VIF News Digest: International Developments (US, Europe and Russia), 15-31 August 2020
Himani Pant, Associate Fellow, VIF
I. United States
Politics and Society
US, Poland sign defence deal for the deployment of troops, 16 August 2020.

The US and Poland on Saturday signed a military agreement that will pave the way to deploy more American troops to the Eastern European country. The so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was inked by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and Poland’s Defence Minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, following a meeting with President Andrej Duda. About 4,500 US troops are currently stationed in Poland and under the new defence deal, another 1,000 will be added, while the headquarters of the US Army V Corps will also be relocated from Germany to Poland. Click here to read...

Oracle is in talks to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations, challenging Microsoft, source says, 17 August 2020.

Oracle, an enterprise software giant, is in talks to acquire social media company TikTok’s U.S., Canadian, Australian and New Zealand assets, according to sources cited by the CNBC. Oracle is working with a group of U.S. venture capital firms that already have a stake in TikTok. Click here to read...

U.S. tightens restrictions on Huawei access to technology and chips, 17 August 2020.

The Trump administration announced it will further tighten restrictions on China’s Huawei Technologies, aimed at cracking down on its access to commercially available chips. The Commerce Department actions will expand restrictions announced in May aimed at preventing the Chinese telecommunications giant from obtaining semiconductors without a special license.The administration added 38 Huawei affiliates to the U.S. government’s economic blacklist raising the total to 152 affiliates since Huawei was first added in May 2019. Click here to read...

U.S. Tries to Bolster Taiwan’s Status, Short of Recognizing Sovereignty, 17 August 2020.

A visit to Taiwan by an American cabinet secretary, Alex M. Azar II (the secretary of health and human services); a sale of advanced torpedoes; talks of starting negotiations over a potential trade agreement. The Trump administration has taken action in recent weeks to strengthen United States relations with the democratic island of Taiwan and bolster its international standing. The efforts are aimed at highlighting a thriving democracy in Asia and countering China’s attempts to weaken the global diplomatic status of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory. Click here to read...

State Department Rejects Russian Proposal for Virtual Summit on Iran, 17 August 2020.

The State department has shot down Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal for a virtual summit outside of the U.N. to prevent a "confrontation" over new U.S. threats against Iran. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion has garnered increasing international support despite U.S. opposition in its bid to extend an arms embargo against Tehran. Click here to read...

U.S. Suspends Bilateral Agreements with Hong Kong, Escalating Tensions with China, 19 August 2020.

The Trump administration has suspended three bilateral agreements with Hong Kong related to extradition and tax exemptions, the latest in a series of measures that escalate tensions between Washington and Beijing. The move comes after President Trump signed an executive order last month ending the special status that the United States granted Hong Kong in diplomatic and trade relations. Click here to read...

TikTok Sues Trump to Block U.S. Ban, 24 August 2020.

TikTok has filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration after the White House issued an executive order that would effectively ban the hugely popular app from operating in the United States. The suit, which has been expected for weeks, claims that President Trump's Aug. 6 executive action declaring a national emergency that would effectively ban the video-sharing app in the U.S. was taken without any opportunity for the company to be heard, allegedly violating its due-process rights. Click here to read...

US sanctions 24 Chinese companies over South China Sea island building, 27 August 2020.

The United States government has imposed sanctions on dozens of Chinese companies for helping Beijing advance its territorial claims in the South China Sea -- the first punitive action of its kind over the disputed waters, and one that is almost certain to escalate tensions between the countries. Separately, the State Department announced that it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese individuals "responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or the PRC's use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources." Click here to read...

US Election
Democrats fight back in US Postal Service showdown with Trump, 17August 2020.

Democrats are launching an emergency effort to thwart what they warn is President Donald Trump's attempt to squeeze the US Postal Service to suppress the vote in November's election. The aggressive Democratic counter-attack, coming at the start of a critical two-week political crunch that contains the Democratic and Republican National Conventions -- follows Trump's incessant falsehoods about mail-in voting inviting a "catastrophe" in November. Click here to read...

Joe Biden: Where does Joe Biden stand on key issues? 21 August 2020

When he formally announced his entry into the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden declared that he stood for two things - workers who "built this country", and values that can bridge its divisions. As the US faces challenges from coronavirus to racial inequity, his pitch in essence is to create new economic opportunities for workers, restore environmental protections and healthcare rights, and international alliances. Click here to read...

DNC - Minutes of the Convention, 21 August 2020

Joe Bidendelivered the most focused and empathetic performance of his campaign as he accepted the Democratic nomination. Click here to read...

RNC - Minutes of the Convention, 28 August 2020.

