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The World This Week
The US-Africa Leaders Summit and the FTX CEO's arrest

  GP Team

TWTW#194, 18 December 2022, Vol. 4, No. 43

The US: Rekindling relations with Africa at Leaders Summit
Apoorva Sudhakar

What happened?
On 15 December, the three-day Second US-Africa Leaders Summit concluded in Washington wherein US President Joe Biden announced his support to the African Union’s membership at the G20 and an African representative at the UN Security Council. Biden said: “The US is all in on Africa’s future.” He said: “Africa belongs at the table in every room – in every room where global challenges are being discussed, and in every institution where discussions are taking place.” Biden announced that he would visit Sub-Saharan Africa soon, and would also ask the US Vice President, Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary and Commerce Secretary to visit Africa. The White House press release listed initiatives announced in the summit, including establishment of a new diaspora council; expansion of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI); an MoU between the US and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat; establishment of the African Democratic and Political Transitions (ADAPT); and a range of financial support for climate adaptation, food security, and peace and security.
 
On 14 December, Biden said the US was committed to limiting the increasing influence of China and Russia in Africa. Biden outlined the US goal towards “a new 21st Century Partnership for African Security.” On the same day, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson called on the US to “respect the will of the African people and take concrete actions to help Africa’s development, instead of unremittingly smearing and attacking other countries.” The spokesperson said: “Africa is not an arena for great power confrontation or a target for arbitrary pressure by certain countries or individuals.”
 
On 14 December, Ghana’s President and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Nana Akufo-Addo met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and expressed concern over the presence of Russian mercenaries in Africa. Akufo-Addo called on Africa to stop “begging” the West to earn international respect and thereby, change the weak perceptions across the world, about Africa. BBC quoted Akufo-Addo: “If we stop being beggars and spend African money inside the continent, Africa will not need to ask for respect from anyone, we will get the respect we deserve. If we make it prosperous as it should be, respect will follow.”

What is the background?
First, the US-Africa summit. The first US-Africa Leaders Summit was held in 2014 under former President Barack Obama’s presidency. The summit focused on trade, investment, cooperation on gender, health, governance and so on. The 2014 summit was perhaps the first largest interaction the US had with African countries. Following this, former President Donald Trump’s unwillingness to engage with the rest of the world, stagnated the US relations with Africa. 

Second, the focus on trade. Throughout both summits, the US emphasized on the need for trade and investment in Africa. Currently, China is Africa's largest trading partner, largest lender and accounts for the highest foreign direct investment. In 2009, China surpassed the US to become Africa’s largest trading partner. Simultaneously, along with trade and investment in Africa, China also worked on its Belt and Road initiative in Africa. 

Third, big powers in Africa. Several political leaders have visited Africa in 2022, prior to Biden’s announcement to visit Africa. In July, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov toured Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo in July 2022, aiming to convince them that Moscow would not let the Ukraine war affect Africa. Simultaneously, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau amid France’s currently-tumultuous relations with a few African countries. In October, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba visited Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in October to counter the Russian visit. Meanwhile, China has a strong diplomatic engagement wherein for the last 32 years, China’s first diplomatic visit during New Year’s would be to Africa. Since 2000, Beijing has also been conducting the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation every three years. 

What does it mean?
First, the second US-Africa Leaders Summit appears to be Biden’s efforts to rekindle the US relations with Africa. The objectives in the first and second summits are similar with a heavy focus on trade. However, the US has to rectify the eight-year gap between the two summits and ensure that commitments in both summits are followed through and do not remain initiatives, just on paper. 
 
Second, by focusing on trade and investment, the US is aiming for the best possible engagement currently. Africa is home to an emerging regional market facilitated by the AfCFTA that would bring forth the economic potential of the continent. Africa is also a competitive market with the engagement of major players like China, India and Japan.
 
Third, if the US wishes to limit the Russian and Chinese influence in Africa, it has to provide an attractive alternative to the African countries. However, the US decision to not invite countries that witnessed coups over the last two years indicates its unwillingness to engage with non-democratic countries, where Russia and China already have deep inroads. Therefore, addressing this scenario poses a major challenge. 
 
Fourth, the flurry of visits from different leaders indicates that Africa is an emerging key player in global politics. The diplomatic engagements signal efforts of different countries to court African countries and win their support at the international stage; it testifies to the speculations of a new Scramble for Africa. However, to ensure a new and sustained engagement, all players need to treat Africa as an equal player, and not a mere pawn in global politics. 


