Biden Plans Major Speech on Ukraine Amid GOP Resistance Over Additional War Aid Published 17 minutes ago

Posted By: Aditya Gogoi Posted On: Oct 05, 2023

Facing a likely roadblock from House Republicans on aid for Ukraine, President Joe Biden said Wednesday he's planning to give a major speech on the issue and suggested there may be “another means” to provide support for Kyiv if Congress continues to balk.

“I'm going to be announcing very shortly a major speech I'm going to make on this issue and why it's critically important for the United States and our allies that we keep our commitment” to Ukraine, Biden told reporters after giving unrelated remarks at the White House.

White House officials declined to say when Biden planned to give his speech. The president did not elaborate on the alternate method he was looking at to get additional military aid to Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia. “There is another means by which we may be able to find funding, but I'm not going to get into that right now,” he said.

Aid for Ukraine has been a source of tension and uncertainty as several Republicans in the House have severe doubts or openly oppose additional funding to sustain the Ukrainian military.

The president said the resistance does “worry” him, but he noted that there is broad bipartisan support. Still, last week's deal to keep the government open through mid-November excluded the $13 billion in supplemental aid that the Biden administration sought last month, raising questions about just how long the U.S. could continue to send money to Ukraine.

The agreement to temporarily keep the U.S. government open came at a steep political price for former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. At the instigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and other conservatives, McCarthy on Tuesday became the first speaker to be ousted from his post.

After Biden spoke, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during the Wednesday news briefing that Biden was “confident” Ukraine aid would approved because there is broad bipartisan support. But she noted the objections by some House Republicans were an obstacle to the United States' work with allies to support Ukraine, which Russia invaded in February 2022.

“When you have a small fraction of a party that is causing that type of chaos, you know, it doesn't look great across the globe,” Jean-Pierre said. “That doesn't look very promising.” Biden held a call Tuesday with allies in Europe, Japan and Canada to say the U.S. government still supported Ukraine.

Source: News18
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As Migration to Europe Rises

Posted By: Preeti Dabar Posted On: Nov 25, 2023
Finnish border guards escort migrants at the international border crossing at Salla, northern Finland, this week. PHOTO: LEHTIKUVA/REUTERS

Rising migration across Europe, including the biggest surge in asylum seekers since a 2015-2016 migrant crisis, is fueling support for far-right and anti-immigration parties, potentially reshaping European politics for years.

Nationalist parties that champion a harder line against immigration are surging in polls and have entered governmentsin countries from Italy to Finland, as anxiety rises about sluggish economic growth and crises from Ukraine to the Middle East. The far right is polling strongly in the continent's two largest countries, Germany and France.

This week's victory in Dutch elections by far-right politician Geert Wilders, who has placed anti-migration policies at the heart of his political platform for the last 15 years, was a powerful sign of how voters are drifting to antiestablishment politicians, analysts said. He will still need to form a coalition in a fractured political landscape, which likely means softening some of his policy goals, but said Thursday that he wants to become prime minister.

Wilders has said he wants strict limits on immigration and no longer wants the Netherlands to accept any asylum seekers. During the election campaign, Wilders tied problems such as the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing to his migration theme, arguing that by slashing the numbers of people who come to the Netherlands, the government could have more money to address other problems.

“It all resonated with his key political message—that it's time to put the Dutch people first again," said Rem Korteweg, a senior fellow at the Clingendael Institute think tank in the Netherlands.

Europe is on track to receive more than a million asylum applications this year, the highest since 2015-2016 when a wave of migrants mostly from the Middle East and Africa sparked a crisis. In September alone there were 108,000 applications, similar to the levels of 2015, according to EU data.Migrants have reached the EU this year primarily by land through the Balkans and by sea across the Mediterranean to Italy.

The figures don't include roughly 4.2 million displaced Ukrainians who have received temporary protection status across Europe since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Overall, migration has hit at least 15-year highs in a number of European countries including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K., according to data from theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Netherlands net migration figure rose to almost 223,000 in 2022, the highest in two decades in the country of 17.5 million. Last year, asylum applications in the Netherlands rose by a third to 46,400. The Dutch cabinet said in April that it was expecting more than 70,000 asylum claims in 2023, excluding Ukrainians, topping the roughly 59,000 people who arrived in 2015 at the peak of the migration crisis.

Voters can become anxious about immigration when they perceive it to be out of control, such as when people cross the English Channel or the Mediterranean in small boats or illegally breach the U.S. southern border, said Alan Manning, professor of economics at London School of Economics and former chair of the U.K. Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the U.K. government on immigration policy. Problems arise when “there's no ability to say enough—we don't want this."

In September, Slovakia's former Premier Robert Fico returned to power in part by highlighting a surge in illegal migration. That followed victories last year by Italy's right-wing Giorgia Meloni and a new coalition government in Finland earlier this year that included the far-right Finns Party, which made anti-immigration its central pitch.

Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany has moved into second place in the polls over the past year, increasing its share of support by around a third to rise above 20%.

While French elections won't be held until 2027, a recent IFOP poll for French newspaper Le Figaro gave Marine Le Pen's opposition National Rally party an eight-point lead over President Emmanuel Macron's Renaissance.

The surge in asylum seekers is driving many countries to try new policies. Italy struck a deal with Albania for asylum seekers to wait there while their cases are decided in Italy, and Germany recently said it was considering deals with other countries, including some in Africa, to house asylum seekers. An attempt by the U.K. to send migrants to Rwanda has so far been blocked in court. Other countries, such as Hungary, have erected border fences to block asylum seekers.

The rise in legal migration is unfolding as Europe faces severe labor shortages in places such as Germany and the Netherlands, which could worsen as the region's workforce ages and retires. But it also comes during a period of widespread voter disenchantment, partly caused by slow economic growth and high inflation postpandemic and the Ukraine war, which has driven down households' purchasing power.

In Sweden, the government has blamed a rise in violent crime in part on the failure to integrate migrant communities and recently proposed changes that would allow the country to expel migrants or asylum seekers who associate with criminal groups. In Germany, hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving in recent years from Afghanistan and Syria have struggled to enter the country's labor market, according to official data.

Even in countries where far-right parties haven't risen strongly in polls, there are signs of social strain. In Dublin, crowds rioted on Thursday, smashing buses and looting stores in what police described as the worst social unrest in the Irish capital in decades. It followed a stabbing at a school that far-right groups attributed to a foreign migrant. Police haven't identified an assailant.

“Migration is a difficult topic to talk about in politics at the moment," Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told a news conference. “In the round, it has been a good thing for Ireland."

Once in power, parties have discovered that reducing migration is easier said than done. The European Union's setup makes a crackdown on migration and asylum seekers especially difficult. The bloc's border-free Schengen zone, the free movement of labor across the continent, and EU rules committing countries to take in asylum claimants fleeing from war or persecution complicate anti-migration plans.

Despite Italy having elected a right wing anti-migration government last year, the number of migrants arriving by sea in to the country so far this year is close to levels last seen during the migration crisis.

The U.K. formally left the EU in 2020 partly to have greater control over its borders by ending the right of Europeans to move to the U.K. without a visa. Last year, legal immigration to the U.K. hit a record 745,000 and remained high in the first half of this year, driven partly by an increase in workers to fill jobs in fields such as nursing, according to data published on Thursday by the national statistics office. The government is also struggling to reduce the numbers of asylum seekers arriving by sea.

Write to Laurence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com and Tom Fairless at tom.fairless@wsj.com

Source: Live Mint
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Western help for Ukraine is likely to diminish next year

Posted By: Ajay Rawat Posted On: Nov 22, 2023
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meets with President of the European Council Charles Michel, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine. (Photo: Via Reuters).

