Friday News Roundup — June 25, 2021

Happy Friday from Washington, DC. The big news in politics this week is the apparent agreement between a bipartisan group of 10 senators and President Biden on a possible way forward on an infrastructure bill. The deal is smaller than Biden’s initial plan and most of the cuts are in areas that are popular with the progressive wing of the party, like climate-related initiatives and investments in childcare. In order to pass this bill, it will require the support of all Senate Democrats and 5 additional Senate Republicans. The Democratic left wants a guarantee that the rest of their priorities will be incorporated in the budget reconciliation package for 2022, but doing that might cost Republican votes on infrastructure. Even if all 50 Democrats and the 5 Republicans in this group vote yes on the bill, 5 more Republican votes will still be needed to defeat a possible filibuster.

This week at the Center, CEO Glenn Nye and Senior Fellow James Kitfield argued in The Hill that the United States needs a more proactive cyber strategy. Joshua recapped for The Hill how the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva played out. In Diplomatic Courier, Joshua also recommended 11 books for the aspiring policy wonk to better understand Russia.

One additional note: we are pleased to share that our trustee Tom Ridge who suffered a stroke last week has been upgraded to stable condition. We continue to wish him a very speedy and complete recovery.

This week in the Roundup, Dan explores the continued effect on the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong; Joshua tracks the events that led to Russia firing warning shots at a Royal Navy destroyer off the Crimean coast; Ethan looks ahead to what the next generation bomber will mean for the Air Force; and Michael analyzes how Ranked Choice Voting affected the mayoral race in New York City. As always, we end with some stories you might have missed.

What Do Xi’s Crackdowns Mean for China’s Future?

Dan Mahaffee

The line to purchase the last printing of the free press in Hong Kong (Photo Credit: Vincent Yu, AP)

It was news you may have missed last week, but this week it made headlines around the world: Hong Kong and mainland authorities’ crackdown has silenced the pro-democracy tabloid newspaper Apple Daily. Under the guise of National Security Laws, a signal is being sent to the once-free media in the once-free city. Also this week, we heard of the final details in an arrangement between Ant Financial and Beijing regulators about the fintech giant’s data management. The deal would ensure that as the company gathers more and more data about its users in a credit rating company, state-entities would ultimately run that credit bureau. Ant Group, part of Jack Ma’s empire, was headed for a historic IPO until Beijing regulators put the kibosh on that following outspoken remarks by Ma. He has been largely absent from the public scene since then, a clear warning that no one, no matter how wealthy, can afford to cross the Party.

Together, the chilling clampdown on Hong Kong and the strictly enforced guardrails for private sector leaders serve as reminders for how China has changed under Xi Jinping and his consolidation of power. The leeway once given to Hong Kong and the private sector for the sake of engagement with the global economy and China’s economic development has been replaced by the greater emphasis on the state-controlled economy. What this means for policymakers and private sector leaders is a need to increasingly rethink doing business with China and the nature of the competition with China.

During the heated U.S.-China trade talks during the Trump administration, one of the factors discussed among China hands was that many of the liberalizing reforms favored by Washington were also favored by more liberal, economic-development-minded factions in the Chinese Communist Party, while resisted by those who favored more state-directed models. This reflects the fundamental split within the CCP that has defined its politics — and one where reformers from Deng Xiaoping through Hu Jintao have delivered sustained economic growth (though not without major social, demographic, and environmental flaws).

In Foreign Affairs, Jude Blanchette brilliantly sums up the challenge Xi faces in consolidating power and addressing the economic and geopolitical challenges Beijing sees ahead:

Yet ambition and execution are not the same thing, and Xi has now placed China on a risky trajectory, one that threatens the achievements his predecessors secured in the post-Mao era. His belief that the CCP must guide the economy and that Beijing should rein in the private sector will constrain the country’s future economic growth. His demand that party cadres adhere to ideological orthodoxy and demonstrate personal loyalty to him will undermine the governance system’s flexibility and competency. His emphasis on an expansive definition of national security will steer the country in a more inward and paranoid direction. His unleashing of “Wolf Warrior” nationalism will produce a more aggressive and isolated China. Finally, Xi’s increasingly singular position within China’s political system will forestall policy alternatives and course corrections, a problem made worse by his removal of term limits and the prospect of his indefinite rule.

