Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Vladimir the Destabiliser

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
6 April 2021

Good morning,

The history of tsarist Russia is one of revealing nicknames. There is Ivan the Terrible, Alexey Mikhailovich the Humblest, Peter and Catherine the Greats, Alexander I the Blessed, and Nicholas II the Bloodstained, to name just a few.
 
Now, if we were to decorate Vladimir Putin with similar pomp and pageantry, we might as well acknowledge his destabilising efforts. For the Russian president has been busy beyond promoting his country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic through a social media disinformation campaign.
 
For starters, there is evidence that the Russian Federation has been mobilising an unusual number of troops on the border with Ukraine. The Kremlin has continued to deny its presence there, saying Russian “volunteers” are helping the rebels in the Donbas region. However, according to Ukraine’s army commander, General Ruslan Khomchak, 28 battalion tactical groups have been deployed near said border and in Crimea, which would amount to 20,000-25,000 troops.
 
The trend has set alarm bells ringing among western leaders, who may have reason to doubt Putin’s well-known tactics of justifying military action by claiming Russian interests are at risk.
 
A day after Nato ambassadors convened an emergency session on Thursday, Joe Biden pledged his support for Ukraine in the face of “Russia’s ongoing aggression” during his first talks with the country’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, since the US president took office.
 
In response to both developments, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has warned that any move to deploy US or Nato troops in the region would force Moscow to do “everything that is necessary” to protect its own security.
 
But eastern Ukraine is not the only pawn in the Russian president’s geopolitical game. A report by CNN, published on Monday, provides satellite images showing an extraordinary and continuous military build-up in the Arctic. In particular, security experts are worried about the testing of Russia’s newest weapons in the freshly ice-free area, including the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo.
 
Although the bases are inside Russian territory and part of a legitimate defence of the country’s coastline, there’s growing concern that they could be used as a way of controlling Arctic areas further afield, where Nato allies and the US have also carried out troop and equipment movements.
 
This, arguably, is Putin’s way of testing the waters with the Biden administration, whose intention remains avoiding the escalation of any conflict while it keeps the diplomatic channel open to Russia.
 
As the Arctic ice continues to melt at a worrying pace, however, there’s the risk of tensions reaching new heights amid a shifting world order.

News

Boris Johnson has confirmed the re-opening of pubs, shops, hairdressers, and gyms from next Monday in England. The prime minister said the easing of lockdown restrictions was “fully justified” by the success of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and the drop in cases and hospitalisations. However, he refused to give more details on when foreign holidays could resume.
 
In last night’s Downing Street press conference, the prime minister also hinted that Covid-19 certificates are likely to be voluntary in pubs, following pressure from MPs not to make coronavirus passports a requirement for drinkers. A government document further clarified that the most likely venues to require such a certification would be theatres, nightclubs, festivals, and sporting events.
 
North Korea has pulled out of the delayed Tokyo Olympics, to protect athletes from the “global health crisis”, the regime’s sports ministry has announced. It thus becomes the first major country to skip the games because of the pandemic, putting an end to South Korea’s hopes of using the multi-sport event to engage with the North amid stalled cross-border talks.

Business and economy

UK travel industry leaders have expressed their disappointment with the government’s lack of clarity on whether international travel will resume from 17 May. The government, which is set to introduce a “traffic light” system to allow travel to some lower-risk countries, has not provided any details on which countries would probably be “green”, so as not to “give hostages to fortune or to underestimate the difficulties we are seeing in some of the destination countries.”
 
Sky News has reported that thousands more high street jobs are to disappear as Peacocks’ administrator finalises a rescue deal that could nonetheless salvage approximately half of the workforce at the clothing chain. Up to 200 of Peacocks’ 400-plus stores and 2,000 jobs could be saved, although the precise number will depend on the outcome of talks with the chain’s landlords and suppliers.
 
The US treasury secretary has pledged to restore America’s economic leadership and stronger cooperation on issues such as climate change, human rights, and tax evasion. In her first major speech on international economic policy, Janet Yellen said “America first must never mean America alone”, marking the return of the US to the global stages after years of Donald Trump’s protectionist policies.

Columns of note

Alex Dawson writes in The Times that some of the plans included in the UK government’s “Build Back Better” strategy, such as audit and corporate governance reforms, will result in building back worse. He argues that No 10 is trying to use these to refashion the economy without taking direct government action. The result, Dawson concludes, is a high opportunity cost whereby ministers are bound to hinder the recovery they want to unleash by focusing on fixing yesterday’s problems, rather than fleshing out their plan for a clean, green economy outside the European Union. (£)
 
In The Herald, Allan Kennedy takes a look at the four distinct ‘models’ of an Anglo-Scottish union that crystallised in the lead-up to 1707. These models required Scots to be confident that the union would not impact excessively on Scottish distinctiveness, as well as the active interest of the English, which was almost always missing. The Dundee University historian concludes that whether any of them can offer a solution to the constitutional crisis of the 21st century remains to be seen.

Cartoon source: The New Yorker

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Markets in Europe, including the UK, Germany, and France, remained closed for Easter Monday, while exchanges in New York and Toronto reopened, resuming trading under their usual schedule.
 
In the US, stocks reached new heights after a report showed activity in the country’s services sector accelerated last month at the fastest pace on record. The advance saw the S&P 500 index rise 1.4% and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite gain 1.7%.
 
Meanwhile, oil prices declined on Monday. Brent, the international benchmark, fell around four per cent to $62 a barrel, while US marker West Texas Intermediate declined by a similar margin to $58.77.

What’s happening today?

Int. economic announcements
(08:55) PMI Composite (GER)
(08:55) PMI Services (GER)
(09:00) PMI Composite (EU)
(09:00) PMI Services (EU)
(10:00) Unemployment Rate (EU)
(10:00) Retail Sales (EU)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

All current and former presidents and vice president of the United States are banned from driving on public roads. (source: @8fact)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House of Commons is in recess and will next sit on 13 April

House of Lords 

The House of Lords is in recess and will next sit on 12 April

Scottish Parliament 

The Scottish parliament is in recess ahead of the election on 6 May

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email