Follow Ryan on Twitter.
First, watch this: China’s Ambassador to France Lu Shaye explains — on French television — how Taiwanese would be “re-educated” after they’re occupied by Beijing.
BLINKEN IN AFRICA: Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s focus shifts from Asia to Africa this week. Today he is joining a U.S.-South Africa strategic dialogue with his counterpart, Naledi Pandor. Here’s how Blinken is explaining the trip.
Next, Blinken heads to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, scene of weeks of deadly protests against a U.N. peacekeeping operation and a bid by President Félix Tshisekedi to auction oil and gas exploration rights inside one of the world’s most precious rainforests.
Why’s Tshisekedi doing it? Three out of four residents live in poverty, and he wants to get paid for conservation.
Tshisekedi isn’t shy about making bold and contradictory moves. His rainforest auction plans come after signing a landmark $500 million deal at the COP26 climate conference to protect the forest, claiming credit at the time for being a “genuine Solution Country to the climate crisis.” On Aug 5. he instructed his ministers to align DRC’s reform agenda with U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation criteria. MCC is a Congress-funded foreign assistance agency, and DRC currently falls short on 14 of the 21 MCC criteria.
One of the few things DRC has been getting right, according to MCC, is natural resource protection … which doesn’t exactly align with chopping down large swathes of the jungle and pumping oil to the coast.
KENYA — TUESDAY ELECTION PREVIEW: Kenyans vote for a new president, senate and national assembly on Tuesday. The previous election was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2017 and followed by political violence — including the murder of poll workers and around 100 others. More than 1,200 people were killed after a 2007 election.
The two leading candidates are Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Opinion polls put Odinga ahead; he’s supported by current President Uhuru Kenyatta (not running because of term limits) who abandoned his deputy after a falling out.
The biggest story of the election might be young Kenyans boycotting the close race.
Odinga positions himself as a statesman — a mediator in regional conflicts and a supporter of the African Union to promote stability.
Ruto wants to be the outsider: He claims to speak for the “Hustler Nation” — those who work odd jobs to scrape by — but is himself a wealthy landowner. He told BBC he will deal “firmly and decisively” with corruption and “state capture” if he wins.
GREECE — PM UNDER PRESSURE OVER TAPPING OF OPPONENT’S PHONE: Kyriakos Mitsotakis rose to power on the promise of being a clean, moderate politician. So it’s a particularly bad look for his intelligence service to be caught tapping the phone of his political rival Nikos Androulakis, head of the center-left PASOK party.
Both Mitsotakis’s chief of staff (who also happens to be his nephew) and the head of the intelligence service resigned on Friday, my colleague Nektaria Stamouli reported. One report suggests Androulakis was wiretapped at the request of an allied state.
LATIN AMERICA COMINGS AND GOINGS: Gustavo Petro was sworn in as Colombia’s first leftist president over the weekend, and Peru needs a new prime minister after Aníbal Torres resigned — his replacement will be Peru’s fifth prime minister in a year, under President Pedro Castillo.
ITALY — ITALY’S FAR RIGHT BOOSTED BY COLLAPSE OF CENTER-LEFT ALLIANCE: While Italy’s social democrats look to be battling it out at the top of opinion polls with the far-right Brothers of Italy party, that’s mostly an illusion. The small, centrist Azione party has withdrawn its support for the center-left, leaving the combined progressive vote share at around 30 percent, compared to 46 percent for the right. More in POLITICO’s Poll of Polls.
CONGRESS MEETS WORLD
ITALIAN AMBASSADOR FIASCO: Italy is the only G-7 country without a full U.S. ambassador in post.
Is it really that hard to find someone to spend a few years living in a 15th century villa in Rome? The former Papal Seminary College houses the important Villa Taverna art collection and includes a Baroque fountain, a third century A.D. Roman sarcophagus, ancient Egyptian granite columns and 300-year-old busts of Roman emperors.
Plus the food ain’t too shabby neither.
Or perhaps the problem is that Nancy Pelosi — worried about losing the speakership of the House in November — wants Rome as a back-up option. Is the seat being kept warm for her?