Understanding this dynamic in China is key to our competition with China and understanding doing business with China as the slow decoupling continues. All of our notions that Hong Kong was somehow protected because of its economic importance rest on an outdated concept of how Beijing views its interests and its exercise of power. Similarly, as it reshapes once-innovative tech and finance companies for purposes of the state, their competitive edge is blunted. Yes, we should be alarmed by programs like Made in China 2025 and the ties between state-owned enterprises, the Chinese military, and key research institutions. At the same time, do not interrupt an adversary when they are in the process of making a mistake — if Beijing intends to shackle its most dynamic industries and entrepots while boosting sclerotic state-owned industries, then let them. Where this affects the competitive balance, work to achieve multilateral responses with the other industrialized economies.

Xi is already working to establish himself on the same level as Mao and Deng, and to do so, in many ways he is turning away from Deng towards Mao. The rehabilitation of the Mao era, a greater emphasis on Marxism and Leninism, and the paramount leadership of Xi are a clear turn away from the Deng spirit of opening and reform, economic pragmatism, yet still brutal party power. While not being naive about the shape of the China challenge we face, perhaps we can take some solace in how China is moving away from what had made it more competitive.

Crimean War Redux: British Warship Fired Upon by Russian Navy (Maybe)

Joshua C. Huminski

HMS Defender, allegedly in Crimean territorial waters (Photo Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence, via Reuters)

In what was most certainly not a repeat of the Crimean War, HMS Defender, a Royal Navy destroyer, was reportedly fired upon by Russian forces after the vessel violated disputed waters off the coast of Crimea. HMS Defender was visiting the Ukrainian port city of Odessa this week as a demonstration of support for Ukrainian territorial integrity and transiting through the waters on its way to Georgia.

Russia claimed Crimea after its 2014 annexation, an annexation which is not recognized by the United States, United Kingdom, or under international law. Russian state media claimed that one of its naval vessels fired upon HMS Defender and a fighter jet dropped bombs in the vessel’s path after it entered what Moscow claims are its territorial waters. Shortly after the alleged incident, Moscow released video footage of HMS Defender from an aircraft shadowing the destroyer.

On Twitter, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense countered, denying that it had been fired upon, stating that the reported shots were part of a gunnery exercise some three miles from HMS Defender’s position about which the Royal Navy was already aware. The Ministry of Defence added that “The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”

At the time of the incident, a BBC News reporter, Jonathan Beale, was aboard HMS Defender. Beale stated that some 20 aircraft were tracked in the vicinity and two Russian coast guard vessels were shadowing HMS Defender, one of which approached within 100m, contradicting the Ministry of Defence’s statement. According to Beale, the plan from the beginning was to sail inside the 12-nautical mile limit of Crimea’s territorial waters, which would be and indeed was a provocative move, and was intended to “make a point”.

In sum, the Russians sought to play up the incident, while the British tried to tamp it down as “no big deal”.

There is no shortage of irony in the over-the-top response by Moscow to this incursion, provocation, or “innocent passage” depending on how one looks at HMS Defender’s transit. Russia is notorious for violating European airspace and territorial waters. In March of this year, NATO aircraft were scrambled ten times in six hours in response to Russian penetrations of NATO airspace in the North Atlantic, North Sea, Baltic and Black Sea. The NATO and U.S. interceptions happen with such regularity that when they occur they are almost a non-news story. Photos of F-22s shadowing Tu-95 Bear bombers appear for, perhaps, a day, and that is about it for the news cycle.