President Trump mentioned his opponent 41 times by name, and declared that "China would own our country” if Biden is elected. Trump repeatedly used China to thump Biden, name-checking every state whose manufacturing base was hurt by free trade deals. Click here to read...

US election 2020 polls: Who is ahead - Trump or Biden? 29 August 2020.

Joe Biden has been ahead of Donald Trump in national polls for most of the year. He has hovered around 50% in recent weeks and has had a 10-point lead on occasions

Health, Economy and Environment
54.4°C temperature in California's Death Valley could be new record, 18 August 2020.

A desert weather station in the US has registered what could be the hottest temperature on the Earth's surface in over 90 years. The 130°F (54.4°C) reading was measured near the Death Valley National Park visitor centre at Furnace Creek, California. The US National Weather Service said it was a preliminary reading and required a formal review. But, if confirmed, it would be the hottest temperature recorded since July 1931, when a 55°C reading was measured at Kebili, Tunisia. Click here to read...

U.S. Energy Exports Severely Disrupted by Hurricane Laura, 27 August 2020.

Laura made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border, one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the region, and raced north. Oil and gas exports from the United States have been severely disrupted by Hurricane Laura, with nearly a million barrels per day (bpd) of crude exports likely reduced this week by closures of U.S. Gulf Coast terminals and disruptions at ports. The hurricane also temporarily suspended operations at several liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in the world's third largest exporter of the super-cooled gas, with shipments on track to fall to their lowest in 18 months. Click here to read...

US consumer spending rose a moderate 1.9% in July, 28 August 2020.

U.S. consumers increased their spending by 1.9% last month, a dose of support for an economy struggling to emerge from the grip of a pandemic that has held back a recovery and kept roughly 27 million people jobless. The July gain marked the third straight monthly increase in consumer spending, the primary driver of the U.S. economy, but represented a slowdown from the previous two months. The report from the Commerce Department also showed that income rose 0.4% in July after two months of declines. Click here to read...

Perspective
Time to Rethink U.S. Policy Toward Putin’s Russia? 20 August 2020.

The piece discusses the renewed debate over the present and future of U.S.-Russian relations. Two competing open letters make the case for or against the status quo, which is increasingly characterized by deep suspicion and rising tension. Is Vladimir Putin to blame? Or do the roots of U.S.-Russian enmity run deeper? Are constructive diplomatic relations impossible so long as Putin is in charge? Or should U.S. policymakers look past Putin’s many offenses in the interest of reducing the risk of conflict? Click here to read...

II. Europe
Politics and Society
Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of European Union on the announcement of a normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE, 16 August 2020

The EU welcomes the announcement on the normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and acknowledges the constructive role played by the US in this respect. The EU has for many years promoted the development of relations between Israel and the countries of the region. Israel and the United Arab Emirates are both important partners of the European Union. A normalisation of their bilateral relations will be beneficial to both countries and a fundamental step for the stabilisation of the region as a whole. We remain committed to a comprehensive and lasting peace for the entire region and stand ready to work to this end together with our regional and international partners. Click here to read...

Thousands rally in Minsk against Lukashenko as EU prepares emergency summit on Belarus;Belarusian ambassador resigns after supporting anti-government protesters, 18 August 2020.

Protests continued in Belarus as at least 5,000 opposition supporters rallied in capital Minsk telling president Alexander Lukashenko to "go away" following a controversial election where he won about 80% of the vote and secured a sixth term. The vote has been followed by days of protests and violence, with two fatalities and hundreds of detentions across the country. Protesters and international observers are questioning the fairness of the election, amid arrests and detentions of opposition figures and alleged lack of impartial scrutiny over the electoral process. Click here to read...
Meanwhile, the Belarusian ambassador to Slovakia, Igor Leshchenya who supported protesters rallying against his country's president has handed in his resignation, a move indicating growing dissent at a high diplomatic level. Click here to read...

Joint Statement of the United States and the European Union on a Tariff Agreement, 21 August 2020.

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan today announced agreement on a package of tariff reductions that will increase market access for hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. and EU exports. These tariff reductions are the first U.S.-EU negotiated reductions in duties in more than two decades. Under the agreement, the EU will eliminate tariffs on imports of U.S. live and frozen lobster products for a period of five years. Click here to read...

Brexit fishing wars: 'Conflict zones' predicted in British waters - fishermen fury erupts, 22 August 2020.

