Will the Pandemic Weaken Russia’s ‘Deep State’—or Make It Stronger Still? | Council on Foreign Relations


The dramatic drop in the global demand for oil could prove to be a greater problem for the national security bureaucracy.

Under the best of circumstances, a revenue falloff would put serious pressure on the state budget, one-third of which comes from energy exports. The Russian government has been forced to abandon its fiscal conservatism for deficit spending—corporate bailouts, payments to the unemployed, emergency medical costs, and other measures to support the economy.

But not all budgets will increase equally, and the power ministries will almost certainly be targets for belt-tightening. A scramble for resources will bring out divisions within Russia’s deep state.

The security services and the armed forces could find themselves at odds over spending priorities. Within the military, procurement slowdowns will surely be weighed against reductions in manpower and operations.

Source: Will the Pandemic Weaken Russia’s ‘Deep State’—or Make It Stronger Still? | Council on Foreign Relations

The Geography of COVID-19 and a Vulnerable Global Food System


Late last month, as the coronavirus continued to spread across the globe, the World Food Program warned of a “hunger pandemic.” With lockdowns constraining the incomes of the poor and supply chain disruptions preventing food from reaching consumers, pandemic-related hunger and malnutrition could eventually take more lives than the disease itself.

Understanding the geography of the pandemic and the vulnerability of different food systems is critical for a well-informed response.

According to the WFP, there are now 821 million people in the world who go to bed hungry every night, and an additional 135 million face crisis levels of hunger or starvation. That latter number could nearly double to 265 million by the end of the year because of COVID-19.

Source: The Geography of COVID-19 and a Vulnerable Global Food System

Credit card companies are tracking and sharing your data like never be


This isn’t the only service offering to mask people’s transactions. Last August, Apple introduced the Apple Card, a Goldman Sachs–issued, no-number credit card that won’t track your purchases. Privacy and other upstart software companies such as FigLeaf and Abine are working on burner cards and other technologies, such as password managers and browser extensions that cloak your web surfing.

Offline, consumers have always been able to buy things anonymously with cash. But online, it’s a different story. “We want to give consumers the control to say, ‘I love doing business with you, I want to participate on the internet—I just want to do it on my terms,’ ” says Abine cofounder Rob Shavell.

We’ve become accustomed to the grim fact that nearly every major advertiser, website, and personal device maker collects and monitors users’ data to some extent. Some do it for their own purposes.

Others do it in the service of various algorithmic spymasters, such as Facebook or Google, which analyze vast arrays of personal information—from social media likes to GPS locations—to serve up relevant ads.

Source: Credit card companies are tracking and sharing your data like never be

Who Invented Soap? The Origins of a Life-Saving Substance | Time


Soap is serially underestimated and underutilized because it suffers from a fundamental PR problem: it cleans away something you cannot see. That’s a difficult conceptual leap for even the most educated among us.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection, doctors wash their hands half as frequently as they should. Soap also saves the life of a healthy person oblivious to the bullet they dodged. So despite not only saving more lives than penicillin but enabling our modern urban existence, we still underrate what is perhaps the greatest medical discovery in human history.

Who discovered soap’s recipe?

Source: Who Invented Soap? The Origins of a Life-Saving Substance | Time

The World Order After COVID-19 Hinges on What Kind of America Emerges


The future of the world order is not preordained, but one thing seems certain. The arc of history will depend heavily on whether the post-coronavirus United States embraces constructive internationalism or clings to its current, disastrous course under President Donald Trump.

In his first three years in office, prior to COVID-19, Trump undercut America’s global influence by abdicating U.S. global leadership, marginalizing international institutions and adopting a cynical, transactional and exploitative approach to global affairs.

America’s unilateral and flailing response to the coronavirus has reinforced this image of the United States a malignant and hapless former hegemon.

Abroad, the sinews binding America to its closest partners, already stretched thin, are at the breaking point. Europeans are moving from sorrow to resignation that the United States is incapable of looking beyond narrow self-interest.

None of this will change so long as Trump is in the White House.

Source: The World Order After COVID-19 Hinges on What Kind of America Emerges

Time for Europe to beef up its China strategy | EURACTIV.com


The recent controversy over whether Beijing pressured the European External Action Service to water down a critical report on Chinese disinformation is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, write David Fernandez and Fabrice Pothier.

Beijing has been building a political and economic beachhead into the European continent for the past decade, with a recipe of strategic investment leveraged to increase its influence in European capitals.

A year ago, Europe began to wake up to this challenge, branding China a ‘systemic rival’. The European Council endorsed ten actions that sought to re-balance the relationship with China. A year later, based on an audit we conducted, the new European strategy has failed to alter China’s economic practices and global posture.

Source: Time for Europe to beef up its China strategy – EURACTIV.com

Borrell: COVID-19 outbreak ‘has ended up blowing up’ the global order | EURACTIV.com


The coronavirus pandemic has effectively destroyed the global governance model and the EU should play a key role in rebuilding the international order, the bloc’s High Representative Vice-President Josep Borrell told reporters on Thursday (7 May).

“The coronavirus pandemic has ended up blowing up the model of multilateral governance that was tottering already over the past few years,” Borrell said.

He described the current international context as a “multipolar disorder,” with the US leadership missing and a growing tension between Washington and Beijing exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

This could be an opportunity for the EU though.

Source: Borrell: COVID-19 outbreak ‘has ended up blowing up’ the global order – EURACTIV.com

French, Dutch join forces to urge EU to show teeth on trade | EURACTIV.com


France and the Netherlands have joined forces to urge the European Union to enforce environmental and labor standards more forcefully with countries the bloc signs trade deals with, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The initiative comes as the EU tries to negotiate a new trade deal with Britain, which formally left the bloc on 31 January, amid concerns that it might seek to undercut EU labor and environmental standards to boost its competitiveness.

The involvement of the traditionally strongly pro-free trade Dutch underscores a shift in European thinking on the need to protect domestic industry and jobs, a French diplomat said, as the coronavirus pandemic batters the global economy.

A more assertive China and US President Donald Trump’s more protectionist ‘America-First’ agenda have also helped to reshape European attitudes towards free trade.

Source: French, Dutch join forces to urge EU to show teeth on trade – EURACTIV.com

The Brief – Where do we go from here? | EURACTIV.com


Two months since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Europe’s reactions are tangling between laissez-faire and Titanic-mode. While many celebrate the gradual lifting of lockdown measures and nations consider when and how to restart their economies, uncertainty remains the disease’s relentless companion.

Worldwide, the number of coronavirus cases has soared above four million people across 177 countries, and more than a quarter-million deaths. The 1918 Spanish Flu, to which there have been so many references in recent weeks, killed up to 100 million people worldwide. Thank God we are nowhere near this.

Source: The Brief, powered by IPA Europe – Where do we go from here? – EURACTIV.com

France pushing for tough EU response to any West Bank annexation | EURACTIV.com


France is urging its European Union partners to consider threatening Israel with a tough response if it goes ahead with a de facto annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, three EU diplomats said.

Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg also want to discuss the possibility of punitive economic measures during a foreign ministers’ meeting on Friday (15 May), the diplomats told Reuters, though all member states would have to agree to any collective action.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions will start in July over extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

Source: France pushing for tough EU response to any West Bank annexation – EURACTIV.com