US Declassifies Strategy, Revealing Yawning Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality – The Diplomat


Just eight days before Joe Biden is inaugurated as president of the United States, the Trump administration declassified the strategy it purports to have followed in its policies towards Asia.

Called the “U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific,” the President’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said that the “the document is being released to communicate to the American people and to our allies and partners, the enduring commitment of the United States to keeping the Indo-Pacific region free and open long into the future.”

The timing of the release seems more likely to be intended to pressure the in-coming Biden administration to perpetuate some of the Trump White House’s policies, or to burnish the professional reputations of national security officials tainted by Trump’s behavior and scandal.

Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger, who oversaw much of the strategy’s development as the National Security Council’s senior director for Asia, resigned from the White House last week after a deadly pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The framework lists three overarching challenges in the Pacific: maintaining the United States’ strategic primacy in the region and promoting a liberal economic order against China’s illiberalism; ensuring that North Korea does not threaten the United States; and promoting the United States’ global economic leadership and fair trade.

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Separate from the merits of these objectives, the Trump administration made little progress towards achieving any of them and made some situations much worse.

Trump’s often capriciously pursued trade war against China broadly failed and likely cost the United States economically far more than it did China, and for marginal, if any, strategic benefit.

The world is broadly much more skeptical of China’s global objectives and concerned about its illiberal and unchecked influence. However, this awareness and concern has been driven far more by China’s own behavior, such as its treatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, the political repression of Hong Kong, its economic punishment of Australia, and its abrasive “wolf warrior” diplomacy, than by U.S. leadership or policy.

The Trump administration’s legacy on the Korean Peninsula is much worse. After coming close to sparking a war with North Korea over the reclusive state’s nuclear weapons program in 2017, Trump engaged Kim Jong Un in a series of not very serious diplomatic summits that failed to produce any agreements. North Korea meanwhile unveiled a number of advanced new nuclear-capable missiles, including a giant intercontinental ballistic missile likely capable of hitting anywhere in the continental United States. Instead of bolstering its relationship with South Korea, the Trump administration repeatedly antagonized it with demands to pay the United States more money to support American troops stationed there, while also threatening to bring many of those forces back home and threatening South Korean car manufacturers with trade tariffs.

Instead of bolstering the United States’ economic leadership, the Trump administration presided over its retreat from the global economic order. In spite of China’s widespread economic coercion and disturbing violations of human rights, it has succeeded in leveraging international disappointment and skepticism of the United States from Trump’s policies to cement itself more securely into the global economy. Since Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, Southeast Asia assembled a new regional trade partnership with China, and the European Union concluded a new investment agreement with China over objections from incoming Biden officials.

The Biden administration now faces an even more fractured world from which it might try to assemble an international block against coercive Chinese policies.

The strategy’s goal of maintaining “primacy” in Asia is consistent with Trump’s own sometimes cartoonish military boasts – like the “super duper missile” – and the Pentagon’s goal of maintaining military “overmatch” against any potential adversary. But this overarching goal is not quite aligned with the strategy’s military tasks.

The strategy names two military goals for deterring or prevailing against China in a conflict: to deny China air and sea dominance within the first island chain in a conflict, and for the U.S. military to dominate outside of the first island chain itself. Successful denial does not require military primacy or overmatch and the Pentagon’s own plans suggest that the primacy and overmatch rhetoric belie its more modest approach.

Contesting Chinese dominance inside the first island chain is why the U.S. Army is pursuing new long-range rockets and artillery and is behind the Marine Corps’ expeditionary island base strategy and purchase of mobile missile systems.

But even though these efforts align with the White House strategy, it is questionable whether the strategy is responsible for them. Most of those new weapons systems and warfighting concepts began being developed during the Obama administration and reflect geographic reality more than the Trump team’s strategic innovation.

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If anything, primacy is even further out of reach after Trump’s four years in office than it was at the beginning. Despite coming in with promises of building a 350-ship fleet and successive plans for a 400 or even a 500-ship navy, the Trump administration never submitted a budget proposal to match its sound bites.

Incoming Biden administration officials appear skeptical that these more grandiose military goals are either affordable or necessary to balance China and protect U.S. interests in Asia.

