7 October 2023

Understanding India’s New Data Protection Law



In early August 2023, the Indian Parliament passed the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act, 2023.1 The new law is the first cross-sectoral law on personal data protection in India and has been enacted after more than half a decade of deliberations.2 The key question this paper discusses is whether this seemingly interminable period of deliberations resulted in a “good” law—whether the law protects personal data adequately, and in addition, whether it properly balances, as the preamble to the law states, “the right of individuals to protect their personal data” on one hand and “the need to process such personal data for lawful purposes” on the other.

To answer this question, the paper first details the key features of the law and compares it to earlier versions, especially the previous official bill introduced by the government in Parliament in 2019.3 The second part of the paper then examines the DPDP Act from two perspectives. First, it highlights certain potentially problematic features of this law to understand its consequences for consumers and businesses as well as the Indian state. Second, it places the act in context of the developments and deliberations that have taken place over the last five years or so. The third part speculates on the key factors that will influence the development of data protection regulation in India in the next few years.

BRICS+ from Above: Why the Space Dimension of the Expanded Alliance Matters

 Laura Delgado López

Up until last August, there was little to link Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Since the decision to invite new members to the BRICS alliance, analysts have been wondering what this set of countries have in common. While at vastly different stages of economic development, the 11 will often adopt the moniker of members of the loosely defined “Global South.” However, where most see an amorphous grouping of countries—some formal U.S. allies and others traditional anti-Western autocracies—all have space programs and ambitions. This should not be overlooked in a context where the recent BRICS expansion can be seen as a largely symbolic move.

If all invited countries officially join BRICS, new collaborative space projects among its members are certainly possible. However, the more significant impact of the expansion may be in the space governance domain. Space governance refers to the complex set of laws, regulations, and frameworks that govern the use of space at both the international and national level. It is inherently a foreign policy issue because space is not owned by any one country and the physics of space requires international coordination. BRICS members have vowed to leverage their expected heftier weight in international institutions to better address the needs of the Global South. This counterweight strategy may spill over to the space-related discussions underway in those very forums, such as on international space security in the UN First Committee. While not topping the list of priorities dominated by economic issues, space governance is important—at stake are how to manage collective challenges like space debris and whether the next wave of space exploration will take an adversarial turn.

The Taliban and Central Asia

Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili

The collapse of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in August 2021 directly impacted the country’s Central Asian neighbors from the very beginning. When the Taliban took Kabul, Afghanistan’s former President Ashraf Ghani fled to Uzbekistan; however, Tashkent’s strained relationship with Ghani resulted in his subsequent transfer to Abu Dhabi.

During this time, over 50 members of the Afghan Air Force fled in their planes. Some landed in Tajikistan and more touched down in Termez, Uzbekistan. The Taliban demanded the return of the planes, but Uzbekistan, in particular, handed them over to the United States instead, insisting they were U.S. property.

Initially, humanitarian agencies expressed grave concern about a potentially overwhelming refugee flow over the borders into Central Asia. However, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan did not allow average Afghan citizens to enter their territories, with only a few high-level delegations being granted access. The presence of over 10,000 Russian troops in Tajikistan helped maintain stability and protect the border between the Central Asian states and Afghanistan.

Although the relationship between Afghanistan under the returned Taliban and Central Asia started with confrontation and confusion, it has evolved into a cooperation based on shared norms. Despite the Taliban’s insecure hold on power, the neighboring countries are working closely with them. Leaders in Central Asia, who have long preferenced stability over democracy, saw the Taliban as a potential source of order in the region. The fall of the Afghan Republic provided Central Asia with an unexpected opportunity to reconnect with Afghanistan in new ways.

Since 2021, the relationship between the Taliban and its northern neighbors has been based on a complementarity of interests. The Taliban want trade and economic activity to alleviate the economic hit the regime took when foreign aid, upon which Afghanistan has depended for so long, evaporated. Central Asian states in turn are looking for stability and security. Some countries, like Uzbekistan, even have ambitions of building grand infrastructure projects and restoring deep connections with Afghanistan to facilitate trade and commerce.

