Hi there Intriguer. You don't need us to tell you it's a bad idea to drive while under the influence. But the Latvians have come up with another way to make the point: authorities there will confiscate your car and send it to Ukraine! Delivery to Ukraine is being handled by a Latvian NGO which has been donating vehicles to the war-torn country for over a year.
Today’s edition is a 4.7 min read:
- 🇦🇺 The long-awaited AUKUS announcement.
- 🇦🇷 Argentina’s top export is collapsing.
- ➕ Plus: Tracking US presidential travel, how the papers are covering ICC arrest warrants for war crimes in the Russo-Ukraine War, and a grisly end for a famous politician on this day in history.
On today’s Intrigue Outloud: Go deeper on Monday's AUKUS announcement, and the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in the US.
- Valentina, Ethan and Jeremy
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇹🇼 Taiwan: A missing Taiwanese soldier has been found alive and well in mainland China. The case is being investigated as a possible defection.
- 🇷🇺 Russia: Moscow has declared itself ready to extend the Ukraine grain export deal for a further 60 days. Ukraine has criticised the short renewal period but hasn't rejected Russia’s proposal.
- 🇮🇳 India: Delhi has asked Indian banks and traders not to purchase Russian imports in Chinese yuan due to India’s ongoing territorial disputes with China. Beijing has long encouraged global use of the yuan to compete with US influence.
- 🇧🇷 Brazil: Deforestation rates in the Amazon rose to a new record last month, up 62% from February 2022. Brazilian President Lula is working to reinforce anti-deforestation measures, but his policies will take time to bear fruit (literally).
- 🇮🇷 Iran: The supreme leader has reportedly pardoned 22,000 people arrested for taking part in recent anti-government protests. The pardon comes after at least four protesters were executed for alleged crimes committed during the demonstrations.
🇦🇺 AUSTRALIA | AUKUS
Australia gets nuclear-powered subs in AUKUS deal
Briefly: On Monday the leaders of Australia, the UK, and the US revealed further details of the AUKUS deal, a 2021 trilateral tech and security pact that will enable Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
The deal has three stages:
- The UK and US will send a rotational force of submarines to Australia from 2027
- The US will sell Australia at least three Virginia-class submarines in the 2030s, and
- The partners will build and deploy the SSN Aukus in the 2040s, a new class of nuclear-powered submarine rigged out with both UK and US tech.
What's so good about nuclear-powered subs? Mechanically, they don't need to refuel or resurface. So hiding underwater for lengthy stretches, they can theoretically be anywhere, anytime. And this forces adversaries to think twice.
And the cons? Because we’re talking about submarines and not Subarus, the estimated price tag for Canberra is $245B (USD) over 30 years.
The initial 2021 AUKUS announcement also irked some of Australia's neighbours who felt ambushed and uneasy about the deal (reactions seem more muted this time around).
Meanwhile, China says AUKUS is “walking further and further down the path of error and danger”. Though Australia says it's just responding to China's own military build-up (including 12 new nuclear powered and armed subs in the past 15 years alone).
Intrigue’s take: US president Joe Biden says AUKUS will “enhance the stability of the Indo-Pacific amid rapidly shifting global dynamics”. Translation: he wants to build up Western military capabilities in the region to deter Beijing.
But history teaches us that deterrence is a high-stakes game. It can be (mis)interpreted in other capitals as a threat. They respond accordingly. Next thing you know, you've got an arms race. Then an incident. Then a war.
Washington is mindful of this risk: just look at its constant references to the need for 'guardrails' with China. But China's opaque system means its intentions are often less clear.
Also worth noting:
- Australia will become the seventh country to operate nuclear-powered subs, and the first allowed to buy a US Virginia-class sub.
- AUKUS will be the single biggest investment in Australia’s defence capabilities in the country’s history.
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How different newspapers covered: The International Criminal Court (ICC) preparing its first arrest warrants for crimes committed during the Russo-Ukraine war.
Links: The Independent, TASS, MalayMail.
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🇦🇷 ARGENTINA | AGRICULTURE
Record-setting drought drags Argentina’s economy
Briefly: The worst drought in six decades is devastating Argentina. The world's largest exporter of processed soy, Argentina is forecasting its worst yield since 1997. Total grain production (including soy, corn and wheat) is projected to drop by 50 million tonnes this year, costing farmers $14B.
Argentina needs good economic news like Spongebob needs water. Inflation reached 98.8% in January, forcing the Banco Central to jack interest rates to 75%. So, as illustrated amusingly here, don't go complaining to your Argentine friends about inflation.
Overall, the math out of Argentina is grimly simple: high food prices + IMF-related austerity = more pain for the average Argentine.
Intrigue’s take: Scientists say the natural La Niña weather pattern is mostly to blame for Argentina's drought, though climate change is making it worse.
And the impacts are being felt beyond Argentina. Global soy prices have spiked in recent months. Meanwhile, US soy exports are booming.
Also worth noting:
- On Monday, Argentina and the IMF reached a preliminary renegotiation agreement to account for the unprecedented drought.
- Recent polling shows right-leaning candidate Javier Milei leading ahead of presidential elections in October.
🗺️ MAP OF THE DAY
This seems like an oversight...
… especially when you consider that China's leadership (the president, premier and foreign minister) made 79 visits to 43 African countries between 2008 and 2018.
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
On this day in 44 BCE, Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by a group of around 40 fellow politicians. So, it only seems fitting to share a few facts about the guy:
- In addition to fathering a love-child with Cleopatra, he was also father of the leap year.
- He named July after himself to celebrate the month of his birth.
- In his will, he left 300 Roman sesterces (around three months' wages) to every Roman citizen.
- Caesar became the first Roman to be deified after a large comet appeared in the sky during the funeral games held in his honour.
🗳️ POLL TIME!
Which country has the largest number of submarines in the world?
Yesterday's poll: Is the world headed towards another banking crisis?
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 💰 No, the damage is being controlled (66%)
🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🏦 Yes, SVB was just the first domino (34%)
Your two cents:
- 💰 J.D: "Mid-sized banks could possibly be at danger (less so now that the FDIC is guaranteeing 100% deposit insurance) but I don't see any of the major banks falling victim to a sort of run".
- 🏦 H.P: Maybe not a direct domino effect, but the rise in unregulated banking & trading brings a degree of instability to global financial systems today".