Adios Castro, Climate Politics, Ambivalent Scotland, Russia Withdraws and the Week in Review

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Adios Castro, Climate Politics, Ambivalent Scotland, Russia Withdraws and the Week in Review

Adios Castro. Cuba’s Communist Party (PCC) held a party congress (such meetings occur roughly every five years) over the weekend. Raúl Castro (Fidel’s 89-year-old brother) announced he was stepping down as secretary-general of the Communist Party. During his speech, Castro said he hoped Cuba would “develop a respectful dialogue and build a new type of relationship with the United States.” Current President Miguel Díaz-Canel will take his place and is widely expected to push for new economic reforms even as the PCC announced its commitment to socialism this weekend.

What it means: True reform is pretty elusive in Cuba, but there have been small signs that Cuba’s government is indeed changing – unifying its dual currency, allowing greater freedoms for private businesses, revamping Cuba’s agricultural sector, and batting its eyelashes at Washington. Add Castro’s retirement to the list. Cuba’s inflexible and oppressive political regime is a testament to the overwhelming power of inertia – but for the first time in most Cubans’ living memory, a Castro is not calling the shots. Change has to start somewhere; we can at least drink a mojito to that.

(If you find updates on Latin American geopolitics like this interesting, head over to LatamPolitik to check out the insights we are putting out on the region three times a week.)

Climate politics. The U.S. hosted a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate. U.S. President Joe Biden said the U.S. had “resolved to take action” on climate change and that the U.S. would target a 50 to 52 percent reduction in its emissions by 2030. Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to attend the summit at the last minute and pledged to limit coal consumption and to start phasing coal out entirely in 2025. (Coal accounts for roughly 60 percent of China’s total primary energy consumption.) Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro even pledged to eliminate illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030 (but not before asking for the world to compensate Brazil for its efforts).

What it means: Last year around this time, we published a report on the major political forces of the 2020s. In it, we concluded that “Climate politics will become a major political force in the decade ahead, not just at the domestic political level but in relations between nations. Climate politics will also play an increasingly stark role in the politics of the Western world in the 2020s — and will become a source of national power and geostrategic competition.” Climate change is a real, present, and increasing danger – even so, it’s important not to confuse politics with actual progress on tackling climate challenges.

Scotland the Ambivalent. Two fresh election polls in Scotland, one by YouGov and one by Savanta ComRes, show the Scottish National Party falling just short of an absolute majority in parliamentary elections upcoming on May 6. (Notably, the New Statesman still forecasts an overall majority for SNP based on its own data.) In addition, support for independence has wavered, with 48 percent of respondents saying they would vote against independence and 8 percent still unsure.

What it means: It is amazing how much is riding on whether the SNP can win an outright majority on May 6th, or whether it falls just short. If the topic of an independent Scotland interests you in general, don’t miss our latest podcast with Anthony Salamone, managing director of a Scotland-based political analysis firm. We tackle all the latest political developments in Scotland – and also imagine the challenges and opportunities waiting for a hypothetically independent Scottish state.

Standing down. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia had completed its military exercises on the border with Ukraine and that Russian troops in the region had been ordered to return to their home bases by May 1st.

What it means: One less thing to worry about!

Honorable mention

2021: the year scientists starting injecting monkey embryos with human stem cells.

Russia announced it will withdraw from the International Space Station (ISS) in 2025.

The U.S. plans to declare the Ottoman Empire’s killing of ~1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1917 as a genocide.

New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta said Wellington was “uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes relationship” and would look for “multilateral opportunities” to express its concerns over China’s behavior in the region.

India is facing an overwhelming second wave of COVID-19; on Thursday, India recorded 314,835 new cases in a single day, setting an inauspicious global record.

The Association of the German Aviation Industry (BDL) and Deutsche Bahn (DB) signed an MoU to work together on shifting domestic flights that carry over 4 million passengers within Germany a year to trains.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested two individuals that it alleges were plotting a military coup in Belarus and planning to assassinate President Alexander Lukashenko.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) declared force majeure on crude exports out of Marsa el-Hariga terminal and suspended production at several oil fields, pushing Libyan crude production down by ~300,000 barrels per day.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fired his trade minister and named party loyalist Mehmet Muş to the position.

Chad’s president-dictator Idriss Déby reportedly died after wounds sustained while fighting rebels trying to overthrow his government.