Davos Playbook: Tank trauma — World on fire — Crypto winter
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By SUZANNE LYNCH and RYAN HEATH
with Cristina Gonzalez, Jamil Anderlini, Matthew Kaminski, Erin Banco and Alex Ward
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GOOD MORNING and welcome to Day 3 of our Davos Playbook, brought to you by the POLITICO team at the World Economic Forum. The politics and the fun are both in full swing, including at POLITICO’s Tuesday soirée with film director Oliver Stone.
First up: Listen to today’s Davos Confidential podcast — featuring designer and equality campaigner Diane von Fürstenberg and IBM’s Gary Cohn. You can catch up on all the episodes from the Swiss Alps here.
TANKS FOR UKRAINE
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY: Following the surprise appearance of Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska on the WEF main stage Tuesday, her husband Volodymyr Zelenskyy will deliver a speech today at 5 p.m. It could be uncomfortable listening for some in the audience: He wants tanks and additional support, and he wants it now. Here’s looking at you, Germany.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will speak just before Zelenskyy. It comes at a crucial moment for Berlin, which is facing pressure to authorize its Leopard 2 tanks to go to Ukraine. (Berlin must allow third countries to send German-made tanks to Kyiv.) Scholz is also due to meet with the visiting U.S. congressional delegation — a meeting which follows a Joe Biden-Scholz call on Tuesday, which Berlin said focused on “effective, sustainable and closely coordinated” military support for Ukraine.
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Step up, please: Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told Playbook in an interview that Germany should not only step up — but that he expects Berlin will sign off on sending tanks at a key meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday.
Not alone: Landsbergis said that now that the U.K. has committed to sending tanks to Ukraine, Berlin’s wish to avoid sole responsibility is dealt with: “Germany would not be just a single country sending tanks.” Landsbergis said he “would not be surprised” if Friday’s meeting leads to a tank delivery agreement.
Not just tanks: Landsbergis also wants Western allies to send jets. “I think that Ukrainians could learn to use Western fighter jets,” he told Suzanne. Would that risk escalating things with Russia? “My main worry is the opposite. What we feel, and what we fear being so close to where the conflict is, is that Western assistance is slowing down.”
New Axis of Evil: Landsbergis also called for further sanctions on Iran, to punish its drone exports to Russia. As POLITICO has previously reported, the EU is already preparing fresh sanctions on the country. Landsbergis called Iranian and North Korean support of Russia “an axis of evil.”
Pressure: Poland’s President Andrzej Duda during a panel appearance at Davos on Tuesday hinted the tank green light was coming. Noting that public opinion in Germany had changed, he said he hoped Berlin would give the OK on Friday. It’s a “very, very, very, very needed decision,” Duda told POLITICO Editor-in-Chief Matt Kaminski.
On your radar: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will be on the stage just after Zelenskyy — let’s see if he gives more hints of what’s in store Friday at the Ramstein meeting, amid growing signs the tank decision — backed by the U.S. — is imminent.
Will Finland and Sweden ever get into NATO’s front door? Turkey (and Hungary) still haven’t ratified Finland and Sweden’s bid for NATO membership. Speaking at the “Finnish Flow” event at the Schatzalp, Helsinki’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto stressed that the U.S. is key to ensuring Ankara comes on board — but he doesn’t expect a decision before the Turkish election in June.
WORLD ON FIRE, STILL: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will address WEF today by laying out in blunt terms the fragile state of the world, according to text of his speech shared with Playbook. We’ve been briefed by Guterres’ team to expect “candid assessments” of “blind spots” on global health, debt and climate in the corporate world, which he’ll say are creating grave problems on a scale not seen for generations. You can expect some of the harshest words yet issued by a major global figure against fossil fuel companies as part of a long riff on climate.
DAVOS HEARTS SAUDI: Davos continues to welcome Saudi Arabia with open arms (despite Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi). This morning, there’s a panel discussion on “Saudi Arabia’s Transformation in a Changing Global Context.” Speakers include Saudi’s ministers of finance, industry and communications and its ambassador to the U.S., Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud. Also on the panel: Citi CEO Jane Fraser and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. Meanwhile, Finland’s openly gay foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto from the Green League party, spoke Tuesday about his “good meeting” with the Saudi foreign minister.
