11 June 2022

Has China Lost Europe?

Ian Johnson

In April and May, as Russia’s war in Ukraine entered its third month, China sent a special envoy to meet with officials in eight central and eastern European countries. The timing was not coincidental: in the two months since Russia had launched its invasion, China’s standing in Europe had sunk to new lows. European governments were dismayed by Beijing’s strengthened ties to Moscow and its tacit support for Russia’s aggression, and the Chinese leadership hoped to do damage control in a part of the continent where it believed it had special sway.

For a decade now, China has made the countries of central and eastern Europe one of its diplomatic focal points. Offering top-level access in Beijing and dangling huge trade opportunities, Chinese officials believed they could use this belt of smaller, post-communist governments as a counterweight to critical voices in the European Union and U.S. influence on the European continent. And with the war in Ukraine bringing a chill over China’s European relations, Beijing assumed that a series of brisk meetings in the region—including in Budapest, Prague, Riga, and Warsaw—would help turn the tables it its favor. But these efforts went nowhere. Instead, the Chinese ambassador and the rest of her delegation were rebuffed, with the Czech foreign ministry, for example, saying it used the meeting to express “reservations to current Chinese cooperation with Russia.”

The hotheads who could start a cold war

It is almost too polite to call the deepening rivalry between China and the American-led West a new cold war. The original cold war between America and the Soviet Union was grimly rational: a nuclear-armed confrontation between hostile ideological blocs which both longed to see the other fail. For all their differences, China and Western countries profit vastly if unevenly from exchanges of goods, people and services worth billions of dollars a year. Their respective leaders know that global problems from climate change to pandemics or nuclear proliferation can only be solved if they work together. Yet increasingly, interdependency is not enough to stop one side—often China, but not always—from starting reckless disputes rooted in suspicion of the other.

Russian gas deliveries to Europe via main routes remain steady

June 10 (Reuters) - Russian gas delivery to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline across the Baltic Sea and through Ukraine remained stable on Friday morning, while eastbound flows rose along the Yamal-Europe pipeline to Poland from Germany, operator data showed.

Flows to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 were at 62,085,568 kWh/h on Friday morning, similar to levels above 61,000,000 kWh/h seen over most of Thursday.

Nominations for flows into Slovakia from Ukraine via the Velke Kapusany border point stood at 37 million cubic metres (mcm) per day, little changed from Thursday, data from the Ukrainian transmission system operator showed.

Smartphones Blur the Line Between Civilian and Combatant

Lukasz Olejnik

AS RUSSIA CONTINUES its unprovoked armed aggression, reports from Ukraine note that the smartphones in civilians’ pockets may be “weapons powerful in their own way as rockets and artillery.” Indeed, technologists in the country have quickly created remarkable apps to keep citizens safe and assist the war effort—everything from an air-raid alert app to the rapid repurposing of the government’s Diia app. The latter was once used by more than 18 million Ukrainians for things like digital IDs, but it now allows users to report the movements of invading soldiers through the “e-Enemy” feature. “Anyone can help our army locate Russian troops. Use our chat bot to inform the Armed Forces,” the Ministry of Digital Transformation said of the new capability when it rolled out.

Naturally, the Ukrainian people want to defend their country and aid their army in whatever ways they can. But certain uses of digital technology pose fundamental challenges to the traditional distinction between civilians and combatants in modern times.

HASC intel subcommittee pushes Pentagon, IC on ISR gaps, overlaps


WASHINGTON: As they work to finalize the fiscal 2023 defense policy bill, House lawmakers concerned about gaps in commander’s requirements for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) are hopeful a long-awaited Pentagon report will answer some of their urgent questions.

That report, required in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is expected “within weeks perhaps” from Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security (USDI&S) Robert Moultrie, one staffer for the House Armed Services (HASC) subcommittee on intelligence and emerging threats and capabilities told reporters on Tuesday.

That gaps analysis, the staffer explained, is supposed to cover all domains — including space, where the HASC has long been worried about both gaps and duplication of effort among various military and intelligence acquisition authorities. The concern about overlap and duplication has been exacerbated over the last couple of years as the Space Force has moved into the space-based ISR arena long controlled by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

Smartphones and Civilians in Wartime

The principle of distinction between the two roles is a critical cornerstone of international humanitarian law­—the law of armed conflict, codified by decades of customs and laws such as the Geneva Conventions. Those considered civilians and civilian targets are not to be attacked by military forces; as they are not combatants, they should be spared. At the same time, they also should not act as combatants—­if they do, they may lose this status.