The end keeps receding. There was a time when some Ukrainian officials, having halted Russia’s army outside Kyiv, thought it would take only a few more months to bring the war to a conclusion. “Most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year," predicted Lieutenant-General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of military intelligence, in May 2022. By last November, shortly after a spectacular Ukrainian offensive in Kharkiv, Volodymyr Havrylov, a deputy defence minister at the time, was still expecting a swift victory. “My feeling is that by the end of the spring, this war will be over."

In fact, Ukraine's counter-offensive did not even begin until June. Far from hastening the war's end, it has demonstrated just how long the fighting could drag on. Ukrainian forces, stymied by Russian minefields and other defences, have inched forward on foot. The deployment of reserves and spiffy Western weapons has not yet yielded any big breakthroughs. Wet weather and a shortage of ammunition will probably bring the Ukrainian advance, such as it is, to a halt by late October, if not earlier.

Another fighting season beckons. “We must prepare ourselves for a long war in Ukraine," warned Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary-general, on September 17th. “It'll take a considerable length of time to militarily eject all 200,000 or plus Russian troops out of Russian-occupied Ukraine," agreed Mark Milley, America's top general, the same day.

America insists it will stay the course for “as long as it takes", as Joe Biden, the president, has put it several times this year. Britain, France, Germany and other allies have all used the same phrase. As ironclad as these pledges sound, they depend on two uncertain variables. One is the West's ability to furnish Ukraine's army with enough weapons and ammunition. The other is the political will to keep handing them over.

Start with the first. Russia's defence industry moved onto a war footing in the last quarter of 2022, says Richard Connolly, an expert on Russia's economy, who points to a big jump in steel production. British officials say that Russia can now produce around 200 tanks a year, twice as many as they had previously assumed. Mr Connolly says that, with refurbished tanks included, the true figure is probably 500 to 800. Western sanctions are not crimping output much, he adds, with crucial components such as semiconductors smuggled in via Hong Kong or Central Asia.

In principle, Ukraine's friends should have no trouble helping it outgun Russia. The combined GDP of nato's members is 12 times that of Russia, even after accounting for Russia's lower prices. The difference is that Russia is willing to spend much more heavily on the war: military spending now takes up almost 40% of the national budget, far in excess of Western levels. NATO countries are trying to redress this imbalance by investing in arms production, which has been neglected since the cold war ended. But there are two snags.

One is cost. Estonia spends around $5,000 to $6,000 on every new artillery shell, says Kusti Salm, the senior civil servant in the country's defence ministry. That is relatively cheap by NATO standards, he notes. Russia, he says, spends 60,000 roubles, or around $620. The vast difference is largely down to cheaper labour and materials, lower quality products and lower profit margins for arms manufacturers, most of which are state-owned. Inflation is exacerbating the problem. “Prices for equipment and ammunition are shooting up," complained Admiral Rob Bauer, a nato bigwig, on September 16th.

The second issue is timing. “After a slow start," says Mr Connolly, “Russia has reached race pace and they're in gear now. They're now going to start churning stuff out at the rate approximating what they need." American and European investments in new capacity, having started later, will not yield much extra supply until the second half of 2024 or 2025, giving Russia more time to mobilise, build new defences and pin down Ukrainian forces.

Take the case of artillery shells. The good news is that American and European production is soaring. American officials say that their own output has risen from an annualised rate of 168,000 shells in the spring to 336,000 today. It will continue to rise, thanks both to new facilities and to more intensive use of existing ones. European production is set to double by the end of this year or the start of next, according to Estonia's defence minister. Between them, America and Europe should comfortably produce nearly 2m shells next year.

Shell shock

The trouble is, that is barely enough to keep up. Russia will produce 1m-2m shells next year, according to British estimates. That is on top of a stock of around 5m shells, new and refurbished. That should allow it to fire at least 15,000 rounds a day for a year, says Mr Salm. That is roughly on a par with Ukraine's heightened consumption during its counter-offensive, according to people familiar with the data. But Ukraine can probably sustain that tempo for only a couple more months.

The gap could be bridged by borrowing from elsewhere. Ukraine's counter-offensive was enabled by a massive transfusion of South Korean shells. America and its allies have discreetly purchased arms and ammunition from non-aligned countries such as Egypt and Pakistan on Ukraine's behalf. But such ready sources of weaponry are running out. Western armies' stockpiles have been depleted, too.

As the Western arms industry ramps up, this problem should ease. By 2025 there might even be a “glut" of shells, says a Western official. If most of the new output goes to Ukraine, and assuming that neither China nor North Korea bails out Russia, the Ukrainian army might then be able to out-pulverise the Russian army for the first time in the conflict. But 2025 is the military equivalent of a lifetime away. Next year, meanwhile, Ukraine will probably struggle to mount a big offensive.

The year after next is also a lifetime away in terms of politics. In Europe, the political winds seem favourable to Ukraine. Polls conducted in June and July showed that 64% of Europeans favour military aid to Ukraine, with strong support not just in countries with a long-standing suspicion of Russia, such as Sweden (93%), but also in more distant member states such as Portugal (90%).

Some hard-right parties, such as France's National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, and Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD), cast the conflict as a waste of European resources. “The German public is paying three times over for this war," complains Gunnar Lindemann, an AfD member of Berlin's regional assembly, “supporting 1m refugees, carrying huge energy bills and sending weapons to Ukraine." Both parties are rising in the polls, but both remain far from power.

Olaf Scholz, Germany's chancellor, has been mindful of anti-war sentiment, notably within his own Social Democratic Party. He dithered for months before agreeing to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine. He still refuses to send long-range Taurus missiles, even though Britain and France have given Ukraine comparable weapons. Yet Mr Scholz has by now realised that public scepticism is mushy: as soon as he sends a new weapon, approval broadly follows. On September 18th his government announced another €400m ($429m) of arms, including ammunition, armoured vehicles and mine-clearing equipment.

Emmanuel Macron, France's president, who provoked grumbling in Kyiv last year over his frequent phone calls with Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart, and over his hesitation in sending weapons, is now among the most gung-ho of European leaders. France has long resisted expanding the EU, yet Mr Macron has become a fervent supporter of Ukraine's accession to the bloc. A poll in July showed that 58% of the French backed this approach.

Ukraine's bid for EU membership is proceeding at a pace that would have astonished Europe-watchers just a few years ago. It formally became a candidate to join in June, 2022. This December, barring a shock, that status will be upgraded by the opening of detailed negotiations on accession. Ukraine is dazzling EU officials with its swift progress on the necessary reforms. It may still take years for Ukraine to become a fully fledged member, but the war seems to be speeding up the process rather than delaying it.

In America, however, the outlook is much more divided and uncertain. On August 10th the White House asked Congress to authorise another $24bn “supplemental" budget for Ukraine, which would bring total American aid thus far to $135bn. Supporters of such assistance, among both Democrats and Republicans, constitute a clear majority of both chambers of Congress. Were the request put to a simple up-or-down vote, it would be approved relatively easily.

But it is unlikely to be, because of America's dysfunctional politics. A majority of the members of the House of Representatives may support Ukraine, but a small number of Republicans hold extreme anti-Ukrainian views, including Matt Gaetz, who has proposed inviting Russia to join NATO, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conspiracy theorist who has promoted the absurd notion that aid to Ukraine is actually being siphoned off by donors to the Democrats. Since the Republicans have only a slender majority in the House and since the Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, does not want to rely on Democratic votes to push legislation through, the pro-Russia fringe has much more influence than its numbers would imply.

The likeliest course is for Mr McCarthy to attach the supplemental budget to other important legislation, making it harder to derail. Past efforts in the House to deny Ukraine funding have been overcome, although each one attracts more Republican votes. Mr Biden already has congressional approval to send a further $6bn-worth of weapons to Ukraine from existing stockpiles. But after that there is likely to be a delay of several months while Congress contorts itself over the latest request. What emerges may be dribs and drabs of aid, rather than the big packages of last year.

