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Forecast podcast: Ukraine war tensions spiral after errant missile kills two in Poland

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Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Joe Veyera discuss the recent missile strike in the Polish border area, plus more on the Black Sea grain deal expiring (the deal was extended between the recording of the episode and this publication), the Francophone summit in Tunisia, the start of the World Cup and Russia’s President Putin visiting Armenia.

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These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Sophie Perryer, Jess Fino, Owen Bonertz and Joe Veyera.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com.


Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:

Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is Nov. 17.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got the Black Sea grain deal expiring, a Francophone summit in Tunisia, the start of the World Cup, Russia’s President Putin visiting Armenia and a look at the missile strike in Poland. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Black Sea grain deal expires

Information compiled by Alex Moore

UPDATE: Following the recording of this week’s episode, Ukraine announced that the Black Sea grain deal was extended for 120 days, despite Russia’s concerns that some of its demands have not been addressed yet. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the agreement even though it fell short of the one-year extension the UN and Ukraine had advocated for.

JIMMY: The Black Sea grain deal between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN is set to expire on Saturday. That’s barring an extension, of course.

The agreement was initially struck in late July. It opened Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea for the first time since Russia closed navigation when they launched a full invasion. 

The deal is seen as the most significant diplomatic achievement since the invasion. It staved off a looming global food crisis, given Ukraine and Russia’s massive roles in foodstuff exports, particularly for developing nations. 

Now, while Moscow did briefly halt its participation in the deal after claiming that Ukraine attacked naval vessels in Sevastopol, Russia rejoined the agreement shortly after.

UN-backed efforts to extend the deal have so far yielded no results, but, according to Bloomberg, Russia is expected to agree to a deal extension

Francophone summit in Tunisia

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: The leaders of Francophone nations will meet in Djerba, Tunisia, on Saturday. They’re gathering for a biannual summit to discuss the global economy, politics and promoting French culture and language.

The theme of the summit is “connectivity in diversity.”

Tunisian authorities have even constructed a village in Djerba just for the event. 

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to attend and will meet with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the sidelines. That, after Macron participated in a peace summit between Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in October.  

Now, the summit comes in the context of rising anti-French sentiment in some Francophone African nations, including Burkina Faso and Mali after their respective military coups. 

The secretary general of the organization which puts on the summit said the anti-French sentiment isn’t a rejection of the French language, rather an affirmation that young people in Francophone nations don’t want to belong to a unified former colonial identity. 

World Cup starts

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: Soccer fans around the globe have something to look forward to on Sunday when the World Cup gets underway in Qatar.

The month-long international soccer competition will begin with the home country playing against Ecuador.

The FIFA World Cup takes place every four years in a different country. Qatar won a bid to host the tournament back in 2010, beating the United States and Australia and becoming the first Arab Muslim nation to host the competition

Of course, the nomination itself was controversial. It came amid reports of soccer officials being paid by Qatar to support the nomination.

Many also argue the country’s size makes it difficult to welcome the hundreds of thousands of people expected to travel to the tournament. 

Additionally, the event usually takes place in the summer months but had to be moved to November and December due to Qatar’s climate.

The biggest criticism, however, has been Qatar’s poor record in human rights, given homossexuality is a punishable crime in the country. 

Now, the U.S. team has announced it will add the rainbow flag to their logo in solidarity with the LGBTQ community during the tournament. 

Denmark’s team will also wear shirts that criticize Qatar’s human rights record, with a black option to bring attention to the migrant workers who reportedly died during construction work on stadiums. 

And then there’s Britain’s foreign minister, who has sparked controversy by urging gay fans to show respect to Qatar. 

Meanwhile, some reports have emerged of gay people being detained ahead of the tournament. 

Finally, the competition ends on Dec. 18 with Argentina, Brazil and Belgium among some of the favorites to win.

Putin visits Armenia

Information compiled by Owen Bonertz

JIMMY: Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Armenia next week. He’ll meet with Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan on Tuesday before attending the Collective Security Treaty Organization conference in Yerevan on Wednesday.