Brexit trade deal talks between the UK and EU continue to struggle which has resulted in growing tensions on both sides. During an interview with Express.co.uk, Queen Mary's School of Business and Management professor Liam Campling warned these tensions could erupt if an amicable agreement is not reached. He claimed there could be skirmishes between UK and EU boats that may result in the Royal Navy being forced to intervene. Professor Campling argued that animosity would continue to grow between the UK and EU if the bloc restricted the UK's access to the EU market for fish. Click here to read...

'Belarus has woken up': Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses MEPs, 26 August 2020.

In a speech delivered via video link from exile in Vilnius, Lithuania, the opposition leader urged MEPs at an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs to continue their support for what she called Belarus' "democratic revolution." "Belarus has woken up. We are not the opposition anymore. We are the majority now. The peaceful revolution is taking place," she said. She reiterated the demands of protesters in the Eastern European country for free and fair elections as well as the end of intimidation and violence carried out by state actors, calling on the world to respect the "serenity of Belarus." Click here to read...

Mediterranean crisis: European Union warns Turkey of imposing fresh sanctions, 29 August 2020.

The EU has warned Turkey it could face fresh sanctions, including tough economic measures, unless progress is made in reducing soaring tensions with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said the bloc wanted to give "a serious chance to dialogue" but was steadfast in its support for member states Greece and Cyprus in the crisis, which has raised fears of a military standoff. Click here to read...

A day after violence erupted in Sweden, now Norway's Oslo sees clashes, 30 August 2020.

A day after violent protests rocked the Swedish city of Malmo, reports have come in suggesting that there has been a violent outbreak in the Norwegian city of Oslo on August 29. It has been reported that clashes broke out at the rally organised by the Stop Islamization of Norway (SIAN) group near the Parliament at the nation's capital. Earlier, a copy of the Qur'an was burnt by Danish party called Stram Kurs hours after their leader Rasmus Paludan was denied permission to hold a meeting in Sweden's Malmo about “Islamization in the Nordic countries” which had led to unrest in the Swedish city. Click here to read...

Post-Brexit, Scotland is forging its own foreign policy, 31 August 2020.

Throughout the Brexit process, the Scottish government has worked to demonstrate its pro-EU approach in its European and international relations, differentiating itself from the UK government and its pro-Brexit mission. Edinburgh has made clear its commitment to the EU’s founding principles and called for a close relationship with the EU-positions which have been noted in Brussels and European capitals. Beyond rejecting the destination of Brexit, indications are that the Scottish government will also distance itself from the UK’s reinvented foreign policy. For instance, it has opposed the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the Department for International Development. Click here to read...

Health and Environment
Coronavirus: France sends in riot police to enforce face mask rules in Marseille, 17 August 2020.

French riot police are being deployed near Marseille to help enforce mask requirements as the country registers a spike in COVID-19 cases. It comes after local authorities made face masks mandatory in all farmers' markets and in several neighbourhoods. Face masks are mandatory in all public indoor places across France as well as on public transport but town halls can expand the requirement to outdoor areas if they feel it's necessary. This comes after several violent incidents have been reported over people's refusal to wear masks. Click here to read...

Perspective
The European Union in Antarctica: An Emerging Area of Interest? 18 August 2020.

The European Union (EU) is increasingly not only looking north, to the Arctic, but also south, to its polar opposite. The Antarctic is emerging as an area of interest in Brussels, albeit amongst a few key decision-makers and with a rather specialised focus. The Antarctic region and issues pertaining to it – particularly research, climate awareness and ocean governance – have slowly emerged on the policy agenda in Brussels in recent years. Moreover, as both EU citizens and Member States are involved in various activities in Antarctica, broader EU involvement may not be so unreasonable. Click here to read...

How Covid-19 is changing the European Union, 18 August 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic was a stress test for the EU and its member states. Firstly, Covid-19 exposed the limits of the EU's capacity, both in its short-term emergency response and its longer-term foresight. Secondly, Covid-19 revealed once again how dependent the EU is on others, for everything from Chinese face-masks and Indian pharmaceutical products to US-based videoconferencing tools or contact tracing software. Thirdly, against the battle of Chinese and US narratives that characterised the previous months, the EU should not shy away from promoting its own model. Fourth, the economy. The bond-buying actions of the European Central Bank - almost seven times the efforts made in the early 2010s to save the Euro - were crucial to keep the European economy alive. Finally, the environment as Covid-19 was to a large extent an environmental crisis, raising the importance of the European Green Deal. Click here to read...

III. Russia
Navalny’s plane conducts emergency landing in Omsk over blogger’s suspected poisoning, 20 August 2020.

plane with Russian blogger Alexey Navalny on board heading from Tomsk to Moscow, conducted an emergency landing due to his alleged poisoning, the opposition figure’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh announced. "This morning, Navalny was on his way from Tomsk to Moscow. He started to feel bad during the flight. The plane conducted an emergency landing in Omsk. Alexey has toxic poisoning. We are currently in an ambulance on our way to the hospital," Yarmysh tweeted. Click here to read...