In the longer run, aid for Ukraine is fast becoming a partisan issue, which makes its prospects ever less certain. Republican voters, egged on by the scepticism of Donald Trump, their party's likeliest nominee for president next year, have begun to question further aid to Ukraine. Democrats remain broadly supportive. The big budget deficit and high interest rates make politicians of all parties reluctant to rack up more debt. And even Democrats support the notion that America's European allies should be the ones taking the initiative in conflicts on their own borders.

And then there is the possibility that Mr Trump wins next year's election. His policy on Ukraine is characteristically incoherent. In March he promised that he would settle the war in “no longer than one day", before even entering office. “We don't have ammunition for ourselves," he complained in May, “We're giving away so much." But he denies he would push for a deal allowing Mr Putin to keep Ukrainian territory. “Nobody was tougher on Russia than me," he said this week, insisting he would strike “a fair deal for everybody".

Nevertheless, Western officials worry that Mr Putin will wait to see whether Mr Trump becomes president again before agreeing to negotiations. That scenario is already provoking frenetic debate in Europe. “If the United States tried to force a negotiated settlement on Ukraine," argued Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage, a pair of Russia experts, in Foreign Affairs recently, “Europeans would have little capacity to resist." Others say this is unduly fatalistic. French officials argue that, should America end its support for Ukraine, although Europe cannot replace American military aid gun for gun and missile for missile, the prudent and rational thing is for Europe to try to preserve its options by boosting arms manufacturing.

The question is whether Europe alone can drum up enough cash and weapons to keep Ukraine going. Although America provided the lion's share of aid for much of the war, the latest analysis from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German think-tank, finds this pattern has reversed. Europeans have long dispensed more financial aid. They are now providing more aid of all sorts, thanks in part to the EU's recent €50bn pledge, a multi-year commitment which stretches to 2027 (see chart).

Money isn?t everything

Yet the figures do not tell the whole story. America has been the fulcrum of the allied effort to support Ukraine, chairing the regular meetings at which donations of weapons are pledged and co-ordinated at Ramstein, an American military base in Germany. It has provided diplomatic cover for other countries' aid: Mr Scholz, for instance, insisted that he would not allow German-made Leopard tanks to be sent to Ukraine unless Mr Biden first sent some American M1A1 Abrams tanks.

In some cases Europeans have sent arms to Ukraine on the understanding that they will receive new American weapons to replace the donated ones. America's security guarantees, underwritten by nuclear weapons, have given Europeans the confidence to stand up to Russian threats. Finally, America has provided vital intelligence that has helped Ukraine find and destroy high-value targets, from generals to warships. Substituting for this organisation and assistance would be a Herculean task.

It may be unavoidable. “The assumption of the West was—and I think everyone has been unspoken on this—was that we give them everything we can, then they will go on this one large offensive and whatever happens at the end of this we will settle for that," says Mr Salm, the Estonian official. “That was the plan." A new one is required, he suggests, involving not just more arms, but also more technology to offset Russia's advantages in mass, bolder sanctions, such as expulsion from the Paris Olympics, and new training that learns from the mistakes of the summer.

Above all, a change in mentality is needed. “This is exactly what a war of attrition is about: convince the West that we can out-suffer you, we can out-fight you, we can out-last you. They know the weak points of democracies," Mr Salm says. The task, he believes, is to persuade Mr Putin that the opposite is true. “We, as the Ramstein coalition, are 25 times richer, stronger and [more] technologically advanced than Russia…It's not that we are empty-pocketed here."

© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.

From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com

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US Navy Plane Safely Lands in Hawaii Bay After Runway Overshoot

Posted By: Anita Mamgai Posted On: Nov 21, 2023

A U.S. Navy plane overshot a runway and splashed into a bay in Hawaii on Monday, but authorities said all nine people aboard made it safely to shore with no injuries. The Coast Guard responded but rescue operations were quickly called off, said Petty Officer Ryan Fisher, a Coast Guard spokesperson.

“It sounds like all parties involved were rescued,” he said. The P-8A aircraft overshot the runway at a Marine base on Kaneohe Bay, said U.S. Marine Corps spokesperson Gunnery Sgt. Orlando Perez. He did not have further information.

A photo taken by a witness showed the plane floating just offshore, a scene reminiscent of the 2009 “ Miracle on the Hudson ” when a commercial aircraft piloted by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made an emergency landing on the New York river. All 155 people aboard survived. The P-8A and the Airbus A320 that Sullenberger piloted are roughly the same size.

Diane Dircks and her family had just returned to the dock after rainy weather cut their pontoon boat trip short when her daughter noticed the plane in the water. “We went running over to the end of the dock, and I took some pictures,” she said. They then heard sirens coming from everywhere. Dircks, who is visiting from Illinois, said her daughter keeps a pair of binoculars on her for birdwatching, so she was able to see the plane and the rescue boats arriving. “It was unbelievable,” she said.

The Honolulu Fire Department received a 911 call for a downed aircraft shortly after 2 p.m., spokesperson Malcolm K. Medrano said in an email. It was cloudy and rainy at the time. Visibility was about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), said Thomas Vaughan, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Honolulu.

The P-8A is often used to hunt for submarines and reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. It is manufactured by Boeing and shares many parts with the 737 commercial jet. The plane belongs to the Skinny Dragons of Patrol Squadron 4 stationed at Whidbey Island in Washington state. Patrol squadrons were once based at Kaneohe Bay, but now they deploy to Hawaii on a rotational basis.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Honolulu on Oahu. The base houses about 9,300 military personnel and 5,100 family members. It's one of several key military installations on Oahu. The base sits on Kaneohe Bay, which is also home to coral reefs, a breeding ground for hammerhead sharks and a University of Hawaii marine biology research institute.

Source: News18
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Biden, 81, Mixes Up Taylor Swift and

Posted By: Preeti Dabar Posted On: Nov 21, 2023

US President Joe Biden on Monday mistakenly referred to American pop star Taylor Swift as ‘Britney' (Spears) during remarks at a Thanksgiving event at the White House. While speaking about the annual tradition, Biden said turkeys named Liberty and Bell had to beat stiff competition for the honor and demonstrate ‘patience.'

“You could say it was even harder than getting a ticket to the Renaissance tour for Britney's tour. She's down in, it's kinda warm in Brazil right now,” Biden said. This yet another faux pas comes as Biden celebrated his 81st birthday by joking repeatedly about his advanced age, even as the White House strongly defended his stamina and batted away polling.'

On Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden's age should not be a primary focus. “Our perspective is, it's not about age, it's about the president's experience,” Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing, where she highlighted that Biden had successfully championed through Congress several major pieces of legislation.

“What we say is we have to judge him by what he's done, not by his numbers,” Jean-Pierre said. “I would put the president's stamina, the president's wisdom, ability to get this done on behalf of the American people, against anyone. Anyone, any day of the week.” The US President, for his part, went for humor at the White House event. “By the way, it's my birthday today,” Biden told a crowd on the South Lawn as he pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys Liberty and Bell. “I just want you to know, it's difficult turning 60,” the president added with a chuckle. “Difficult.”

Noting that the pre-Thanksgiving pardoning ceremony dated back 76 years, Biden also said, “I want you to know I wasn't there — for the first one.” The oldest president in US history, Biden for months has used humor to try to defuse the issue — even as polls suggest it's no laughing matter.

An August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 77 percent of U.S. adults, including 69 percent of Democrats, viewed Biden as too old to be effective for four more years. As he seeks a second term, Biden could be headed for a rematch with former President Donald Trump.

(With agency inputs)

Source: News18
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Israel, Ukraine, China

Posted By: Preeti Dabar Posted On: Nov 18, 2023
Israel?s fight against Hamas, a war in Ukraine that is slipping toward a stalemate and a tenuous detente with China are all competing for the president?s time with less than a year until the 2024 election. (File Photo: Reuters)

SAN FRANCISCO—During a much-anticipated summit this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at resetting relations between the two powers, President Biden took a briefing from Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser, on a completely different topic: the swelling conflict in the Middle East.