That’s the speculation in Rome, fueled by the lack of a Biden nominee.
Pelosi brought her extended family to a lavish Italian holiday in Forte dei Marmi in July, and Roman observers are split over whether that’s proof of her warming them up for Villa Taverna, or just an indication that America’s most powerful Italian-American can get her dose of la dolce vita through short trips instead.
Whatever the reason for the empty chair, “not having an American ambo in Rome in times of Italian turmoil is simply absurd and self-defeating for Washington,” one highly placed Italian source complained to Global Insider. “I’ve seen good ones from both Democrat and Republican ranks and how they operate, influence, pass messages, pull strings. There’s an audience for them. But they need to be on location.”
A second source, from the Italian corporate sector, worries that there’s no hope of an ambassador in place before summer 2023: “You need the ambassador here now because the leadership of the country is changing.”
The source suggests avoiding a cleavage between a center-left D.C. and an Italian government racing to the right: “Republicans will be absolutely essential to solving this puzzle — for making sure D.C. has all the interlocutors it needs in Rome.”
Republican doyenne Cindy McCain is already in Rome, but as ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.
MILITARY CAPABILITY LESSONS: What we’re learning from Beijing’s military exercises off Taiwan, by Paul McLeary, Lara Seligman and Alex Ward. One of the takeaways is that China is getting good at coordinating its military branches.
By the numbers: Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense reported 68 aircraft and 13 vessels crossing into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone and the maritime “median line” in the strait separating Taiwan and China. At least one ballistic missile was fired over Taipei, and several missiles landed in Japanese waters.
In the event of an attempted Chinese occupation of Taiwan, Americans surveyed by Morning Consult are keen to cut commercial ties with China, but hesitant about further confrontation. Only 23 percent support cyberattacks against Beijing. The feelings are mutual among Democrats, Republicans and independents.
ZERO COVID RECESSION RISK: China’s exports grew stronger than expected in July, but manufacturing sentiment — a strong recession indicator — remains well below recent averages. A lack of confidence in Chinese investment is also fueling demand for American and European investment in Latin America, per a new report from Morning Consult.
“If China sticks with its zero-Covid policy, it could create opportunities for competitors all over the world,” per Josh Lipsky, Atlantic Council.
KYIV AND MOSCOW TEST WATERS FOR METAL TALKS: The pact reached last month to export grain out of Ukraine through a safe corridor in the Black Sea may lead to an agreement on shipping metals like iron ore. Ukraine’s chief trade negotiator Taras Kachka told POLITICO that “Russian producers are desperate … Russian steel in Black Sea ports is traded with [an] enormous discount.”
The rationale:Ukraine is the one of the world’s largest steel exporters, producing 21.4 million metric tons of crude steel in 2021. Russian-occupied Ukraine is also home to iron and steel production, and steel producers there are suffering from Western sanctions.
Moscow open to the idea: When asked about Kachka’s suggestion, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that “the solution of such issues is impossible without direct linkage to the restrictions that apply to our producers — in this case, metal producers. Therefore, there is a lot to discuss here,” Interfax reported.
NEW ROCKET STRIKE ON UKRAINE NUCLEAR PLANT. The U.N. nuclear watchdog is again warning of radioactive disaster.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL UKRAINE CHIEF RESIGNED over a report, published Thursday, which said that the placement of Ukrainian troops in residential areas heightened risks to civilians during Russia’s invasion. Oksana Pokalchuk resigned in protest, accusing Amnesty chiefs of not understanding the realities of wartime in the country. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy led a chorus of officials in complaining that the report was a blame-shifting propaganda gift to Moscow.
Anti-personnel mines: In Donetsk and Kramatorsk, “Russia has highly likely attempted employment of PFM-1 and PFM-1S scatterable anti-personnel mines. Commonly called the ‘butterfly mine’, the PFM-1 series are deeply controversial, indiscriminate weapons,” per U.K. Ministry of Defense.
Russia banned energy and bank share sales: Investors from “unfriendly countries” may not sell energy projects and banks until the end of the year, per a new Kremlin edict published Friday.