The simple fact is that any incident in or near Crimea will result in conflicting accounts of who did what to whom and when, especially when Russian propaganda outlets are involved. The Russian state media portrayed the incident as both a flagrant violation of Russia’s territorial integrity by the perfidious and aggressive West, which highlights the extent to which Russia is under siege. Yet, at the same time, Russian forces bravely fought off HMS Defender, protecting Russian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Conversely it is curious that the United Kingdom seemed to get its own story muddled and confused. While London is typically demure about commenting on Royal Navy activities, if there was any incident in which it should report with a straight bat, it was certainly this one (or any one involving the Russians). Having a BBC News correspondent on-board who could and did provide a fairly breathless account of what happened, and which contradicted what the Ministry of Defence was reporting, smacks of a failure of coordination. This too will play into Russia’s hands. Clearly, Moscow will say, it was a provocation concocted by London, so much so they couldn’t get their own story straight.

In any case, Russia’s media-friendly domestic-focused response was a demonstration that, despite the pragmatic discussion in Geneva with President Joseph Biden and rumors of a possible German-French dialogue with Putin in the offing, Moscow will, according to Mark Galeotti, not be pushed around. There was, of course, no real expectation that Moscow would, however. Sailing a vessel so close to one of the Russian Navy’s largest bases — Sevastopol — was bound to provoke a response of some sort, just as was sailing through disputed waters.

There is also the London angle that must be considered. Post-Brexit, the United Kingdom is looking to find its place in the world and role on the international stage. “Global Britain”, the theme of the latest Integrated Review, describes how London can play a constructive role in enforcing international norms and standards. The sailing of HMS Defender through nominally disputed waters is, perhaps, an expression of that willingness to stand up for those very norms. Here, the United Kingdom can serve as a proxy for and partner to the United States. Whatever the machinations behind the scenes, London clearly felt comfortable taking a much more forward leaning role, and sought to publicize that role, in transiting through these waters and confronting Russia’s territorial aggression.

There is however a persistent danger in these incidents that it could escalate beyond both parties’ control. Had HMS Defender actually been fired upon or, conversely, had it responded with force to a perceived provocation such as a targeting radar being turned on, or some other permutation, the incident could have rapidly escalated with dire and deadly consequences. Posturing and signaling are one thing, but controlling the response and how the other party interprets one’s actions is entirely another.

Bomber’s are the new (old) tool in strategic deterrence

Ethan Brown

Photo Credit: Northrop-Grumman

If bombers seem like a thing of the past in today’s ultra-connected world of stealth fighters, hypersonic glide vehicles, cyber warfare, and space conflict, that judgement would not be entirely unwarranted. When the Department of Defense is running budget proposals to Congress, the line items covered by media often zero in on the size of future fleets, the Army’s surface fires systems expanding, and of course, new command and control systems that will serve as the lynch-pin for all of these things (JADC2 plug). The nuclear deterrence program rightfully garners headlines as well, and that system of course is built on the triad: submarines, ground based systems (long-range missiles), and bombers. Heavy aircraft remain the predominant purview of the Air Force, naturally, while the Navy and Army have their share of multirole platforms that replicate many bomber capabilities. But the role of heavy bombers looks to reassert itself as part of the DoD panoply, and the vehicle (pardon the pun) for this renewal of the flying sledgehammer hinges on Northrop-Grumman’s B-21 Raider, a marvel of digital engineering and the potential for nuclear deterrence revitalization.

The old man of the enterprise, as it were, must be the bomber fleet (its cousin, the naval battleship, has erstwhile retired and moved to shallow watery graves at ghost fleet harbors). When first conjured up in memory, you wouldn’t be wrong in recalling the iconic B-52 Stratofortresses (a 50’s-era eight-engine behemoth that has seen combat in every U.S. conflict since its inception), and some of the more frisky, modernist manifestations like the B-1 Lancer, a swing-wing, supersonic monster, and the B-2 Spirit, the progenitor of the stealth bomber class, also hailing from the Northrop-Grumman engineering lab.