GARY COHN — ON ECONOMY 2023
INSIGHTS FROM THE C-SUITE: Playbook has been talking to top C-suite executives each day, in between what can sometimes be 10-15 business meetings on their agendas. It’s no wonder some of them are out of breath when we finally get them in front of the podcast microphone. Gary Cohn, vice chairman of IBM, former Goldman Sachs president and one-time top economic adviser to President Donald Trump, sat down with Ryan …
Economic optimist or pessimist in 2023? “Compared to most people in Davos, I’m optimistic. It’s a pretty down crowd here. People are talking about a lot of global recession. I don’t see that. I’m not bullish, thinking we’re in this wildly growing economy, but I’m not negative. I think we’re gonna have a low growth economy in 2023.”
Inflation Reduction Act value: “We would prefer to have our scientists and our research based in the United States.” But Cohn said IBM has to take a broader view: “We’re developing and designing products in the United States and selling them on a global basis.” He said the company has about two-thirds of its expenses in the U.S., but two-thirds of its revenue now comes from outside the U.S.
Will we see export controls beyond chips? Not likely. “The CHIPS Act is really unique [because] we were all sort of beholden to the chip manufacturing countries of the world.” Cohn said that was unsustainable for America, given the central role chips play in daily life. He clearly doesn’t like the idea of inefficient subsidies, but concedes they may be the lesser of competing evils: “Don’t we as a country have to take a view of protecting ourselves?” Cohn asked. More from the interview here.
THE FUTURE IS … semiconductors — according to Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of Intel, the world’s top semiconductor company. Gelsinger was prophesying at an early-morning breakfast Tuesday, saying that the semiconductor industry is expected to double by the end of the decade, with chips emerging as the strategic asset of the 21st century, as Europe and the U.S. seek to bump up their capabilities.
More chips please: Pointing to the crisis in the global supply chain that emerged during the COVID pandemic, Gelsinger welcomed both the U.S. and EU chips acts — legislative efforts to bolster domestic production of semiconductors and reduce dependencies on China.
But it appears Intel wants more: Its two big announcements last year were plans for mega-plants in Ohio and Magdeburg, Germany — a big boost for American and European plans to strengthen chip production.
But the German investment has hit some roadblocks. Gelsinger was careful not to call it a “delay,” but admitted the company is looking for more support and incentives from Berlin. “The fundamentals of the project need to be competitive, so we’re still doing some negotiations,” he told reporters. His comments point to a challenge for American and European governments as they try to bolster their semiconductor industries — how much financial support companies will demand in return for investment.
EUROPE GEARS UP: Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the Davos gathering of plans to boost clean tech by 2030 in a push to put the EU at the forefront of the next industrial revolution. More on her challenge as she tries to strike a difficult balance in this analysis here.
YET ANOTHER DAVOS DIVERSITY CALL … FOR LABOR AT THE TABLE: Speaking Tuesday, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, a no-nonsense Bostonian, stressed the need for labor “to be at the table” here in Davos. (Former international trade union conference leader Sharan Burrow was a WEF stalwart and co-chair, but recently retired to Australia.) “As of right now, in my 18 hours here I have not seen one labor person,” Walsh told journalists. “I think it’s important that labor becomes [a regular] participant here … union workers are a big part of the economy.”
**Don’t miss out on POLITICO’s exclusive interview with Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber. It will take place on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. CET – live from the Davos mountaintop. Register today to join us online.**
THE BUSINESS OF SAVING LIVES
VACCINE FAIL: COVID rages on and around 2.5 billion people worldwide are still unvaccinated. That’s a failing of the entire international community, leading NGOs and health care professionals are saying in Davos, our colleague Erin Banco reports.
Learning from disaster: There’s a split in thinking around how to do better the next time a health crisis emerges. While the major pharmaceutical giants see vaccines and newly innovative technology as key, others in this space say the fix is focusing on the fundamentals — building a strong local health care workforce trained and equipped to handle not just the next pandemic, but other communicable diseases and everyday illnesses.
Vanessa Kerry, CEO of Seed Global (and daughter of Biden climate envoy John Kerry) leads an organization focused on training health care workers in lower-income countries. Kerry said not enough people are paying attention to or investing in health care system strengthening and workforce development. She did not…
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