Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 22 October – Sunday 29 October:

On Sunday night, Argentina’s first round election results were released. Defying expectations, Economy Minister Sergio Massa emerged as the victor, with 36.6% of the 27 million votes cast. He was followed by Javier Milei, who received 29.9% of the vote. Neither received the 45% – or a win by 10 percent – necessary to outright win the election. The two candidates will face off in a second round of elections on November 19. 

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially submitted Sweden’s NATO membership application to the Turkish parliament. It took three months for him to do so after agreeing to allowing Sweden to join at the Vilnius, Lithuania NATO summit in July. Turkey and Hungary are the last two NATO members who have not ratified Sweden’s accession. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called the announcement “encouraging news” and said he looked forward to his country becoming a NATO member. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged the Turkish parliament to move fast and approve Sweden’s membership in the alliance. “I welcome President Erdogan’s signature of the accession protocol for Sweden and its referral to the Grand National Assembly. I look forward to a speedy vote to ratify, and to welcoming Sweden as a full NATO ally very soon,” Stoltenberg said in a statement. 

On Monday, the French government announced it would be selling military equipment to Armenia over fears that neighbouring Azerbaijan may be emboldened to encroach into Armenian territory after their lightning assault on Nagorno-Karabakh last month. France has the largest Armenian diaspora in Europe and signed an agreement to sell three Ground Master 200 radars, manufactured by French multinational Thales and used by Ukrainian forces in their current war. Armenia and France also signed a letter of intent to purchase Mistral air defence systems made by MBDA. In the coming months, the French government will send a French military official to act as a defense consultant for the Armenian executive branch on issues such as armed forces training. France will also train Armenian soldiers and help Yerevan audit Armenia’s air defence to identify blind spots.

On Tuesday, Chinese Defence Minister General Li Shangfu was officially removed from office – after not being seen in public since August 29 when he gave a speech at the Chinese-Africa peace forum. He was appointed in March. No explanation was given for Li’s removal and state media said he and former Foreign Minister Qin Gang – who was also abruptly removed from office, in July – were stripped of their positions as state councillors. China is presently without a defence minister.

On Tuesday morning, French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Tel Aviv to meet with the Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – along with the Defence Minister Benny Gantz and main opposition leader Yair Lipid. Later that day he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank. Macron called for the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group to be expanded to also fight Hamas. 

On Tuesday, China passed a national legislation to boost patriotic education for children and families in the nation. The law is aimed at countering “historical nihilism” and is supposed to safeguard “national unity” as it provides a legal guarantee for imparting patriotic education. “Historical nihilism” is a term used in China to describe public doubt about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) description of past events. State media in China said that some Chinese are at a loss about what patriotism needs – the CCP is going to attempt to re-educate them. The law will take effect from January 1, 2024 and will respect the “history and cultural traditions of other countries and draws inspiration from all of human civilisation’s outstanding achievements”. 

On Tuesday night a Chinese fighter jet flew within three metres of an American B-52 bomber while it was flying over the South China Sea. The U.S. military reported the incident on Thursday evening, and both sides blame each other. On Thursday the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command issued a statement saying the move almost caused an accident. The Chinese Shenyang J-11 twin-engine jet fighter approached the B-52 at an “uncontrolled excessive speed, flying below, in front of, and within 10 feet of the B-52, putting both aircraft in danger of a collision…. We are concerned this pilot was unaware of how close he came to causing a collision,” the military said. China’s foreign ministry said in response that the B-52 was flying over the South China Sea as a deliberate provocation: “The US military planes travelled thousands of miles to China’s doorstep to flex muscle… That is the source of maritime and air security risks, and is not conducive to regional peace and stability”. 

On Wednesday, Russian lawmakers in the Federation Council – the upper house of parliament – unanimously approved a bill which revokes Russia’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Last week the bill was passed by the State Duma – the lower house of parliament. The legislation now only needs the signature of President Vladimir Putin to come into effect. It is unclear, however, whether the revocation will result in Russia resuming tests of nuclear weapons. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier this month that Moscow will continue to respect the ban and will only resume nuclear tests if the US does so. Ryabkov said on Wednesday that the U.S. had conducted a “chemical explosion” at a test site in Nevada – U.S. officials said the test would help in detecting low-yield nuclear explosions. Ryabkov said the test was “undoubtedly a political signal” – perhaps a warning from the United States. He also told journalists in Moscow that the Kremlin had received informal proposals from the U.S. on the resumption of of talks on arms control “in isolation from everything that is happening”. 

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives elected a new House Leader. Republican Mike Johnson, 51, won in a vote 220-209. Johnson, a third-term congressman and lawyer from Louisiana is backed by former president Donald Trump. Three other candidates were rejected by the House before settling on Johnson. 

On Wednesday, President Biden warned China that the American defence commitment to the Philippines is “ironclad”. The Mutual Defence Treaty between the U.S. and its former colony, the Philippines, signed in 1951, binds the two countries in defending each other in the event of an armed attack. During his speech from the White House, Biden said “any attack on the Filipino aircraft, vessels, or armed forces will invoke our Mutual Defence Treaty with the Philippines” as he welcomed visiting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning in response said the US had “no right to get involved in a problem between China and the Philippines”.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Washington for a three day visit to the U.S. He met with President Biden, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and national security advisor Jake Sullivan. Both sides agreed to work toward a bilateral meeting at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in San Francisco in November. According to the foreign ministry statement, Wang also said that China and the U.S. needed a “return to Bali,” in a reference to Xi and Biden’s previous meeting at a G20 summit last year, where both officials discussed issues relating to Taiwan, U.S.-China trade tensions as well as cooperation to address issues like climate change, health and food security. On Sunday, Wang Yi said a potential meeting between Xi Jinping and Biden in San Francisco at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in November would not be “smooth-sailing”. 

On Friday, the Palestinian telecommunication company Jawwal said in a social media post that mobile phone and internet services have been shut off in the Gaza Strip. An extended series of large explosions lit up the sky over Gaza City after nightfall on Friday as Israel ramped up airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the second stage of the war against Hamas has begun, with the goal of destroying the group’s armed wing and government, and returning hostages held in Gaza home. Israel conducted raids on Wednesday and Thursday nights – Israeli forces withdrew on both occasions after a few hours. 

On Friday, The United States has attacked two facilities in Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran-backed groups, the Pentagon has said, following a series of attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria. The strikes came after President Joe Biden’s administration pledged to respond to attacks on US personnel that Washington has blamed on armed groups backed by Iran. “Iran wants to hide its hand and deny its role in these attacks against our forces. We will not let them. If attacks by Iran’s proxies against US forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people.” Austin said the “narrowly-tailored strikes” were in self-defence and were not connected to the Israel-Hamas war.

On Sunday, the U.S. warned of an “elevated risk” of a spillover conflict in the Middle East as Iranian proxy groups continue targeting American troops stationed in the region. “We are vigilant, because we are seeing elevated threats against our forces throughout the region and an elevated risk of this conflict spreading to other parts of the region. We are doing everything in our power to deter and prevent that,” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. On Wednesday, President Biden said he had directly warned Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against targeting American troops in the Middle East: “my warning to the ayatollah was that if they continue to move against those troops, we will respond, and he should be prepared,” Biden told reporters, adding it has “nothing to do” with Israel.

In the week ahead:

The Federal Reserve will hold another FOMC meeting from Tuesday to Wednesday.