1,060 Ukrainian towns and villages have been liberated from Russian occupiers, per Zelenskyy. That still leaves well over 2,000 under occupation.
AFGHANISTAN ONE YEAR LATER — ‘THEY BEAT GIRLS JUST FOR SMILING’: Welcome to life in Afghanistan one year after the Taliban’s return: where girl students now make plans to fail sixth grade so they can keep returning to the classroom — ”harnessing their intelligence to self-sabotage,” as Emma Graham-Harrison reports.
The probably good news — U.S. climate bill almost at Biden’s desk: The Inflation Reduction Act allocates $369 billion to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in renewable energy sources, just over $1,000 per American resident. If fully implemented, the act is predicted to cut 7 to 9 percent from total U.S. carbon emissions. That won’t be enough for the U.S. to meet its 2030 Paris climate agreement commitments, but would still be the biggest single emissions reduction contribution in history.
The definitely good news — First subsidy-free offshore wind farm open: The 1.5 gigawatt Hollandse Kust Zuid wind farm located off the coast of the Netherlands has begun generating electricity and feeding it into the Dutch electricity grid. Swedish power company Vattenfall won a bidding process in 2019, and began installing the turbines in April: Today, 36 out of a planned 140 turbines have been installed.
The bad news — Rhine River runs dry: The Rhine connects Europe’s mega-ports (Rotterdam and Antwerp) to Germany’s industrial heartland and landlocked Switzerland. Well, it did. When the water level is just 19 inches at the most critical navigation point in the river, as it is today, some ships can’t pass. The water levels are on track to hit a record low by October.
YOUR FEEDBACK: I asked what you thought about new air-conditioning limits being imposed in parts of Europe to conserve energy. Dolores Oliver from Pittsburgh wants fellow Global Insider readers to toughen up: “We keep our heat at 55°F during the day and 50°F at night during winter. Our air conditioner is 75°F in summer,” she wrote Global Insider.
“We have all become used to a cushy life. We can’t comprehend losing our comfort even when the cost is due to the terrible aggressions of another country. Let us remember what citizens of Europe as a whole and US/Canada had to endure during and after WW2. Let us endure so we may look back at our efforts and look forward with unified pride at how we came together and supported the Ukrainian people whose very lives are at risk.”
GERMAN DIPLOMAT ARRESTED OVER DEAD HUSBAND IN BRAZIL: The diplomat, Uwe Herbert Hahn, claimed that his husband, Walter Henri Maximilien Biot, collapsed, hitting his head after drinking and taking sleeping pills. Police say Biot died of neck trauma and was severely beaten. They described Hahn’s explanation as “incompatible” with the evidence and alleged that the diplomat also attempted to clean up the scene before the police arrived.
GREAT SALARY CONVERGENCE: It used to mean living in a mid-tier city or town meant being paid less than living in a world capital like New York, or global tech’s Bay Area hub. Now, as more companies hire from national rather than regional talent pools, and give up on telling workers where they have to locate, salaries are balancing out between the most expensive and cheaper cities.
The pay gap between the Bay Area and Washington, D.C., shrunk from 15 percent to 3 percent during the pandemic, for example. More from Aki Ito.
NEW MICRONATION: The mysteries that gave birth to the world’s newest attempted micronation off Scotland, presided over by mindbender and spoon abuser Uri Geller.
HUB — Solutions Story Tracker: If you’re frustrated at negativity in journalism, Dave Bornstein offers you the Solutions Journalism Network.
PLAY: Patriots for Free. Peter Morgan (The Crown, Frost/Nixon) has new play about Vladimir Putin and oligarch Boris Berezovsky, starring Tom Hollander, at London’s Almeida Theater.
Thanks to editor Ben Pauker and producer Hannah Farrow.
SUBSCRIBE to the POLITICO newsletter family: D.C. Playbook | Brussels Playbook | London Playbook | ParisPlaybook | Ottawa Playbook | EU Confidential | D.C. Influence | EU Influence | London Influence | Digital Bridge | China Direct | Berlin Bulletin | Living Cities
POLITICO is now on Snapchat — watch my first show here, on the race to replace Boris Johnson.