldview colored his policy throughout his tenure. He hailed from Yamaguchi which produced the founding leaders of modern Japan and many prime ministers, including his grandfather and himself. He was thus deeply proud of his heritage and was on a mission to reclaim Japan’s lost glory inspired by his forebears’ accomplishments. He therefore led a crusade for Japan, and nothing appeared to stand in his way. Indeed, he would often cite the neo-Confucian maxim, “There has never been a thing which sincerity cannot accomplish.” In early 2021 after his resignation as the prime minister, he enthusiastically shared with this author his abiding desire to “sign a peace treaty with Russia before I die” and went on to channel his political energy to this ambitious end. Only his own death appears to have prevented him from realizing his vision.

Abe will be remembered as Japan’s first statesman from the 21st century. History will ultimately judge his achievements, but his fearless leadership was palpable at home and abroad, leading Japan to become once again recognized as a major geopolitical power to be reckoned with. Statesman long remained a rare attribute in domestic Japanese politics since the departure of former prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1987 after his vigorous leadership in confronting the Soviet Union. Abe undoubtedly earned the coveted title of statesman thanks to his robust leadership and unrivaled political longevity. There is no guarantee that another statesman will emerge in Japan after Abe’s tragic demise today. Indeed, Japanese democracy itself is now under threat. Japan has changed forever on July 8, 2022, and the nation shall mourn Abe’s death for years to come.

Boris Johnson Resigns as Leader of the Conservative Party, Sets Stage for Exit as Prime Minister

Joshua C. Huminski

(Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom via Number 10 on Flickr)

On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, facing a revolt from within his Conservative Party, announced his resignation as leader of the party and would step down from the premiership when a new leader is selected. In what proved to be an incredible 24-hours in British politics, Johnson saw one of the largest exoduses of ministers from his cabinet in modern history and struggled to maintain even the veneer of leadership. Speaking from outside 10 Downing Street, Johnson said, “clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and so a new prime minister.”

His unapologetic resignation speech reflects the fact that it was not until his own party made his leadership untenable did he finally see the writing on the wall. Indeed, it was not a party issue, really. It was his own foibles, missteps, scandals, and disregard of the rules of normal political convention that saw to his defeat.

He has committed to staying in 10 Downing Street until a successor is found, a process which could take until September. The party will down-select the list of candidates to two, who will then campaign amongst the party’s 100,000 members for election. In the interim, he has said there will be no “novel” policy programs and it appears that the Conservatives are hoping his newly appointed cabinet will keep a close watch on the PM.

Until this week, Johnson had benefited from the fact that there was no coherence to his political opponents. It was a widely scattered collection of backbenchers from across the Conservative Party’s spectrum. This was reflected in his surviving the recent vote of no confidence. To be sure he faced a lot of opposition, but the opposition was unable to coalesce around any one figure. This allowed him to weather the storm, until now.

Ostensibly, he was in the clear for a year under the rules of the 1922 Committee — the informal name for the Conservative Private Members’ Committee. The Committee could have changed the rules to allow for another vote, well before the year timeline, which some suggested was a possibility (and the best course of action). At the moment, there isn’t a process to remove the prime minister and put in a temporary placeholder until his successor is selected. To be sure, the Labour Party could call for a vote of no confidence in the government and the prime minister, but this would certainly be voted down by the Tories, who would be loath to hand their opponents a clear victory.

Like Hemingway’s quote about going bankrupt, “Gradually, then suddenly”, Johnson’s political collapse seemed all but inevitable. That he weathered as many storms as he did — storms which would have capsized any other government — is reflective of the opposition’s incoherence as much as his own political acumen. This unconventional acumen was as much about being able to get away with what seemed like anything as it was successfully managing both the party and the government. He set the bar so low for ministerial conduct and behavior that most simply shrugged their shoulders and accepted it at face value.

He flip-flopped on Brexit and then flopped the Brexit agreement, risking a Northern Ireland flare-up. He weathered questions about refurbishments to the Prime Minister’s residence. He dodged responsibility for the poor handling of the pandemic (including missing several planning meetings allegedly to finish a book). He avoided the axe as a result of “Partygate” where his office was found have held parties in contravention of his own government’s rules on social distancing during the pandemic, which resulted in a fine for him and members of his government.

That it was an MP’s sexual misconduct — Chris Pincher — and what the PM knew and when that led to the ministerial exodus is nothing short of incredible. Any one of the aforementioned scandals would have sunk his predecessors. The Pincher scandal started the revolt with the departure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak (subject to his own scandals) and the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid. By the end of the day nearly 60 ministers and trade envoys had tendered their resignations, making the PM’s leadership no longer sustainable.