The Bahamas: Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried arrested 
Madhura Mahesh

What happened?
On 12 December, former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested by the Bahamian police after US officials filed criminal charges against him. He has been charged by the US government with eight counts which include money laundering, misappropriation of consumer funds, intention to defraud FTX users and violations of campaign rules. Separately he has been accused by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission of similar charges.
 
On 13 December, the Bahamas Magistrate Court denied his request for bail and transferred him to the Fox Hill correctional prison until 08 February.  
US Attorney Damian Williams described his actions as one of America’s biggest financial frauds. The Bahamian Prime Minister said: “The Bahamas and the United States have a shared interest in holding accountable all individuals associated with FTX who may have betrayed the public trust and broken the law.”

What is the background?
First, the fall of FTX. On 11 November, FTX filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Delaware, US which led to prosecutors in the US and Bahamas opening an investigation into the finances of FTX, Almeda LLC and Bankman-Fried. The US investigations revealed that FTX was misappropriating customer funds to pay off debts and make investments in the name of Almeda LLC. The investigations further revealed that Bankman-Fried had shown investors false and misleading information about Almeda’s financial condition to draw more investors in. 
 
Second, the US House Committee on Financial Services hearing on the bankruptcy filing. On 13 December, Bankman-Fried along with FTX Chief Executive John J. Ray III were to testify in front of the House Committee on Financial Services on the collapse of FTX, finances of FTX and Almeda. As Bankman-Fried was arrested on 12 December, only Ray testified where he claimed that the FTX’s fall was “one of the worst business failures” he has ever seen. This was reportedly due to the lack of oversight and financial controls, lack of documentation and accountants and poor record keeping. He also accused the Bahamas government of collaborating with FTX to remove over USD 100 million to help Bahamian account holders amid its crash.   
 
Third, FTX and Bankman-Fried’s donations to Republicans and Democrats’ election campaigns. Bankman-Fried routinely donated to both the Republicans and Democrats’ election campaigns making him one of the largest donors. The Democratic National Committee and the campaign arms of the Senate and House Democrats have pegged the donation amount received from Bankman-Fried since 2020 to be around USD 1.16 million dollars. Investigations have revealed that Bankman-Fried has made illegal donations worth “tens of millions of dollars” to electoral campaigns.

What does it mean?
First, extensive investigations were conducted by the US and Bahaman authorities. The charge sheet against Bankman-Fried filled by the US government, the SEC and CFTC was topical and vague which not only shows the extensive nature of the crimes but tells us that more investigations need to be conducted. The ongoing investigations in the Bahamas regarding the liquidation of FTX’s assets in the country also add to the list of investigations against Bankman-Fried. The dearth of information will ensure that the prosecutors and Bankman-Fried’s lawyers will need months to submit admissible evidence to the courts for the trial to actually begin. As Bankman-Fried is currently detained in the Bahamas, the next step for the US government is to apply for his extradition which will be another laborious ordeal.   
 
Second, uncertainty over the return of FTX customer funds. Due to the bankruptcy filing, lack of funds, and the extensive investigations and trials pending, the issue of FTX customers getting their funds back appears to be grim. Currently, Ray and FTX are looking to sell off their assets and international wings of the crypto exchange to recover funds to pay back the debts and customers but are not able to collect enough funds to do so.


Also in the news...
Regional round-ups

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: Vice Premier meets Iran’s President in Tehran
On 13 December, China’s Vice Premier Hu Chunhua met with Iran’s President Ebrahum Raisi in Tehran and discussed deepening bilateral relations between the two countries. Hu explained that China views its relations with Iran from a strategic perspective and promised to not waver from its objective of developing the partnership. He said: “China stands ready to work with Iran to earnestly implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, make joint efforts to advance the implementation of the China-Iran comprehensive cooperation plan, and push for new progress in bilateral practical cooperation.”
 
China: Embassy in Japan strongly condemns the passing of three defence policy documents
On 16 December, China’s Embassy in Japan issued a statement after the country passed three key defence policy documents and strongly opposed the documents for targeting China as an “unprecedented strategic challenge.” Japan passed the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Medium-Term Defense Program. China pointed that through these documents, Japan was moving away from its pledge of pursuing a post-war peaceful development. A spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy said: “Saying such things within the documents severely distorts the facts, violates the principles and spirit of the four China-Japan political documents, wantonly hypes "China threat" and provokes regional tension and confrontation.” On the same day, China also sent its PLA Navy destroyers Lhasa and Kaifeng and a replenishment ship through the straits near Japan.
 
