Editor’s note: There will be no Daily Brief on Monday, January 16, for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Top of the Agenda
Japan’s Kishida Visits White House Amid Historic Military Buildup at Home
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and U.S. President Joe Biden will meet today (WaPo) in Washington, with Biden expected to praise Japan’s plans to dramatically boost its defense spending. Their meeting is expected to focus on the war in Ukraine, Chinese military aggression, the North Korean nuclear threat, and boosting security cooperation. Ahead of the visit, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told Nikkei that Washington is willing to help Tokyo gain the ability to launch missile attacks on enemy territory. The two leaders are also expected to discuss U.S. export controls (Reuters) targeting China’s semiconductor sector. Tokyo supports the controls but has not matched them. Kishida’s visit caps off a weeklong tour of Western partner countries ahead of the Group of Seven (G7) summit that Japan will host in May.
Putin Replaces Russia’s Top General in Ukraine After Battlefield Setbacks
Russia’s highest-ranking military officer, General Valery Gerasimov, was promoted to lead the country’s forces (FT) in Ukraine, replacing General Sergey Surovikin. Since Surovikin was appointed three months ago (CBS), Russia has lost control of the southern town of Kherson and struggled to provide basic equipment to the hundreds of thousands of troops it started conscripting in September. Surovikin has also faced criticism for housing hundreds of troops in a building that was bombed by Ukraine. He will now serve as one of Gerasimov’s deputies. Meanwhile, tensions have reportedly flared between Russia’s military and its Wagner Group of mercenaries over which forces deserve credit for alleged territorial gains in the town of Soledar. An unnamed source told the Financial Times that Surovikin’s demotion could be linked to the Wagner Group’s apparent successes.
U.S. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador are meeting in Mexico City (AP) for the North American Leaders’ Summit. Their discussions are expected to produce agreements (Reuters) on migration, semiconductors, climate change, and antidrug cooperation. In a meeting between López Obrador and Biden yesterday, the two presidents pledged to step up cooperation (Reuters) on curbing fentanyl trafficking to the United States. Meanwhile, U.S. business leaders have voiced concern over López Obrador’s policies favoring state control in the economy. U.S.-Mexico trade increased by 19 percent (WaPo) in the first eleven months of 2022 as U.S. companies moved business away from China.
Bolsonaro Supporters Attack Government Buildings in Brazil
Brazilian police arrested at least three hundred people after thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed and vandalized (AP) Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace yesterday in scenes reminiscent of the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The rioters protested the results of last year’s presidential election, which Bolsonaro lost to left-wing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Bolsonaro has for years pushed false claims about the credibility of Brazil’s election system, and many of his supporters say the 2022 election was stolen from him. Multiple world leaders condemned the events (NYT) and voiced support for Lula, who said there was “incompetence or bad faith” on behalf of police who allowed the events to unfold. Bolsonaro, believed to be in Florida, tweeted a condemnation (NYT) of the attack several hours after it began.
By Comfort Ero, the president and CEO of the International Crisis Group, and Richard Atwood, executive vice president of the International Crisis Group.
Will he, or won’t he? This time last year, that was the question. Russian President Vladimir Putin had massed almost two hundred thousand troops on Ukraine’s borders. U.S. intelligence warned that Russia was preparing for all-out war. All the signs pointed to an assault, bar one: It seemed unthinkable.
True, Russia had attacked Ukraine in 2014, and in the spring of 2021 had staged a dress rehearsal for an invasion, building up forces on the frontier before sending them home. Putin seemed ever angrier at Kyiv’s refusal to bow to his will. He openly derided Ukrainian national identity and sovereignty. Still, it was shocking, when Russian forces did roll in, that a nuclear-armed power in 2022 would seek to conquer a neighbor in an act of unprovoked aggression.
IMF Director Warns One-Third of World Could Face Recession This Year
For most of the global economy, 2023 will be “tougher than the year we leave behind,” International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in a CBS interview. She said the economies of the United States, China, and the European Union (EU) are all slowing down. While Georgieva said the United States “may avoid a recession,” the Wall Street Journal found that more than two-thirds of economists at twenty-three large financial institutions are projecting a U.S. recession this year. Georgieva also said that the war in Ukraine and COVID-19 will continue to strain the economies of the EU and China, respectively. She added that countries should work to secure their supply chains but warned that dividing the global economy into U.S. and Chinese blocs could “chop $1.5 trillion” from global gross domestic product (GDP) each year.
Editor’s note: There will be no Daily Brief until Tuesday, January 3, in observance of New Year’s Day.