The list of potential candidates is fairly long. The aforementioned Liz Truss to the former Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, have been all been mentioned, among many others. The real problem is that the internal machinations of the Conservative Party will hamstring the government until a candidate is found. At a time when the country needs leadership, the leadership of the country is on temporary hold. Johnson said that there would be no new policies until the next prime minister was announced, which may not be until the Fall. There is speculation that he is clinging onto power so as to retain his access to Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, at which he is due to hold a delayed wedding in July.

Landing on a suitable candidate is unlikely to be an easy feat. Johnson loyalists are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future and the Party itself is so divided that it is hard to see a consensus candidate emerging — much like the Republican Party on this side of the Atlantic. Indeed, as with the Republicans, there is a possibility that Johnson seeks to hold onto power as long as possible whilst spinning a narrative that he was stabbed in the back — something some Conservative voters are already latching onto as a concept.

While interesting in and of itself, the leadership challenge within the Conservative Party will have considerable effects on the practical business of government. There is, as Shashank Joshi noted in a conversation this week, an issue of limited bandwidth. Liz Truss, the current foreign secretary, departed Bali and the G20 meeting early to campaign for the leadership role. The intervening weeks of uncertainty over who will succeed Johnson will leave foreign governments unsure of what the UK will do on any number of policy priorities. While there is a general consensus that the support for Ukraine is both morally and strategically right, it cannot be taken for granted that there will not be some policy change — it remains a possibility, however slight. Indeed, Boris Johnson and his government were some of the staunchest supporters of Kyiv and have made considerable commitments to the NATO alliance and its member countries.

This is to say nothing of the litany of issues facing the United Kingdom at the moment. The risk of a recession is very much on the horizon. The UK has the highest rate of inflation amongst the G7. The country faces an affordable housing crisis. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is calling for a referendum on independence next year (though it is unclear whether the party can actually do so). A resurgence of a Covid variant is a distinct possibility. All of this whilst the government struggles to find its footing in a post-Brexit world.

Russian Offensive in Donbas Meets Important Objective, Considers Next Moves

Wesley Culp

(Wikimedia Commons)

The decision by the Ukrainian defenders of to pull back from the city marked the Russian capture of the remaining free area of Luhansk Oblast still under Ukrainian control following Russia’s unprompted February 2022 attack on Ukraine. Moscow has made it clear that it intends to advance further into Ukraine, but significant questions remain about what goals the Russian armed forces are capable of meeting in the short- and medium-term future.

A report by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that Russian forces had taken control of Lysychansk on July 3 was soon confirmed by the Ukrainian side, who noted that they were forced to withdraw their forces as a result of an imbalance in equipment and manpower in the area. The seizure of Lysychansk follows a weekslong battle for the nearby city of Sieverodonetsk, in which Ukrainian troops withdrew in order to avoid encirclement by Russian forces. The population of both cities has been decimated by the fighting, with a little more than 10,000 citizens remaining in the each of the cities of Lysychansk and Sieverodonetsk at the end of fighting there.

After the conclusion of the battle for Lysychansk, the leadership of the Russian-backed Lugansk People’s Republic statelet proclaimed that the “historical borders” of the LNR had been “restored.” However, the extension of Russian control over the whole of the LNR does not seem to portend any final halt to the invasion. Statements from LNR military figures which emphasize the supposed need to push the Ukrainian armed forces back 300 kilometers from their current positions could be part of a rhetorical attempt to justify further incursion into Ukraine. Russian media sources have speculated that the next aim of Russia’s westward offensive could be an advance towards the town of Siversk in the immediate future and the larger cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk further to the west.