The conundrum, then, is how to classify a civilian who, with the use of their smartphone, potentially becomes an active participant in a military sensor system. (To be clear, solely having the app installed is not sufficient to lose the protected status. What matters is actual usage.) The Additional Protocol I to Geneva Conventions states that civilians enjoy protection from the “dangers arising from military operations unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.” Legally, if civilians engage in military activity, such as taking part in hostilities by using weapons, they forfeit their protected status, “for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities” that “affect[s] the military operations,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the traditional impartial custodian of International Humanitarian Law. This is the case even if the people in question are not formally members of the armed forces. By losing the status of a civilian, one may become a legitimate military objective, carrying the risk of being directly attacked by military forces.

India Makes Its Relationship With the Taliban Regime More Official

Sudha Ramachandran

After decades of open hostility and months of furtive meetings, India and Taliban officials have made their relationship more official.

On June 2, a high-level delegation of Indian officials met with the Taliban’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Kabul. This is the first official visit by Indian officials to the Afghan capital since New Delhi shut down its embassy in Kabul following the Taliban’s return to power in August last year.

India has reportedly moved closer to reviving its diplomatic presence. Unlike other regional powers that have posted ambassadors in Kabul, New Delhi is considering sending “a very limited number of junior officials, mainly to oversee consular matters and the distribution of humanitarian aid,” according to Hindustan Times.

World Bank: Most Countries Are Heading for a Recession

Ethen Kim Lieser

The World Bank’s latest global economic forecast indicates that most countries should begin preparing for a recession, as global economic growth is expected to slow down in the months ahead.

“For many countries, recession will be hard to avoid,” David Malpass, the World Bank’s president said in a statement, warning that a period of stagflation like what was witnessed in the 1970s is certainly possible.

Global growth is expected to slump from 5.7 percent in 2021 to 2.9 percent in 2022, which is markedly lower than the World Bank’s January estimate of 4.1 percent. Growth will likely hover around that level until 2024 as inflation remains above target in most countries.

Meanwhile, growth in advanced economies is predicted to sharply drop from 5.1 percent in 2021 to 2.6 percent in 2022—1.2 percentage points below projections in January.

The Fight to Survive Russia’s Onslaught in Eastern Ukraine

Russia’s war in Ukraine is not the same conflict that it was earlier this spring. The Russian Army’s initial campaign, in February and March, was a three-front invasion with little coherence or military logic. Ukrainian troops mounted small-unit ambushes and used rocket-propelled grenades, antitank weapons, and drones to destroy Russian troop formations and armor. Viral videos show their direct strikes, with tanks disappearing in flame and smoke. Now the Russian military has regrouped its forces for a more targeted assault in the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, drawing on its advantages in artillery and airpower. As Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at CNA, a defense research organization, said, “Russia is making fitful but incremental gains, and Ukraine’s position in the Donbas is more precarious than it once seemed.” I spent several days in the Donbas recently, where a number of officers and enlisted soldiers told me that Ukrainian infantry rarely see the enemy. Rather, battles are often fought at distances of ten miles or more. The war has become, as one soldier told me, a game of “artillery Ping-Pong.”

In Ukraine, Russian is now “the language of the enemy”

Andrey Kurkov

KYIV – Volodymyr Rafeenko is one of the many Russian-language authors in Ukraine whose lives have been changed by Russian tanks.

Until 2014 Rafeenko lived in Donetsk, in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. His work was published mainly in Russia, where he received three prestigious literary awards. He did not speak Ukrainian, but it was easy then to live in Donetsk without it.

However, when the war in the Donbas broke out in the spring of 2014, he and his wife left their two apartments and their jobs in Donetsk and moved west. There Andriy Bondar, a Ukrainian-speaking writer and translator, settled them in his dacha near Bucha. So Rafeenko became a resident of the Kyiv region. He learned Ukrainian and even began to write in Ukrainian. His first novel in his new language, Mondengrin, required some serious editing, and once more Bondar stepped in to help. After the release of the novel in 2019, Rafeenko promised to write his future novels in both Russian and Ukrainian, alternating between the two languages. However, on 31 May, after surviving a month under the Russian occupation of Bucha, he publicly renounced the Russian language and said that he would never write another text in Russian – and would never again even speak Russian. “I don’t want to have anything to do with this language,” he said in an interview on Ukrainian television.

