VACCINE GIVEAWAYS AND STOCKPILES
From unauthorized vaccines collecting warehouse dust to a plan to counter China with a billion Western-funded jabs in Asia, the vaccine diplomacy battle is heating up.
The Quad alliance meets today for the first time (U.S., Japan, India and Australia) and its big reveal is set to be a plan for the U.S. and Japan to fund Indian production of Johnson & Johnson’s single dose vaccine, which Australian will then distribute across south-east Asia. If delivered, this plan would represent a clear flipping of the Trump script on China: from complaints and punishments against China, to outmaneuvering China.
How the leaders are framing it: President Joe Biden “a free and open Indo-Pacific is essential”; India’s Narenda Modi “an important pillar of stability”; Australia’s Scott Morrison “a new dawn.” Meanwhile, China is already annoyed about the “fragile” Quad.
The U.S. has other vaccine diplomacy options: 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine are sitting in a stockpile in an AstraZeneca facility in Ohio. The vaccine has been approved in 70 countries, but not the U.S. That matters because both the African Union and European Union are desperate to get their hands on the doses. Africa because it’s desperate for any doses it can get; Europe because it bet heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine — the cheapest on the global market — and the company has run into production problems, cutting its Q1 delivery targets for a second time, today.
INTERVIEW — AFRICA WANTS TO STRIKE VACCINE DEALS
Speed, not price, the biggest issue: Masiyiwa doesn’t mince words. He wants 60 percent of Africans vaccinated in 2021: “We expect COVAX to do 30 percent. And we do 30.” While 22 African countries have received vaccines through the COVAX program, Masiyiwa has a clear message to Western governments: “your factories haven’t released a single vaccine to us.”
He’s willing to pay — unless it’s extortion: “we have a very simple approach to the negotiation: ‘Yes on the price’”. Masiyiwa said he is acutely aware that every hospitalization and death costs much more than a market-priced vaccine. “The big issue for us is: what do we get between now and June. Don’t tell us that you deliver us for September: then you are kind of relegating us to second class citizens.”
Masiyiwa wants to avoid a repetition of HIV-/AIDS: Africans waited up to seven years for the breakthrough Western HIV treatments to trickle down to them: “We lost 10 million people in that window.”
China is a bit player in this picture: doing bilateral deals with Africa’s middle income countries. “I don’t think there’s a bilateral agreement that fully meets the needs of any member,” Masiyiwa said.
Don’t sweat the freezers: “We do a lot of vaccinating in Africa. A lot more than you guys,” he said, adding “Have you seen the areas where we have to get Ebola vaccine to? The fuss about the ultra cold chain of Pfizer was overblown.” While the African Medical Supplies Platform is offering freezers that can handle the Pfizer vaccines for as little as $4,500, according to documents seen by Global Translations, Masiyiwa would still welcome U.S. funding support for vaccine delivery across the continent.
MISSING Tanzania’s Covid-denying President John Magufuli hasn’t been seen in public for more than two weeks — and that’s not like him.
VIENNA TO DC: WE STAND WITH YOU “WHEN THE SHIT HITS THE FAN”
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg spoke to Global Translations Thursday afternoon about what happens next in the transatlantic relationship.
What do you see binding Austria, Europe and America together? “We want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a society where you have freedom of opinion, the freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. But we all have in our mind the picture of the rampage of the Mall and on Capitol Hill. I believe this is the time where Europeans have to extend our hand. And we have to make it very clear to our friends in America that we know exactly where we stand when shit hits the fan.”
The Biden honeymoon is over: how will Austria shift into working relationship mode? “We have to work for it. I proposed in our video conference of the EU ministers with Secretary Tony Blinken: why don’t we do this on a more regular basis? Covid-19 has proven that we don’t need to meet in person. Instead of talking in general terms about the transatlantic relationship, we should take one specific subject (like sanction), and then talk it through.”
What other formats could build this strategic alignment? “The modular approach is a very interesting one, because there are champions in different areas. We have been specific alliances with countries such as Israel, Singapore and others, on specific issues. The world is not one-dimensional, and international relations is not one-size-fits-all.”
Where do your Western Balkans relationships intersect with U.S. interests? Schallenberg said Austria wants to shepherd countries in the region towards EU membership. “There is no lasting security and stability in Central Europe that does not allow for security and stability in southeastern Europe. Austria is in a unique position within the EU: we have been very clearly part of the Western world, but we have strong ties to neighboring countries. I’m not claiming that we have the answer to everything, but we do have a couple of centuries of experiences there.”
Where does Austria stand on Russia and China? “You cannot put Russia and China in the same basket. Russia is part of European history. Just think back to the Congress of Vienna. Just think back to Peter the Great. Russia remains Europe’s geographic neighbor.”
“We are medium sized, strongly reliant upon relying on exports. So we rely on a rules-based international system, and on being able to talk to partners. (With Russia) that means a dialog where possible, and clear red lines when necessary. We don’t want to slam the door.”
“Yesterday I had a very lengthy and good and open phone call with my colleague from China. And I expressed the hope that China will soon seek approval for Chinese vaccines from the European Medicines Agency: they save human lives and should not be part of any geopolitical game.”
What’s the case you make against sanction over the Nordstream II pipeline? “I don’t know whether this is the right battleground, honestly. We don’t see a direct link between, you know, the tectonic move of Russia away from Europe, and this energy supply question, which follows an economic logic. This is not at the expense of the interests of Ukraine. “
What is the climate diplomacy message you want Washington to hear? “We want to reach climate neutrality already by 2040 and we want by 2030 to have electricity production only through renewable energy. So Austria sees itself as the vanguard of fighting climate change. The U.S. rejoining the Paris agreement has been an extremely positive signal, but we cannot let Covid make us fall behind.”
