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EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 21/01/2022

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 21/01/2022

CNN – Jeremy Herb / Ukrainian President pushes back on Biden: ‘there are no minor incursions’

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly pushed back Thursday on US President Joe Biden’s comments that a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine would prompt a lesser response than a full-scale invasion, in an implicit rebuke of Biden’s comments.
  • “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter in an apparent response Biden’s remarks on Wednesday. “Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”
  • Biden’s comments at a news conference Wednesday about the prospect of Russian military action alarmed Ukrainian officials as Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops along the border. While US officials have engaged in multiple rounds of diplomatic talks with Russia in recent days — and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday — US officials have warned an attack could be imminent.
  • In his comments Wednesday, Biden suggested that a “minor incursion” could prompt a disagreement among NATO countries about how strongly to respond to Moscow.
  • Financial Times – The Editorial Board / Western unity is key to confronting the Kremlin

Financial Times – Max Seddon, Henry Foy and Roman Olearchyk / Russia raises pressure by sending more troops to Ukraine border

  • Diplomats from the US and Russia have shuttled across Europe for security talks over Ukraine but military analysts have had their eye on more ominous movements: the further deployment by Moscow of arms and personnel around its border with its southern neighbour.
  • Russia has bolstered its military presence on the border with Ukraine while engaging in weeks of diplomatic talks, with a series of deployments that western officials and analysts say could indicate preparations for a renewed invasion.
  • After Moscow’s lead negotiator said discussions last week with the US and Nato had hit a “dead end,” Russia moved additional units to the Ukraine border from the country’s far east and reinforced existing deployments within striking distance of Kyiv.
  • In total, Russia has deployed more than 106,000 troops to sites close to the border, according to western and Ukrainian officials. The forces include between 55 and 60 battalion tactical groups, which are highly mobile and strategically independent assault units.
  • Foreign Affairs – Alexander Vindman and Dominic Cruz Bastillos / The day after Russia attacks

Financial Times – Demetri Sevastopulo et al. / US wades into spat between China and Lithuania over Taiwanese office

  • Washington has suggested Lithuania consider changing the name of Taiwan’s representative office in the capital Vilnius in an effort to help ease tensions between the Baltic state and China since the mission was established.
  • Lithuania has been embroiled in a spat with Beijing since it allowed Taiwan to open the mission, which is called the “Taiwanese representative office” rather than the “Taipei representative office”, after Taiwan’s capital city — a formulation used in most countries.
  • China demands that nations avoid using language that suggests Taiwan, a self-governing country, is a sovereign state. According to several people familiar with the situation, US diplomats have floated the idea of changing the name with Lithuanian officials.
  • They said Washington thought the choice of name had opened the door to Chinese coercion that risked undermining the expansion of ties with Taiwan.
  • South China Morning Post – Finbarr Bermingham / Lithuanian exports nearly obliterated from China market amid Taiwan row

Politico – Ryan Heath, Alexander Ward and Nahal Toosi / What foreign ambassadors really think about Biden’s first year

  • When Donald Trump was at the helm, America’s allies were deeply critical of his administration’s foreign policies. On the plus side, the freewheeling White House gave them wide-ranging access to top officials.
  • After one year with President Joe Biden in charge, friendly nations say they’re much happier with U.S. foreign policy, but they’re frustrated by the lack of high-level access and plodding decision-making. In particular, many feel shut out of the national security policy process — but hope efforts to deter another Russian invasion of Ukraine could mark a turning point.
  • POLITICO spoke with 19 ambassadors and senior embassy staff serving in Washington, D.C., and hailing from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific. In nearly unanimous fashion, they described an administration that is more organized and process-driven than the previous one.
  • While fewer diplomats now have tweet notifications set for White House accounts, the rub is that they feel left out by an administration that takes pains to say it’s deliberate and consultative.
  • Foreign Policy – Robbie Gramer, Clum Lynch and Amy Mackinnon / Is Biden’s foreign policy grade A material?

Further reading for the weekend:

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.


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