A Long War in Ukraine Could Bring Global Chaos

Hal Brands

The war in Ukraine has become a brutal, grinding contest of attrition. As the conflict drags on, the question becomes, which side does time favor? Kyiv is betting that its leverage will increase as an isolated Russia comes face to face with economic and military ruin. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wager is that he can devastate Ukraine even with a weakened army, while using the threat of global economic chaos to sever Kyiv’s lifeline to the outside world. Each side is trying to bleed and batter the other into submission, a dynamic that will fuel far-reaching instability — and present the US with nasty challenges.

In recent weeks, the fighting has occurred primarily in eastern Ukraine. Russia is using hellacious artillery barrages and methodical attacks to slowly seize more territory, in hopes of fully “liberating” the Donbas region. Ukraine is hanging on, inflicting terrible casualties while also suffering, by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s own admission, heavy losses.

China’s Southern Strategy

Nadège Rolland

For the past decade, Chinese President Xi Jinping has endeavored to help China attain what it considers to be its rightful position at the center of the world stage. To do this, Xi—along with the rest of China’s leadership—is attempting to consolidate the country’s economic, political, diplomatic, and military power. It is also working to counter U.S. pressure in the Indo-Pacific region. Xi’s desire to turn China into the world’s most powerful state is, after all, coupled with an inextricable corollary: the imperative of stopping what he sees as efforts by the West to contain it.

But China’s grand strategy includes a third component: asserting its dominant position over a different international system of states. Chinese policymakers are attempting to create a sphere of influence comprising not just their country’s immediately contiguous region but also the entire emerging, non-Western, and largely nondemocratic world—the “global South.” Securing dominance over this vast swath of nations would provide a strong base for China’s power while restricting the United States’ actions and influence. Ultimately, that could help spell the end of U.S. global hegemony.

Debate: Kissinger vs. Soros on Russia’s War in Ukraine

Predictably, war was the talk of the town in Davos this past May. In speeches at the annual World Economic Forum, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and billionaire philanthropist George Soros both offered their own, diverging takes on what the West should and could do to end the hostilities initiated by Russia in late February. Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russel Mead succinctly captured the differences between the two men's positions: Kissinger "urge[d] against attempts to defeat or marginalize Russia, calling on Ukraine to accept the territorial losses of 2014 to end the war," while Soros "warned that victory in the war against Vladimir Putin's Russia was necessary to 'save civilization' and urged the West to provide Ukraine with everything it needs to prevail."

Russia Matters has decided to advance the indirect debate between Kissinger and Soros by asking Nikolas K. Gvosdev of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Melinda Haring of the Atlantic Council to explain why they agree or disagree with the key propositions put forward by Kissinger and Soros at Davos (listed below) with regard to the Russian-Ukrainian war and, more widely, how to deal with Russia.

So, Bad News: Now Militants Are Using Drones as Projectiles

Adam Rawnsley

The recent weaponization of drones has seen its share of inventiveness. But now, militants in Yemen are foregoing clever hacks and add-ons for a far more blunt approach: ramming drones into anti-missile systems, to keep them from knocking ballistic missiles out of the sky.

The use of relatively cheap drones to blind multi-million dollar anti-ballistic missile systems isn’t just an expensive battlefield annoyance. It shows how militant groups and smaller military forces in the Middle East are exploiting gaps in the air defenses of better-equipped forces by using drones in new and unexpected ways, increasing demand for counter-drone technologies in the process.

How Turkey is turning the war in Ukraine to its own advantage

Joshua Keating

Last week, the Turkish government formally requested that the United Nations refer to the country only as “Türkiye” rather than “Turkey,” part of a larger campaign announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year to promote international use of the country’s Turkish-language name and discourage the one that English speakers tend to associate with a large, edible bird.

Rebrandings like these have a mixed success rate — “Czechia” for the Czech Republic hasn’t really caught on — but the U.N. immediately granted the request.

Hear more from Joshua Keating about this story:

Erdogan has been making a lot of demands of the international community lately, seeking to leverage his country’s outsized influence in the complex geopolitics of the war in Ukraine. As those demands go, the name change was an easy one.

The Internet Needs You-Are-Here Maps

MANY OF US remember the feeling of running into a museum as a child, excited by the vast space and seemingly infinite possibility of finding that obscure dinosaur, or species of fish, or whatever it was that brought us there. No matter how many times we might have visited the building, seeing the giant museum map with the bright red “you-are-here” sticker was grounding. It even helped us discover new exhibits or other places that we may have glossed over. The museum was a vast space, but the map was always there to help us locate ourselves, orient ourselves in relation to our surroundings, and ultimately navigate to a constructive place (mostly) without losing our way.