DEMOCRACY MEETS WORLD
WONKS AT WAR: Russia has split staff at the Atlantic Council. The key question: should the U.S. government and think tanks be promoting democracy in Russia?
SEEKING A SAFE ANCHORAGE: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will meet China’s two top diplomats — Politburo member Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi — in Alaska next Thursday. It’s highly unusual for Yang and Wang to fly out together for bilateral talks, and they will engage in “very frank terms” Blinken promised lawmakers.
BIPARTISAN CONGRESSIONAL PUSHBACK ON IRAN: Rep. Michael McCaul is leading 24 Members (12 from each party) urging the administration to include anywhere, anytime inspections by the IAEA in any updated Iran nuclear deal and to “make use of the existing leverage to sharpen the choices available to Tehran,” including Trump-era sanctions and the Abraham Accords.
GOP VIEWPOINTS — FRAGILE STATES: Why and how the National Security Strategy should address fragile states, by International Republican Institute’s Patrick Quirk.
CHINA MEETS WORLD
COALITION POLITICS: Sen. Mark Warner (D- VA) is co-sponsoring legislation to build a partnership of democratic countries (led by the U.S.) to combat China’s growing tech influence. The partnership would receive $5 billion in funding and be overseen by a Technology Partnership Office at the State Department.
THE EU-CHINA TECH RACE: A case to prove Warner’s point. The EU launched its “digital decade” plan this week — but while China has lauded the EU’s willingness to pursue “strategic autonomy” it fired right back with plans that mirror the EU’s, to beef up its investment in new-generation Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing and chip making. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced a red tape bonfire (also a favored EU tactic).
What does it mean for the West? China’s basic research investment will be increased to around 8 percent of total R&D spending. That shows China is getting serious about moving up value chains, and it wil also help disguise any Chinese subsidies. How do we know? Because that’s exactly how the West disguises subsidies.
THE US-CHINA MILITARY RACE: My colleagues report that Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has a $27.5 billion wish list for next six years, . including precision missiles in Taiwan, Okinawa and the Philippines. President Xi Jinping meanwhile is calling for a major tech upgrade in the Chinese military and told soldiers to “be prepared to respond to a variety of complex and difficult situations at any time.” On Taiwan Foreign Minister Wang said: “there is no room for compromise or concession.”
BRAIN FOOD: Josh Rogin’s new book on China quotes former President Donald Trump summing up the situation: “Taiwan is like two feet from China … We are 8,000 miles away. If they invade, there isn’t a fucking thing we can do about it,” according to reviews.
GLOBAL RISKS AND TRENDS
WHY SO MANY POLITICIAN ARE SUCH A**HOLES: Founding editor John Harris explains this global phenomenon.
Pompeo sought a flurry of unmaskings last spring: State Department officials requested intelligence agencies reveal the identities of American citizens or permanent residents or companies in intelligence reports on at least 285 occasions during the Trump administration.
ECONOMY — STIMULUS TRUMPS AUSTERITY: After bank bailouts and a single round of stimulus to counter global recession in 2008-9, governments around the world mostly decided to to tighten belts, or were forced to institutions like the EU and IMF in the wake of defaults. Central banks rode to the rescue with interest rate reductions, but a decade later the new “whatever it takes” trend and strategy is pumping cash into the economy.
MISINFORMATION — PANDEMIC AN ONLINE TRAINING GROUND FOR EXTREMIST GROUPS: Anti-establishment political groups are using vaccine debates and Covid restrictions to test new tactics and forge political alliances that did not exist before. Conspiracy theories like QAnon have gone global. Far-right campaigners now mimic each other’s language around voter fraud and illegal restrictions on personal freedoms. Those online relationships will survive long beyond the virus, and while big tech companies are trying to stop disinformation, it’s not enough, writes my colleague Mark Scott.
Brain food: Zack Stantion talks to Kathleen Hall Jamieson, founder of factcheck.org about this era’s defining battle between facts and misinformation.
HEALTH — 630 MILLION CHILDREN EXPOSED TO HIGH LEAD LEVELS: A new review of 520 comparable studies of lead levels in children in low and middle incomes countries, published in The Lancet Planetary Health found that efforts to phase out leaded gasoline have been enough to stop elevated lead levels in children.
OECD RACE — IT’S PRACTICALLY A TIE: The final two candidates Sweden’s Cecilia Malmström and Australia’s Mathias Cormann each have 17 solid votes among the 37 member countries, according to GT’s inside sources, and the U.S. position could end up as the deciding factor, and possibly the casting vote. The near deadlock has caused the organization to miss its election deadline (March 9). Another attempt to reach a decision will take place 12.00 ET in Paris. With 25 of the 37 votes belonging to EU or European Economic Area members, Malmström should have the edge. But if the U.S., Japan and U.K. all line up against her, it may be impossible to claim even a veneer of consensus. The OECD is leading global efforts at digital taxation and market-based climate control. More on the race dynamic here.
THE NEXT WORLD WAR: Spoiler alert, it’s just fiction. 2034: A Novel of the Next World War is the new novel from James Stavridis – the American former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe
REELECTED: Thomas Bach was officially re-elected as International Olympic Committee President, unopposed. His next term will run until 2025.
QUTTING: Ethiopia’s number two DC-based diplomat, Berhane Kidanemariam, announced he’s quit his post in protest over what he calls the Ethiopian government’s genocide in Tigray.
PASSED: Côte d’Ivoire Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko, March 10.
BRAIN FOOD: The Next Billion, today at 12.00 ET noon EST, Christopher Schroeder hosts a Clubhouse debate on what to expect from and deliver to the next billion tech users
Thanks to editor Ben Pauker, Nahal ToosI, Stuart Lau
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