RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter August 22 – 28, 2023 Mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin presumed dead in plane crash Yevgeny Prigozhin,
Geopolitics Newsletter August 22 – 28, 2023
Mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin presumed dead in plane crash
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian state-funded private military company the Wagner Group, is presumed dead following a plane crash earlier this week northwest of Moscow. The Wagner Group led a short-lived rebellion against the Kremlin in June. Prigozhin had claimed that Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was depriving his troops of supplies, and tensions escalated when he accused Russian military leadership of deliberately shelling his men.
Russian reports show that Prigozhin miscalculated following the rebellion and that he overestimated the value of his own loyalty to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, Putin made it clear that he saw the actions of Wagner as a form of treason, even if he did not explicitly mention Prigozhin by name. Preliminary US intelligence assessments concluded that a deliberate explosion caused the plane to crash and that Prigozhin was “very likely” targeted amid suspicions that Putin was responsible.
The assumptions fall in line with a long history of Putin working to silence his critics. However, following the plane crash, Putin released a statement expressing his condolences to the victims’ families and calling Prigozhin a “talented man” who made “serious mistakes”. Additionally, no evidence has been presented which proves the involvement of the Kremlin or Russian security services in the crash. U.S. President Joe Biden, prominent Russia critic Bill Browder, and Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak have all expressed their belief that Putin was responsible.
The apparent death of Prigozhin and other Wagner officials leaves the future of the group in question. The group is currently at its weakest since it first emerged over a decade ago, and it will not likely be able to reverse its decline, which accelerated after the recent rebellion. The Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense will likely either punish the remaining members or fully dismantle the group, according to reports.
PMC Wagner Group boos Yevgeny Prigozhin | Photo: Vladimir Alexandrov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
G20 2023 trade and investment ministers meeting – August 24
The latest G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting (TIMM) allows member delegations to finalize actionable measures related to the G20 Trade and Investment Working Group’s previously determined priorities. Throughout India’s G20 presidency, PM Narendra Modi has emphasized proactively involving the Global South in addressing challenges facing global trade and investment in a digitizing world. The G20 is likely to call for WTO reform in the future and proclaim the importance of an equitable and inclusive global economy. Read more.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong completed a visit to Vietnam – August 25
The purpose of the three-day visit was to co-host the fifth Australia-Vietnam Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AVFMM), in which Wong and Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son agreed to continue implementing high-level agreements, including a comprehensive strategic partnership. Read more.
Belgian Senate president Stephanie D’Hose concluded a visit to Vietnam – August 25
Her visit included discussions with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son and the chairman of Vietnam’s legislature Vuong Dinh Hue to improve the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and increase Belgian investment in Vietnamese clean energy and agriculture. Read more.
Diplomacy, Defense, and Security
15th BRICS Summit took place in South Africa – August 22-24
The main topic on the agenda included the expansion of BRICS, with over 40 countries expressing interest in joining including Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia joining BRICS would significantly strengthen the economic power of the bloc, as it is one of the world’s largest oil producers and exporters. Read more.
President Lula Da Silva conducted a diplomatic voyage in Africa – 25-27 August
After his participation at the 15th BRICS Summit, the Brazilian head of state departed on a diplomatic voyage to two African states. His first visit was to Luanda, Angola where he had a bilateral meeting with President João Lourenço and addressed the National Assembly. Finally, President Lula concluded his tour in São Tomé and Príncipe for the 14th Conference of Heads of State of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. Read more.
Society and Politics
Chinese President Xi Jinping embarked on a state visit to South Africa – August 21
President Xi Jinping began his state visit to South Africa ahead of the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg. China is South Africa’s largest trading partner. Talks between South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Xi were centered around expanding trade and investment, and whether to admit new members into BRICS. Read more.
Cambodian National Assembly confirmed army chief Hun Manet as new prime minister – August 22
The power transition will likely proceed without complications, given that the current prime minister’s party—the Cambodian People’s Party—controls nearly all seats in the legislature. Read more.
The Thai parliament held another vote for PM – August 22
The Thai parliament held another vote for PM. Three months after the progressive Move Forward party won a majority of seats in the Thai general election, the center-right party Pheu Thai reached an agreement with the military-dominated upper house. Read more.
Biden arrived in Hawaii to survey wildfire damage – August 22
President Biden arrived in Hawaii to survey the damage caused by wildfires on the island of Maui. The worst conflagration in over 100 years has killed more than 100 people and caused billions of dollars in property damage. As a response, Biden signed a major disaster declaration, freeing up federal aid to address the crisis. Wildfires are likely to increase in number and intensity in the decades to come due to climate change. Democrats are likely to emphasize the subjects of climate change and wildfire frequency in the coming elections. Read more.
Somalia banned Tiktok and Telegram – August 24
Somalia is enacting a ban on the social media application TikTok, as well as the messaging application Telegram and online betting website 1Xbet. Bans of social media apps in Somalia are fixated on the prevention of immoral and violent visual media. The youth is protesting the restriction on entertainment and their civil liberties. Read More.
The 7th Global Environmental Facility Assembly concluded – August 26
The assembly, held in Canada, included ministerial representatives and civil society organizations from 185 countries. Discussions focused on global environmental concerns such as biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution. Read more.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Top Armenian and Indian security officials to meet in New Delhi – August 28
Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia Armen Grigoryan will travel to New Delhi to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Last September, the two countries signed military agreements with the intent of providing the Armenian army with heavy weaponry amid its conflict with Azerbaijan. India’s arms sales are likely part of its strategy to establish itself as a reliable defense player globally. Read more. [EXTERNAL]
The International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (IMDEC) begins in Ghana – August 28
Discussions at the conference will focus on the role of stakeholders and technology in maintaining a safe and secure maritime domain. Regional and international Chiefs of Naval Staff will also speak about the progressively volatile maritime threats facing Africa’s territorial waters and its blue economy. Read more. [EXTERNAL]
Contributions by: Madeline McQuillan, Zachary Marthinussen, and Alex Rannou