EU-ASEAN Summit: Leaders affirm commitment to a rule-based international order
On 14 December, leaders of nine ASEAN countries and 27 EU leaders gathered for the first time in Brussels for the EU-ASEAN Cooperation summit. Leaders of all member nations gathered for the commemoration of 45 years of diplomatic relations, with only Myanmar excluded. Leaders reaffirmed their partnership based on shared values and principles such as the rules-based international order, the respect of territorial integrity and effective and sustainable multilateralism. They discussed past achievements and future endeavours in a wide range of areas of the strategic partnership, including peace and security, connectivity and digital transition, clean and just energy transition, economic cooperation and trade, sustainable development, climate change and energy, COVID-19 pandemic and regional and international issues. The two blocs affirmed their commitment to rules-based international order. The summit statement also stressed the importance of peace in the South China Sea and expressed deep concern about the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar and "grave concern" about instability on the Korean peninsula.

The European Commission released the President Ursula von der Leyen statement on the conclusion of the summit. Many deals were agreed between both blocs. One, President Ursula declared a EUR 10 billion investment under EU’s “Global Gateway Strategy” to speed up the investments towards infrastructure, green transition, sustainable connectivity in the ASEAN. Two, the EU along with Vietnam, the UK and countries part of the International Partners Group agreed on “Just Energy Transition Partnership with Vietnam.” The partnership is aimed to help it achieve Net Zero goal by 2050 and mobilise USD 15.5 billion from the private and public finance to help with Vietnam’s green transition. Three, President von der Leyen and the Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong agreed on digital partnership for 2023, to facilitate “data flows and data innovation, digital trust, standards, digital skills for workers, and the digital transformation of businesses.” Lastly, two bilateral agreements were signed by the EU with Malaysia and Thailand. In a joint statement: “We commit to develop the EU-ASEAN Strategic Partnership that is based on international law, mutual interest and mutually beneficial cooperation on issues of common concern and the principle of equality.”

Indonesia: Extradition treaty with Singapore passed by parliament
On 15 December, Indonesia’s parliament passed a bilateral extradition agreement treaty with Singapore. The law is expected to help authorities bring justice to people accused of 31 types of crimes who are liable for extradition. The law will also apply to offences committed up to 18 years ago. The treaty also states that people would not be able to escape justice by changing their citizenship. Singapore said the agreement would be helpful to Indonesia’s efforts to prevent suspected criminals from fleeing overseas and for them to be apprehended in Indonesia.
 
Indonesia:  ASEAN members should respect its policy and support Myanmar’s democracy, says Foreign Minister
On 12 December, the Hindu reported that Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi   said that India’s decision to engage the Myanmar government could make the ASEAN efforts towards democracy “less effective.” She urged India and other countries to follow the ASEAN consensus to help Myanmar out of its political crisis rather than adopting a different path.

South Asia This Week 
India-Pakistan: Foreign Minister Jaishankar called Islamabad’s remarks at UNSC “uncivilized outburst”

On 16 December, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs lashed out at Pakistan for Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s uncivilized remarks at the Indian Prime Minister at the UNSC. According to the Hindu, the Pakistani Foreign Minister said: “Osama bin Laden is dead. But the butcher of Gujarat lives and he is the Prime Minister of India.” India called this an “uncivilized outburst.” Indian External Ministry’s Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: Pakistan Foreign Minister’s uncivilized outburst seems to be a result of Pakistan’s increasing inability to use terrorists and their proxies,” He added: “Cities like New York, Mumbai, Pulwama, Pathankot and London are among the many that bear the scars of Pakistan-sponsored and instigated terrorism. This violence has emanated from their Special Terrorist Zones and exported to all parts of the world. ‘Make in Pakistan’ terrorism has to stop,”
 
Sri Lanka: World Food Program approves Country Strategic Plan
On 14 December, the World Food Program (WFP) the Executive Board accepted Sri Lanka’s Country Strategic Plan (CSP) for the tenure between January 2023 and December 2027. The project is valued at USD 74.87 million and aligned with both the National Policy Framework and the United Nations Sustainable Development Corporation Framework (UNSDCF) 2023-2027. The WFP Executive Director in Rome David M. Beasley said that the WFP will help Sri Lanka to maximize the output of the investment in food security and nutrition. The CSP is formulated to support the country in attaining food security and nutrition by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goal.
 