Whereas Ukraine’s leadership has admitted to the loss of Lysychansk and the rest of Luhansk Oblast, Kyiv maintains that its withdrawal from the battlefield was a strategic move. Following the announcement of the withdrawal, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky highlighted that the combat effectiveness of Ukrainian troops in Lysychansk would have been imperiled by Russia’s advantages in “artillery, aviation, ammunition and personnel,” while also vowing that Ukraine would regain control of the embattled city. Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai, who has emerged as a prominent Ukranian spokesman on the battle for Donbas in his own right, claimed that Ukrainian troops decided to withdraw to better-prepared defensive positions in part to avoid the brunt of Russia’s withering advantage in artillery.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to the troops who took Lysychansk to rest and take a break from fighting could presage a momentary operational pause before Russia attempts any further advances into Ukraine. The grinding nature of large-scale operations in Donbas would take the wind out of the sails of any country’s armed forces. That said, Russia’s invasion force is likely particularly winded by the costs of the invasion to date, in large part due to Moscow’s continued practice of attempting to sustain its invasion force while refusing to mobilize Russia’s economy and population. This has allowed considerable logistics issues to emerge which hamstring the ability of the Russian armed forces to sustain offensives in Donbas. According to the Institute for the Study of War’s July 6 campaign assessment, Russian forces in Ukraine did not make any gains at all throughout Ukraine from July 3, which they judged to be a sign that Russian forces have already begun their operational pause to recoup losses and prepare for a renewed offensive. These suspicions were confirmed by the July 7 announcement by the Russian Ministry of Defense which confirmed that Russian forces would take an operational pause in Donbas to regroup. As part of this, any small-scale attacks or repositioning undertaken by Russia’s forces in Donbas in the coming days is likely intended to improve their position before undertaking an offensive in full.

Meanwhile, the Russian Duma has attempted to quietly pass legislation which would reorder private industry’s relationship with the state in order to better support the war effort. One of the two pieces of legislation in question mandates that businesses supply goods to the armed forces to support the invasion and allows the state to purchase goods from a single company without the need to go through a competitive contract process. Under this legislation, the Russian government can change its contracts with private companies and compel them to produce military equipment if they are on a list of defense sector suppliers. The other gives the Russian state broad control over the labor force of companies that contract for the government and requires employees of designated war-effort related industries to work overtime.

It remains to be seen if Russia’s latest steps in its partial mobilization efforts will be sufficient to supply its “special military operation.” In the immediate future, however, Russian forces will need to take an operational pause before continuing their push deeper into Ukraine, giving both armies time to regroup and reorganize.

The Underlying Issue in Military Recruiting

Ethan Brown

(Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Defense)

Recruitment for the U.S. military has gone through many phases during this generation, from significant readiness issues in the waking dawn of global counter-terrorism, to the peak surges of troops pouring into recruiting offices at the height of the Global War on Terror, to now, where a pending manpower crises looms on the horizon amidst the rising threat of great powers and strategic competition.

Recently, the Army — the DoD’s biggest branch in terms of personnel — dropped the requirement for candidates to possess a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent for volunteers shipping out for basic training before October 1, 2022. Amid significant backlash online and from the public opinion haunts, the service rescinded the rescission leading to many questions and concerns over how the defense enterprise will address the problem. During congressional hearings earlier this spring on the issue, Senator Thom Tillis (R — NC), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, stated “To put it bluntly, I’m worried we are now in the early days of a long-term threat to the all-volunteer force, with a small and declining number of Americans who are eligible and interested in military service”.

As of this writing, the Army has only met roughly 40% of its recruiting needs for this fiscal year. The Air Force has faced a mass exodus of pilots in recent years due to the commercial airline and contracting opportunities available amidst problems with leadership and retention. The Navy has heavily invested in recruiting angles, highlighted by the aspirational goals of motivating candidates with its timely release of the “Top Gun” sequel now in theaters, and is also contending with a dearth in new sailors. Even the Marines, whose branding and considerably smaller personnel numbers requirements have traditionally never faced issues in recruiting, testified to congress that it too was facing its most challenging recruiting year since the inception of an all-volunteer force. The National Guard, typically perceived as a partial measure towards military service that does not require the wholesale change to one’s entire life, and thus, often a more appealing option while still offering benefits of service, has struggled to pull candidates from the civilian talent pool.

The underlying causes

The overview for this issue, and admittedly, much of this analysis and criticism stems from my own experience of 11 years in the Air Force, lies in the broader geopolitical, national security, and social dynamics at play. Globally, the War on Terror tapped into the national unity opportunity that September 11th brought into the fore — I was one of millions who volunteered to serve this country, motivated by a desire to protect the homeland from an enemy who saw no difference between legitimate military and innocent civilians as targets in their campaign to foment terror and chaos. Previous generations, and of course, the selective service requirement — the draft — were a different dynamic entirely, but no shortage of volunteers were available to go overseas to fight National Socialism and Fascism in World War Two, or Communists in Korea and Vietnam. Even the waning years of the 20th century, when the aftermath of the Cold War left few giants to slay, did not portend the personnel shortage which the DoD is presently grappling with.