Israel's fight against Hamas, a war in Ukraine that is slipping toward a stalemate and a tenuous detente with China are all competing for the president's time with less than a year until the 2024 election. As Biden campaigns for a second term, the overlapping crises are complicating his bid to persuade U.S. voters he is focused on the domestic issues they care about most.

The demands were clear in California during meetings that ostensibly were focused on showcasing America's commitment to nations in the Asia-Pacific region. The two wars featured prominently in Biden's bilateral discussions with Xi, and world leaders who gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit privately and publicly raised concerns about the conflicts.

Biden, a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman who has made defending democracy a core tenet of his presidency, has sought to define himself as a capable commander-in-chief who is bringing his decades of foreign-policy experience to bear to help steady a tumultuous planet. People who know him say he relishes playing the role of statesman on the world stage.

But voters overwhelmingly say they are most focused on domestic affairs, particularly the economy. Biden's decision to involve U.S. money, weaponry and prestige in the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine could cost him at the ballot box. And a CNN poll released this month found that only 36% of voters said Biden was “an effective world leader."

Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin said foreign policy “tends not to be a driving issue" for voters but that the administration has an opportunity to use Biden's efforts to contrast with former President Donald Trump, his chief rival for 2024. “That's a good split screen, of Trump standing trial in one of four criminal trials versus Biden being on the world stage," Tulchin said.

Biden is increasingly trying to make clear to voters that the events unfolding thousands of miles from America's shores are relevant to them. Any sign of weakened support for Ukraine could prompt Russia to move aggressively toward other countries in Europe, which could trigger U.S. military involvement. A wider conflict in the Middle East, particularly with Iran, also could draw the U.S. into a regional war. Heightened tensions with China could prompt a deeper trade war that hits American pocketbooks. The consequences for the U.S. and its allies would be even greater if there was a direct military conflict with Beijing over Taiwan, or other disputes.

“We have to keep reminding people about what's at stake here," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in an interview. “It's a matter of constantly making sure that people are aware of how these events overseas really do come back home."

But those arguments might not resonate with some voters, who polls show are fixated on prices at home. And Republicans are trying to take advantage. Trump and some GOP lawmakers argue that Biden is going too easy on China, while others in the party say the U.S. shouldn't continue sending billions of dollars to Ukraine.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the APEC meeting fruitless and criticized Biden for agreeing to Beijing's demand to remove a Chinese police institute from an export blacklist to secure China's law-enforcement cooperation on combating fentanyl production. Trump said “the Biden presidency has been one long sellout to Beijing."

China, which the Biden administration has labeled a competitor with the potential power to reshape the global order, has taken up large chunks of bandwidth. Washington and Beijing are perched on opposite sides of Russia's war on Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict even as they spar for dominance in advanced technologies. After relations plummeted early this year over a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was detected over North America, the administration sent senior officials to Beijing to rescue ties.

For the administration, Wednesday's summit with Xi was aimed at managing those tensions. One outcome, Biden said, was an agreement with Xi to call each other when problems arise. The prospect of more stable relations won applause from business executives at a conference held alongside APEC and drew support from leaders of key partners, who raised the other crises around the world.

“It should give a clear message that we are here to be able to work together and trust each other to resolve serious problems—climate issues, Ukraine or Gaza," Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim told a business conference. “Countries like Malaysia cannot be forced to see the world and the big powers in the Cold War mindset."

Aside from allies wanting an easing of tensions, keeping rivalry with China in check would give the Biden administration time to address more urgent crises and pursue domestic policies such as rebuilding American manufacturing that are aimed at countering Beijing but could take longer to see through, U.S. officials said. It also would clear time for campaigning when Biden is certain to be pilloried by a Republican opponent for his China policy.

“They want to go into the campaign saying they're managing the Chinese," said Dennis Wilder, a former U.S. intelligence officer now a senior fellow at Georgetown University.

The president faces a more complex set of political challenges over his steadfast support for Israel. While many voters support Israel, a recent Wall Street Journal survey found many Americans are reluctant for the U.S. to become engaged in the region. Growing numbers of young voters—an important Democratic constituency that already was unenthusiastic about Biden—have faulted Biden for supporting Israel's response to Hamas' attack.

Congress will need to decide in the coming weeks how it will proceed on Biden's roughly $106 billion national security funding request for Israel, Ukraine and other issues. Senate Republicans have demanded changes to U.S. border policy in exchange for supporting the package, and bipartisan talks have yet to yield a compromise.

Past presidents have had to campaign while confronting global crises. George W. Bush launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and won re-election in a close 2004 contest; those two conflicts drove Biden during his 2020 campaign to pledge to end America's “forever wars." Growing anger over the war in Vietnam influenced Lyndon B. Johnson's decision not to seek re-election in 1968.

In speeches over the past week, Biden sought to show the tangible benefits of his diplomacy, imploring global corporations to invest in the U.S.

“When you do business with the United States and our companies, you know what you're getting: high standards, fair practices, protections for workers, world class ideas and innovation and a commitment to deal with the environment—finally," he told a meeting of CEOs. “It's a quality guarantee."

Biden's advisers say the president is capable of balancing his foreign and domestic obligations, and they are connecting his many trips abroad to the administration's economic record. “Strengthening our alliances abroad has helped to secure America's economic recovery and growth," White House communications director Ben LaBolt said.

The Biden administration is pursuing what it calls a “foreign policy for the middle class." A brainchild of Sullivan, the national security adviser, the idea came out of soul-searching after Trump's 2016 defeat of Hillary Clinton.

Under the approach, according to administration officials, foreign policy is fused with domestic goals to direct investment and create jobs at home. Legislation to promote clean energy and semiconductor manufacturing, credited as Biden successes, are cited as examples.

At the same time, the approach limits U.S. flexibility to use traditional tools of commercial diplomacy, like lowering tariffs and granting better access to the large American market, to win over countries.

Concerns that overseas trade harms American workers have hampered Biden's efforts to compete with China for influence in the Asia-Pacific. Officials had been hoping to roll out the trade pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a pact involving more than a dozen nations that was set to include soft commitments on trade this week.

But Democratic opposition helped derail the trade measures, themselves already a far cry from attempts to expand market access under the Obama administration. The setback also disappointed officials from Asia-Pacific countries who have been hoping to see the U.S. follow through more substantively on its interest in the region. Biden administration officials said they would keep working on the trade efforts.

Nearly every interaction Biden has with other world leaders features discussions of the range of issues on the president's plate—whether he likes it or not.

At a meeting Monday at the White House, Biden met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the leader of a burgeoning, Muslim-majority economic power that is at the center of the competition between the U.S. and China for influence in the region. In the Oval Office, Widodo publicly called for a cease-fire in Gaza, a move that Biden has so far rejected.

Write to Andrew Restuccia at andrew.restuccia@wsj.com, Charles Hutzler at charles.hutzler@wsj.com and Andrew Duehren at andrew.duehren@wsj.com

Source: Live Mint
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Takeaways from Biden's High-Stakes Meeting with Xi Jinping Published 35 minutes ago

Posted By: Vishal Maurya Posted On: Nov 16, 2023

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on Wednesday on the sidelines of the APEC summit in San Francisco, almost exactly one year since their last encounter in Bali, Indonesia, on the margins of another global gathering.

Aside from a bilateral meeting, both leaders shared a lunch with top advisers and strolled the verdant grounds of the luxury estate where their meeting took place. Biden said the meeting included “some of the most constructive and productive discussions we've had” and will lead to stronger dialogue between the two leaders.

The US President said they will “keep the lines of communication open” and Xi is “willing to pick up the phone” — no small thing in the world of high-risk, high-stakes diplomacy between Washington and Beijing. Here's a look at how the day panned out.

Biden left the meeting with commitments on key issues. Xi agreed to help curb the production of the illicit fentanyl that is a deadly component of drugs sold in the United States. A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting, said the shift will be a setback for Latin American drug dealers.