Sri Lanka: UNICEF and Rotary donate essential medicines worth USD 130,000
On 16 December, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Rotary donated a consignment of essential medicines worth over USD 130,000, received by Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella. Rotary International President Jennifer Jones and the UNICEF Representative for Sri Lanka Christian Skoog handed the medicines to the Health Ministry under the Lifeline project. The money for the medicines was raised by Rotary’s global network. In the event, jones said: “Your country has such wonderful people with smiling faces all the time. We must make sure to save that smile in the future.” The medicines will support different types of treatments, including pregnant women, pain management, and high blood pressure.
 
Maldives: China’s ambassador says bilateral relations an example to the world
On 14 December, China’s Ambassador to Maldives, Wang Lixin, attended the Business Forum on Joint Construction of the Belt and Road between China and Maldives held in Male. Speaking at the forum, Wang said that the two countries have always respected and supported each other, this is a great example of how countries of different sizes treat each other equally and seek win-win cooperation. Wang added that China and Maldives stayed together in difficult times and helped each other, worked together, and deepened cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative to open a new chapter in China-Maldives relations. Wang added that China had provided the Maldives with 200,000 doses of vaccines and a large number of epidemic prevention materials. She also said that the importance of infrastructure development projects in the Maldives by Chinese contractors include the Sinamale Bridge, which is said to have seen more than 100 million crossings over the past four years. Wang noted that the close cooperation between the Maldives and China has transformed the Maldives and brought tangible benefits to the people.
 
Nepal: India sign MOUs for education, healthcare and drinking water projects
On 12 December, the Indian Embassy and Nepal’s Ministry of Federal Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding for undertaking three projects in Nepal under the assistance of the Indian government for education, healthcare and drinking water areas. The MOUs entailed that the construction of these projects would provide better education, healthcare and drinking water facilities for the people of Nepal and said that both sides share “wide-ranging” and “multi-sectoral” cooperation. The three projects include the construction of a school in the Udaypur district, the construction of a meditation centre in the Soulukhumbu district, and the building of Lisnekhola Tilaksung Dangchet Jharlang water supply project in the Dhading district amounting to nearly NR 101.79 million. This comes as the Indian Embassy said that India has taken up more than 532 High Impact Development Projects (HICDPs) in Nepal and have completed 476 of them.
 
Bhutan: Two more formal trade routes with India unveiled
On 14 December, Bhutan announced that it opened two more formal trade routes with India and that they would be functional from January near the borders of Lhamoidzingkha in Dagana and Chhuchungsa in Samtse. According to Kunsel, the traders in the Lhamoidzingkha district said that they were “excited” about the trading and investment opportunities after the Lhamoidzingkha-Kulkuli border opens and that the trade routes are a “huge achievement.” This comes as Phuentsholing’s trade route takes nearly two days to transport goods to India through Jaigoan, the border village in West Bengal and the project would entail about an 80 per cent reduction in trading costs cutting to nearly two hours. The Lhamoidzingkha district is close to Assam and West Bengal in India and holds an increasing potential for dry ports and waterways.
 
Bangladesh: IAEA appreciates Bangladesh’s ‘commitment’ to nuclear safety
On 15 December, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said that Bangladesh has a promised effort to improve its nuclear and radiation safety.  The team made its conclusions based on the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS)’s findings of a 13-day mission to Bangladesh on 8 December, making it the first IRRS mission to the country. The IRRS missions were designed to “strengthen” the effectiveness of the national nuclear and radiation safety regulatory infrastructure and that the country needs to seek validated technical advice from expert committees to make regulatory decisions and establish a BAERA Code of Ethics in its processes. It said that their observations see Bangladesh as a country with a “significant nuclear programme” and that their focus is to enhance BAERA’s regulatory effectiveness, including efforts to strengthen its Roopur nuclear plant project, which is scheduled to operate in 2023.
 
Nepal: Joint military exercises with India to ‘cement’ friendship
On 15 December, India and Nepal held joint military training exercises called the “Surya Kiran” to strengthen the bilateral cooperation between the two armies. This comes as the Indian Army arrived in Nepal on 14 December to take part in the exercises in the Saljhandi area in the Rupandehi region near the Nepal-India border. This is the 16th edition of the exercise with 650 soldiers participating in the same. Along with the military exercises, the two sides also discussed the regional importance of Nepal for India from a geostrategic perspective and said that the two countries have noted a “Roti Beti” relationship over the years. The two countries share a border of over 1,850 with five Indian states and depend on each other significantly for trade and investment.