India, Russia plan to build maritime partnership including ship-building industry, 22 August 2020.

India and Russia riding on goodwill of their partnership in building naval ships are exploring joint efforts in creating civilian shipbuilding industry here including repair facilities besides expediting maritime links through International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and Vladivostok-Chennai shipping links. Click here to read...

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned, Berlin hospital says, 24 August 2020.

Berlin's Charite Hospital which is treating Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny says tests indicate that he was poisoned. It noted that the Kremlin critic was suffering from "intoxication by a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors” and added that Navalny, who was transferred to the German capital from the Siberian city of Omsk on Saturday morning, is in an artificial coma in an intensive care unit. Click here to read...

Rajnath, Jaishankar to visit Russia for SCO, 27 August 2020.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar will make back-to-back visits to Russia early next month for meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that are expected to bring them face to face with their Chinese counterparts amid the border standoff. Singh is expected to be in Moscow during September 3-4 for a meeting of the SCO defence ministers while Jaishankar is set to visit the Russian capital for the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting on September 10. Click here to read...

Kremlin Hails Abe's 'Invaluable Contribution' To Relations, 28 August 2020.

The Kremlin hailed Japanese Prime Minister’s Shinzo Abe's contribution to bilateral ties between Moscow and Tokyo after Abe announced his resignation for health reasons. "Shinzo Abe really made an invaluable contribution to the development of bilateral Russian-Japanese relations," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told news agencies. Putin and Abe met many times to try to find a solution to the impasse over the Kuril Islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories. But a flurry of diplomatic activity last year failed to bring about a formal peace treaty between Tokyo and Moscow to end World War II hostilities. Peskov said Russia hopes Abe's successor "will be equally committed to further developing Russian-Japanese relations." Click here to read...

Russia expels three Slovak diplomats in retaliatory move, 31 August 2020.

The ambassador of the Slovak Republic Peter Priputen on Monday was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry to be told that three staffers of the Slovak embassy must leave Russia. Earlier, the Slovak Foreign Ministry said three Russian diplomats, suspected of spying, were to leave the country. Click here to read...

Lavrov says Russia ready to aid inter-Syrian dialogue during talks with opposition, 31 August 2020.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has discussed Syrian regulation with members of the Syrian opposition, reaffirming Russia’s readiness to aid inter-Syrian dialogue, the Russian Foreign Ministry informed. The ministry stated that Lavrov had discussed the issues of Syrian regulation, namely, the reaching of inter-Syrian agreements based on Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council, with co-chair of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Council Ilham Ahmed and leader of the Popular Front for Change and Liberation Qadri Jamil. " Click here to read...

Health and Economy
Politics and Society
Sputnik V production in India? Russia keen to produce coronavirus vaccine in country, 19 August 2020.

The Russians who registered the first coronavirus vaccine in the world are keen on producing their candidate Sputnik V in India. India is already a key player in the vaccine manufacturing space. Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that is funding the Russian coronavirus vaccine programme said, "Moscow is keen to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V in India." The Russian vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow. In an interview to India Today TV, Dmitriev said Russia is in touch with Indian regulators and manufacturers to produce the COVID-19 vaccine in India. Click here to read...

Russian economy may see 5-6 percent slump, Putin says, 27 August 2020.

The Russian economy may experience a 5-6% decline, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 TV channel. The Russian leader also noted that the entire global economy is facing negative consequences from the pandemic. Click here to read...

Perspective
Russia and the Conflict Between China and the United States, 20 August 2020.

For Russia, the question now is not how it will deal with China in the future, but how threatening Beijing’s confrontation with the United States is for its survival right now. If Russia assesses its neighbour’s confrontation with the United States as a systemic one, the task of breaking this Western adversary looks paramount for the survival of the country and its political system. Click here to read...

Could Russia side with the US and India against China? 22 August 2020.

China and Russia have often described their relationship as “special” and “unprecedented” and have recently promised to maintain what they call a “comprehensive strategic partnership”. In fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the “specialness” of this relationship has been clear for all to see. Even so, in recent months, however hard the two countries have tried to paper over them, cracks have been appearing. Among the divisions: historical differences over Vladivostok; sales of Russian arms to India; and delays in the delivery of Russian missiles to Beijing. But perhaps the most explosive issue of all is the suggestion in recent weeks that Washington wants to embrace its old Cold War adversary as a way of countering growing Chinese might. Click here to read...

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