“It's going to save lives, and I appreciated President Xi's commitment on this issue,” Biden said at a press conference after his meeting. In addition, Biden and Xi reached an agreement to resume military-to-military communications. That means Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will speak with his Chinese counterpart once someone is named to the job, the official said. Similar engagements will take place up and down the military chain of command. The official said Biden was “very clear” to Xi that such communications between U.S. and China should be institutionalized and that they are “not done as a gift or as a favor to either side.”

Biden said the US and China would talk more about artificial intelligence as well. “We're going to get our experts together and discuss risk and safety issues,” he said. The agreements helped fulfill the White House's goal for the meeting — prove to voters that Biden's dedication to personal diplomacy is paying off.

On Sunday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN that Biden wanted “practical ways” to show that meeting with Xi can help “defend American interests and also deliver progress on the priorities of the American people.” Zoe Liu, a fellow for China studies at the Council for Foreign Relations, described the meeting between Biden and Xi as a positive step, albeit an incremental one. “These agreements will not change the structural challenges in the bilateral relations, but it paves the way for more detailed working-level discussions, which is more important,” she said.

Beijing has long sought to be treated as an equal by Washington, and Biden sought to leverage those ambitions with Xi to address two devastating wars. In their private session, Biden appealed to Xi to use his influence to try to calm global tensions, particularly to try to pressure Iran not to widen the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

A US official said Biden did most of the talking on the matter, and that Xi mostly listened, and that it was too soon to tell what sort of message China was sending to Tehran and how it was being received. Biden has also pressed Xi to continue to withhold military support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Biden and Xi held a “clear-headed” and “not heated” discussion on Taiwan — the most sensitive topic in the relationship with the greatest potential to spiral into wider conflict. Biden said he reaffirmed the United States' “One China” policy and its belief that any resolution must be peaceful. “I'm not going to change that,” Biden said. “That's not going to change.”

He reiterated, though, that the U.S. would continue to arm Taiwan as a deterrent against any attempt by China to use force to reunify the self-governing island with the mainland. The U.S. had maintained strategic ambiguity about whether it would directly intervene to protect Taiwan in the event of an invasion by Beijing. Xi, a U.S. official said, told Biden he had no plans to invade the island, though Biden chided him for China's massive military build-up around Taiwan. Biden also called on China to avoid meddling in Taiwan's elections next year.

Xi arrived in San Francisco at a time of economic challenges back in China, where an aging population and growing debt have hampered its recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Beijing's description of the meeting, Xi pressed Biden to lift sanctions and change policies on export controls for sensitive equipment.

“Stifling China's technological progress is nothing but a move to contain China's high-quality development and deprive the Chinese people of their right to development,” the readout said. “China's development and growth, driven by its own inherent logic, will not be stopped by external forces.” There's no indication that Biden will agree to take such steps. But even the meeting itself could calm jittery nerves back in China, where there have been signs foreign investment is tapering off.

Biden and Xi go back years, and Biden often repeats the story of their meetings when they were both vice presidents. But on Wednesday, it was Xi's turn to reference their previous encounters during brief public remarks, although he eschewed the embellishments that Biden usually adds to the tale. “It was 12 years ago,” Xi said. “I still remember our interactions very vividly, and it always gives me a lot of thoughts.” Biden also emphasized the length of their relationship and the value of their interactions.

“We haven't always agreed, which was not a surprise to anyone, but our meetings have always been candid, straightforward and useful,” Biden said. He added that “it's paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication.”

Bilateral meetings aren't always conducive to a personal touch, and Biden and Xi were flanked by advisers on opposite sides of a long table. However, a senior administration official said they spoke about their wives, and Biden wished Xi's wife a happy birthday. The official, who requested anonymity to discuss a private conversation, said Xi was embarrassed, and he admitted that he had forgotten his wife's upcoming birthday because he's been working so hard.

After the summit with Xi on Wednesday, Biden said that he still considers the Chinese president a “dictator”, after he sparked fury from Beijing by making the comparison earlier this year. “Well look he is, I mean he's a dictator in the sense that he's a guy who's running a country, a Communist country, that's based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden said at the end of a news conference when a reporter asked if he would still use the term to describe Xi.

(With AP inputs)

Source: News18
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A Chinese opera star’s ode to Russia—from a Ukrainian bomb site

Posted By: Ajay Rawat Posted On: Nov 15, 2023
(Photo: Reddit)

It looked like a spontaneous tribute to Russia. Standing in the bombed-out shell of a theatre in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a Chinese opera singer, Wang Fang, belted out a Soviet-era ballad (pictured). In March last year many Ukrainian civilians were killed in a Russian attack on the building. So when a video of the 38-year-old’s performance this month circulated online, it sparked a furore. Unlike their government, some Chinese people prefer to side with Ukraine.

To be sure, there are many Chinese who back Russia. News of the latest manifestation of China-Russia friendship—a meeting in Vladivostok between Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin, and a deputy prime minister from China, Zhang Guoqing—was greeted with typical applause on China's heavily censored social media. Mr Putin told his guest that relations between the two countries had reached a level “unprecedented" in history. Mr Zhang said political co-operation was “deepening".

But supporters of Ukraine still find their voices. At least briefly, before censors began scrubbing references to her singing, Ms Wang's appearance in Russian-controlled Mariupol gave them an opportunity to speak out. On Weibo, a Twitter-like service, some users were quick to attack her choice of venue for singing such a song. “Katyusha", as it is known, was used to inspire Soviet troops going to battle with the Germans during the second world war. It conveys a woman's love for her boyfriend on the front. Russia portrays its invasion of Ukraine as another anti-Nazi campaign. Chinese state media echo this line.

Some of Ms Wang's critics have large followings and, therefore, much to lose should their accounts be shut down—a common form of punishment by censors. One is a retired professor living in Xinjiang, a far-western region. He told his 137,000 followers that Ms Wang would “be nailed to the pillar of shame in history". Another Weibo user, with nearly 1m followers, accused her of being “simply out of her mind". Similar attacks were levelled at Ms Wang after she defended her visit to Mariupol at a press conference in Moscow alongside her husband, Zhou Xiaoping. Mr Zhou is an adviser to China's parliament and a prominent nationalist blogger. He was praised in 2014 by China's leader, Xi Jinping, for spreading “positive energy".

Out of tune

Ukraine has reacted angrily, too. On Facebook a spokesman for its foreign ministry called Ms Wang's singing in the theatre “an example of complete moral degradation". He said her visit to Mariupol, along with others from China, was “illegal" and all members of the group would be banned from entering Ukraine. He also said he expected an explanation from China about the group's trip. In contrast, Denis Pushilin, the Russian-backed leader of Donetsk, the province to which Mariupol belongs, met the visitors and described Ms Wang's singing in the theatre as “touching". Russia has implausibly accused Ukrainian extremists of blowing up the building, where hundreds were taking shelter.

China's foreign ministry is keeping quiet about the incident. For all its cosiness with Mr Putin, China calls itself a neutral observer of the war and wants to earn kudos for helping to end hostilities (though its peace proposal does not demand Russia's withdrawal from Ukraine). China is even talking to the Vatican, with which it does not have diplomatic relations, about ways to resolve the conflict. The pope has sent a senior envoy on a rare official visit to Beijing to discuss the topic.

In a post on Weibo, Hu Xijin, a well-known pro-government commentator, reflected what Chinese officials are probably thinking. He told his nearly 25m followers that Ms Wang's behaviour risked creating a “sense of involvement" in the conflict among Chinese people, which is “not in accordance with reality and not what China needs". The war in Ukraine is “not China's war", said Mr Hu, who is a former editor-in-chief of Global Times, a nationalist tabloid in Beijing. For good measure, censors deleted Mr Hu's post too. Clearly they want to shut down debate entirely.

Subscribers can sign up to Drum Tower, our new weekly newsletter, to understand what the world makes of China—and what China makes of the world.

© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com

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Ukraine seeks to reignite counteroffensive with daring river crossings

Posted By: Ramesh Sharma Posted On: Nov 15, 2023
A Ukrainian soldier stands guard at a position next to the Dnipro River in the Kherson region early in November. The Dnipro has become a key front since Ukrainian troops pushed Russian forces back over its banks in the south last year. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

KHERSON, Ukraine—Ukrainian marines slip across the Dnipro River at night in small groups to reinforce a growing contingent of troops engaged in a daring operation to reinvigorate Kyiv’s military efforts in the occupied south.

They have established three toeholds in and around villages on the eastern bank of the river in recent weeks, cutting off a road Russia uses to supply troops in the area, according to soldiers involved in the operation. The Ukrainians are hunkered down in basements and trenches and heavily outnumbered. Their hold is precarious.

Still, it is a rare bright spot for Kyiv amid a number of somber developments, including the failure of its counteroffensive to gain much ground, a new Russian offensive in the east and uncertainty over additional military aid from the U.S., Ukraine's most important backer. Ukraine first publicly acknowledged the cross-river operation this week.

Ukrainian forces recently transferred armored Humvees and at least one infantry-fighting vehicle to support troops on the Dnipro's eastern bank, the soldiers said. If the Ukrainians manage to amass sufficient units and armored vehicles there, they could seek to advance into territory where Russian defenses are less extensive than those further east that blunted the main thrust of Ukraine's counteroffensive.

That could force Russia to reposition forces needed for offensives to the east, and pose a threat to Russian supply lines from occupied Crimea, a critical staging post and logistics hub for Moscow's war effort that Ukraine has been targeting with drone and missile attacks for weeks.

The operation on the opposite bank a few miles from the Ukrainian-held regional capital of Kherson is proving costly and hard going. Soldiers involved in the fight say they are under heavy fire. Russian drones constantly circle over their hastily dug trenches, coordinating artillery strikes each time they detect movement. As darkness falls, the Ukrainian troops use shovels to dig themselves deeper into the ground.

“We need to be realistic about what can be achieved here," said Franz-Stefan Gady, an independent military analyst who recently toured the front lines in Ukraine. “The terrain is extremely difficult, making it not only a challenge to steadily resupply forces but also generate the necessary momentum to conduct sustained offensive operations."

One private in Ukraine's 38th Marine Brigade who crossed to the eastern bank at the start of November said his unit had advanced 100 yards in the six days he was there before he was evacuated for treatment of a concussion.

“For every fighter we have there, they have 10," said the 32-year-old private, who gave his name as Andriy. “And we're sitting in trenches unable to even stick our heads out."

Ukraine's recapture of Kherson last November was its last major advance. Russia withdrew troops across the river and began digging defenses.

In June, the destruction of the Kakhovka dam on Russian-held territory to the east of Kherson unleashed a torrent of water that inundated dozens of settlements along the Dnipro. With the river much wider and a crossing less of a threat, Russia moved some troops eastward to fend off Ukraine's counteroffensive, which began that month.

As the waters receded over the summer, Ukraine stepped up cross-river raids that initially harassed Russian forces and led to the capture of some soldiers.

Last month, the Ukrainians started establishing a presence on the eastern bank in the villages of Krynky and two other areas farther west.

Ukraine has shrouded the operation in secrecy, offering no official comment until Monday, when Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, acknowledged while on a visit to Washington that there was a Ukrainian military presence on the left bank.

Video posted by pro-Kremlin military bloggers shows houses in Krynky being hit by Russian munitions. “They are hiding in hedges, in houses," Russian military analyst Boris Rozhin wrote on Telegram on Monday. Russia's defense ministry said on Monday that it had captured a Ukrainian unit that tried to cross the river.

The area around Krynky is heavily mined by Russian forces. The Ukrainians move forward in small groups to limit their exposure. And the onset of winter next month will complicate their efforts to move men and equipment across the water and stage mechanized advances with any armored vehicles brought over.

Andriy, the marine private, arrived on the left bank on the night of Nov. 1. The soldiers disembarked in different locations, avoiding Russian mines and enemy snipers and spotters, and waded through mud to reach the village of Krynky.

The task for Andriy's brigade was to move forward in squad and company-size units and push into the forests around the village. They took up positions in rudimentary trenches and dugouts in the forest, but immediately began being pounded by Russian artillery.

In the week Andriy spent on the eastern bank before being injured and evacuated, his unit moved forward 100 yards into the forest, he said. They defended trenches hastily dug in the wet ground, as Russian troops positioned less than 100 meters away blasted them with rocket-propelled grenades.

There was a constant hum overhead as Russian strike and surveillance drones circled over his trench line, with one replaced by another when its battery ran out. Small arms exchanges were constant. Two soldiers in Andriy's company were killed by a sniper.

Andriy observed the Russians relaxing a short distance away in elaborate dugouts they had constructed over months, equipped with generators and cooking stoves. They played rap music during lulls in fighting.

Russian armored personnel carriers brought in regular shipments of artillery shells and ammunition during the night. Last week, the Ukrainians said they captured eight Russian soldiers who had changed into Ukrainian uniforms and tried to infiltrate their positions in Krynky.

Yaroslav, a junior sergeant who is a medic in the 38th and was part of the same river crossing as Andriy, set himself up in the basement of a house in Krynky that had been vacated by residents who left during floods unleashed by the Kakhovka dam explosion.

The high floodwaters have long receded, but the walls of the houses are covered with mold, with smelly clothes and rotted furniture inside. They have only basic supplies, with no generators and very few stretchers to carry the dead and wounded to the riverbank.

Yaroslav's job as a medic was to patch up wounded soldiers and transfer them to boats for treatment on the left bank. He said he struggled to keep up with the flow of wounded soldiers to his basement stabilization point in Krynky, and often the shelling was so intense that some of those carrying stretchers were wounded themselves.

“Everything you have there is what you brought yourself, and what they manage to bring you on boats," he said. “But for that you have to go to the riverbank, and every such trip is Russian roulette."

A Ukrainian special forces soldier involved in the river landings, who has returned to the fight despite losing a foot after stepping on a mine in the spring, said the Ukrainian military is trying before winter to sever Russia's supply lines on the left bank.

On Nov. 7, the Russians launched a heavy bombardment of Ukrainian positions around Krynky, using airstrikes and multiple-launch rocket systems carrying thermobaric warheads, soldiers say. Andriy and Yaroslav said they left in a stupor, utterly exhausted.

Yaroslav joined Ukraine's counteroffensive after undergoing a month of marine training in the U.K. during the spring. But when his unit entered Krynky, the 45-year-old felt that the British soldiers who trained him had no understanding of the severity of this war.

He said 70% of the homes in the village were intact when he arrived, but when he left six days later, only 30% were still standing. The forests around Krynky were full of corpses, both Russian and Ukrainian, that no one had the capacity to collect.

“This is our last chance for a breakthrough until the war becomes a total stalemate," said Yaroslav, who said the Kherson campaign has been his hardest battle since Russia's invasion in February 2022. “If we don't get support, this operation could be our swan song."

Write to Matthew Luxmoore at matthew.luxmoore@wsj.com

Source: Live Mint
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From Gaza to Ukraine

Posted By: Pawan George Posted On: Nov 14, 2023
The Israel-Hamas war threatens to spread across the Middle East, with the US and Iran facing off in the background (Photo: Reuters)

These are not happy times. An Israel-Hamas war in Gaza threatens to spread across the Middle East, with America and Iran facing off in the background. The Ukraine war, Europe’s largest since 1945, shows no sign of ending. And Chinese jets and warships now menace Taiwan in growing numbers and with increasing frequency, with looming elections on the island likely to bring more tumult. Civil conflict in Mali, Myanmar and Sudan has worsened in recent weeks, too.