A brief history of bombers

The role of heavy attack aircraft in modern warfare has certainly gone through its paces and transitions in the past century. Aircraft were a brand-new phenomenon in the First World War (this is where I forcefully insert a Dan Carlin Hardcore History reference, who speaks eloquently on the rise of new technology like airplanes in the podcast about the Great War), yet aerial systems did not truly see their application as a warfighters tool until the Second World War. The ability of allied and axis forces alike to employ aerial power to shape the outcome of conflict is a historical accounting all on its own with far better authors than I who could summarize, but the brief synopsis here is that airpower has changed the paradigm of warfare, and arguably remains the most pivotal tool in combat superiority even today.

Following the craft-dense skies of World War II, aircraft and heavy bombers took on a new form in strategic force projection. Big aircraft began to think in the emerging terms of the Cold War with theater airlift and strategic firepower, ushering in the maturing nuclear age (last podcast reference, I promise). Meanwhile, the lighter fighter aircraft diverged between air interceptor and reconnaissance roles, with the conflict in Korea seeing the early implementation of limited ground attack (the progenitor to close air support). The bomber fleet, following the employment of the atomic bombs to end the fight in the Pacific, transitioned to its long-term mainstay as the aerial leg of the nuclear triad. Much has been said about the budget squabbles in those early 50’s DoD conferences about whether or not the United States even needed a Navy due to the rise of atomic and nuclear-equipped bombers who could eradicate a foreign nation with heavy bombers in lieu of a costly Joint Force/allied invasion as seen in the battlefields of Europe — a mission for precisely for which the B-52.

B-52F employs ordinance over Vietnam (photo credit: U.S. Air Force)

Carpet bombing was resurgent during the Vietnam conflict, where the B-52s earned their favorite moniker (“BUFF — Big Ugly Fat…‘Fella’”) and were responsible for the most munitions dropped in that theater, if for no better reason than the massive bomb bays and external pylons which could carry a literal buffet of heavy bombs. Of course, Vietnam saw the first employment of precision munitions guided by targeting radar and acquisition systems, equipped near exclusively on the heavies, which gave bombers a little more credence in supporting ground forces over the high-speed rocket and gun runs provided by smaller aircraft. Where the bombers became uniquely suited to supporting the ground, was in their ability to employ munitions from high altitude — above and beyond the range of many surface to air systems which threatened and successfully interdicted U.S. aircraft like the F-111 and F-4s who sought to achieve air-to-ground effects.

BUFF’s and their B-1 partners sustained the functionality of heavy’s into the Middle East conflicts from Desert Storm through the 21st century, and notably, B-52’s were the first of any coalition aircraft to conduct precision engagement missions against the Islamic State in 2016. Of course, the targeting technology has exponentially improved over the duration of the bombers life cycles; where Vietnam bomber invetories were a pallet of INS-driven munitions (‘dumb’ bombs equipped with algorithmic compasses based on a set point from the originating base and constantly correcting through its entire airborne life), modern heavy’s are kitted with the standard cocktail of JDAM and other GPS-guided munitions, accurate to within 1 meter.

Enter the Raider

(Northrop-Grumman photo)

All of this to say, bombers have been a critical component of the U.S. arsenal, and not merely for their ability to haul the once gargantuan atomic, nuclear, or thermonuclear weapons of yesteryear. The downside to the BUFF, and even its high-speed B-1 cousin, is that they are still slow, sluggish, and easy to spot. Any one of these older generation bombers wouldn’t stand a candle’s chance in a cyclone of surviving, say, the Chinese HQ-9 surface to air missile, or indeed the Russian S-400’s of recent notoriety.

Simply, the U.S. bomber inventory has enjoyed battlespace dominance in recent decades due to the counter insurgency arenas of conflict, meaning the concern for defeating or avoiding surface to air networks was not as important as improving its ground-support capability. Today, and especially following the recent NATO and G7 summits focusing liberal democracies against the threat of Russian and Chinese aggression, the need for the aerial leg of the nuclear triad must contend with air defense systems the likes of which the B-52 never could. Which brings us to the B-21 Raider.

