Jun 10, 2021

Axios World

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1 big thing: Biden's Euro trip cheat sheet

Just two pals hanging out in Cornwall. Photo: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing St. via Getty

President Biden arrived in Europe for his first foreign trip bearing what could be a game-changing pledge: 500 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to be shared with low- and middle-income countries over the next year.

The state of play: The remaining G7 members — Canada, the EU, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and this year’s hosts, the U.K. — are set to pledge at least another 500 million to bring the total to 1 billion by mid-2021, per a draft communique seen by Bloomberg.

  • After months of vaccine hoarding by the world’s wealthiest countries, that's a whiplash-inducing shift — particularly from the U.S., which wasn’t even allowing vaccine exports until recently.
  • But a year is a long time in the life of the pandemic, so urgency is a key element here.
  • The U.S. already has sufficient supply to cover all domestic demand, while the other G7 countries will reach that point by June (Canada), July (France, Italy, Germany, U.K.) or August (Japan), per an analysis from the One Campaign.

What to watch: The G7 is also set to call for a new investigation into the origin of the pandemic, per the draft communique.

  • The key unresolved question is what the countries will announce on climate change — in particular how much money they'll make available to help poorer countries decarbonize their economies.
  • The summit's host, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is reportedly pushing for a climate “Marshall Plan.”

Biden’s next stop will be Brussels for his first NATO summit (June 14–15).

  • The alliance went through something of an identity crisis over the last four years, with Donald Trump calling it obsolete and French President Emmanuel Macron declaring it brain dead.
  • Biden will have to reassure allies that America is indeed back while also encouraging them to invest in their own defense, says Stacie Pettyjohn of the Center for a New American Security.
  • Questions will remain about whether America is back to stay, she adds: “There’s a fear that President Trump could return, or that another nationalist leader could be elected.”
  • It’s also not clear to what extent Biden’s top geopolitical priority —countering China — will be on the agenda.

What to watch: Biden will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan while in Brussels.

Biden’s last stop is Geneva for his much-anticipated summit with Vladimir Putin.

  • Biden says his goal is to lay the groundwork for a "stable and predictable" relationship with Russia.
  • On the Russian side, there's a split between the Foreign Ministry and the security establishment, says Tatiana Stanovaya of Carnegie Moscow.
  • The former sees the summit as a “last chance” to put long-standing strategic issues on the table, while the latter wants a more “pragmatic and realistic agenda” that concludes with channels of communication in place to handle day-to-day challenges going forward.

Flashback: Putin arrived at his 2018 summit with Trump in Helsinki with high hopes and a series of proposals for the future of the relationship, Stanovaya says.

  • Now, "there are fears [in Moscow] that the U.S. side will use this summit to make a point, and after this, the dialogue will fizzle out."

Go deeper:

2. Data du jour: Biden's warm welcome
Expand chart
Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

President Biden took office with a groundswell of goodwill from America's allies, with 75% of respondents across 12 countries surveyed by Pew expressing confidence in him vs. 17% in Donald Trump.

Breaking it down: The percentage of people in those countries — mostly European and Asian allies — viewing the U.S. positively jumped from 34% to 62% after Biden took office.

  • In terms of his confidence rating, Biden is just behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel (77%), who is attending her final G7 summit before stepping down later this year.

Another new survey of 11 countries — 10 NATO allies plus Sweden — suggests that there may be some appetite in Europe for Biden's goal of working together to compete with China.

  • Majorities in all 11 countries consider the U.S. (62% overall) as the leading global power, ahead of China (20%), the EU (14%), and Russia (4%).
  • Majorities in all those countries have negative views of China's global influence, with Germans (67% negative) the most negative and Italians (51% negative) more on the fence.
  • Large pluralities in every country besides Turkey would also like to see their governments take a tougher line with China on human rights, climate, trade and other issues.

Worth noting: There's a large generation gap in views of the relative power of the U.S. and China. In Poland, for example, 45% of 18- to 24-year-olds view the U.S. as the most powerful country vs. 81% of those over 55.

3. Netanyahu rejects Trump comparisons, pledges peaceful transition

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Horacio Villalobos (Corbis), Michele Eve Sandberg (Corbis), Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party today rejected the comparisons being made between Netanyahu's efforts to block a transition of power and those of former President Trump, Axios' Barak Ravid and I write.

Why it matters: On the verge of being replaced after 12 years in power, Netanyahu has been working to delegitimize the incoming government and accusing its leaders of perpetrating “the fraud of the century."

  • Fears of potential political violence have been growing in Israel ahead of a vote on Sunday to confirm the incoming government, which will be led by right-wing former Netanyahu protege Naftali Bennett and centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid.
  • Members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, have faced death threats and protests from angry Netanyahu supporters outside their homes.
  • Netanyahu has rejected claims that he and his inner circle are inciting violence, and he continues to claim he's the victim of "the biggest election fraud in history."

What they're saying: Tweeting in English, Netanyahu's party said he had "complete confidence" in the vote count, but insisted Bennett was nonetheless committing fraud by forming a government with Lapid after promising not to do so during the campaign.