At its best, the “Framework” reads as a collection of the United States’ enduring interests and policies in Asia grafted onto the outgoing President’s bombastic rhetoric and transactional worldview. The result was a strategy that could not achieve Trump’s own idiosyncratic goals and struggled to maintain the geopolitical position he inherited.

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Why America Needs a Strategy for America’s Backyard


The Atlantic region has not been a seriously contested space since 1944. That now has changed. With the rise of great-power competition, Washington must develop and then promote a coherent and coordinated strategy to keep America secure from its principal adversaries.

No, this isn’t all about China, although, it has a lot to do with China. From the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the coast of Latin America and the islands of the Caribbean to the beaches of Africa and the Greater Middle East, and even among the partners of the transatlantic community Beijing has sought to extend its power and influence. We should not stand by idly watch that happen. 

The Atlantic region is a huge and geopolitically complex area. From Greenland and Iceland in the north to Antarctica in the south, it covers approximately forty-six million square miles. It touches eighty littoral nation-states and dependent or autonomous territories—all pursuing a diverse set of interests and all confronting diverse geopolitical challenges.

Handling risk in an area this vast and complicated requires a strategy. Unfortunately, there is no other part of the planet where the U.S. government is less well-organized to shape American engagement to benefit these nations or deliver a coordinated response.

U.S. policymaking in the Atlantic region often falls victim to administrative and bureaucratic divisions within the U.S. government. For example, the Atlantic Ocean is divided amongst four different bureaus in the State Department. There are similar divisions in the National Security Council. The Department of Defense has four different combatant commands covering the Atlantic region. Arguably there is no single point of integration below the level of the Oval Office.

Washington has already recognized the need for coordinated action in the Pacific with action from the “pivot to Asia” under Obama to the strategy for “a free and open Pacific” under Trump. 

While the geopolitical conditions of the Atlantic region may differ from those of the Indo-Pacific region, a strategy is needed to mitigate the pernicious activities of the Chinese Communist Party.  

The aim of a U.S. Atlantic strategy should be to make the Atlantic region resilient against malicious Chinese and Russian influence by expanding regional cooperation and helping U.S. partners become more capable of exercising their sovereignty, more secure and promote their prosperity. The United States cannot turn a blind eye to competition in its own hemisphere.

The ultimate goal of an Atlantic Strategy is to create the conditions for a stable, prosperous, and secure Atlantic area that is aligned, or at least sympathetic to, America’s vision for the region. The short-term goal of this strategy is to preserve the geopolitical status quo the United States enjoys. The medium- to long-term goal is to roll back the nefarious activities of China, Russia, and other adversarial non-state actors seeking more influence in the broader Atlantic region.  

The United States must take a leadership role and rally like-minded partners and allies around this cause. It must also continue to raise awareness of China’s and Russia’s malign activities in the region. At home, it needs to break down the bureaucratic barriers within the federal government that prevent a coordinated approach to the region. America also needs to offer a better and brighter alternative to China and Russia for economic engagement across the region. 

China does not presently have the capacity to project sustained military power in the Atlantic community or to disrupt through military force the traditional American alliances. But the United States cannot assume that these conditions will always prevail. Moreover, Washington cannot forge the Atlantic region into a hardened sphere of influence, such as occurred during the Cold War or the great-power competitions of the nineteenth century. Instead, the United States has to prevail in open spheres of competition by materially contributing to make the Atlantic region resilient against pernicious Chinese influence. This requires sophisticated and coordinated statecraft by U.S. policymakers.

The United States has different interests at stake in different areas of the region. In the High North, the main challenges for the United States are deterring Russian aggression, reducing Chinese influence, and protecting the homeland. In the Southern Hemisphere, the major concern is rising Chinese influence as well as the influence of non-state actors involved in organized crime, human trafficking, and drug trafficking.

Broadly speaking, an effective strategy for the Atlantic region should be based on five themes:  

Stability

The United States should promote policies that support regional stability. A secure Atlantic region offers many economic, trade, and energy opportunities. A stable Atlantic will also encourage much-needed foreign investment in the region. 

Security

Regional security challenges include everything from Russian encroachment in the Arctic to malign Chinese influence in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, narco-traffickers, and organized crime syndicates plague certain areas of the Atlantic region. The second-order and third-order efforts of these security challenges can have a negative impact on the United States and its partners. Security can and must be enhanced with closer defense and intelligence cooperation.