Kazakhstan Cautiously Builds Ties With China

Berikbol Dukeyev

After the mass protests of January 2022, Kazakhstan has sought to distinguish itself from the economic and foreign policy failures of the former Nursultan Nazarbayev administration. In September 2023, Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev shared his vision to ameliorate Kazakhstan’s “dependence on raw materials, low labor productivity, insufficient levels of innovation, and uneven distribution of income,” which have been driving the country’s economic downturn in 2023 (Akorda.kz, September 1). Tokayev seeks to fulfill Kazakhstan’s economic needs and strengthen its “multi-vector” foreign policy by finding new alternative partners to Russia, whose economy continues to deal with rampant inflation and the deleterious effects of Western sanctions (see EDM, October 2). On September 28, the Kazakhstani leader declared, “Kazakhstan has declared unambiguously that it will follow the sanctions regime” against Russia, further underscoring this pivot.

Unfortunately, Astana’s options are limited. Perhaps the most obvious approach would be to boost economic relations with China. In May 2023, Tokayev held a series of talks with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping that witnessed the signing of multiple agreements to facilitate intensified bilateral cooperation in trade, energy, agriculture, and other fields (Fmprc.gov.cn, May 17).

Inside Vietnam's plans to dent China's rare earths dominance

Francesco Guarascio and Khanh Vu

HANOI, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Vietnam plans to restart its biggest rare-earths mine next year with a Western-backed project that could rival the world's largest, according to two companies involved, as part of a broader push to dent China's dominance in a sector that helps power advanced technologies.

The move would be a step toward the Southeast Asian country's aim of building up a rare-earths supply chain, including developing its capacity to refine ores into metals used in magnets for electric vehicles, smartphones and wind turbines.

As an initial step, Vietnam's government intends to launch tenders for multiple blocks of its Dong Pao mine before the year's end, said Tessa Kutscher, an executive at Australia's Blackstone Minerals Ltd (BSX.AX), which plans to bid for at least one concession. She cited unpublished information from Vietnam's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which did not respond to requests for comment.

The auction's timing could change but the government plans to restart the mine next year, said Luu Anh Tuan, chairman of Vietnam Rare Earth JSC (VTRE), the country's main refiner and Blackstone's partner in the project.

South Asia to Grow by Nearly 6% This Year

Krutika Pathi

South Asia is expected to grow by 5.8 percent this year, making it the fastest-growing region in the world even as the pace remains below pre-pandemic levels, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

The latest South Asia Development Update from the World Bank projected growth in the region to slow slightly to 5.6 percent in 2024 and 2025, as post-pandemic rebounds fade and reduced global demand weighs on economic activity.

At almost 6 percent this year, the region is growing faster than all other emerging markets, said Franziska Ohnsorge, the organization’s chief economist for South Asia.

“While high inflation and interest rates have bogged down many emerging markets, South Asia seems to be forging ahead,” the World Bank noted in its report.

Still, “for all of the countries here this represents a slowdown from pre-pandemic levels,” Ohnsorge said, adding that the growth wasn’t fast enough to meet various development goals set by countries in the region.

The DoD’s Critical Infrastructure Is Dangerously Insecure

Alison King & Michael McLaughlin

As simmering tensions in East Asia rise to a boil, the recent discovery of a Chinese penetration of the U.S. military’s telecommunication systems in Guam should be setting off alarm bells across the executive branch and in the halls of Congress. Though Chinese penetration of U.S. networks for espionage has been well documented for more than two decades, the targeting of critical infrastructure represents a significant escalation by China and highlights critical vulnerabilities the Department of Defense (DoD) needs to immediately address.

Though the United States tends to view warfare as a challenge for the military to confront, our enemies have a vastly different outlook.

America’s adversaries are always eager to deny or degrade our military’s ability to mobilize globally and execute national security objectives at scale. The war in Ukraine, saber-rattling in the South China Sea, and a U.S. presidential election on the horizon further exacerbate geopolitical tensions. Lately, they have succeeded by exploiting vulnerabilities in operational technology (OT) devices that control much of our critical infrastructure.