Today, we spend much of our time in an exceedingly vast and complex environment: the internet. Yet most of us have very little idea of its extent, topology, dimensions, or which parts we have—and haven’t—visited. We are in it without really knowing where. Because birds of a feather flock together, we often ensconce ourselves in bubbles with others who share our political, social, and cultural experiences and beliefs. This is natural, and often valuable: Creating shared spaces fosters a sense of belonging, mutual solidarity, support, and even protection against “tyrannies of the majority.”

COVID Airborne Transmission v. Monkeypox: Key Differences Between Viruses


More than 1,000 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed around the world in several countries where the disease is not usually found—including the United States—raising questions about how the virus is spreading.

But can monkeypox, a rare disease that is usually restricted to parts of Central and West Africa, spread via airborne transmission like the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic?

Some infectious diseases can spread through airborne transmission via tiny respiratory droplets known as aerosols that can become suspended in the air. These droplets are produced when an individual exhales, sneezes, coughs, talks, or sings, for example. These droplets can contain live viruses or other pathogens that can potentially infect healthy people if they land in the eyes, nose or mouth.

A Drone Tried to Disrupt the Power Grid. It Won't Be the Last

Brian Barrett
Source Link

IN JULY OF last year, a DJI Mavic 2 drone approached a Pennsylvania power substation. Two 4-foot nylon ropes dangled from its rotors, a thick copper wire connected to the ends with electrical tape. The device had been stripped of any identifiable markings, as well as its onboard camera and memory card, in an apparent effort by its owner to avoid detection. Its likely goal, according to a joint security bulletin released by DHS, the FBI, and the National Counterterrorism Center, was to “disrupt operations by creating a short circuit.”

The drone crashed on the roof of an adjacent building before it reached its ostensible target, damaging a rotor in the process. Its operator still hasn’t been found. According to the bulletin, the incident, which was first reported by ABC, constitutes the first known instance of a modified, uncrewed aircraft system being used to “specifically target” US energy infrastructure. It seems unlikely to be the last, however.

Putin’s War of Aggression Has Dimmed the Appeal of Neutrality

Frida Ghitis

Last week, Germany’s lower legislative chamber, the Bundestag, held a historic vote to amend the country’s constitution to allow for a massive expansion of its military forces. The vote tally—567 to 96, with 20 abstentions—was one more sign that when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he upended not only the architecture of global security, but also, in some cases, fundamental, long-established beliefs about national defense.

In the case of Germany, one of the most significant effects of Russian aggression has been the blow it dealt to the notion of pacifism that has guided the country’s defense policies since World War II. And Germany is not the only country reconsidering its approach to defense; many are now tossing aside long-standing preferences for protecting themselves by not taking sides in conflicts

Beyond AI+Bio — Emergent Biotechs

Modulus Therapeutics

Over the last 30 years, the scale of biological discovery has been a major driver of biotech success. We are entering a new era, where leveraging the right data at the right scale with the right computational tools can feed emergent capabilities that qualitatively change the nature of the biotech discovery paradigm.

The huge increase in the scale of biological discovery has allowed scientists to generate and then address many hypotheses in parallel. High throughput screening originated at Pfizer in the mid-1980s and has since revolutionized discovery approaches for a wide range of applications. Sequencing costs have plummeted by orders of magnitude in the last 20 years which has dramatically reduced marginal experimental costs. More recently, tools such as pooled CRISPR screens have provided a way for researchers to collect causal genetic information genome-wide.

While these approaches have been transformative, they still operate in the linear regime, in which more wells, more conditions, or more targets mean more discovery potential. Today, most high throughput discovery methods are primarily filters. The bigger your upstream funnel, the better your chances of finding something interesting.

Elon Musk is right. Web3 is BS.

Maciej Baron

To put it mildly, I am not Elon’s biggest fan. He’s an ignorant, narcissistic, reckless, self-indulgent buffoon who treats his employees like crap, and who just happens to be amazing at marketing himself, which helped him become a billionaire, despite running unprofitable companies.

Musk however, recently tweeted something that I wholeheartedly agree with: “Web3 sounds like bs”.

Web3 is an idea, which even Bloomberg admitted is a bit hazy, which suggests we can achieve a decentralised World Wide Web using blockchains. The proponents of this concept like to talk about how Web 2.0 became centralised and controlled by big corporations, and how blockchains, crypto and NFTs can help “give the power back to the people”.