First, the Raider is going to be the first operational platform crafted by digital engineering, a topic I covered last year regarding 6th-generation aircraft. In short, rather than the lengthy, expensive, and trial-and-error ridden process of aircraft development using the traditional project management processes, industry leaders (like Northrop-Grumman and Lockheed Martin) are using digital laboratories that perfectly simulate flying conditions, stressors, environmental inductions, and just about every other critical engineering input in a software simulator, allowing the designers to evolve the aircraft in real time, with control inputs from pilots, creating a fully digital version of the platform before moving into a production phase. This process allows for many of the bugs and kinks to be addressed before physical materiel is applied (wasted) on a structural flaw or unknown impetus. The F-35 would have benefited greatly from this approach, where as I recall back in 2014 when I got to ‘pet the jet’ at Eglin AFB, the ground crews were “pretty sure” that the GAU-12/U could extend from its stealth port, but the software patch to activate the system wasn’t available yet, and even then, firing the gun was…risky.

Flight tests, hardware-to-software integration, and iterative evolution based on trial and test inputs allow a nearly-complete prototype to be the first physical manifestation of the bird. That saves taxpayers money, and because problems in flight (like enemy missiles or rigorous flight conditions) and iterative hardware changes (like new standoff weapons currently in their own digital engineering birth) can be simulated at a fraction of the cost in a digital sphere, proof positive and ready off the line. Something like that would take years of reengineering to achieve with the B-2, the Raiders predecessor. Dr. Will Roper, then-Czar of the Air Force’s Technology and Acquisitions and godfather of JADC2, called digital engineering the paradigm shift of today that stealth technology was 30+ years ago.

The only remaining doubt

Of course, questions remain, and this column of the roundup isn’t intended to serve as a fluff-piece for a defense contractor, even if the narrative got carried away by the amazing feats of digital engineering. The primer question here is ‘how did China acquire stealth technology to develop their vaunted J-31 Fighter?’ The answer of course is they stole it. What makes U.S. officials believe this secret-squirrel B-21 project is secure from a similar incursion? Last week’s NATO/G7 summits prioritized hardening and defending the alliance’s digital space against Russian and Chinese interlopers, but how confident are we that this bomber, built to evade those modern surface to air networks, hasn’t already been compromised by adversaries?

Second, while digital engineering built on Agile project management practices can address iterative problems in real time at ‘just-enough’ functionality, we have yet to see a physical bird take flight after such engineering. Of course, the world has moved firmly into a digital domain, so problems that occur will be taken in stride and presumably resolved at a much faster clip, but the secrecy surrounding this program (short of the many sponsored media pieces across BreakingDefense and elsewhere) doesn’t improve public perception after the myriad of problems demonstrated by the last wunderjet (the F-35).

The B-21 is coming, no doubt, evidenced by the funding increase provided by the FY2022 budget, which emphasizes the nuclear triad and puts a premium on peer-deterrence programs like more bombers and fewers drones. On a broader scale, arguments in favor of the heavy’s are making a noted strategy comeback with China firmly fixed in their HUDs, and the B-21 is all but certain to lead the fleet. As long as it delivers in real space what it did in the lab.

RCV on the Ballot in NYC

Brooklyn Borough President and Mayor-elect-presumptive Eric Adams with Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo is in portrait layout because de Blasio is 6’5” tall. (Photo Credit: Erica Sherman, Brooklyn Borough President’s Office)

Tuesday was primary election day in New York City and, for the first time, the races for the city’s top elected offices are being decided on a ranked-choice ballot. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is very popular among electoral reform and good governance groups — present company very much included. New York’s adoption of RCV is not the first in the country — the Twin Cities region of Minnesota, the Bay Area in California, and Maine all use RCV for different types of elections — but the city’s prominence means that, for many observers around the country, this was opening night under the bright lights of Broadway. While it is too soon to declare a winner in the mayoral race that commanded center stage, it is already possible to determine whether New York’s RCV experiment is a worthwhile one. In this observer’s humble opinion, the answer is, “yeah, kinda, not bad!”