Serenity

Even with all the security challenges, the Atlantic region enjoys relative peace compared to many other places around the world. It is in the interests of the United States to ensure that this remains the case.

Sovereignty

It is also in America’s interest that Atlantic countries remain independent and self-governing, with little or no malign influence from outside powers. This is particularly true of China’s hybrid tactics in the region.  

Success

The region’s economic success is America’s success, which is why the United States must pursue policies that promote economic freedom and free trade throughout the Atlantic region  

While the geopolitical conditions of the Atlantic region differ from those of the Indo-Pacific region, the need for a strategy to mitigate the pernicious activities of the Chinese Communist Party is no less. The aim of the U.S. strategy is to make the Atlantic region resilient against malicious Chinese influence by expanding regional cooperation and keeping U.S. partners secure, sovereign, and prosperous.  

The United States has the means to implement an effective Atlantic Strategy. What is required is the leadership to organize the ways a strategy can best serve the ends. Rather than having federal agencies address new problems in old ways, they must be redirected to serve as effective instruments in protecting the free world from China.  

In the end, the free nations of the earth believe in human rights, freely elected governments, and free enterprise. The Chinese Communist Party does not believe in any of those things. If the United States and its free world partners do not band together to protect those equities, then they will always be at risk. If America can’t facilitate the freedom, peace and prosperity of the Atlantic community, then America’s future will be in peril. 

James Jay Carafano directs The Heritage Foundation’s research in matters of national security and foreign affairs. A former senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Kiron Skinner is a visiting fellow at Heritage. David Shedd, a former acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is also a visiting fellow at the think tank. 

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Radical mental health strategy proposed to tackle players’ bubble fatigue


With health experts warning that the rollout of virus vaccines will not necessarily bring an end to international arrivals having to quarantine in a hotel, players face the prospect of many more months in restricted environments as they tour the globe.

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Australia coach Justin Langer has insisted player welfare is a high priority. Vice-captain Pat Cummins was rested for four of the six white-ball games against India that preceded the Test series. Langer defended having Cummins sit out then, saying “if he hadn’t spent a few days at home in this period then he might not have gone home until June”.

The coach has also forecast support for team members who tell him they need a break but Jauncey, who toured with the Australian side between 2001 and 2008 and now works with Wayne Bennett’s South Sydney Rabbitohs in the National Rugby League, believes it may need to be taken out of the players’ hands.

He suggested a “a mental health rotation” of players for Australia’s international assignments whereby management and selectors would “work it out for them rather than them working it out for themselves”.

“We haven’t seen people be this isolated other than people up in space stations for long periods of time,” said Jauncey, who was also the Queensland team’s pyschologist from 1986 to 2017 and has worked with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as well as the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL and the Brisbane Lions in the AFL.

“I would say you’re going to have to give people breaks from the bubble, especially those playing all three forms of cricket. They will just need to get away, get back home with family and be normal human beings rather than being in this restricted area.”

Some Australian players have spent much of the last six months in various hubs due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and 2021 looks like it will be similar. Credit:Getty

Test opener David Warner predicted in November it was going to be challenging to go on all tours in 2021 and that “each individual will have to put their hand up and be brave” if they required a rest.

Jauncey said players who pulled out would be deserving of praise but the unfortunate stigma attached with those who withdrew from a match or series for mental health reasons, and team members’ concerns about surrendering their positions, made it a difficult decision for an individual to make.

A Cricket Australia spokesman said there had been no player withdrawals from any of the competition hubs for reasons of mental wellbeing. But as the Australians remain in Melbourne before travelling to Sydney next week for the third Test, No.3 batsman Marnus Labuschagne said players had addressed how best to deal with the protocols they are living under and the benefits that could come with having family around.

“We have certainly spoken about it a little bit. I think the hardest thing currently with the COVID situation that just arose in Sydney … once your family comes into the hub and you are able to have your family around a bit more, move relatively freely … it does feel a little bit normal,” he said.

“But certainly for the guys who haven’t seen their partners over Christmas, and family and wives, it is definitely quite tough. But that is the situation we are in as professional cricketers currently.

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“That is what the game is demanding from the players that are playing. We just have to keep our eyes focused … and hopefully life returns back to normal very quickly.”