The visit comes in the wake of September’s violent clashes along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. Those clashes left nearly 300 soldiers dead on either side, but they also seemed to precipitate a step towards peace. 

Putin, Pashinyan and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev met in Russia on Oct. 31 and agreed on a prolonged ceasefire and further negotiations. 

Russia has traditionally acted as a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and their troops have been deployed as peacekeepers there since 2020. 

The Russians also maintain close military ties and assistance with Armenia in order to check the power of Turkish-backed Azerbaijan, but only to an extent. 

When Armenia asked the member states of the CSTO to intervene on their side in 2020 and 2022, they were politely rebuffed.

Now, at least 100,000 Russian citizens have moved to Armenia since the start of Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine in order to avoid being conscripted. 

Putin and Pashinyan are likely to address this exodus and perhaps announce a shift in immigration requirements. 

Putin will also gauge Pashinyan’s willingness to surrender territory to Azerbaijan in future peace agreements. 

Finally, the CSTO meeting on Wednesday could prompt discussion on Russia’s obligation to intervene in conflicts of member states, as fellow-member Kyrgyzstan was similarly denied assistance in their recent border clashes with Tajikistan. 

Overall, Putin will likely maneuver to keep Armenia firmly within Russia’s sphere of influence as Ukraine fights to leave and as American influence grows in Armenia.

Missile lands in Polish border area

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the recent missile strike in Poland’s border area. For more on that I spoke with fellow editor Joe Veyera.

JIMMY: Hi, Joe. Nice to have you back on the podcast. It’s been a while.

JOE: Well Jimmy, I had so much fun last time I just couldn’t help but return for another round.

JIMMY: Well, I know you were covering Europe yesterday when the news broke of an explosion in Poland and I’m hoping you can catch us up on what all went down?

JOE: Yes, so late Tuesday local time reports began to come out of Poland of an explosion that left two people dead in an area about five miles from the country’s border with Ukraine. The cause was initially unclear, and obviously you don’t want to jump the gun on this sort of thing, but over the course of the night both the media reports and statements from government officials settled on this being a fallen missile. That raised a whole host of other questions, most importantly whose missile was it, and was there any intent? Was this a deliberate strike, and if it was, does NATO get involved seeing as this was the first instance of an alliance territory being struck since the start of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. This had the potential to signify a major escalation, but luckily that’s not how things ultimately played out.

JIMMY: So it wasn’t a Russian missile?

JOE: No, so at this time, the word from both Polish and NATO officials is that, despite the initial fears, it wasn’t. Preliminary findings have suggested the missile was likely launched by Ukrainian air defenses during a period of intense Russian shelling, and was not an intentional strike on Polish territory.

JIMMY: What was the reaction to that news? 

JOE: For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed doubts that the missile was fired by his forces, and says his country should be privy to the ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, the Kremlin says it didn’t conduct any missile strikes within 20 miles of the border. Then, you have NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who says Russia “bears ultimate responsibility,” even if it wasn’t their missile, and that’s something we’ve kind of heard from other world leaders since as well, who are basically saying, this missile fire wouldn’t be happening at all if Russia hadn’t invaded Ukraine in the first place.

JIMMY: Well, I guess, how do things stand now?

JOE: Yeah, so, in spite of the dispute over responsibility, it appears unlikely that this incident will trigger a significant escalation in the conflict or any notable NATO intervention at this time. Poland has declined to invoke Article 4, which would request consultations among the full group of an issue of territorial integrity or security. In the meantime, this all happened while the G20 summit was taking place in Indonesia, and a joint declaration issued Wednesday by members of the bloc, “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine” and called for a complete and unconditional withdrawal.

JIMMY: Well, Joe, we are running short on time today so I think we’ll leave it there, but I thank you for getting us all caught up to speed. 

JOE: Thanks as always for having me. 

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Sophie Perryer, Jess Fino and Owen Bonertz. Our interview featured editor Joe Veyera and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com.

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

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