Telling the Truth About Taiwan

Eliot A. Cohen

For some 50 years, American policy toward Taiwan has been based on the assertion that people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits believe that they are part of the same country and merely dispute who should run it and precisely how and when the island and the continent should be reunified. It is a falsehood so widely stated and so often repeated that officials sometimes forget that it is simply untrue. Indeed, they—and other members of the foreign-policy establishment—get anxious if you call it a lie.

It may have been a necessary lie when the United States recognized the People’s Republic of China, although it is more likely that the United States got snookered by Chinese diplomats in the mid-1970s, when they needed us far more than we needed them. It may even be necessary now, but a lie it remains. Acknowledging this fact is not merely a matter of intellectual hygiene but an imperative if we are to prevent China from attempting to gobble up this island nation of 24 million, thereby unhinging the international order in Asia and beyond.

Will Xi’s Military Modernization Pay Off?

David M. Finkelstein

For months, all eyes have been on the high-level personnel turmoil in the Chinese military. Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu has not been seen in public for weeks, raising questions about whether he still holds his position. Li Yuchao, the commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force, which oversees China’s arsenal of conventional and nuclear missiles, has also been replaced. Many observers have interpreted these shakeups as a sign that deep problems plague the highest reaches of the Chinese military or that Chinese President Xi Jinping intends to continue consolidating his power. But the frenzied media speculation around these personnel changes should not distract from the fact that the Chinese armed forces are making impressive strides in modernization.

Since he came to power in 2012, Xi has overseen a series of reforms that have strengthened and modernized the PLA’s warfighting abilities while reemphasizing its political role as “the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party.” Accomplishing this has not been easy; efforts by previous Chinese leaders to overhaul the PLA have often fallen short thanks to the military’s insularity. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, Deng Xiaoping sought to rearm and reorganize the PLA to better defend China’s land borders from a menacing Soviet military presence to the north and an aggressive Vietnam to the south. But today, China’s biggest military challenges lie farther afield.

China’s United Front Operations Are Ubiquitous—at Home

Jessica Batke

Swirling around in brightly colored inflatables the shape of flying saucers, riders grin as they skid across the ice, bouncing off one another in a winter version of bumper cars. Nearby, more people pedal ice bikes and row sleds that look like dragon boats. Others steer snowmobiles along a go-kart-style track. Children glide along in “princess horse-drawn carts” pulled by diminutive steeds.

Russia and China on Collision Course as Beijing Rejects Putin's Price Hike


Russia's state energy holding company, Inter RAO, has started restricting electricity supplies to China after Vladimir Putin's key ally and trading partner rejected a price hike.

The dispute stems from China facing severe electricity problems due to droughts and limits on increasing domestic coal production, while Russia is trying to offset the slump in its currency, which has hurt export revenues.

One expert told Newsweek that China is displaying a "hard-nosed" negotiating approach over Russia's demand and that it's in a strong bargaining position.

Western sanctions on Russia, which followed Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, have forced Moscow to pivot to other trade markets, with Russia terming countries "friendly" and "non-friendly." Putin championed this new world order and touted Moscow's strong ties with Beijing during a visit to Moscow in March of Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Outside the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union of other former Soviet states, China was the biggest market for Russian electricity exports in 2022, receiving a record 4.7 billion kWh (kilo watt/hour), Russian state news agency Tass reported.

China Is Suffering a Brain Drain. The U.S. Isn’t Exploiting It

Li Yuan

They went to the best universities in China and in the West. They lived middle-class lives in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen and worked for technology companies at the center of China’s tech rivalry with the United States.

Now they are living and working in North America, Europe, Japan, Australia — and just about any developed country.

Chinese — from young people to entrepreneurs — are voting with their feet to escape political oppression, bleak economic prospects and often grueling work cultures. Increasingly, the exodus includes tech professionals and other well-educated middle-class Chinese.

“I left China because I didn’t like the social and political environment,” said Chen Liangshi, 36, who worked on artificial intelligence projects at Baidu and Alibaba, two of China’s biggest tech companies, before leaving the country in early 2020. He made the decision after China abolished the term limit for the presidency in 2018, a move that allowed its top leader, Xi Jinping, to stay in power indefinitely.

“I will not return to China until it becomes democratic,” he said, “and the people can live without fear.” He now works for Meta in London.