But the War on Terror is now in the rearview. The collective societal swell of volunteers ebbed and flowed to the place in which we find ourselves today, and simply, this issue is a matter of social currency. It’s an idea-concept-buzzword I’ve penned at various points before, usually on the matter of the civilian-military trust dynamic, but it remains as viable now as ever. In short, the haphazard and unclear manner in which American forces remained engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq long after they should have, or absent a long term strategy, eroded the ‘why’ American men and women would be inclined to risk their lives for a nation of wayward foreign policy motivations. Four administrations and thousands of strategic leaders continued to spend that social currency of American support for a war with no clear end state, and today, that account is overdrawn, even while we face new and compounding threats from strategic competitors and credible enemies to the rules-based world order.

There are of course more tangible issues the DoD is responsible for, which contribute to the personnel shortages. For one, younger enlisted personnel have to consider if they are willing to risk their own and families health in on-base living conditions unfit for human occupation, especially when the ability to move off-base is not always permitted. There is the key issue of financial compensation, where from 2014–2016, the increase in DoD base pay did not rise commensurate with inflation, and has only this year made a significant jump in pay reflective of the egregious inflation surge.

There is the issue of quality of life, where those who remain in uniform during this time are expected to pick up the slack of lagging recruitment efforts, because a) they are under obligation to obey the orders of the officers appointed over them, and b) because the mission remains intact, even if the bodies aren’t available to meet the demand. It makes for a difficult pitch when servicemen and women are leaving the service en masse because of the incredible demands levied upon them. Long deployments (repeated again and again), extreme working hours beyond normal shifts, and the appeal of private industry employment make the sacrifices necessary hard sell for recruiters.

Then of course, there is the issue of healthcare — during and especially post-service. Without going into detail or making this op-ed a personal letter of woe, I can vouch for the fact that every horror story and trope about the VA healthcare system is true — it is abominable, slow, inefficient and a key example as to why no government should be responsible for national healthcare. Military service inherently risks life and limb, and the exchange of personal health is expected to be compensated with enduring healthcare for the injuries sustained. But as the gargantuan veteran administration healthcare apparatus becomes inflated with bureaucratic management, the ones who need the help for injuries sustained during service pay the price.

Resolving the problems

And then there is the issue of mental health in the military. It is criminally under-addressed, once again owing to the demands of the twenty-year mission to fight terrorism. The mission never stopped, but caring for the men and women who had to execute that mission flagged on the doorstep of mental health. Particular kudos goes to leaders like Chief Master Sergeant Ramón Colón-López, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Joint Chiefs, who showed particular individual courage by posting to social media a message on the issue of mental health and PTSD awareness in the military. Having met “CZ” many years ago, I can say with certainty that he is the ideal individual to represent the enlisted corps, and more leaders in the military should emulate his actions and demeanor in promoting mental health positivity within their ranks.

Financial compensation is, arguably, the easiest and most likely short-term fix to rebuilding the recruiting efforts for the DoD. Nothing motivates people like being paid. While congress has taken steps to approve more compensation and incentives like enlistment bonuses, re-prioritizing care and compensation of the force needs to drive how the DoD allocates its funding from congress in order to be competitive with the private sector. There is also the uncomfortable problem of racism within the military, and only recently have major initiatives been undertaken to address that problem writ large. Legitimizing the diversity of military service, where service is built on meritocracy and no longer a grinding mill of bodies to deploy to endless war zones, is a means of bettering the recruitment challenges of today.

This is going to be a long struggle for the DoD. And at its core, the spent social capital of a forever war that recent memory will recall as a ignominious withdrawal is the single greatest hurdle to overcome. But to address it, the defense enterprise needs to reinvest in the people who make it the greatest service this world has ever known. Our future security depends on a credible, resilient, and stable force.

Lithium-ion Batteries: the United States is Falling Behind In The Energy of the Future

Sofia Piña Jaubert

(Wikimedia Commons)

BYD, the Chinese auto group has now overtaken Tesla as the largest electric vehicle (EV) producer by sales, selling 641,000 vehicles globally in the first six months of 2022 compared to 564,000 sold by Tesla. Over the last couple of decades, China has led EV adoption while at the same time consolidating itself as the leader in the lithium-ion battery (LIB) industry, with nearly 80% of global lithium-ion manufacturing capacity, leaving the United States — and Europe — exposed to a strategic competitiveness threat.