Read our coverage of the Israel-Hamas war and the Ukraine war

A concatenation of crises is hardly unprecedented. Sergey Radchenko, a historian, points to the examples of the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the Suez crisis overlapping in 1956, crises in Lebanon and the Taiwan Strait in 1958 and the tumultuous years of 1978-79, when the Chinese invasion of Vietnam, the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan unfolded in quick succession. In 1999 India and Pakistan, newly armed with nuclear missiles, waged a war over Kashmir while NATO bombed Serbian forces in Yugoslavia.

But America and its allies cannot intervene as easily or cheaply as they once did. Adversaries such as China and Russia are more assertive, and working more and more together. So too are non-aligned powers, including India and Turkey, which have growing clout to shape distant events and believe that a new and more favourable order is emerging. And the possibility of a war directly between major powers hangs over the world, forcing countries to keep one eye on the future even as they fight fires today.

Massively multiplayer game

The large powers are becoming more polarised on issues where they might once have pushed in the same direction. In the Middle East, for instance, Russia has moved closer to Hamas, tearing up years of careful diplomacy with Israel. China, which in past wars issued bland statements urging de-escalation, has exploited the crisis to criticise America's role in the region. With the exception of strongmen such as Viktor Orban, Hungary's leader, few Western countries talk to Russia any longer. And even dialogue with China is increasingly dominated by threats and warnings rather than by efforts to tackle joint problems like climate change. A meeting planned between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in California on November 15th may prove a case in point, though there are rumblings of an agreement on military applications of artificial intelligence.

Another shift is growing convergence between America's adversaries. “There really is an axis that is emerging between Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, which rejects their version of the American-led international order," says Stephen Hadley. He served in America's national security council in the 1970s and the Pentagon in the 1980s before becoming national security adviser to George W. Bush in 2005. The war in Ukraine has cemented the partnership between Russia and China. It is not a formal alliance, but the two countries conducted their sixth joint bomber patrol in the western Pacific in the space of just over four years in June. They followed it up with a joint 13,000km naval patrol in the region in August. Iran and North Korea have both supplied Russia with weaponry in return for military technology. The result is greater entanglement. A crisis involving one enemy is increasingly likely to draw in another.

Moreover, each crisis not only involves more enemies, but also more players in general. The leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea have all attended the past two NATO summits in Europe. Ukraine's counter-offensive this year could not have happened without an infusion of South Korean shells. Turkey has established itself as a key arms supplier throughout the region, reshaping conflicts in Libya, Syria and Azerbaijan with its military technology and advisers. European countries are planning more intensively how they might respond to a crisis over Taiwan. Crises thus have more moving parts to them.

That reflects a broader shift in the distribution of economic and political power. The idea of “multipolarity"—a term once confined to scholarship, and which refers to a world in which power is concentrated not in two places, as in the cold war, or in one, as in the American-dominated 1990s, but in several—has entered the diplomatic mainstream. In September, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India's foreign minister, noted that America, facing the “long-term consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan"—a nod to two failed wars—and relative economic decline, “is adjusting to a multipolar world".

The argument is debatable. In a recent essay, Jake Sullivan, America's national security adviser, argued that America is in a stronger position now than it was while mired in those wars. “If the United States were still fighting in Afghanistan," he wrote, “it is highly likely that Russia would be doing everything it could right now to help the Taliban pin Washington down there, preventing it from focusing its attention on helping Ukraine." That is plausible. But America's image is undoubtedly bruised.

A poll conducted in February by the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank, found that more than 61% of Russians and Chinese, 51% of Turks and 48% of Indians expect a world defined by either multipolarity or Chinese dominance. In his final state-of-the-union speech in January 2016, Barack Obama, then America's president, insisted that on “every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead—they call us." Seven years on, things are less clear-cut.

The result of all this is a sense of disorder. America and its allies see growing threats. Russia and China see opportunities. Middle powers, courted by larger ones, but concerned by the growing dysfunction of institutions like the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations, see both. “A kind of anarchy is creeping into international relations," wrote Shivshankar Menon, who served as India's foreign secretary and national security adviser, in an essay published last year. It was “not anarchy in the strict sense of the term," he explained, “but rather the absence of a central organising principle or hegemon."

That tendency has been compounded by several other trends. One is the climate crisis, which increases the risk of conflict in many parts of the world and, through the green transition, is creating new sources of competition, such as that for critical materials crucial for wind turbines and electric vehicles. The other is the accelerating pace of technological change, with artificial intelligence improving at an exponential rate and with unpredictable consequences. A third is globalisation, which knits crises together in new ways. A war over Taiwan, for instance, would cause acute disruption to the semiconductor industry and thus to the world economy.

The fourth is a rising tide of nationalism and populism, which infects attempts to solve all of these global problems. In a book published in 2021 Colin Kahl, who recently stepped down as the Pentagon's policy chief, and Thomas Wright, a senior official in Mr Biden's national security council, noted that international co-operation seized up during the covid-19 pandemic as countries rushed to close borders and shield themselves. “For all practical purposes the G7 ceased to exist," they noted. “Pandemic politics ultimately dealt the final blow to the old international order."

From dawn to dawn

The new world disorder is putting the institutional capacity of America and its allies under stress while stretching their military capabilities. Start by considering the institutional pressure. The cold war, Mr Hadley argues, was an “organised world". There were global challenges, he acknowledges, but many were subsets of the larger superpower struggle. “For post-cold-war national security advisers," he says, “it's more like cooking on an eight-burner stove with every burner having a pot, and every pot just about to boil over."

A world in which more crises occur together poses two sorts of challenges to the leaders and diplomats tasked with managing them. One is the tactical problem of fighting several fires at once. Crises tend to have a centralising effect, says a former senior British diplomat, with prime ministers or presidents taking personal charge of issues that might otherwise be scattered among foreign and defence ministries. Even in large and powerful states, bureaucratic bandwidth can be surprisingly limited.

Diplomats, immersed in crises, often perceive that their own times are unusually chaotic. Baroness Catherine Ashton, who was the European Union's de facto foreign minister from 2009 to 2014, points out that she was dealing with the Arab spring, Iran's nuclear programme and the Serbia-Kosovo dispute at the same time. “I can remember very clearly, when the Ukraine crisis began," she says, referring to a revolution in Kyiv in 2014, “that I just didn't know if we would have the bandwidth for all of this."

One issue is that competition has turned to conflict. The war in Ukraine has been especially debilitating for diplomacy. Baroness Ashton recalls that when the Ukraine crisis began in 2014, her negotiating team for nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna included Russia's deputy foreign minister. She would travel to Kyiv to condemn Russia's meddling and he to Moscow to condemn the European Union. “Then we'd fly back and all sit down and carry on with the Iran talks." Such fleet-footed compartmentalisation would now be impossible.

America's national security council is a bare-bones operation, in part because Congress is loth to fund White House staff. In an essay published in 2016, Julianne Smith, now America's envoy to NATO, recalled her time as deputy national security adviser to Mr Biden when he was vice-president. “A typical day would often involve four to six hours of back-to-back meetings on anything from Syria to cybersecurity to North Korea," followed by 150 to 500 emails per day. “My ability to plan, think beyond the next day in the office, or significantly deepen my knowledge of any single issue was virtually non-existent."

The expectation that top officials represent their country in a crisis often puts enormous pressure on a handful of people. Antony Blinken, America's secretary of state, has spent almost every waking hour shuttling between Middle Eastern capitals over the past six weeks. He recently flew from the Middle East to Tokyo, for a meeting of G7 foreign ministers, then to India, and on to San Francisco. Mr Sullivan is also spread thinly.

Of pens and swords

Even if diplomats can successfully spin multiple plates, the concurrence of crises presents a larger, strategic problem when it comes to military power. The current crisis in the Middle East shows that military power is a scarce resource—like diplomatic bandwidth. Even in recent years, Pentagon officials would boast that they were finally rebalancing naval power from the Middle East to Asia, after two decades of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, under pressure of events, the trend is reversing.