Top of the Agenda
Russia Rejects Ukraine’s Peace Conditions, Bombards Its Power Grid
Russia fired nearly seventy missiles (WaPo) at Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities today in what appeared to be one of its biggest strikes on Ukraine’s energy grid. Ukraine’s military said it shot down fifty-four of the missiles. The attack came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s rejection (Al Jazeera) of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s conditions for peace. In recent weeks, Zelenskyy has promoted a peace plan in which Russia would face a war crimes tribunal and give up occupied territories in eastern Ukraine. A Kremlin spokesperson yesterday rejected the possibility (NYT) of ceding the territories, while Lavrov said today that Kyiv’s plans to drive Russia out of eastern Ukraine were an “illusion.”
China Makes Sweeping Changes to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
From January 8, China will no longer require (Nikkei) passengers to undergo mandatory testing and quarantines upon arrival and will relax limits on the number of flights entering the country, authorities announced yesterday. The policy shift follows the easing (NYT) of domestic pandemic restrictions in the wake of mass protests over the country’s harsh zero-COVID strategy. Beijing also said that citizens will regain permission to go abroad “in an orderly manner” after almost three years of what was effectively a ban on nonessential travel. Amid the reopening, COVID-19 has strained health-care facilities across the country and Beijing has limited official reporting on the number of cases and deaths. In response, Japan announced that it will require negative tests upon arrival (SCMP) from travelers from mainland China.
Zelenskyy Visits Washington in First Foreign Trip Since Russia’s Invasion
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden (WaPo) and address Congress today in his first trip outside of Ukraine since Russia invaded in February. During the meeting, Biden is expected to announce a $2 billion military aid package for Ukraine that will reportedly include the Patriot missile system, the most advanced air defense system in the U.S. arsenal. Zelenskyy’s visit comes as U.S. lawmakers consider a spending package (NYT) that includes $45 billion in emergency and economic aid to Ukraine. If approved, it would bring the total U.S. aid to Ukraine to more than $100 billion. Some lawmakers from the Republican Party, which will soon take control of the House of Representatives, have objected to the new funding.
Countries Reach Landmark Deal on Protecting Biodiversity
At a UN biodiversity summit in Canada, nearly two hundred countries agreed to extend protected status (AP) to more than 30 percent of the world’s land and water by 2030, a goal known as 30×30. Currently, about 17 percent of all land and 10 percent of marine areas are protected. China held the presidency of the conference and pushed for the final deal (TheGuardian) despite objections from African countries that sought a new fund for biodiversity. The deal calls on rich countries to provide $20 billion per year by 2025 and $30 billion per year by the end of the decade to prevent biodiversity loss in poor countries. It also mandates reform of $500 billion in environmentally damaging subsidies in areas such as food and fuel and emphasizes that Indigenous communities should lead conservation efforts.
International Backers Plan New Infrastructure, Military Aid for Ukraine
At a conference in Paris yesterday, donor nations pledged to provide Ukraine (AP) more than $1 billion worth of financial aid and donations of health, food, and other supplies. The support aims to meet Ukraine’s humanitarian needs and help repair infrastructure damaged by Russia’s ongoing bombardment. The conference was attended (NYT) by representatives of multinational organizations and some fifty countries. In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told attendees that power outages are affecting around twelve million Ukrainians as winter arrives. Separately, U.S. officials said Washington is preparing to send Ukraine a Patriot missile defense system, while European Union (EU) finance ministers are set to approve around $19 billion in loans to Ukraine today.
Council on Foreign Relations, James M. Lindsay A woman casts her vote at a polling station during the 2018 general election in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
Millions of people around the world voted in 2022. South Koreans narrowly elected conservative candidate Yoon Suk-Yoel president.
Viktor Orbán remained Hungary’s prime minister as his far-right Fidesz Party dominated a heavily gerrymandered election.
Emmanuel Macron won reelection in France, making him the first French president in two decades to win reelection.
Voters in the Philippines elected Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., the son of the dictator ousted from power in 1986, president.
Anthony Albanese and the Australian Labour Party won Australia’s parliamentary elections, ending nine years of Liberal Party control.
Colombians elected their first leftist president, Gustavo Petro, a former guerilla fighter. Tiếp tục đọc “Five Elections to Watch in 2023”→
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a speech on Monday in which he denounced the practice of arbitrary detention, calling it “completely unacceptable.” He’s correct, but what’s especially puzzling about this practice is that states sometimes use it even when it is contrary to their stated aims and damaging to their overall interests.
Outrage Over COVID-19 Restrictions Prompts Rare Protests in China
Tens of thousands of people joined demonstrations (FT) in at least ten cities across China over the weekend, at times clashing with security forces. In addition to objecting to harsh restrictions under the country’s zero-COVID policy, many protesters denounced limitations on freedom of speech and some called for Chinese President Xi Jinping to step down (NYT). The protests were sparked by a deadly fire in a locked-down area of the Xinjiang region on Friday. Demonstrators marched in urban centers and at universities, and today police patrolled areas of Beijing and Shanghai (Reuters) where the demonstrations occurred. Authorities eased some pandemic restrictions (AP) in Beijing and Guangzhou today, but did not mention the demonstrations.