According to Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, despite only having 31.7% of the first-choice vote (counted at time of writing), Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is approximately 95% likely to win the race — Wasserman called this lead “virtually insurmountable”. Adams’s strength comes from predominantly Black and Hispanic communities in the city. Manhattan north of 96th Street complicates this picture a little, but the sharp gradient along Eastern Parkway in rapidly gentrifying Crown Heights and his islands of support in New York City Housing Authority communities in Chelsea underscore the point (see map for details).

Adams’s two closest competitors are Senior Vice President for Social Justice at the New School Maya Wiley (22.3% of the vote, 9.4 percentage points behind Adams) and former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia (19.5% of the vote, 11.2 percentage points behind Adams). In broad strokes, if your neighborhood is currently undergoing gentrification or recently gentrified and is full of young, college educated people, it probably voted for Wiley. If your neighborhood has been fancy for 15 years or more, it probably voted for Garcia. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for example, had plurality first-choice support for Garcia west of Bedford Avenue, which was the first part of the neighborhood to have fancy apartment towers after the city rezoned it in 2005. East of Bedford Avenue, plurality support went for Wiley. A similar gradient can be seen around Prospect Park and Park Slope in Brooklyn.

Before RCV, that would be the end of it (pending absentee votes that probably will not make up the difference). Pundits would be writing stories about how Garcia and Wiley split the coalition that elected Bill de Blasio in 2013, allowing Adams to cruise to victory despite winning less than ⅓ of the vote. However, we will see if that is really what happened! Professional Political Candidate Andrew Yang campaigned with Garcia in the closing days of the campaign, asking their supporters to rank the other one second. That could close or eliminate the gap between Wiley and Garcia. If Wiley is eliminated and the fact that Adams used to be a cop pushed enough of her supporters to support Garcia > Adams, Adams could lose. Similarly, if Garcia is eliminated and enough lefty-curious voters from the de Blasio coalition support Wiley > Adams, he could lose. This is exactly how RCV is supposed to work!

Going into this election, many RCV skeptics worried that the new voting system would be too confusing for voters. Initial signs of this are pretty muted. The change certainly did not depress turnout, which was higher than the last competitive mayoral primary in 2013 and nearly as high as the gubernatorial primary in 2018. I have heard from some confused voters and some who did not like that the new system demanded more of their attention, but the city’s investment in educating the populace appears to have largely worked: 88% of likely voters reported being somewhat or very familiar with RCV according to a recent Ipsos poll; that is up from 72% in May and 55% in April.

One activist affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America told me that she is worried that voters will only know a couple of the candidates and so will make lower-choice selections based entirely on name recognition or not complete the full ranking. If Yang, who appears to have faded in popularity down the stretch but still has high name recognition because of his 2020 presidential campaign, has an unexpectedly high level of second- or third-choice support, she might have a point. On the other hand, if your candidate has a 15 percentage point deficit in name recognition compared to the frontrunner, that is a campaign problem common to all electoral systems.

Where it is not clear that RCV made much of a difference is at the structural level. Leaving the Yang-Garcia alliance to one side, there was not much in the way of friendly appeals for vote-sharing. Ideological allies like Wiley, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and former nonprofit CEO Dianne Morales mostly jockeyed for position among their supporters rather than asking voters to rank them 1–2–3 in some order. If enough Stringer and Morales voters end up supporting Garcia or Adams, this might come back to haunt Wiley. That reflects the fact that this was the first time most of these campaign strategists would have worked in an RCV election, but it also might be a rational reaction to the fact that there can only be one winner; RCV might just work better in parliamentary settings like in Ireland (technically Ireland uses a single transferable vote not a ranked choice vote. Don’t @ me).