Labuschagne said having his wife, Rebekah, with him in the hub had been beneficial but not all players needed family by their side to help them “switch off” from thinking about cricket.

“For certain people, it is very important, and for some it’s probably not as important. But I certainly found having my wife here for the last two games has been very beneficial,” he said.

“I love having her around, it’s nice to have some company, and it just gives you that switch off from potentially talking to teammates about cricket or stuff like that.”

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‘Investor alpha’ is the most important financial strategy for 2021


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This has been the year of unpredictability.

The pandemic, including self-quarantining for months, is top of mind for people around the globe. The many other surprises this year include the fastest bear market in history, civil unrest, quite a unique U.S. presidential election, the speedy creation of a coronavirus vaccine and the market hitting all-time highs despite the scary headlines.

Nobody could have predicted how this year would unfold.

With so much uncertainty, the one strategy that will be particularly relevant for investors in 2021 is “investor alpha.” Basically, factor-driven alpha investment strategies are designed to manage risks within a portfolio while also delivering market-bearing returns.

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Many people are familiar with manager alpha, or the additional return a successful portfolio manager can provide above the index. However, with choppy markets and a continuous stream of bad news, it would be wise for investors to focus on the alpha that they can personally generate by being mindful of the below four concepts.

1. Tax efficiency: A tax-efficient portfolio allows investors to keep more of their money. It can be accomplished by utilizing proper “asset location,” a process of having investments located in different types of accounts based on their tax efficiency.

For example, tax-inefficient investments, such as real estate investment trusts and funds with a high portfolio turnover or that generate a high level of income, may be better suited in tax-deferred retirement accounts. Conversely, tax-efficient investment strategies like exchange-traded funds that passively track an index and generate a modest level of income may be better suited in a taxable account.

Another way for investors to minimize their tax liability is to max out their contributions to tax-advantaged accounts. This includes 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts, Roth IRAs or a triple tax-free health savings account. If one has college-bound children, it may also include a 529 college savings account, which provides federal tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals for qualified expenses, as well as the possibility of a tax credit or deduction for contributions to one’s in-state plan. Paying close attention to taxes, in addition to investments, may meaningfully increase one’s wealth over time.

2. Savings rate: Over the past decade, the S&P 500 index has experienced an attractive 13% annualized return, several points above the historical long-term 10% average. While all investors are rooting for continued strong performance, it’s prudent to plan for the possibility of lower future growth.

The market moves in cycles and can experience years of relative underperformance. For instance, the S&P 500 averaged -3% annually during the decade ending in February 2009.

One step investors can take in planning for a low-return environment is to increase their savings rate. It’s far more exciting to pick a winning stock or watch the market hit all-time highs. However, simply putting away more money is a more reliable way to meet your financial goals.

3. Automation: One of the hardest things about investing is controlling one’s emotions. When the market plummets, many investors want to sell everything and move to cash. On the other hand, as the market skyrockets many feel the urge to chase high-flying stocks and take an imprudent level of risk.

Instituting a level of automation into one’s investment process is a good way to keep emotions in check and your investment strategy on track. Investors can effortlessly execute this strategy through their employer’s 401(k) plan, where money is automatically deducted from each paycheck and invested in the market. Investors can also sign up for “automatic escalation” of contributions to ensure that they are effortlessly contributing more money every year. The same automations can be set up in a brokerage account by working with your financial advisor.

Another automation is the process of rebalancing, which is readjusting the weightings of a portfolio as an investment goes up or down over time. When a portfolio is rebalanced, the investor is buying or selling assets in order to maintain their original asset allocation. They are also selling high and buying low, which is a way to lock in gains and reinvest the proceeds into investments that have underperformed. Rebalancing can be set up to occur at predetermined times throughout the year or once an investment hits a certain percentage threshold relative to the rest of the portfolio.

4. Portfolio fees: Two of the major recent breakthroughs in the world of investing have been the democratization of investment solutions and the substantial reduction in fees across the industry. Today, U.S.-based investors can get exposure to almost any market in the world for a minimal fee. This exposure can be attained in many ways, including easily accessible exchange traded funds or low-cost mutual funds.