I interviewed 14 Chinese professionals, including Mr. Chen, and exchanged messages with dozens more, about why they decided to uproot their lives and how they started over in foreign countries. Most of them worked in China’s tech industry, which was surprising because the pay is high.

Communist rappers are luring young disgruntled Chinese

To mark china’s National Day on October 1st, the Communist Youth League sent a message to its nearly 18m followers on Weibo, a microblog platform. “Today, as protagonists of this era, we will write new legends on this sacred land!” it urged. Attached was a music video, its lyrics suffused with similar patriotic rhetoric and interspersed with clips of speeches by Mao Zedong and the country’s current leader, Xi Jinping. So far, so predictable. The surprise was the singer and his style: a rapper whose early songs about drugs and violence were deemed unfit for public airing. gai, as he is known, has turned a new leaf. He is now the league’s mc.

The Communist Party’s youth wing is a vast organisation that plays a big role in China’s political life. It indoctrinates people aged between 14 and 28 in the party’s ideology, provides a training ground for potential party members and helps the party to identify talent that can be groomed for high office. It also has an outward-facing task: spreading the party’s message among young people with no political ties. After he assumed power in 2012, Mr Xi clearly worried that the league was not up to the job. Officials admitted that it had become out of touch with young Chinese.

Jury selection begins in trial of fallen cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried


NEW YORK (AP) — Jury selection began Tuesday in the fraud trial of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried after a prosecutor revealed that no discussions about a potential plea agreement took place in the nearly 10 months since the cryptocurrency executive was arrested and brought to the United States.

Once a billionaire, the 31-year-old crypto mogul faces the possibility of a long prison term if convicted at a trial projected to last up to six weeks. In a makeover for trial, Bankman-Fried gave up his wild big-hair look for a scissored-down trim more common in the financial industry. Introduced to jurors, he briefly stood in his suit and tie and turned their way.

Nearly 50 prospective jurors were sent home and told to return Wednesday, when it was expected that a jury of 12 individuals and six alternates would be in place by late morning so opening statements could begin.

Prosecutors say Bankman-Fried defrauded people and financial institutions who had accounts worth billions of dollars at the cryptocurrency exchange by illegally diverting massive sums of their money for his personal use, including making risky trades at his cryptocurrency hedge fund, Alameda Research. He’s also accused of using customer money to buy real estate and make big political contributions to try to influence government regulation of cryptocurrency.

Small-Town Revolt Reveals Larger German Concerns About Arming Ukraine

Catie Edmondson and Ekaterina Bodyagina

When government leaders in Saxony learned that Rheinmetall, Germany’s most prominent arms manufacturer, was considering building a new munitions factory in the former East German state, they saw visions of economic boom.

It was a chance, they thought, to capitalize on the city’s storied airfield — home to the Red Baron in World War I, the Nazis in World War II and the Soviets in the decades that followed — to bring in hundreds of jobs and a slice of a huge infusion of federal funds to rebuild Germany’s depleted armed forces.

Some in the chosen city of Grossenhain, with a population approaching 20,000, saw it differently.

Sixteen of 22 members of the City Council signed a letter to Chancellor Olaf Scholz urging him to block the project. The local wing of Alternative for Germany, or AfD, the resurgent far-right political party, held a rally in June where speakers railed against arms sales to Ukraine. Residents lined up to sign a petition circulated by the city’s Left Party.

“We reject a further economic-military use after years of military use,” the petition read. “We do not want to be involved in wars all over the world in a roundabout way.”

Perhaps easily dismissed as small-town politics, the revolt in tiny Grossenhain in fact reveals far larger unease among some Germans, particularly in the former Communist East, about their country’s commitment to arming Ukraine, despite the chancellor’s professed “Zeitenwende,” or turning point, toward a more assertive foreign policy.

Mass Still Matters: What the U.S. Military Should Learn From Ukraine

Andrew A. Michta

Russia’s war against Ukraine is a system-transforming conflict that is reconfiguring the geostrategic picture in Europe and in Asia. It is also fueling a debate in the U.S. defense policy community about how to structure and posture U.S. forces. For the United States and its NATO allies, there are big lessons from this war that are already circulating through the policy bloodstream, but those lessons are encountering serious headwinds generated by what has been establishment thinking over the past three decades. Recent years of “scheduled wars,” fought on the U.S. timeline with cross-domain control and unchallenged logistics, have changed expectations of what the U.S. military would need when it comes to readiness levels and equipment to fight current and future wars.

