🌍 The 2023 ASEAN summit

Plus: A presidential election in the Maldives

Today’s newsletter supported by:

Hi there Intriguer. When you think of former British leader Theresa May, do the words “cool” or “edgy” come to mind? Okay, us neither. But her rather hip parliamentary portrait just dropped and, honestly, it’s got us questioning everything we thought we knew.

Today’s briefing is a 4 min read:

  • 🌏 Leaders gather in Southeast Asia.

  • 🇲🇻 It’s election time in the Maldives.

  • Plus: A mathematical map, how the papers are covering the Erdoğan-Putin meeting, and something spicy for your ears.

⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds

  1. 🇦🇲 Armenia: Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said Armenia’s decision to depend on Russia for security guarantees was a “strategic mistake”, given what he said was aggression from neighbouring Azerbaijan. The Kremlin has rejected Pashinyan’s claims.

  2. 🇸🇪 Sweden: Two former oil execs are on trial in Sweden for their alleged role in a series of war crimes committed in Sudan between 1999 and 2003. Prosecutors say Lundin Oil had asked Khartoum to secure a potential oil field in what is now South Sudan, knowing this would lead to atrocities.

  3. 🇮🇳 India: Narendra Modi’s government could be planning to submit a parliamentary resolution to change the country’s name to ‘Bharat’, according to local media. Supporters of the move say the name ‘India’ was introduced by British colonialists.

  4. 🇨🇺 Cuba: Havana has reportedly found a human trafficking scheme pressuring Cubans to fight for Russia in Ukraine. Authorities say they’re working to neutralise the network, and have reiterated their country’s neutral stance in the conflict.

  5. 🇬🇦 Gabon: General Brice Oligui Nguema, who came to power in a coup last week, has pledged to return the country to civilian rule. He’s not yet offered a timeline.

🌏 Southeast Asia | Geopolitics

ASEAN is having an identity crisis

The ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) kicked off its annual summit of leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia yesterday (Tuesday).

The three-day agenda is jam-packed, including talks on:

  • 🇲🇲 The ongoing violence in Myanmar (an ASEAN member)

  • 🌊 China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, and

  • ⚔️ Regional tensions between the US and China.

But the bloc has long struggled to find solutions on any of these issues.

Yesterday, members agreed to strip Myanmar and its ruling junta of the bloc’s rotating leadership role in 2026, and instead designated the Philippines as leader that year.

But ASEAN’s other punitive measures against the junta in the past - like barring its leaders from summits - have had little impact so far.

And if Myanmar seems complicated, US-China competition is a doozy.

Last week, Manila suggested President Marcos would lead an effort to reprimand China for its newly-published map that seems to expand Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. But the draft ASEAN statement doing the rounds in Jakarta simply calls for “stability in the maritime sphere”.

Intrigue's take: If ASEAN can’t agree to push back on a direct outside challenge to members’ own borders, what exactly can it agree on?

For years, the bloc’s members have looked to China on the economy, and looked to the US on security. And Indonesian President Joko Widodo yesterday urged powers not to “turn our ship into an arena for rivalry”. 

But Mr. President, that ship has already sailed.

Also worth noting:

  • Several ASEAN members have called on the bloc to rethink its ‘non-interference’ policy to address the crisis in Myanmar.

  • Various ASEAN partners attend each year, including Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and the US. Both US President Biden and Chinese President Xi have opted to skip this year’s summit.

📰 How newspapers covered…

The meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Istanbul, Turkey

“Türkiye believes grain initiative can be revived soon: Erdoğan”

Doha, Qatar

“Russia won’t renew grain deal until demands met, Putin tells Erdogan”

Moscow, Russia

“Putin-Erdogan meeting successful, all important issues on agenda discussed”

Today’s newsletter is supported by: Morning Brew

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🇲🇻 Maldives | Politics

A small but crucial election in the Maldives

Maldivians will head to the polls on Saturday to choose their next president from a competitive pool of eight candidates, including the incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Here’s why we’re watching:

  • 🏝️ The 1200 islands that comprise the Maldives are located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, near vital shipping lanes

  • 🇮🇳🇨🇳 This strategic location attracts interest from foreign powers, who’ve long competed for influence in the archipelago, and

  • 🗳️ This is the fourth and most competitive election since the Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008

And while the campaign issues are mostly domestic, the country’s elections have had a broader impact lately:

Intrigue’s take: With ~280,000 eligible voters choosing among eight candidates from splintered parties, anything could happen. There’s a decent chance we’ll move to a second round later this month.

And more than ever, the world will be watching.

Also worth noting:

Extra Intrigue

Our very own co-founder John Fowler joined our friends over at The Merge to chat about where our world is headed. Give it a look on YouTube, or have a listen on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

🗳️ Poll time!

What do you think the future looks like for the ASEAN bloc?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

🗺️ Map of the day

Credits: Rohan Chabukswar and Kushal Mukherjee

Ever wondered how far you could drive in a straight line without hitting a major body of water? Well, mathematicians Rohan Chabukswa and Kushal Mukherjee have got you covered: just start in Sagres, Portugal and keep going until you reach Jinjiang, China. This 11,241km straight line goes through 15 countries (plus presumably quite a few random walls, cliffs, and houses).

Yesterday’s poll: Do you think carbon credits are a viable solution for Africa?

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤝 Yes, they generate environmentally-friendly income (23%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 💪 No, they're a pretext for continued pollution elsewhere (74%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (4%)

Your two cents:

  • 💪 A.R.F: “They’re the white flag of entitled polluting practices, which only alleviate moral obligation in theory vs. the required practice as our climate heads further towards catastrophe.”

  • 🤝 J.L: “The argument that it eases pollution elsewhere is nonsensical – those emissions are driven and will be stopped by non-financial factors. This at least transfers some wealth to affected areas.”

Join the conversation

or to participate.