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Jack Devine, Former Acting Director, National Clandestine Service, CIA
Myanmar’s multifaceted support of Russia is a microcosm of its strategy in Southeast Asia.
In the months following the February military coup in Myanmar, Russia and China were the junta’s most powerful allies, but Russia exploited regional instability to position itself as a third route between China and the West. While China has been closer to the previous Myanmar government than the military, it has also been concerned about the government’s ties with the West and possible interference in its development efforts, particularly its Belt and Road Initiative. Russia, on the other hand, does not depend on stability in Southeast Asia to the same degree as China and may instead take advantage of warring factions. Last month, during his first trip outside the immediate region since February, Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing went to Moscow to meet with high-ranking Russian defense officials instead of going to Beijing. Hlaing is said to have visited Russia seven times within the past decade and has previously stated that more than 6,000 Myanmar officers have studied in Russian military academies. According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia accounted for nearly 40% of arms sales to Myanmar from 1999-2018, second only to China. SIPRI data further indicates that Russia has been Southeast Asia’s largest arms supplier for the past two decades, counting Vietnam and Laos as major customers. But Russia offers the region more than weapons and has promised Myanmar two million Covid-19 vaccines and assistance in the nation’s own vaccine production efforts. Russia has also tried to expand free trade agreements between its Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Southeast Asian countries, most recently prompting Indonesia to sign the agreement. Stepping even further into soft power, last week Russia’s foreign minister met with his Bangladeshi counterpart and agreed to urge Myanmar to dialogue with Bangladesh on the Rohingya crisis.
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Leftist, former school teacher Pedro Castillo is declared President of a divided Peru, projected economic growth could play in his favor.
Peru, like many of its neighbors, has fought against the triple and intertwined threat of Covid-19, social unrest and severe economic downturn. But over the past few years Peru has also been challenged by sharp divisions between its executive and legislative powers. Last November, Peru’s unicameral parliament voted to accuse then-president Martín Vizcarra, citing mismanagement of the pandemic and corruption, in a move that has outraged thousands. The June presidential election was equally tense. Castillo’s right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori, who is also under investigation for corruption, alleged election fraud and the Peruvians initiated a six-week-long investigation, eventually finding Castillon the legitimate winner. The EU, the US and 14 election missions deemed the elections legitimate, and the US called the election a “model of democracy” for the region. Castillo, who previously worked as an elementary school teacher and never held public office, will be greeted by a political establishment almost entirely against him. Peruvian citizens are also deeply divided, and many urban elites have reportedly moved their money abroad out of fear for Castillo’s economic policies. But Castillo’s Peru Libre party has less than 40 of 130 seats in parliament and Castillo has already recruited several moderate councilors. Furthermore, he withdrew from a talk on nationalizing Peru’s lucrative multinational mining, oil, gas and hydrocarbon companies, instead promising to increase taxes on mining companies. Prices of copper and gold, two of Peru’s most critical exports, remain high and Covid-related trade barriers are expected to decline over the coming months. Although it is uncertain how effective Castillo will be, or where he will ultimately fall on his policies, positive projections for Peru’s export-based economy are likely to play in his favor.
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Enjin is becoming the first blockchain platform to gain acceptance into the United Nations Global Compact, signaling a wide range of corporate sustainability efforts.
On Tuesday, Enjin, an innovative blockchain technology company focused on non-fungible tokens (NFT), became the first such company to join the United Nations Global Compact. After recognition, Enjin stated that it hopes to use NFTs to promote sustainability and equality in line with the UN pact, which encourages businesses and firms globally to adopt more environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices. NFTs have increased in popularity in the last two years, and during the first quarter of 2021 NFT sales reportedly exceeded US $ 2 billion. Basically, NFT is a way to prove ownership of a unique virtual object. It is a unit of data that is stored in a blockchain or digital ledger that attests to exclusive possession of digital files ranging from photos to sports business cards. Enjin, which is headquartered in Singapore, has focused its NFT efforts on games and apps and is said to be able to operate with a lower carbon footprint than Bitcoin due to a thinner control model that requires less energy. This week, the UN Global Compact not only included Enjin as a member, but gave the company its highest membership rank, sending a signal that it is interested in promoting such an environmental effort by crypto and blockchain entrepreneurs. For his part, Enjin stated that it wants to use the technology in carbon capture companies, fighting climate change in the process. The Head of the UN AI and Robotics Center noted that during the global struggle to recover from the pandemic we should take advantage of new technologies like AI and blockchain to better equip ourselves for the future.
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