The overarching lesson from the unfolding war in Ukraine is simply the scale of what’s required to fight a modern state-on-state war. No Western military has prepared for such levels of weapons and munitions consumption and force attrition. No NATO ally today—save for the United States—has the armor or munitions stocks that could last longer than a few weeks or months at best on Ukraine-like battlefields. This war has brought front and center the enduring centrality of mass in modern conventional warfare with a near-peer adversary. It should also put paid to the obsession with precision strikes that has dominated the U.S. defense acquisition culture in recent years.

Rightsizing the Russia Threat

Samuel Charap and Kaspar Pucek

Since Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine in February 2022, debates have raged in the West about how to properly respond to Moscow’s aggression. But those debates are limited by a lack of agreement about the goals of that aggression and, ultimately, what kind of threat Russia really represents. Arguably, understanding the Russia threat is a first-order priority: unless Western governments get that right, they risk either overreacting or underreacting.

Officials and scholars who have proffered their views of Russian goals tend to see them in quite stark terms. Many have made the case that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a maximalist whose ambitions go far beyond Ukraine. Others portray Putin as obsessed with Ukraine—or more specifically, obsessed with erasing it from the map. Such assessments of Putin’s intentions, however, are often unmoored from any consideration of his capabilities. If one accepts the formulation that a threat must be assessed based on an adversary’s intentions and capabilities, then the limits of what Putin can do establish which of his ambitions are relevant for understanding the threat posed by Russia—and which merely reflect the powers of his imagination.

Over the past 20 months, the world has learned much about what Putin can and cannot do. When one considers that evidence, a different view of Putin and the threat he represents emerges: a dangerous aggressor, for sure, but ultimately a tactician who has had to adjust to the constraints under which he is forced to operate.

Niger Coup Harkens Return to Cold War Geopolitics in Africa

Sarah Neumann

The return of Africa to the Cold War era and coups that were orchestrated by the two dominant powers of that time, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, is very unfortunate news for the world and particularly for European countries. This is because, in the face of geopolitical confrontations, Africa can be a crucial supplier of raw materials and energy, capital, and young labor.

The recent political upheaval in the African country of Niger, which involved a military coup that ousted the president and received support from two neighboring nations, Burkina Faso and Somalia, sparked a lot of anxiety in the Western world, particularly among the European countries, and most notably in France, which has a long history and a lot of economic and strategic interests in the region. The coup plotters demonstrated their support for Russia by waving Russian flags (and taking down French flags) and chanting pro-Russian slogans. This sends a chilling signal to the West, revealing the effectiveness of Putin’s ambitious and covert strategy to expand his influence and interests in Africa.

At a summit that preceded the coup and involved Russia and African heads of state, Prigozhin, the former rebel leader of the Wagner group, appeared in public for the first time since the rebellion and met with African leaders. This meeting shows the importance of mercenary groups like Wagner in Russia’s African policy. At the summit, Putin also canceled $23 billion of African debt owed to Russia and offered $90 million more in aid. He also made a bold promise to supply free grain to Africans in case the deal to transport grain through the Black Sea falls through.

The International Community Failed in Nagorno-Karabakh

Mark Temnycky

Following a brutal onslaught last week, it appears the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict may be over. For years, Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought over the territory, laying claim to this region. Thousands have died during the three-decade war, and many more have been injured.

In 2021, a false sense of hope emerged, suggesting that Armenia and Azerbaijan had reached a potential agreement in their ongoing conflict. During the negotiation process, Armenian officials stated that ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh would leave, and that Azerbaijanis would be able to move to the area. The Armenian government offered incentives to Armenians living in the region, such as thousands of dollars to help them relocate and other possibilities, but residents opted not to move.

Azerbaijani officials then began to pressure the Armenians, but nothing occurred during these discussions. Finally, after two years of waiting, the Azerbaijani government became impatient, and it decided to resort to violence.