When the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its escorts entered the Red Sea on November 4th it was the first time an American aircraft-carrier had operated in the Middle East for two years. The exercises it conducted earlier with the USS Gerald R. Ford marked an unusually large show of force. If the war in Gaza drags on or widens, American naval forces may need to choose between sticking around, creating gaps in other parts of the world, including Asia, or emboldening Iran.

Meanwhile, Western officials increasingly think the war in Ukraine could drag on for another five years, with neither Russia nor Ukraine prepared to give in, but neither capable of breaking the stalemate. As the 2020s roll on, the red lights begin to flash. Many American intelligence officials, and some Asian ones, believe that the risk of a Chinese attack on Taiwan is greatest in a window at the end of this decade. Too early, and China is not ready. Too late, and China faces the prospect of demographic decline and a new generation of Western military technology.

Even without a war, the West's military capacity will come under enormous pressure in the coming years. The war in Ukraine has been a reminder of both just how much ammunition is consumed in big wars, but also how meagre Western armouries—and their means of replenishment—really are. America is dramatically upping its production of 155mm artillery shells. Even then, its output in 2025 is likely to be lower than that of Russia in 2024.

The wars in Ukraine and Gaza illustrate these stresses. Israel and Ukraine are fighting two different sorts of war. Ukraine needs long-range missiles to strike Crimea, armoured vehicles to allow infantry to advance in the face of shrapnel, and demining gear to punch through vast minefields. Israel wants air-dropped smart bombs, including bunker busters, and interceptors for its Iron Dome air-defence system, which are being fired at a prodigious rate. But there is overlap, too.

Last year America dipped into its stockpile of shells in Israel to arm Ukraine. In October it had to divert some Ukraine-bound shells to Israel. Both countries also use the Patriot missile-defence system, which takes out planes and larger missiles. So too do other allies in the Middle East: on October 19th Saudi Arabia used a Patriot battery to intercept Israel-bound missiles launched from Yemen. Ukraine's consumption of interceptors is likely to rise sharply over the winter as Russia, having stockpiled missiles for months, unleashes sustained barrages against Ukraine's power grid.

America can probably satisfy both of its friends for the moment. In recent weeks, France and Germany have both pledged to increase assistance to Ukraine. But if either war—or both—drags on, there will be a pinch. “As time goes on, there will be trade-offs as certain key systems are diverted to Israel," writes Mark Cancian of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank in Washington. “A few systems that Ukraine needs for its counter-offensive may not be available in the numbers that Ukraine would like."

The bigger problem is that, realistically, America could not arm itself and its allies at the same time. “If US production lines are already struggling to keep pace with the exigencies of arming Ukraine," notes Iskander Rehman of Johns Hopkins University in a recent paper on protracted wars, “they would be completely overwhelmed in the event of an actual protracted, peer-to-peer conflict with an adversary such as China."

These challenges point to deeper tensions in American defence strategy. From 1992 onward American military planners held to what was known as the “two-war" standard. America's armed forces had to be ready to fight two simultaneous medium-sized wars against regional powers—think Iraq or Iran—rather than simply a single big war. In 2018 the Trump administration changed this to a “one-war" standard: in practice, a commitment to be able to fight either a war in Europe or in Asia, but not both at the same time. Mr Biden's administration stuck with this approach.

The aim was to instil discipline in the Pentagon and to bring ends in line with means: America's defence budget is virtually flat in real terms, while Chinese defence spending has soared. But the risk, argued critics, was that the one-war standard would tempt enemies to open a second front—which could then force America to either back down or resort to unappealing options, like nuclear threats.

Too many plates

What risks do America and its allies run by being so stretched across diplomatic and military realms? If the war in Ukraine stays an open sore in Europe and the Middle East remains ablaze, the West will struggle gravely should another serious crisis erupt. One risk is that adversaries simply capitalise on chaos elsewhere for their own ends. If America were bogged down in a Pacific war, for instance, Iran would surely feel more confident of getting away with a dash for nuclear weapons.

Even more worrying is the prospect of active collusion. European military planners give weight to the possibility that Russia might conduct menacing manoeuvres during a crisis over Taiwan in order to divert American attention and tie down its allies, preventing them from lending a hand in Asia. As in the cold war, each crisis, no matter how parochial or trivial, might come to be seen as a test of American or Chinese power, drawing each country in.

Then there are the surprises. Western intelligence agencies have their hands full watching China and Russia. Few expected Hamas to throw the Middle East back into turmoil as it did on October 7th. Civil wars and insurgencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan have all been neglected, diplomatically, even as Russian influence in the Sahel continues to grow. Meanwhile on November 10th dozens of Chinese ships circled Philippine vessels, blasting one with water cannon, as the latter attempted to resupply an outpost on Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, which China claims as its own. If the confrontations worsen, the terms of America's defence treaty with the Philippines may oblige it to intervene.

Amid disorder, strategists talk about the importance of “walking and chewing gum". It is a uniquely American metaphor that once referred to performing two trivial activities at once, and now explains the importance of geopolitical multi-tasking. Others are available. In his forthcoming book, “To Run the World", Mr Radchenko, the historian, quotes Zhou Enlai, China's premier, identifying America's predicament in 1964: “If there were just a few more Congos in Africa, a few more Vietnams in Asia, a few more Cubas in Latin America, then America would have to spread ten fingers to ten more places…we can chop them off one by one."

© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com

Source: Live Mint
Related Posts: GAZA,UKRAINE,WARS,GLOBAL CRISES,ISRAEL HAMAS WAR,RUSSIA UKRAINE WAR,MULTIPOLAR WORLD,MULTIPOLAR WORLD ORDER,UNITED STATES,US IRAN FACEOFF,US IRAN TENSIONS,UKRAINE WAR,RUSSIA

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Third Round of US Sanctions Against Hamas Focuses on Money Transfers from Iran to Gaza Published 41 minutes ago

Posted By: Vishal Maurya Posted On: Nov 14, 2023

The United States on Tuesday said it imposed a third round of sanctions on a group of Hamas officials, members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad who work to transfer money from Iran to Gaza, and a Lebanese money exchange service that facilitates the transfers.

The Treasury Department sanctions, coordinated with the United Kingdom, come in response to the surprise Oct 7 attack by Hamas on Israel that left roughly 1,200 people dead or kidnapped.

The sanctions block access to US property and bank accounts and prevent the targeted people and companies from doing business with Americans.

This and two previous rounds of sanctions against Hamas and its affiliates are aimed at protecting the international financial system from abuse by Hamas militants and their enablers, the Treasury Department said.

The State Department also is designating a Palestinian Islamic Jihad military leader for diplomatic sanctions.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in an emailed statement that together with our partners we are decisively moving to degrade Hamas's financial infrastructure, cut them off from outside funding, and block the new funding channels they seek to finance their heinous acts.

The White House has said it was yet to uncover information that Iran, the principal financial and military sponsor of Hamas, was directly involved in the multipronged Hamas operation against Israel.

However, the US has conducted three strikes over the last two weeks against Iranian-tied weapons depots in Syria to retaliate for the more than 50 rocket and drone attacks that militant groups have launched since Oct 7 against US bases in Iraq and Syria, which have caused dozens of minor injuries among US personnel.

President Joe Biden and other officials in his Democratic administration have travelled to the Middle East to show support for Israel and have tried to tamp down tensions in the escalating war between Israel and Hamas. But those efforts have faced massive setbacks.

More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths.

The shadowy leader of Hamas' military wing, Mohammed Deif, said the Oct 7 assault on Israel was in response to the 16-year blockade of Gaza, Israeli raids inside West Bank cities over the past year, increasing attacks by settlers on Palestinians and the growth of settlements, among other reasons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared Israel to be at war, said its military would use all of its strength to destroy Hamas' capabilities. All the places that Hamas hides in, operates from,” he said, we will turn them into ruins.

Source: News18
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