Here is today’s foreign policy mandate: Russia hits in the US after nationwide protests, Greece and Turkey Meetings for border talks, and Taiwan Tensions increase.
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Navalny protests sweep Russia
Russian authorities tried to divert attention from Saturday’s nationwide street protests – the largest in years – by accusing the United States of meddling in the country.
On Saturday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the U.S. embassy in Moscow of sparking the flames of disagreement by posting protest times and routes (as part of a notice to avoid such gatherings) on the embassy’s website. “What was that: a setup or an instruction?” Zakharova told Russian news agency TASS, adding that if the Russian embassy in Washington did the same during the US protests, “global hysteria” would arise.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added on Sunday that the move of the US embassy was, albeit indirectly, “absolute interference” in Russia’s internal affairs.
The government’s rhetorical counter came after thousands of Russians protested in freezing winter temperatures in around 100 cities on Saturday, following a call by imprisoned anti-Putin activist Alexei Navalny to take to the streets to demand his release.
According to the OVD Info monitoring group, over 3,500 people were arrested during the protests – most of the arrests the NGO had ever recorded in one day.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has successfully weathered unrest during his nearly two decades in power, the protests follow other manifestations of public discontent: in the summer, thousands marched in Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East to protest the detention of regional governor Sergei Furgal before hitting one Anti-Kremlin tone adopts.
Despite the anti-US rhetoric, Kremlin spokesman Peskov said he was confident that talks he hoped would soon take place between the two countries could find “rational kernels” of cooperation, which likely means that the door is open to continue talks on extending the New START nuclear weapons agreement.
Further sanctions? Polish President Andrzej Duda is of the opinion. Speaking to the Financial Times, Duda said that further sanctions were “absolutely justified” based on the Navalny and Russia cases in Georgia and Ukraine. Duda said Poland was ready to “reach consensus” on the issue, saying it was the only way to get results “without rifles, cannons and bombs through sanctions”.
A problem from Obninsk. Vladislav Davidzon writes in Foreign Policy why Navalny fell under the skin of a “hybrid political regime that Putin built” that “left a lot of room for all kinds of ambiguities and bubbles.” In trying to embarrass and challenge Putin in such a direct way, Navalny is forcing the Russian system to “make a decision about how to deal with him that it has no interest in”.
On Monday January 25thHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to bring the impeachment proceedings against former US President Donald Trump to the Senate today.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote on the appointment of Antony Blinken as Secretary of State.
Acting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is hosting the two-day summit on climate adaptation.
The World Economic Forum virtually hosts the annual summit in Davos – with Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a large number of politicians and business leaders.
On Tuesday, January 26th, an order from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all travelers entering the U.S. must have a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their flight being effective.
The ruling Communist Party of Vietnam is holding its 13th congress to elect the party’s secretary general and politburo and to set priorities for the next five years.
India celebrates Republic Day, a national holiday on which the country became a republic in 1950. On the occasion of the celebrations, a tractor protest by farmers against new agricultural laws is planned.
On Wednesday January 27thLinda Thomas-Greenfield, the election of US President Joe Biden as US Ambassador to the United Nations, appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her confirmation hearing.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the US Federal Reserve decides whether to raise, lower or maintain US interest rates.
The Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund hosts the Future Investment Initiative’s annual conference, attended by world leaders.
On Thursday January 28thBiden announced a number of health care measures, including the repeal of the so-called “Mexico City Policy” which prevents NGOs from receiving global health funding for including abortion in family planning advice.
Transparency International publishes its annual country rankings of the Corruption Perceptions Index.
Sadyr Japarov is expected to be sworn in after his win in a presidential election on January 10 in Kyrgyzstan’s next president.
On Friday January 29thBiden announced a number of new immigration measures, including the establishment of a family reunification task force, a review of what is known as the “public prosecution” rule, and expanding opportunities for legal migration.
What we are following today
Greece-Turkey talks. Greek and Turkish officials meet in Istanbul to initiate exploratory talks to resolve the sea borders between the two countries. Turkey reportedly plans to add airspace and demilitarization issues to some of the Greek islands to the talks agenda. Talks, which had been suspended for five years, received new impetus in August after a Turkish seismic survey vessel began oil and gas exploration in what Greece calls an exclusive economic zone.
Taiwan tensions. State Department spokesman Ned Price urged Beijing to “cease military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan” after Chinese fighter jets and bombers crossed the strait axis on both Saturdays on Sunday. The move comes as the Trump administration in recent days raised the level of formal US relations with Taiwan and lifted restrictions that prohibited contact between US and Taiwanese officials. Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States attended President Joe Biden’s inauguration last week. For the first time since 1979, a Taiwanese government official was invited to an inauguration ceremony for the US president.
Italy vaccine pressure. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Sunday that the country would take legal action against pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca for failing to deliver the amount of vaccines specified in their supply contract. Both companies blamed manufacturing problems for the sales delays.
European Council President Charles Michel said he shared Italy’s concerns and warned that the European Union intends to use “legal means” to get companies to honor their contracts. Italy’s Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said the delay had postponed the country’s vaccination program for people over 80 for four weeks.
Estonia’s new government. A woman will lead the Estonian government for the first time in her history after the two largest parties in Estonia signed a coalition agreement on Sunday. Kaja Kallas, chairman of the center-right reform party, will lead a government alongside the center party. Jüri Ratas, the leader of the Center Party, who resigned as Prime Minister last week after a corruption scandal involving members of his party, will not be part of the new cabinet.
Democrats advocate access to Palestinian vaccines. Several democratic lawmakers have criticized Israel for failing to make efforts to vaccinate Palestinians in the West Bank. MEP Joaquin Castro, who recently ran unsuccessfully to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Haaretz on Sunday that, while praising Israel’s vaccination campaign, he was “disappointed and concerned that the government has Palestinians under Israeli occupation lives, excluded from these vaccination efforts, despite the fact that Israeli settlers in the West Bank were provided with COVID vaccines. “Castro’s remarks came after similar statements by Senator Tim Kaine and Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman and Marie Newman.
Vaccine inequality. A new study by the International Chamber of Commerce predicts the global economy could lose up to $ 9 trillion in the next year if vaccines are not distributed more fairly to poorer countries. The authors state that more than half of the economic damage would occur in rich countries, whose populations are expected to be vaccinated as early as late 2021.
Scottish independence. The Scottish National Party released a Roadmap to Referendum document on Saturday when the majority party in Scotland’s decentralized parliament pushed for an independence vote. The document calls for the passage of a law authorizing a referendum once the pandemic has subsided and dares Westminster to question the legality of the referendum in court. The plan depends on the SNP gaining a parliamentary majority in the elections scheduled for May 6th. According to surveys, this is on the right track.
French lawmakers passed a law to protect the “sensory heritage of the landscape” following a series of disputes over noisy animals and some of the pungent smells they leave behind.
The law is designed to give local officials a chance to respond to complaints from residents and newcomers. In recent years, courts have issued an injunction against a horse for leaving its droppings too close to a neighbor’s fence, as well as an order for a couple to drain their pond after local residents complained about the frogs croaking too loudly had.
“Our rural areas are not just landscapes, but also sounds, smells, activities and practices that are part of our heritage,” Joël Giraud, France’s junior minister for rural life, told the French Senate. “New rural residents are not always used to it.”
That’s it for today.
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