Over the course of 24 hours, Azerbaijani forces attacked residents in Nagorno-Karabakh, arguing that it was engaging with separatist forces in the region. Hundreds of people were killed during the attack, and many more were injured. Azerbaijan then stated that it would stake claim to the area, and that Armenians would have to leave.

What followed was chaotic. Photos and videos emerged on social media, showing ethnic Armenians fleeing the region. Traffic jams were apparent, and residents were fearing for their lives. A few Russian soldiers were also reportedly killed during the Azerbaijani attack.

Mass still matters: What the US military should learn from Ukraine

Andrew A. Michta

Russia’s war against Ukraine is a system-transforming conflict that is reconfiguring the geostrategic picture in Europe and in Asia. It is also fueling a debate in the US defense policy community about how to structure and posture US forces. For the United States and its NATO allies, there are big lessons from this war that are already circulating through the policy bloodstream, but those lessons are encountering serious headwinds generated by what has been establishment thinking over the past three decades. Recent years of “scheduled wars,” fought on the US timeline with cross-domain control and unchallenged logistics, have changed expectations of what the US military would need when it comes to readiness levels and equipment to fight current and future wars.

The overarching lesson from the unfolding war in Ukraine is simply the scale of what’s required to fight a modern state-on-state war. No Western military has prepared for such levels of weapons and munitions consumption and force attrition. No NATO ally today—save for the United States—has the armor or munitions stocks that could last longer than a few weeks or months at best on Ukraine-like battlefields. This war has brought front and center the enduring centrality of mass in modern conventional warfare with a near-peer adversary. It should also put paid to the obsession with precision strikes that has dominated the US defense acquisition culture in recent years.

This war has brought into focus an enduring truth in warfare: In a state-on-state conflict, mass trumps precision. The impact of mass is immediate and registers at the point of contact, while precision strikes on enemy forces concentrated in the rear, on ammo depots, or on logistical chains will only register over time,

Welcome to the ‘unhinged’ global order

As the curtains fell on the UN’s annual high-level meetings last week, the world was left with an unsettling message: the international order is crumbling, and no one can agree on what comes next.

The focus of the week—the one time of the year that most of the world’s leaders are all in the same place—was meant to be on urgently accelerating global action on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Yet, against a backdrop of intensifying geopolitical tensions, the war in Ukraine, coups in Africa, the escalating climate crisis and the ongoing pandemic, a different theme emerged: the fracturing and fragmenting of the global order, and the urgent need to reform the United Nations before it’s too late.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s opening address to the UN General Assembly was both a rallying cry and a stark warning: ‘Our world is becoming unhinged. Geopolitical tensions are rising. Global challenges are mounting. And we seem incapable of coming together to respond.’

Describing a world rapidly moving towards multipolarity while lamenting that global governance is ‘stuck in time’, Guterres warned that the world is heading for a ‘great fracture’. Urging the renewal of multilateral institutions based on 21st-century realities, he left no illusions about what will happen if this doesn’t happen: ‘It is reform or rupture.’

Critical Minerals and the New Cold War

Zongyuan Zoe Liu

Trucks and machinery are seen on the grounds of Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe’s processing plant in Goromonzi about 80 kilometers southeast of the capital Harare, July 5 2023.Credit: AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

The ongoing energy transition is transforming the global economy from a hydrocarbon-dependent system to a mineral-intensive one. The global decarbonization shift has supercharged the demand for minerals that are essential for clean energy technologies and electric vehicles (EVs), such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, copper, aluminum, and rare earth elements. A typical EV, for instance, requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car.

The energy sector has become a major demand driver for minerals since the mid-2010s, with a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) revealing a threefold surge in lithium demand, a 70 percent increase in cobalt demand, and a 40 percent rise in demand for nickel from 2017 to 2022. Driven by the growing market for lithium-ion batteries for energy storage, global demand for cobalt to manufacture batteries grew 26-fold from 2000 to 2020, and 82 percent of this growth occurred in China.

