Also: China, the US, Europe, Israel, India and Zimbabwe.
Putin’s chef appears to have been knifed.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s name appeared on the manifest of a downed plane outside Moscow, according to Russian media on Wednesday. Another plane belonging to the mercenary leader, and former restaurateur, safely landed.
INTELLIGENCE. No one should be surprised that Prigozhin, who led a mutiny against the Kremlin in June, is now gone (we assume). Putin’s foes have been turning up dead for years. But Prigozhin’s apparent demise, and the removal the same day of General Sergei Surovikin (a Prigozhin ally), does little to address rising dissatisfaction within the Russian military. As a former Kremlin adviser put it, Prigozhin’s death could be Ukraine’s biggest achievement.
FOR BUSINESS. What Prigozhin’s reported death means for Russia in Africa remains to be seen. Wagner has been a critical part of the Kremlin’s foreign toolkit over the past decade, providing security and weapons to autocratic regimes that enabled the Kremlin to raise revenue and challenge the US and its allies. The Kremlin will want to hold on to this lucrative instrument, possibly by rebranding or bringing in new leadership (even someone like Surovikin).
CHINA. UNITED STATES. Talk is cheap.
Gina Raimondo accepts an invitation to China.
The US Commerce Secretary held “productive” talks with Chinese Ambassador Xie Feng on Tuesday, and will visit Beijing and Shanghai on Sunday. British foreign secretary James Cleverly will reportedly visit China next week.
INTELLIGENCE. Raimondo’s upcoming visit – the fourth by a high-level US official since June – shows at least that talks are still happening. But Beijing remains sceptical about Washington’s sincerity. An executive order restricting US investment in China has not helped. And despite assurances from Washington that the Biden administration is not seeking to stifle China’s economic growth, an anti-China trade stance has clear bipartisan support from voters.
FOR BUSINESS. While Washington’s policy of “de-risking” appears to be working, with US companies relocating their China operations to other countries, third countries exporting to the US are becoming more integrated in Chinese supply chains. An end to this approach does not seem forthcoming – political pressure will continue to grow – but the costs will soon become apparent, should non-US firms come to dominate intra-Asian trade.
Written by former diplomats and industry specialists, Geopolitical Dispatch gives you the global intelligence for business and investing you won’t find anywhere else.
Eurozone business activity declines again.
The Eurozone Composite Purchasing Managers' Index, seen as a barometer for overall economic health, fell to a 33-month low on Wednesday, raising doubts on whether the European Central Bank will proceed with expected rate hikes.
INTELLIGENCE. Three years of COVID shutdowns, a precipitous shift in German energy policies and the war in Ukraine have taken their toll on Europe’s economy. An economic squeeze could test the bloc’s geopolitical resilience, especially in the face of increased defence commitments as well as future Ukrainian reconstruction. Recent investments by the likes of Intel and TSMC cast a silver lining, but these have come on the back of heavy subsidies.
FOR BUSINESS. Numbers seldom lie – the EU economy is having a tough time. Although inflation is now at an 18-month low of 5.3% in July, it remains well above the ECB’s 2% target. Activity in the bloc’s dominant services industry declined for the first time since December, while the contraction in manufacturing output has continued. Expect EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni’s forecast for the Eurozone next month to be subdued.
Israel increases natural gas exports to Egypt.
Energy Minister Israel Katz said on Wednesday Israel would send more natural gas to Egypt, increasing the state’s revenue and strengthening diplomatic ties. Egypt re-exports Israeli gas as LNG to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
INTELLIGENCE. Israel has emerged as a gas exporter following major offshore discoveries in the last decade. Demand is high as Europe scrambles to replace Russian supplies disrupted by war. The promise of becoming a regional energy powerhouse is an incentive for Israel to work with its neighbours –a maritime border with Lebanon was delineated last year to enable offshore exploration – but policies on Palestine continue to stain the optics.
FOR BUSINESS. Benjamin Netanyahu is keen to showcase Israel’s natural gas industry as a boost to Israel’s economy. The nascent sector is expected to be worth $55 billion by 2064. But gas profits cannot compensate for the economic damage caused by renewed West Bank violence and controversial judicial reforms, which have resulted in credit rating downgrades and capital flight. Of note, investment in tech firms has dropped 68% since the start of 2023.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
INDIA. RUSSIA. Eclipsed.
India becomes the first to land on the Moon’s south pole.
The Indian Space Research Organisation successfully landed its Chandrayaan-3 lunar probe on Wednesday, following Russia’s failure to land earlier this week. Chandrayaan-3 was launched with a smaller budget than many sci-fi movies.
INTELLIGENCE. India has astronomical ambitions for its space programme – it has plans to launch its first crewed mission in 2025 and wants to send a research mission to the sun. In contrast, Russia’s space programme has been weakened by poor management, corruption, and political pressure. Moscow hoped its latest moon mission – the first since 1976 – would signal it was still in the space race despite post-Soviet decline. It backfired spectacularly.
FOR BUSINESS. One of the most valuable resources on the moon is water, hence the interest in the lunar south pole, where ice is believed to lie. Lunar mining is a nascent industry, and the Chandrayaan-3 mission could give New Delhi a head-start in developing the necessary technology and infrastructure. India is a signatory to the US-led Artemis Accords, a set of principles for moon exploration and the use of its resources. China and Russia have not signed.
Voting is extended by another day after delays.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced on Wednesday an extra day of voting after delays ostensibly caused by a lack of ballot papers. Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa accused the government of rigging the election.
INTELLIGENCE. Zimbabwe has a history of tainted elections since its independence. The current ballot seems to be no different – delays were only reported in opposition strongholds like Harare and Bulawayo. A good showing for the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change would fit wider trends across the continent, which has also seen opposition parties gain support as young urban voters tire of ruling regimes. But evidently, the ruling Zanu-PF has other ideas.
FOR BUSINESS. Some circles in the West hope that a credible election in Zimbabwe might bring it back to the international stage after decades of isolation. Others regard Zimbabwe’s election as a test for the wider region. Gabon, which heads to the polls on 26 August, seems likely to mirror Zimbabwe’s – recent electoral system changes favour incumbent President Ali Bongo, scion of the family that has run the country as an oil-rich fief since 1967.
Emailed each weekday at 5am Eastern (9am GMT), Daily Assessment gives you the strategic framing and situational awareness to stay ahead in a changing world.