A worthwhile exercise for all investors is to comb through their existing holdings to determine if they can swap out expensive legacy positions for new low-cost investments. While fees are definitely not the only consideration, or even the most important factor, when it comes to accumulating wealth, paying substantially more than industry averages may lower your returns over the course of your investing lifetime.

As we approach year-end, folks can only guess what 2021 has in store for society and the markets. If we learned anything from the past year, it’s that none of us owns that crystal ball that can help us predict the future. However, investors can take solace in the fact that focusing on those items they can control may be sufficient to achieve their financial objectives. 



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COVID-19: Why hasn’t Italy decided its Christmas lockdown strategy yet?


The debate on whether to impose a full-scale lockdown in Italy this Christmas is still open – with only days left to go.

This week, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has been holding meetings with health experts, various party members and local governors to discuss which measures to impose.

Governors and experts are setting their sights on a nationwide lockdown to avoid mistakes made over summer; however, Conte is approaching this idea with caution due to economic implications.

Many options are still on the table, but so far, the most likely scenario would be two short lockdowns introduced at different times.

The first would happen between December 24 and 27, and the second from December 31 to January 3.

Italy is currently Europe’s worst-hit country in terms of COVID-19 deaths, accounting for more than 67,800 fatalities.

(Watch more on this story in the above player).



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Hine explains strategy behind Collingwood’s draft haul


Collingwood drafted eight new players in the National and Rookie Drafts last week.

The Magpies picked up six players inside the top 44 including Oliver Henry (pick 17), Finlay Macrae (19), NGA prospect Reef McInnes (23), Caleb Poulter (30), Liam McMahon (31) and Beau McCreery (44).

They also added Jack Ginnivan and Isaac Chugg as rookies.

Recruiting manager Derek Hine has given some insight into why the Pies selected such players, citing the evolution of the annual list cycle and the support required for the club’s top-line players.

“If you look at the boys we brought in this year in Reef and Caleb in particular, if you look at our list, they would be sitting behind Scotty Pendlebury and Brayden Sier,” he told SEN’s Bob and Andy.

“The decisions we have to make as a footy club is where’s the longevity in Scott? We know Scott is an elite player but what’s next to him? How can we take the pressure off him physically?

“Because it is a pretty brutal game and that’s where it is important for us for boys like Brayden Sier and these sorts of guys, that can actually step up.

“Then we have the younger boys (who we drafted) that are going to be able to come in. It’s sort of like a cycle of evolution in terms of the way that the list goes.

“I look at it like this: you’ve got your established player, then you’ve got your development player and then you’ve got your depth player – the player that you know is only going to be your 5-10 game (per season) player.

“Then you’ve got this development player who can sit in and try to balance those loads and develop them that way.”

Hine further spoke of the new additions and the attributes they will be bringing with them to the Holden Centre.

“Jack Ginnivan and Isaac Chugg have got some serious wheels as has Beau McCreery,” he added.

“Those boys are 180 to 183 (centimetres) which will complement the Caleb Poulters and the Reef McInnes’. Liam is obviously a key forward at 196-197 (centimetres).

“Oliver, he’s a young fella that can swing both ends. That was the key to try to get the balance. I think we sort of got that and now it’s over to the boys and fingers crossed we have some success with them.”

Macrae, McInnes (both Oakleigh Chargers) and McMahon (Northern Knights) are all Melbourne products, Henry arrives from Geelong, Poulter and McCreery have been picked out of the SANFL, while Ginnivan and Chugg are from Bendigo and Launceston respectively.

Hine was asked if the Collingwood recruiters place much importance on where a kid hails from before they draft him.

“Matty Rendell used to spend a lot of it, but I don’t try to take any notice of it,” he said further.

“You just try to back your program and the systems. You just go where the talent is, no matter where it is.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s in Ireland, America, Launceston, Bendigo, wherever. It’s just getting the best talent in.

“I just can’t overemphasise how important it is for the boys, that once they’ve got their opportunity, to take their opportunity.

“There is a high expectation that the guys have to come in and improve on a daily basis. They’re so heavily scrutinised, whether that be right or wrong, and that in itself creates its own pressures.”

The Pies endured a difficult trade period in losing Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson, Tom Phillips and Atu Bosenavulagi but somewhat offset that by drafting in a haul of quality youngsters.







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Adrian Dodoro lifts the lid on Essendon’s draft strategy


Essendon list boss Adrian Dodoro has explained why the club opted to take four key position players in this year’s National Draft.