Trade Clusters

William Alan Reinsch

This week’s column is brought to you courtesy of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a conversation I had with Ed Gresser of the Progressive Policy Institute. The WTO recently published its annual trade report, this year titled, World Trade Report 2023 - Re-globalization for a secure, inclusive and sustainable future. This is always a very useful report packed with interesting information and factoids. This year, Ed pointed out one particular conclusion—the growth of trade within geopolitical blocs and the decline of trade across blocs. This excerpt from page 32 of the WTO report summarizes the situation:

"The analysis shows that despite reaching record highs recently, since July 2018 bilateral trade in goods between China and the United States grew on average much more slowly than the trade of each economy with other partners (Blanga-Gubbay and Rubínová, 2023). On a broader scale, there are the first signs of trade reorientation along geopolitical lines, indicating a shift towards friend-shoring. . . . As a result, goods trade flows between hypothetical geopolitical “blocs” have grown 4-6 per cent more slowly than trade within these blocs (Blanga-Gubbay and Rubínová, 2023). . . . FDI flowing to and from emerging and developing economies is substantially lower for more geopolitically distant partners (IMF, 2023). . . . Fragmentation in FDI along geopolitical lines could therefore be a sign that similar developments may occur in global trade flows in the future."

Winter in the Long War Is Coming for Russia

Pavel K. Baev
Source Link

Russia’s strategy for prevailing in the long war with Ukraine does not have a protracted timeline and looks no further than 2024. It is based on three premises: economic performance will keep the war machine going; Western support for Ukraine will erode and contract; and the Ukrainian army’s capacity to conduct offensive operations will be exhausted. All three are set to be tested during the winter, but it is Russia’s economic trajectory that came into focus over the past week.

Once the 2024 central budget proposal was finally submitted by the Russian government, it attracted much expert attention (RBC, September 26; Kommersant, September 29). Accurate statistical data on the key parameters of the Russian economy has been reduced by increased secrecy in Moscow. The sharp rise in projected income—up to 35 trillion rubles, 19.5 percent of the expected gross domestic product (GDP)—surprised even the most seasoned observers (The Moscow Times, September 28). The Finance Ministry, which had insisted on a more realistic increase, was compelled to consider the politically prescribed growth of expenditures and revise its estimates accordingly, in trying to make the budget deficit appear manageable (Svoboda, September 25).

The growing costs of the war are driving the increase in expenditures. Conservative figures estimate the war’s daily costs at around $300 million (Re-Russia.net, September 29). While a fraction of these costs goes to social payments, the bulk is allocated for arms acquisition. The acceleration of activity in the defense-industrial sector is expected to expand GDP by 2.3 percent (Carnegie Politika, September 29).


Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, Christina Harward, and Mason Clark

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu celebrated an odd group of Russian armed formations operating in the western Zaporizhia Oblast direction during a conference call with Russian military leadership. Shoigu’s choice of units could indicate he seeks to highlight Russian commanders who continue to follow Russian military leadership’s orders for relentless counterattacks. Shoigu attributed successful Russian defensive operations around Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) and Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv) to elements of the Russian 70th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment (42nd Motorized Rifle Division, 58th Combined Arms Army [CAA], Southern Military District), 56th Air Assault (VDV) Regiment (7th VDV Division), 810th Naval Infantry Brigade (Black Sea Fleet), and the 291st Guards Artillery Brigade (58th CAA, SMD) during a Russian military command meeting on October 3.[1] Shoigu did not highlight other formations that are routinely credited for maintaining the Robotyne-Verbove line such as the 108th VDV Regiment (7th VDV Division) or the 247th VDV Regiment (7th VDV Division).[2]

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has routinely deliberately snubbed or amplified the achievements of certain commanders in order to achieve Shoigu or the Russian military command’s political objectives.[3] While it is possible that Shoigu simply wanted to celebrate only a few formations, Shoigu may have highlighted some of these formations for political reasons. Some Russian milbloggers recently indicated that Russian commanders are increasingly facing a choice between either “wasting” their troops in counterattacks to hold tactical positions, or standing up to the Russian military command by retreating to previously prepared positions, thereby risking their careers.[4] One Russian frontline unit commander also indicated that Commander of Russian VDV Forces Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky previously helped a degraded VDV formation avoid resuming counterattacks in the Bakhmut direction, and Shoigu could be snubbing formations who are advocating for tactical retreats to prepared defensive positions.[5]