In Other News – Tech companies & US try to curb Russian Influence in Nicaraguan Elections & More – 11/5/2021

November 5, 2021

Before Nicaraguan elections, tech companies, US government take action to curb corruption and Russian influence. For several months Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his Vice President wife Rosario Murillo have been locking up political opponents and driving dissidents, businesspeople, and journalists out of the country to prevent any viable competition for the November 7 presidential elections. But Ortega, who has been in power since 2006, has also been running an online disinformation campaign since 2018, and this week Facebook parent company Meta announced that it had taken down 1000 fake accounts controlled by Ortega’s government. While the misinformation effort hasn’t been directly linked to Moscow, Russian’s strong influence in Nicaragua is apparent in several realms – through the sale of Russian tanks and military equipment to Managua as well as the construction of an alleged satellite facility. The two nations also recently signed an IT security agreement that effectively allows Russia to use Nicaragua as a platform for electronic and cyber operations. In response, this week the US Congress approved the RENACER Act, calling for new sanctions on Nicaragua and increased monitoring of human rights abuses and Russian activities in the country, and Washington will also review Nicaragua’s participation in Central America Free Trade Agreement.

Pressure from the Gulf worsening Lebanon’s crisis. Lebanon is in a dire economic crisis and Saudi Arabia, a key economic partner and traditional ally of Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim community, just dealt a blow to Beirut by cutting off all diplomatic and economic ties. Saudi has clearly been frustrated with the degree of Iran’s power in Lebanon via Tehran’s support of Hezbollah, but the breaking point was a recent comment made by Lebanese television personality-turned Interior Minister George Kordahi that asserted Saudi Arabia was responsible for the war in Yemen and Iran-backed Houthis were only defending themselves. Anger over the remarks has spilled over and other Gulf states like the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait have also withdrawn their diplomats from Lebanon. Critically, the Saudi spat could have grave repercussions on an already ravaged Lebanese economy. The Lebanese pound, pinned to the US dollar for over 20 years, has depreciated by more than 90% since 2019, and the economy further plummeted with the devastating Beirut port bombing in 2020 and effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is reportedly trying to get Kordahi to resign and appease Saudi Arabia, but it’s unclear if Kordahi’s resignation would even do much given Saudi’s clear aggravation with Iran.

New US Government report links security and climate change. In late October, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on climate change, assessing that global warming “will exacerbate risks to US national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond to the challenge.” Nations are arguing about who should be fiscally responsible for the global transition to clean energy and competing to see who can profit from the shift. While countries have historically used control over resources as a political weapon or asset, they can truly exploit their position now that prices for coal and gas are high, supply is low, and alternative greener options are not yet viable. The NIE also highlights how the fight for limited natural resources, like water, could lead to new territorial claims and reignited border disputes. We’re already seeing this with China’s water pursuits in the Himalayas, impacting both India and Tibet. Humanitarian crises caused by flooding and other natural disasters are also anticipated to rise and could make certain areas entirely uninhabitable, further increasing global political instability.