The Bombers had three picks inside the top 10 of Wednesday night’s draft, presenting them with a golden opportunity to refresh the club’s list after a 13th-place finish in 2020.

Dodoro drafted the athletic Nik Cox with pick eight, midfielder/forward Archie Perkins with pick nine and versatile defender Zach Reid with pick 10.

While also recruiting Next Generation Academy pair Cody Brand and Josh Eyre – who are also key position players – Dodoro said it was crucial the club replenished their tall stocks as the likes of Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker enter the twilight of their careers.

“That’s an interesting one,” Dodoro told SEN’s Dwayne’s World when asked if the club recruited too many tall players.

“If you look at the demographics of our list, you see that we have a number of spine players that are probably coming to the latter part of their careers and we have to look to the future.

“This draft was about the future of our club and doing the right thing about our club, in the next two or three years we’ll be turning over the majority of that spine and there will be a brand new spine.

“We’ve lost Joe Daniher, we’ve lost Tom Bellchambers so we’re already a couple of men down in that area so we wanted to own this draft this year in term of the talls.

“You talk about being too tall, a guy like Nik Cox is 200cm but he can play on the ball, it’s not like he’s a key position forward who doesn’t have agility, he’s actually a really nimble young man and very exciting.

“Archie Perkins will play in the midfield and when you have a kid like Zach Reid that’s available at 203cm … you see the forwards like the King brothers who are coming through, it’s a no-brainer and you need to plan for the future.

“Then our other two boys are NGA players that were later in the draft, people may think (we took too many tall players in the draft), but we certainly think we can settle on our talls and look to other areas in the next few years.”

Essendon will be hoping their trio of top 10 draft talent will provide the catalyst for an improved season in 2021 under head coach Ben Rutten, who takes the job outright for the first time after sharing the coaching duties with John Worsfold last season.







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Russian import substitution strategy fails


Russia has failed to replace the supplies of basic categories of imported food products at the expense of domestic production, including those that were prohibited for import under the counter-sanctions in August 2014.

A study conducted by the National Rating Agency (NRA) has shown that Russia has actually replaced European suppliers with companies from other countries. At the same time, it goes about re-export rather than replacement of prohibited food products, the Kommersant said.

It has been eight years since the time when Russia adopted the import substitution strategy. During this time, Russia has been able to significantly reduce meat imports on the food market – by 65 percent, which was 2.8 percentage points less than was provided in the strategy.

Exports of dairy products by the end of 2020 decreased by 20 percent instead of 30 percent as was stated in the strategy, fruits and vegetables – by eleven percent instead of the planned 20 percent.  The situation with the reduction in vegetable imports turned out to be a failure: instead of the planned 70.3 percent, imports fell by only 27 percent. Russia will continue importing vegetables and fruits primarily because of climate conditions.


  • In the early 2000s, Russia imported 2.5-3 million tons of meat and by-products, including from the EU, but the volumes of meat import dropped to less than 600,000 tons in 2020.

  • This year, the country will produce 5.05 million tons of poultry and 4.25 million tons of pork, although ten years ago these figures amounted to 0.8 million and 1.6 million tons respectively.

  • Fish production is also growing: in 2019, the country produced 4.21 million tons of fish products against 3.68 million tons in 2013.

At the same time, the domestic production of the food products that were banned for imports from the EU in 2019 exceeded the volume of imports from the countries that are not subject to sanctions by 2.5 times. However, the share of imports of such food products is still high: 30 percent against 38% in 2013. The rest is imported from third countries.

During the times prior to the embargo, the EU accounted for 43 percent of all dairy products imported into the Russian Federation. Today, it is Belarus that has become the main supplier (79 percent versus 39 percent before the sanctions). Belarus has also replaced the EU in meat supplies: now its share in the structure of imports in the Russian Federation is 29 percent against 12 percent in 2013. From Paraguay, where Russia used to import meat to a limited extent before the sanctions, Russia currently imports 19 percent.

The NRA study revealed that a number of countries carry out at least partial re-export of sanctioned products to the Russian Federation. For example, Norway, which used to supply up to 40 percent of imported fish to the Russian Federation before the embargo, was replaced by Chile and the Faroe Islands, which currently account for 20 and 16 percent of fish imports respectively. At the same time, supplies of Norwegian fish to Chile have tripled.