The other possibility is that no electoral system functions particularly well in a zero-party system, which is basically what New York is. Despite 20 consecutive years of not-Democrats in Gracie Mansion from 1994–2014, almost all elections in New York are decided during the Democratic primary, not the general election. With the exception of groups like the Democratic Socialists of America, this means that most campaigns in New York take place without the benefit of party structures that help inform voters and guide them towards ideologically consistent choices. If all elections in the United States were RCV, these structures would develop, but they are unlikely to as long as the two-party national duopoly holds.

Another side effect of New York’s zero-party system is that the preferences of Republican voters were not counted. 27.6% of voters supported Representative Nicole Malliotakis against de Blasio in 2017. More importantly, a substantial fraction of Garcia’s supporters in Manhattan would probably support a moderate, socially liberal Republican like Mike Bloomberg if such a candidate were on the ballot. Since all of the action is on primary day, however, these voters are registered as Democrats and are mostly prevented from voting their actual preferences. There was not an opportunity for voters to express a preference between the most centrist Democratic candidate and the Republican nominee Curtis Silwa, a talk radio host and founder of the Guardian Angels, which became famous in the 1980s for their distinctive red berets and for riding the subways late at night to deter crime. Opening that political space, however, will really require the end of the two-party national duopoly and I will not hold my breath.

News You Might Have Missed

Munich Wanted to Light Its Stadium in a Pride Rainbow. European Soccer Said No.

Annmarie Youtt

In Europe, soccer (football) and politics are always neighbors. On Wednesday, Germany and Hungary met in Munich with a trip to the Round of 16 on the line. The matchup came just days after Hungary passed a law that critics argue targets the LGBTQ community. UEFA, the European soccer federation, ruled that Germany could not light up their stadium with traditional pride colors because it was a political statement against the other team. They offered alternative days that the stadium could be lit, and other teams in the league have said they will have their stadiums lit in these colors. The government of Munich was very disappointed in this decision, and stated they will have other surrounding buildings lit up and pride flags flown in solidarity against the Hungarian law. Each team is well aware of UEFA’s rules, but Germany’s intentions of lightening up the stadium go beyond the surface level act. Germany is trying to take a stand about their views of equality and respect for all marginalized groups. UEFA still holds its rule that politics and sports should not mix, especially since the act is rebuking a specific country’s law. For now, the stadium will shine with UEFA’s, Germany’s, and Hungary’s colors.

Fujimori claims electoral fraud.

María Ruiz Del Monte

On Wednesday, the review process of Peru’s presidential elections entered its last phase, consisting of the analysis of the appeal presented by candidate Keiko Fujimori. The right-wing politician claimed that more than 200,000 votes from Andean, rural areas — where his opponent Castillo won by a wide margin — were collected fraudulently and consequently altered the final result, which gave the candidate from Perú Libre the victory by 40,000 ballots.

Calls to disregard the result by ex-military associations and protests against the electoral office chief have raised the specter of political instability at a moment when the possibility of a son of illiterate Andeans becoming president is shaking Peru’s rooted class system and its fragile democracy. In the meantime, international observers from Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department have stated that Peru’s recent presidential election was “a model of democracy” and congratulated the Peruvian authorities for “safely administering another round of free, fair, accessible, and peaceful elections, even amid the significant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The United States Seizes Websites Tied to Iranian Backed Militias

Liam Miller

On Tuesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security seized several web domains and social media channels linked to the Iranian regime. According to the U.S. government, they had the legal authority to take control of these sites under civil and criminal forfeiture laws and national security authorities because they use internet infrastructure that is based in or owned by firms based in the United States — a great example of how the U.S. set the rules of the road in the last generation of Geotech competition. This is not the first seizure of Iranian-linked websites by the U.S. government; the most recent was in October. As in that case, proxy forces like the Iraq-based Kutaib Hezbollah were also targeted. Although the Biden administration is pursuing a policy of reducing tensions with Iran and reestablishing the nuclear deal, the core of the bilateral relationship remains very tense.

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



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Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress

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