What We’re Watching

What our analysts are watching and key events they are keeping an eye on
27th September 20216 min

US Launch Airstikes in Syria. The US carried out airstrikes near Syria’s northwestern Idlib province that allegedly killed Al-Qaeda-linked commanders. Idlib is the last remaining stronghold for the Syrian rebellion. Sources have said the drone strike, the first US strike in the region in several months, targeted a car carrying three senior figures of the Hurras Al-Din group. According to USCENTCOM no civilians were killed in the strike, echoing claims during the recent attack on ISIL-K in Kabul which turned out to be a brutal murder on 10 innocent members of the same family. 

British Government to step in with energy bailouts. The British government is stepping in with a “short-term” bailout for a beleaguered carbon dioxide manufacturer in a bid to stave off fresh disruption to the food supply chain. Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced the government had struck an agreement with US firm CF Fertilisers to ensure the continued supply of CO2 to UK businesses, amid concern the shortages could spread beyond Britain. Britain’s food suppliers are already grappling with labor shortages which are hitting factory floors and farms as well as the truck drivers that move products. The UK government is considering emergency steps to help bailout the energy industry as wholesale gas prices spiral. The government is looking at offering state-backed loans to help keep struggling firms afloat, and to encourage firms to take on customers from rivals that collapse. The Financial Times said the government was also considering creating a Northern Rock-style ‘bad bank’ to absorb potentially unprofitable customers from failing firms. We will be watching which companies are on the verge of collapsing as this will have a major impact on the UK economy.

Petrol crisis deepens in UK. More than half of all non-motorway petrol stations have run dry after a weekend of panic-buying by spooked motorists, forcing ministers to consider putting the army on notice to drive tankers to forecourts. The government has suspended competition laws to allow fuel companies to coordinate deliveries, and Boris Johnson is set to decide whether to send in soldiers to ease the crisis. Panicked motorists are causing lengthy queues at petrol stations as an industry expert predicted the “catastrophic situation” is going to get worse before it improves. The petrol problems come after retailers warned a solution to the lack of truckers must be found within days to avoid “significant disruption” in the run-up to Christmas.

No surprises in Russia’s parliamentary elections. As expected, Vladmair Putin’s United Russia party preserved its legislative supermajority in Russia’s parliament despite its falling popularity. The Kremlin was forced to make use of various strategies amid declining popularity that included costly social programs and increasing control over information flows. There were one-time payments to the military, pensioners and police officials. There was little response from the West who historically criticized the Kremlin for manipulating elections, but with sanctions now exhausted there is little the west can do. With the presidential election to take place in 2024 under the new constitutional amendments it is likely the tactics seen in this election will be utilized again. We will be watching how Putin deals with his declining popularity and if the opperistion can take advantage of this.

German federal elections. Germany’s Social Democratic Party has received the most votes in Germany’s federal elections. But the victory was by a slim margin over Angela Merkel’s CDU. As was predicted by many, now both parties will negotiate to build a coalition, the last elections saw coalition talks last six months. On this occasion it’s likely the German Bundesteg will be fragmented as a third party will be needed to rule Germany. The Greens and the FDP now become the kingmakers. 

Bitcoin becomes legal tender in El Salvador. Bitcoin became El Salvador’s legal tender on 7 September 2021. The adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender is unprecedented and many will be watching to see how feasible it is to adopt a crypto currency as legal tender. To encourage the public to use Bitcoin, the government is giving every Salvadoran citizen the equivalent of $30 dollars in bitcoin when they download the Chivo app. The initial rollout of the Bitcoin wallet, Chivo, saw it being taken offline for the majority of the first day and has since crashed several more times. The rocky performance of the underlying tech led to unrest with Protesters burning bitcoin ATMs. We will be watching how this experiment affects the country’s macroeconomics and how other nations considering cryptocurrencies view the Central American nations experiment.

New US-EU Trade and technology council. A new EU-US council will hold its first meeting on 29 September 2021. The summit aims to coordinate US-EU trade and technology policy as the Biden administration tries to shift the US away from his predecessor’s unilateral approach to China and technology issues. The first meeting will focus on the global semiconductor shortage. The council aims to have 10 working groups to discuss various issues such as technology standards, artificial intelligence, data security and export controls. The US see’s the TCC as a vehicle for coordinating EU and US joint policies against China. 

Failed Coup in Sudan. Sudanese authorities confirmed a failed attempt to overthrow the country’s transitional government took place early morning on Tuesday 21 September. Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok addressed the attempted coup as “an extension of previous attempts” to overthrow the transitional government. “They tried to take advantage of the situation in different towns by closing the ports and the roads. They took advantage of the national crisis and tried to stop us from moving forward during this transitional period,” Hamdok said. Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan said the capital woke up to “what seemed like a pretty normal morning”, except that one of the bridges leading to Omdurman, the twin city of the capital, was blocked. “There were tanks on the bridge preventing civilians from crossing and there were questions from the people as to why there were tanks,” explained Morgan. “Then came the report that there was a failed coup attempt.” She added that officials have said the coup targeted an army arms depot, and potentially aimed to take over state television, the army headquarters, as well as attempts to dismiss the Council of Ministers and Sovereignty Council that compose the country’s transitional government. Sudan is currently ruled by a transitional government composed of both civilian and military representatives that was installed in the aftermath of al-Bashir’s overthrow. But deep political divisions and chronic economic problems have overshadowed the transition.

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