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Iran: Tehran removed from UN Commission of Women
On 14 December, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted in favour of a US-drafted resolution to expel Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women, on the basis of violating women’s rights. The vote passed 29-8, with 16 abstentions recorded. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN stated that “the UN Member States just voted to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women. Iranian women and activists called on us to do this- and today, we got it done.” Responding to its expulsion, Iran said that the move would create an “unwelcome precedent.”
 
Israel: Knesset elects a speaker
On 13 December, Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, elected Yariv Levin as the new speaker, closing in on the process of government formation. Levin is a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party and was elected to replace the outgoing speaker Mickey Levy. By electing the speaker, Netanyahu and allies intend to pass legislations that will allow ultra-orthodox politician Aryeh Deri to serve as a minister despite his conviction for tax evasion.
 
Zambia and Zimbabwe: Water level drop in Lake Kariba forces to ration power supply
On 15 December, BBC reported, Zambia began to ration its power supply following a large decrease in the water levels at Lake Kariba, a major source for its hydro-electric power plants. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe, which shares the lake with Zambia, had introduced an 18-hour power outage the previous week. Zimbabwe is now restricted to producing 300MW and Zambia 800 MW daily. Frequent droughts along with low rainfall and excessive use of water for power generation has caused the significant decrease of water levels in Lake Kariba. In Zambia, domestic consumers currently face a six hour outage per day and authorities say the power rationing is to avoid a complete shutdown.
 
Ghana: Annual inflation rate reaches 50.3 per cent
On 15 December, the Ghana Statistical Service’s latest figures said that the country’s annual inflation rate has increased to 50.3 per cent in November which is a 10 per cent increase from the previous month. This has led to a sharp rise in the cost of living, water, electricity, gas and fuels, which recorded an inflation rate of 79 per cent. On 13 December, Ghana reached an initial agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout programme of USD 3 billion. The programme termed as the Extended Credit Facility would run for three years, formed to help Ghana in restoring its economic stability and ensure debt sustainability. Meanwhile, Ghana’s currency, the cedi, rallied against the US dollar besides losing half of its value initially this year. However, it has not reflected on the prices of imported essential commodities.
 
Burkina Faso: Ghana ambassador summoned over Akufo-Addo's remarks
On 16 December, the government summoned Ghana's ambassador over Ghanian President Nana Akufo-Addo's remarks on Russian mercenaries in Africa. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it disapproved of Akufo-Addo's remarks at the US-Africa Leaders Summit wherein he said: Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border. Burkina Faso has now entered into an arrangement to go along with Mali in employing the Wagner forces there." The ministry said: "Ghana could have undertaken exchanges with the Burkinabe authorities on the security issue in order to have the right information." 

Europe and The Americas This Week
Kosovo: NATO reinforces presence in Northern Kosovo
On 16 December, NATO announced its decision to expand its peacekeeping mission to the northern part of Serbia’s breakaway region. This decision was announced a day after Serbia officially asked for the return of up to 1,000 Serbian police officers to Kosovo, accusing the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina of “terrorising” local Serbs. Based on a provision of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which put an end to the NATO attack on former Yugoslavia in 1999, Belgrade can send its military and police personnel to Kosovo in certain situations. During the last week, tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared up when Serbian protesters erected barricades in the northern part of Kosovo to protest against the arrest of a former police officer, accused of attacking a Kosovo police patrol. On 14 December, ethnic Albanian officials replaced their Serbian counterparts in North Mitrovica, the largest Serb-majority municipality in the north of Kosovo.

Europe: Eva Kaili removed; Socialist MEP’s under European Parliament investigation
On 13 December, European Members of Parliament (MEP) unanimously voted to remove Eva Kaili as Vice President of the European Parliament. The 625 MEPs in a plenary session voted for Kaili’s removal. Kaili’s lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said: “She has nothing to do with financing from Qatar, nothing – explicitly and unequivocally.” Eva Kaili was removed after she was arrested on the charged and arrested in an alleged corruption scandal linked with Qatar. He added that Kaili had not engaged in any “commercial activity” in her life. In the European Parliament, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group has asked the remaining MEP’s being investigated by the police or are indirectly involved to step down. S&D President Iratxe García Pérez said: "We have decided that the MEPs who are being investigated or those whose assistants are being investigated by law enforcement relinquish any position of responsibility that they exercise in the Parliament and in the S&D group as long proceedings are ongoing." Pérez added that the party will also be conducting a separate inquiry into these matters

Europe: REPowerEU plan gets approval to reduce the usage of Russian fossil fuel
On 14 December, the European Council and the European Parliament agreed upon a REPowerEU plan which will help in diversifying the energy supply and increase the energy security of the EU. The REPowerEU proposal was introduced to help the EU reduce its dependency on Russian fossil fuels and help restructure the EU energy sector. The members will be adopting this proposal under the NextGenerationEU initiative which will help it finance important investments and reforms. The proposal looks to introduce new reforms and investments which will help in achieving the goals of REPowerEU such as decarbonising the EU energy industry, boosting the deployment of renewable energy, and addressing energy poverty. The proposal now has to be ratified by the European Council and the Parliament.