Increased battery production is crucial in enabling a global shift from reliance on fossil fuels to clean energy and mitigating climate change. Global sales of EVs are growing exponentially and with it the demand for electric rechargeable batteries; particularly lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) and the critical metals needed to manufacture them. LIBs constitute the most important part of the production costs of electric vehicles and require two critical metals: lithium and cobalt. Lithium-based batteries have longer runtime and higher power than traditional batteries, and cobalt provides thermal stability. Both lithium and cobalt are in the Crucial Raw Materials and Critical Minerals lists of the European Union and the United States, respectively. China is far from having the world’s largest lithium or cobalt reserves, with the major sources of lithium being the Lithium Triangle in South America and the largest cobalt mining centers located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, China leads the processing of lithium and cobalt, dominating battery production with 93 “gigafactories” that manufacture LIB battery cells, in comparison to only four in the United States. China has been able to dominate the global lithium supply chain, which has proven to be as strategically important as the mining sites themselves.

BYD’s success and Chinese dominance over the LIB market began as early as 2003 with BYD (then a battery maker) purchasing a Chinese electric vehicle automaker, allowing it to build electric vehicles with batteries from its own vertically integrated supply chain. Furthermore, over the past decade, the Chinese has spent over $60 billion in building its lithium industry, helping companies build the necessary lithium mining and refining infrastructure in addition to subsidies for electric vehicles. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S reserves of lithium are sufficient to meet demand, however, one of the challenges of lithium’s exploitation is finding high enough concentrations to make it cost-efficient to produce. While lithium is not scarce, it tends to be found in low concentrations, requiring tons of earth extraction. Obtaining lithium from brine deposits (accumulations of saline groundwater with dissolved lithium) is cheaper but comes at a high environmental cost and can be potentially devastating for ecosystems.

The Biden Administration has recognized the strategic threat of China dominating the LIB supply chain. President Biden has stated he will “use all the levers of the federal government, from purchasing power, R&D, tax, trade, and investment policies” to “position America to be the global leader in the manufacture of electric vehicles and their input materials.” The first step was the signing of an executive order calling on government agencies to start converting their fleets to electric vehicles, in addition to an Administration pledge to build charging stations, extend tax credits for buyers, and to harden standards for gas vehicles. While these first steps are a push in the right direction, the United States is still far from not being strategically exposed. The United States must aim to compete in the global lithium supply chain by playing to its strengths, particularly R&D. While the most important part of the production cost of electric vehicles are LIBs, the most significant cost of manufacturing a LIB is the cathode, which determines battery capacity and power. By pushing cathode R&D, developing cutting-edge manufacturing capacity, and finding ways to produce cathodes more economically, the United States still has a chance to reposition itself as a competitive player in the lithium-ion battery industry.

News you May Have Missed

Brazil sees record Amazon deforestation in first half of 2022

According to the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE), the world’s largest rainforest has been deforested at an unprecedented rate. INPE satellites measured the loss of 3,750 square kilometers (1,448 square miles) between January 1 and June 24. In addition, the Institute identified over 2,287 fires in May, the largest number since 2004. Since President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office in 2019, the devastation of the Amazon rainforest has accelerated. President Bolsonaro contends that restrictions on Amazon rainforest development impede economic progress since the Amazon area might be exploited to alleviate poverty. Researchers expect that deforestation will continue to increase before the presidential election in October.

France Moves to Nationalize Electric Utility Giant EDF

On July 6, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne addressed the National Assembly for the first time and announced that the French government would increase its ownership share in energy giant Electricite de France SA (EDF) from 84% to 100%. The motivations for nationalizing EDF are two-fold: to move away from the reliance on fossil fuel and to secure the energy needs of the nation in an era of energy price spikes. In regards to the former, Borne said, “The climate emergency requires strong, radical decisions.” The role of EDF as the world’s largest owner of nuclear plants is central to President Macron’s plan to fight climate change with nuclear power. The war in Ukraine has also demonstrated the importance of self-reliance in energy production and allocation. To that effect, Borne said “[France] must have full control of our energy system and its performance. We must assure our sovereignty faced with the consequences of the war.” EDF controls 80% of France’s energy market and has faced significant debt problems in recent years, according to Reuters.

Speaker of Russian Duma Hints that Alaska Could be Returned to Russia

As part of a wider wave of discontent in the Duma over U.S. and Western sanctions placed on Russia following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Speaker of Russia’s Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, raised the idea that Alaska could be returned to Russia. In response to ongoing furor in the Duma over Western sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Volodin cautioned that the United States should be careful to remember that it too has something to lose in the form of Alaska. The Speaker also highlighted the Duma Vice-Speaker’s support for holding a referendum in Alaska to determine its future, and asked members of the chamber from constituencies in Russia’s Far East to monitor the issue of Alaska themselves. CPSC has not yet heard a response from the Alaska governor’s office.

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

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CSPC is a 501(c)3, non-partisan organization that seeks to apply lessons of history and leadership to today's challenges