“Killer”, Nuclear Option, Revenge, Mozambique and the Week in Review

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“Killer”, Nuclear Option, Revenge, Mozambique and the Week in Review

Hello Perchers! Two quick reminders:

  1. Check out our new newsletter, LatamPolitik, on the geopolitics of Latin America. For the cost of a pint a month, you could get 3x more Perch in your life. What could be better (other than it being in Spanish and English)?
  2. Remember to check out our podcast, The Perch Pod! We’ve got an exciting guest lined up for next week…you won’t want to miss it.

Keep wearing those masks and drop a line if you want to chat! – PERCH

Killer. In an interview with ABC News, U.S. President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer” who has “no soul” and who will “pay a price” for interfering in U.S. elections.

What it means: U.S.-Russia relations are going to get worse. Russia already re-called its U.S. ambassador and a Kremlin spokesman said Biden’s remarks were “very bad.” Meanwhile, the ruble sank as much as 1.6 percent over fear of additional U.S. sanctions. Here’s one instance where Mr. Market has it right – the fear is justified.

Some of you might recall back in June, we wrote an article on Russia-U.S. relations under a then hypothetical Biden administration. Tl;dr – relations should improve but they probably won’t. In a political vacuum, it would make all the strategic sense in the world for the U.S. to improve its relations with Russia. Biden, however, believes that Russia is an ideological foe, a thuggish heir to the Soviet Union, hell-bent on the destruction of liberal democracy – and he also thinks values should have a more significant place in U.S. foreign policy making.

Anyways, what is it with U.S. presidents pontificating about what they think about Vladimir Putin, the man? Better to focus on dealing with Russia, the nation.

The nuclear option. The UK published an Integrated Defence Review, which concluded that the UK needed a “change of approach” because “a defense of the status quo is no longer sufficient for the decade ahead, characterized by intensifying competition between states over interests, norms, and values.” Among the most notable points in the document are lifting the cap on the UK’s Trident nuclear warheads by more than 40 percent, a general £10 billion rearmament program, and restoring foreign aid to 0.7 percent of national income.

What it means: Has Her Majesty’s government been reading Perch Perspectives? We couldn’t have described the changing international scene, which we’ve taken to calling “Geopolitics 4.0,” any better.

We might quibble with some of the stated goals, however, as might Scotland. Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf described the plan as “utterly unacceptable” – because Scotland is against nuclear weapons and already houses the UK’s nuclear deterrent. The UK can still be a formidable global power if united, but it cannot project power if it is so divided at home, no matter what a well-produced report says. Less concern about nukes, more concern about Scotland would be our advice, if they were asking.

The politics of revenge. Bolivia’s government arrested former interim president Jeanine Áñez and a number of her former ministers and security officials on charges of terrorism, sedition, and conspiracy. (Áñez took over after the Organization of American States (OAS) refused to certify 2019 elections that would have given former Bolivian President Evo Morales an unprecedented and illegal 4th consecutive term.) The OAS criticized the Bolivian government, only for Mexico to come to Bolivia’s defense, chastising the OAS not to interfere in Bolivia’s internal affairs.

What it means: You might have heard that we launched a newsletter on the geopolitics of Latin America a few weeks ago with our friends from Visual Politik. It’s called LatamPolitik, and if you are interested, we covered Áñez’s arrest – and what it means that Mexico is suddenly sticking up for Bolivia and Evo Morales – in detail. Check it out and consider subscribing. (Yep, shameless plug!)

Mozambique. The U.S. deployed Special Forces soldiers to train Mozambican troops to help halt the spreading insurgency in northeastern Mozambique. The U.S. also designated ISIS-Mozambique a Foreign Terrorist organization and a Specially Designated Terrorist Group. Mozambique’s police commander announced the creation of a new special force to guarantee the security of natural gas installations in northern Mozambique.

What it means: Call us crazy, but anytime the U.S. is sending military trainers to a far-away country most Americans probably couldn’t find on a map…we get a little nervous. Then again, we’ve been warning about what is happening in Mozambique since May 2020. It is worth repeating what we said then: “Mozambique is a geopolitical “epicenter” in and of itself, an unwitting ground-zero and staging ground for some of the most important forces currently reshaping the international political order, the balance of power in the Indian Ocean basin, and the political realities of sub-Saharan Africa and especially East African geopolitics.”

Think of it this way: Mozambique is the western edge of the Indo-Pacific. If you’re the U.S., and suddenly you are investing a lot more in the Indo-Pacific region, it’s not just about China and India. It’s also about East Africa. Get used to a lot more U.S. presence in this part of the world, we think.

Honorable mention

Italian tanks blew up a chicken farm by mistake in a military exercise near Vivaro, killing several chickens.

Kurt Campbell, the Biden administration’s “Indo-Pacific coordinator,” told The Sydney Morning Herald that the U.S. will make China improving its relations with Australia a precondition for any improvement in relations with the U.S.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused his hardline opponents of blocking efforts to lift U.S. sanctions.

The chief public prosecutor of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals filed an indictment to dissolve the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and to ban more than 600 HDP members from politics.

The Danish Energy Agency said a second line of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will begin to be laid in Denmark’s exclusive economic zone at the end of March.

Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) won 35 seats in Dutch elections this week, two more than in 2017.

Myanmar’s military declared martial law in parts of Yangon and is imposing an information blackout after China criticized the military for not protecting Chinese factories being targeted by protesters.

Laos signed a 25-year concession agreement with Chinese-owned Électricité du Laos Transmission Company Ltd to build and manage its power grid, including exports to neighboring countries.

North Korean foreign minister Choe Son Hui accused the U.S. of a “delaying-time trick” and said it would not respond to U.S. attempts to restart talks.