What's next: Although Likud says Netanyahu is committed to a peaceful transition of power, his aides won't say whether he'll attend the official ceremony on Monday in which Bennett is set to assume his office.

  • If the incoming government is confirmed, Netanyahu would likely serve as opposition leader, and he's already pledged to bring it down quickly.
4. Global news roundup

Castillo declares victory. Photo: Gian Masko/AFP via Getty

1. Leftist schoolteacher Pedro Castillo appears to have been elected as Peru's next president, though his margin of victory is just 0.4% and 300,000 votes are still being scrutinized by electoral authorities.

Driving the news: His opponent Keiko Fujimori, the right-wing daughter of a former autocrat, is claiming fraud without evidence and could demand a recount.

  • In yet another twist on Thursday, a prosecutor requested that Fujimori be returned to jail for allegedly violating bail tied to corruption charges that predate the election.
  • The big picture: Peru has cycled through five presidents in the past five years and many of the country's leading politicians have been charged with corruption.
  • What to watch: Castillo's policy platform was fairly vague, but he has called for greater state intervention in the economy, and his apparent victory has bolstered the resurgent Latin American left.

2. President Daniel Ortega is doing his best to ensure Nicaragua does not hold a competitive election in November — arresting a string of prominent opposition leaders and civil society activists, intimidating journalists, and erasing any illusions that the country remains a democracy.

  • Driving the news: The U.S. sanctioned four Nicaraguan officials on Wednesday, including Ortega's daughter.

3. A Russian court on Wednesday outlawed organizations founded by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, labeling the groups "extremist," threatening Navalny's associates with jail time and effectively banning them from running for office.

  • The backdrop: The move came one week before the Biden-Putin summit.

4. China criticized a sweeping Beijing-focused global competition bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, calling the $250 billion package "full of Cold War mentality," Axios' Jacob Knutson writes.

5. France has suspended military cooperation and around $12.1 million in aid to the Central African Republic because of the country's failure to stop an anti-France disinformation campaign linked to Russia, which has major influence in CAR.

Bonus: Where in the World?
Screengrab via Apple Maps

The pins mark the world's two highest-elevation capital cities. Can you name the cities and the mountain range?

  • Bonus I: The third-highest is to the northeast of the red pin in the neighboring country.
  • Bonus II: Can you name the islands at the top left?

Scroll to the bottom for the answer.

5. What I'm reading: All the king's jabs

Waiting for a shot, in Bangkok. Photo: Sirachai Arunrugstichai/Getty Images

People all over the world have been bemoaning their countries' slow vaccine rollouts, but that's more complicated in Thailand, where it's illegal to criticize the king... who happens to own the company producing the vaccines.

The backstory: AstraZeneca chose Siam Bioscience as its production hub in Southeast Asia. But the royally owned company had never produced a vaccine before and appears to be far behind schedule, the FT reports.

  • Thailand's most well-known opposition politician, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, was charged under lèse majesté laws for questioning the choice of the company.
  • But impatience is growing with just 5% of the population having had a first dose, and the delays are also hitting countries like the Philippines and Malaysia that are counting on exports from Thailand.

The big picture: "Other Asian countries that made it through 2020 with low Covid-19 caseloads, including Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam, are now also finding themselves vulnerable because of slow vaccination rollouts," the FT notes.

6. What I'll be watching: Euro 2020

Ukraine's Euro 2020 jersey. Photo: AFP via Getty

Soccer's European Championship kicks off tomorrow, with Italy facing Turkey.

Why it matters: The quadrennial festival of European football was delayed from last summer due to the pandemic. It always makes for a compelling mix of elite sport and national pride.

  • The favorites are defending world champions France, but Euro 2016 winners Portugal still have Cristiano Ronaldo and thus still have a shot.
  • England has young stars, Belgium is packed with talent, and it's always a mistake to overlook Spain or Germany.
  • But one of the joys of the Euros is watching smaller nations like N. Macedonia (pop. 2 million) take on the big boys.

Politics are never far from the pitch either. Ukraine's uniforms were to feature a map of the country's borders (including occupied Crimea) along with the slogans “Glory to Ukraine” and “Glory to the Heroes.”

  • The tournament's organizers ruled today that the latter slogan must be removed because of alleged military connotations.
  • That announcement followed outraged objections from Russia, which will also be taking part in the tournament.

However, the map will stay, and it'll serve as a reminder that this tournament is always about a bit more than the soccer.

7. Stories we're watching

Chess by the canal in Berlin. Photo: Steffi Loos/Getty Images

  1. Myanmar junta charges Aung San Suu Kyi
  2. Afghanistan withdrawal 50% complete
  3. Man who slapped Macron sentenced to 4 months
  4. Spectators in Tokyo?
  5. Heat wave roasts Middle East
  6. El Salvador's bitcoin play
  7. Ex-Mossad director dismisses China threat

Quoted:

"A physical and emotional clone of [Trump]."
— Joe Biden on Boris Johnson in Dec. 2019
"We generally agree, Joe."
— Johnson playing nice as he chatted with Biden upon meeting him today

Answer: We're in the Andes visiting La Paz, Bolivia (purple pin), Quito, Ecuador (red pin), Bogotá, Colombia (bonus I) and the Galápagos Islands (bonus II).