This all sounds wonderful and looks good on paper, but in reality, it’s simply bullshit.

FBI Seizes Retired General's Data Related to Qatar Lobbying

The FBI has seized the electronic data of a retired four-star general who authorities say made false statements and withheld “incriminating” documents about his role in an illegal foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of the wealthy Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.

New federal court filings obtained Tuesday outlined a potential criminal case against former Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before being tapped in 2017 to lead the influential Brookings Institution think tank.

It's part of an expanding investigation that has ensnared Richard G. Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan who pleaded guilty to federal charges last week, and Imaad Zuberi, a prolific political donor now serving a 12-year prison sentence on corruption charges. Several members of Congress have been interviewed as part of the investigation.

Russia’s nuclear threat has worked

Shlomo Ben-Ami

The war in Ukraine has reasserted the relevance of nuclear weapons as a major deterrent in global conflicts. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, a great power has publicly threatened to deploy tactical nuclear weapons. And the threat worked: the West has been carefully calibrating its arms supply to Ukraine in order to avoid giving Russia reason to resort to nuclear escalation. Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine wouldn’t have happened had Ukraine not surrendered its nuclear arsenal under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, which included American and Russian guarantees to respect and defend its territorial integrity.

Revolutionary powers such as North Korea and Iran have watched these developments closely. For Iran, a rising Shia power, its nuclear program represents an insurance policy against the surrounding Sunni powers, all allies of Israel and the United States. North Korea’s nuclear logic isn’t much different.

Deterrence in Contemporary U.S.-Russian Relations

Keith B. Payne

First, what exactly are we trying to deter with Russia? The goal, both implicit and explicit, of the United States vis-à-vis a hostile, great power such as contemporary Russia must be to deter all potential provocations that could materially affect U.S. interests because the value of deterring provocations, big and small, vice having to respond to provocations repeatedly, is enormous. The United States must have a broad set of defensive deterrence goals given the current U.S. relationship with Russia because the failure to deter at one level, for whatever reason (e.g., lack of attention, lack of will, lack of power), will likely encourage Moscow to believe it has freedom to provoke the United States at other levels. Thus, the failure to deter on one occasion will invite subsequent provocations. Historically, opponents have, on occasion, pointed to a previous U.S. failure to deter or an apparent lack of U.S. resolve as the basis for their willingness to believe that they could act against the United States in relative safety.[1]

Russia under Putin has a deep-seated expansionist, revanchist national goal to recreate Moscow’s past imperium. It sees the United States as the impediment to its revanchist goals and thus has an imperative to challenge U.S. positions; provoking the United States is unavoidable if Moscow is to expand as it believes it must. A careful examination of numerous historical case studies concludes that: “To the extent that leaders perceive the need to act, they become insensitive to the interests and commitments of others that stand in the way of the success of their policy.” [2] Given Russia’s goals and worldview, Moscow is likely to deem it intolerable not to act to achieve its goals if it sees an opportunity and also to have an active bias in its perceptions of events: it will interpret events, rightly or wrongly, as validating what it must believe to be true about the U.S. deterrence posture to achieve its goals, i.e., that it can violate U.S. deterrence redlines without intolerable consequences. The Putin regime clearly seeks to create and exploit inadequacies in the U.S. deterrence posture that enable it to do so; it will seek to create those inadequacies and will likely see them where it hopes to find them.[3] For the Putin regime, perceived U.S. weakness is likely to provoke Moscow and undercut U.S. efforts to deter rather than allay its fears and promote cooperation.


George Hand
Source Link

Turkey and America are allies and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and have among the most formidable armies in NATO. Turkey is not allied with Russia, hence it can block off access in and out of the Black Sea by way of the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara which connects to the Mediterranean.

Political science is a subject that I find personally daunting. To me, it would send computer code programmers sprinting the wrong way down a one-way street. I tend to parry the heavily political aspects of (the) war and lean on the tactical and strategic components to paint a picture of essential maneuvers. The war in Ukraine is different than any war before it for the extensive use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAV) — drones.

The Bad ‘Ol Days: Where Russia’s Nuclear Strategy Goes after Ukraine

Eric Gomez

The war in Ukraine could produce a more aggressive Russian nuclear strategy than the one it had prior to the conflict. The poor performance of Russia’s conventional forces are creating a mix of structural conditions that is similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Based on Russia’s approach in the post-Soviet period, it will likely place greater emphasis on limited nuclear options and have a lower threshold for nuclear first use. A more aggressive Russian nuclear doctrine would have serious implications for U.S. extended deterrence in Europe, especially as Sweden and Finland call for NATO membership.