Ecuador, from where 22 percent of fruit is imported to Russia, has actually replaced the European Union, having increased purchases of these products in Europe seven times, which exceeds the volume of domestic consumption. China has replaced vegetable supplies to Russia from Europe: the share of this country in imports has increased to 21 percent against 8 percent in 2013. At the same time, China has tripled purchases of vegetables from the European Union.

Experts claim, however, that this is not entirely true. Ecuador, for instance, mostly supplies bananas and exotic fruits that do not grow in the EU. In addition, re-export of European salmon from Chile to Russia is unprofitable due to high logistics costs.

Nevertheless, it is possible to re-export food products via other countries: nearly 110,000 tons of apples, which accounts for about 15 percent of all imports.


Last year, Russian economists from the Center for Economic and Financial Research and Development calculated that Russian consumers lose about 445 billion rubles annually in 2013 prices due to the food embargo and continue to pay for it at their own expense. Import substitution deems successful in the production of poultry, pork and tomatoes.




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Is there a low-code hole in your data management strategy?


Data is constantly streaming through the business, and while once capturing it and cracking open its value was the reserve of a handful of data specialists within the ranks, today, everybody in the organization is expected to be reaping its value. 

Businesses have put the foot down on digital transformation and, for many, investment in a broad suite of powerful tools is top of the DX to-do list.  

The aim is to improve workflow and increase productivity by making data central, accessible, and easily shareable, but businesses can quickly find themselves stalling with software, applications, or solutions that carry a steep learning curve and high barrier to entry. 

Lacking the requisite know-how and confidence to employ powerful but cumbersome database solutions like MySQL and MongoDB, employees fall back to familiar tools such as Excel and Google Docs to share information, which while useful for small tasks, were not built for handling large quantities of metadata. 

On the balance sheet, the ‘data-driven’ business may have the gloss of one in the midst of a successful digital transformation. Under the surface, within day-to-day operations, the intended boost to productivity and workflow is suffering from a disorganized, ad-hoc approach to data handling — even the most intensive, expansive training programs would be tested to instill the confidence, skills, and discipline to leverage code-based database systems across the workforce. 

The rise of low-code data management

This is a problem that fostered the boom of low-code database management solutions, perhaps the most well-known of which is Airtable. 

Launching in 2015 with the goal of providing easier, mobile-friendly spreadsheet-like databases, the “workplace collaboration, and productivity platform” is now worth around US$2.6 billion. In 2020, the SaaS company database Latka estimates Airtable’s revenue is around $33.5 million this year. 

Airtable now claims to serve approximately 200,000 customers worldwide, including Netflix, HBO, Condé Nast Entertainment, TIME, City of Los Angeles, MIT Media Lab, and IBM, with its spreadsheet interface serving to help more users build their own apps without code. 

But this is just one of a rapidly-evolving startup market expected to accrue worth of more than US$45 billion by 2026, growing annually by 25% each year. It’s an ecosystem formed of low-code startups, and one tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are aggressively wading into through consolidation.  

Low-code database tools are now employed by coffee shops to SaaS vendors, ousting a previous reliance on spreadsheets to manage projects, budgets and customer leads. Spreadsheet database hybrids are familiar, intuitive, and powerful. Users are familiar with the layout and capabilities, without being off-put by the UI of more complex data management tools. 

And it is among smaller businesses — which make up some 98% of businesses worldwide — where the market power lies. 

Smaller businesses become data businesses

Small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the enterprise-level resources to invest in IT infrastructure, allocating budget, and resource to software development cycles and infrastructure maintenance, particularly when this might not be their primary business goal. Easy-to-use and affordable web-based databases offer the perfect solution for these companies. It helps them handle their day-to-day data sharing, data storage, and business analytics.

It means the barrier to becoming a ‘data-driven’ organization — one that has the tools, abilities, and culture to act on data in real-time — is lowered, and employees, regardless of skill, have the confidence to use it in a way that works best for their organization. 

“Low-code empowers people with zero technical skills to collect, manage, organize, and track data in an incredibly simple way,” said Annabel Maw, director of communications at JotForm, a low-code online database and form builder.  

