TL(PM) DIGEST: Treason season begins early in Russia this year
Plus a potential nuclear renaissance, it's still Trump's party, and Germany holds down Europe's economy
1. Russian mercenary rebellion advances on Moscow but then sputters out
What happened? The Wagner Group, a vicious Russian mercenary group that’s operated in Ukraine, Syria, and across Africa, launched an abortive rebellion over the weekend that came to an end when the its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, struck a deal that would see treason charges against him dropped—though Putin asserted otherwise in a televised address this afternoon. The other details of this agreement remain unclear, but the Kremlin clearly wants to create the impression that it remains in control.
Why does it matter? The Wagner mutiny revealed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities inherent to the regime Putin has constructed over the past two-plus decades. Perhaps more importantly, the rebellion has engendered chaos among Russian security services—and given Ukraine an opportunity to press its ongoing counteroffensive.
TLP’s take: This episode ultimately resulted of Putin’s disastrous decision to go to war against Ukraine, and America can’t save Russia from its own strategic blunders. All the more reason to keep up military aid to Ukraine and anchor Kyiv in the NATO alliance.
2. Biden administration pumping money into a revived nuclear energy sector
What happened? The Economist reports on the potential effects of the Biden administration’s investments in new forms of nuclear power, which is now eligible for the same tax credits as other renewable sources. Moreover, Congress has appropriated additional infrastructure money to help keep existing nuclear plants functioning.
Why does it matter? As The Economist highlights, nuclear power already produces almost one fifth of America’s electricity, with more desired by government agencies:
The Department of Energy is praying that the party turns into a fully fledged rager. A recent report from the DOE suggests that America could triple its nuclear-power generation, to 300 gigawatts, by 2050, the year by which the Biden administration has pledged to reach net-zero emissions.
However, three issues may prevent a nuclear renaissance—costs, fuel availability, and labor shortages, according to this analysis.
TLP’s take: Advanced nuclear power will be a critical part of America’s energy future—and a key component in America’s competition with China and Russia. All parties in government should get behind efforts to overcome the regulatory, cost, and labor hurdles to future expansion.
3. Republicans are split on whether Trump should be party leader—but his half is solid
What happened? New post-indictment NBC News polling shows former president Donald Trump extending his lead in the Republican primaries. Trump is now the choice of 51 percent of party voters—a five-point increase since April.
Why does it matter? Meanwhile, the second-place contender, Gov. Ron DeSantis has fallen nine points since April and is now the choice of 22 percent of primary voters. All other candidates are languishing in single digits.
DeSantis’s saving grace is that only 49 percent of GOP voters believe that the party should continue to be led by Trump compared to three in 10 who want a new leader with better personal behavior and another fifth who say they like Trump but want to move on.
TLP’s take: Criminal allegations appear good for the Trump family political business. There are many months yet to go in the Republican presidential nomination contest, but as long as half the party remains steadfast Trump backers regardless of his actions it’s hard to see how anyone else solidifies the non-Trump bloc without something serious shifting.
4. How Germany’s economy has become a drag on Europe
What happened? The Wall Street Journal reports on how the German economy—Europe’s largest—has started dragging down the continent due to a combination of rising energy prices, inflation, and higher interest rates. As the Journal notes:
Germany was the only member of the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations aside from Russia to show a lower gross domestic product in the first three months of 2023 than a year earlier. Germany’s GDP shrank by 0.5% in the period. In the U.S., GDP was 1.6% larger. Germany’s weakness was one of the factors that tipped the eurozone into a recession at the start of this year.
Why does it matter? Germany’s manufacturing sector remains a larger part of its overall economy compared with other economies like the United States:
Germany’s reliance on production and exports is unusual among large developed economies, making it look more like China, the world’s workshop, than an average European nation. Manufacturing accounted for 19% of Germany’s gross domestic product in 2021, roughly twice as much as in the U.S., the U.K. or France, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the rich nations’ club.
TLP’s take: Trouble in Europe’s largest economy can’t be good for the continent or the world, but Germany’s export-dependent economy will need to adjust to a world in which Berlin can’t rely on cheap Russian gas or depend on other nations to absorb its trade surpluses. That adjustment will be more difficult for Germany than it has been for its allies.
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