During the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia’s conventional military was large but of generally poor quality, and a weakened economy meant that rapid improvements in military technology were going to take time. Moscow opted to make up for its conventional weakness by increasing the prominence of nuclear weapons for national security and adopting more aggressive doctrines of nuclear use. Without viable, conventional means to protect against NATO’s more advanced military forces, Russia would reach for limited nuclear options early in a conflict to demonstrate resolve and the risks of continued aggression.

Turkey Is Not the Answer to the War in Syria

Jonathan Meilaender

The world’s eyes, fixed on Syria only a few years ago, now hardly linger there as the world's focus on Ukraine and China grows. But Syria, Russia’s training ground for Ukraine, is now threatened by a new outburst of violence, one with implications beyond its own borders. For America, this crisis is an opportunity to regain lost leverage in the Middle East.

American troops are still in Syria. So are Russian troops. And so are Turkish troops. All three zones of influence share a common border. American and Russian troops patrol different parts of the territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, the militia that defeated ISIS in Syria with the aid of American airpower, while Turkey controls parts of the northern border, its troops propping up Islamist proxies.

We reached this precarious situation through American error. America has partnered with the Syrian Democratic Forces since 2014 to defeat ISIS. The SDF’s predecessor organization, a Syrian Kurdish militia called the YPG, caught Washington’s attention with a courageous stand at the border town of Kobane. Unlike the Iraqi army and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, at that time generally on the run, the YPG and its Arab allies stood and fought. American airstrikes turned what would have been a last stand into a great victory over ISIS, one that eliminated much of its heavy armor along with thousands of its fighters. Though the SDF proved a brilliant partner over the following years, even building a functioning multi-ethnic and semi-democratic statelet as ISIS was destroyed, it nevertheless came with one caveat: Turkish enmity.

Geopolitics and China’s Engagement in Central Asia

Catherine Putz

Fresh off pinging around the Pacific in a race with Australian diplomats, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital, for the third meeting of the China+Central Asia Foreign Ministers, or C+C5.

As summer breaks across the northern hemisphere and the pandemic’s hampering of travel fades, the geopolitical games are heating up. Central Asia is another arena in which the world’s great powers seek to extend a hand and hope to secure influence and support.

Wang’s arrival in Central Asia came in the wake of a quiet tour by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu in late May. Lu traveled to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan and after the trip remarked, via tweet, that the C5+US “is stronger than ever!”

Inside the Taliban’s secret war in the Panjshir Valley

Susannah George and Aziz Tassal

DARA, Afghanistan — Taliban forces have been locked for months in a shadowy on-again, off-again battle with opposition fighters based in the Panjshir Valley. Just a few hours’ drive north of Kabul, the province has long been an anti-Taliban stronghold and remains the only significant pocket of resistance to the group since the fall of Kabul last August.

The Washington Post secured a rare visit to the mountains and villages where the fight is playing out, getting a glimpse of a conflict that the Taliban has gone to great lengths to conceal.

Taliban officials flatly deny there is any violence in the area, even though thousands of the group’s forces are visible across the valley. “Everything here is fine,” insisted Nasrullah Malikzada, the Taliban’s local information director in Panjshir. “There is no fighting at all.”

Yet residents say assaults on Taliban positions are a regular occurrence, and dozens of people have been killed, with some civilians imprisoned in sweeping arrests. Those residents spoke on the condition of anonymity or used only one name for fear of reprisals.

The Ukraine War Still Holds Surprises. The Biggest May Be for Putin.

Thomas L. Friedman

LONDON — Here’s a surprising fact: At a time when Americans can’t agree on virtually anything, there’s been a consistent majority in favor of giving generous economic and military aid to Ukraine in its fight against Vladimir Putin’s effort to wipe it off the map. It’s doubly surprising when you consider that most Americans couldn’t find Ukraine on a map just a few months ago, as it’s a country with which we’ve never had a special relationship.

Sustaining that support through this summer, though, will be doubly important as the Ukraine war settles into a kind of “sumo” phase — two giant wrestlers, each trying to throw the other out of the ring, but neither willing to quit or able to win.

While I expect some erosion as people grasp how much this war is driving up global energy and food prices, I’m still hopeful that a majority of Americans will hang in there until Ukraine can recover its sovereignty militarily or strike a decent peace deal with Putin. My near-term optimism doesn’t derive from reading polls, but reading history — in particular, Michael Mandelbaum’s new book,