“Today, entrepreneurs start businesses from their homes with one or two people and don’t typically have the budget to hire IT or data professionals. Having low-code tools give anyone the opportunity to manage their data in a way that works best for them.”

For larger enterprises, adopting low-code database solutions also alleviates pressure on larger organizations’ specialist data and IT teams, who spend less time on maintenance and the development of new databases when required, where previously there would be the significant time required on managing project implementation and requirements which would need to be constantly updated or redeveloped as needs change. 

While building data literacy among teams is becoming an “essential skill” in business today, having tools, applications, and solutions that are accessible goes, perhaps, the longest way in establishing that culture throughout the organization.  





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Coronavirus: Is India’s test and tracing strategy working?


By Shruti Menon
BBC Reality Check

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image captionA faster but less reliable method of testing has gained ground in many states

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on the country’s worst-affected states to give top priority to testing and contact tracing to combat coronavirus.

Daily cases in India have been falling since mid-September, but there’s concern that varied testing strategies may be hindering the battle against the disease.

What type of testing is India doing?

India had been using the what’s known as a PCR test – regarded as the gold standard of testing – very widely.

But currently, only 60% of all tests use this method, and many Indian states – who are in charge of their own health policies – have switched to rapid antigen testing (RAT), a faster but less reliable method.

  • How does mass testing work?

RAT tests are known to miss up to 50% of cases due to false negatives (where infected people are not detected), although some experts believe they are still useful in areas which have become virus hotspots.

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“The ability to detect cases depends on a relative mix of the less sensitive RAT test and the gold standard PCR test,” says Prof Gautam Menon, an infectious disease expert from Ashoka University in Haryana.

India isn’t alone in using these tests, and some European countries grappling with further waves of infection have also resorted to rapid testing.

Is testing consistent across the country?

Maharashtra is the worst-affected state in India, with 17% of all cases.

In terms of total coronavirus cases, it’s followed by states with significantly smaller populations such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

But Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – two other states with large populations – appear to be doing much better.

They have lower proportions of confirmed cases at 2.9% and 1.6%.

What the testing data reveals is that in both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (and some other states) less than 50% of total tests use the PCR method – so cases are being missed.

In Maharashtra, nearly 60% of tests have been PCR tests (although they are increasingly using rapid testing in the state capital, Mumbai.)

And Tamil Nadu state has relied totally on PCR testing, which means it is likely to have a far more accurate idea of the spread of the virus.

Patchy testing levels across states

There’s evidence that states may also not be testing enough in highly populated areas where infections tend to be higher.

As of 30 November, 13% of Uttar Pradesh’s cases were found in its capital, Lucknow, although fewer than 6% of total tests in the state have been carried out there.

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Kanpur district has the second-highest number of cases in the state, but just under 3% of total tests have been conducted there.

District-level data in Bihar reveals a similar trend. One of the most populous areas, Patna, accounts for 18% of all reported cases yet has conducted only 3% of the total tests in the state.

Other parts of the state have carried out relatively high numbers of tests, but have fewer cases.

“If you do fewer tests in areas where cases are high and vice-versa [more tests where cases are low], you end up reporting less cases while meeting a specific high-testing target,” says Dr Rijo John, a public health policy analyst in Kerala.

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He adds this can make the data on case numbers a bit meaningless.

Varying surveillance systems

India’s Covid-19 national guidelines say states should trace contacts of at least 80% of positive cases within 72 hours.

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image captionMany migrant workers left Delhi to return home during the national lockdown

But India’s parliamentary committee on health and family welfare has said that “poor contact tracing and less testing could have been a factor for the exponential growth of Covid”.

It’s difficult to get reliable information from every state about contact tracing.

Uttar Pradesh was recently lauded by the WHO for “early and systemic tracking of high-risk contacts”.

By contrast, data for Karnataka shows its numbers for primary and secondary contact tracing have fallen since September.

Telangana state has data for the proportion of tests carried out on the primary and secondary contacts of those who have contracted Covid-19.

This has come down a bit since September along with overall testing numbers.

In Kerala, the data shows 95% of all cases since 4 May have been traced back to the primary and secondary contacts of infected persons.

But none of these datasets reveals if 80% of contacts of someone who was positive were traced within the timeframe set out in the national guidelines.

And many states do not make this data public.

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