Slovakia: MPs votes in favour of no-confidence motion
On 15 December, in the Slovakian government, 78 of 150 MPs voted in favour of a no-confidence motion proposed by the opposition. The Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s coalition government which was formed with three parties, lost the majority when “Freedom and Solidarity Party” withdrew. As the coalition go into no-control zone, it also failed to get the 2023 budget passed. Upon the no-confidence motion, President Zuzana Caputova will now have to appoint new prime minister or suggest for new elections, which will require two-thirds of Parliament majority. The reason behind the withdrawal of Freedom and Solidarity party was due to dissatisfaction over “spending plans” of the Finance Minister and support from the opposition party.

Latvia: Coalition parties to form the new government
On 14 December, New Unity, United List and National Alliance signed an agreement to enter into a coalition and form the new government of Latvia. The government is led by Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš who is from the New Unity party with his 14 cabinet ministers. Out of the 14 cabinet ministers, four belong to National Alliance, four belong to National Alliance and six belong to New Unity. The coalition will now face a confidence vote in the Saeima. The Latvian elections were held on 01 October and the three parties decided to enter a coalition after the results were announced which was followed by two and a half months of negotiations between the parties.
 
Americas: Joint involvement of Mexican Cartels and EU criminals in the drug market
On 14 December, a report was released by Europol and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which looked into how Mexican Drug cartels and EU-criminal gangs have been trafficking drugs from Latin America to the EU. The drugs trafficked are methamphetamine and cocaine and these drugs are also produced in some EU countries due to this new collaboration. The report also outlines how Europe is also a transit point for drug trafficking to Asia especially when it comes to methamphetamine. The report also highlights how the cartels and criminal gangs have “infiltrated” trade and transport companies to ensure smooth shipments and additionally some have opened their own shipping companies to conceal such shipments. Drugs enter the EU concealed in foods, liquids, construction materials and other commodities.
 
The US: Air Force successfully conducts first operational test of a hypersonic missile
On 12 December, a B-52H bomber launched AGM-183A, air launched rapid response weapon (ARRW) off the California's coast, in what is touted as the necessary test to maintain global military balance. AGM-183A is a boost glide vehicle powered by a rocket motor. Hypersonic missiles because of their speed cannot be intercepted by air defence system and they can be tipped with nuclear fissile material. Other than USA, China, Russia, India and Iran have claimed to have their independent program and sustained hypersonic combustion. 
 
The US: Breakthrough achieved in nuclear fusion
On 14 December, Department of Energy announced that for the first time, a nucler fusion experiment produced more energy than was supplied initially. The experiment produced 3.15 megajoules of energy, about 50 per cent more than the 2.05 megajoules the laser used to trigger the fusion experiment. Nuclear fusion technology is still in nascent stages as it fuses lighter atoms of hydrogen to convert them into helium and other heavier elements. The US government has been funding the nuclear fusion program since 1950s. The energy sector took the announcement with caution as the sector has taken strides in renewable forms of energy production and such development can diverge the efforts into sustainable energy production. Nuclear fusion is a clean energy as there is no greenhouse gas emission and radioactive nuclear energy waste.
 
The US: Orion touches down in Pacific Ocean after test flight around the moon
On 11 December, NASA's Orion capsule splashed down with a terminal velocity of around 32 times the sound of speed and withstood temperature of around 5000 degrees Fahrenheit. The flight was the first of NASA's Artemis moon program whose long-term goal is to establish permanent base camp on moon and facilitate future human missions to Mars. The Artemis is powered by space launched system (SLS), an American super heavy lift expendable launch vehicle.

About the Authors
Harini Madhusudan, Rashmi Ramesh, Akriti Sharma, and Ankit Singh are PhD scholars in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Avishka Ashok, Apoorva Sudhakar, Padmashree Anandhan and Joel Jacob are Research Associates at NIAS. Sethuraman Nadarajan, Bhoomika Sesharaj, and Madhura Mahesh Research Interns at NIAS.

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