Germany says it won't block Poland giving Ukraine tanks
The German government will not object if Poland decides to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, Germany's top diplomat said Sunday (January 22, 2023), indicating movement on supplying weapons that Kyiv has described as essential to its ability to fend off an intensified Russian offensive. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told French TV channel LCI that Poland has not formally asked for Berlin's approval to share some of its German-made Leopards but added “if we were asked, we would not stand in the way.” German officials “know how important these tanks are" and “this is why we are discussing this now with our partners,” Baerbock said in interview clips posted by LCI. Ukraine’s supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine during a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday. International defense leaders discussed Ukraine's urgent request for the Leopard 2 tanks, and the failure to work out an agreement overshadowed the new commitments. Read more: Russia claims progress in eastern Ukraine; Kyiv craves tanks Germany is one of the main donors of weapons to Ukraine, and it ordered a review of its Leopard 2 stocks in preparation for a possible green light. Nonetheless, the government in Berlin has shown caution at each step of increasing its military aid to Ukraine, a hesitancy seen as rooted in its history and political culture. Germany’s tentativeness has drawn criticism, particularly from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on NATO’s eastern flank that feel especially threatened by Russia’s renewed aggression. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that if the fellow NATO and European Unio member did not consent to transferring Leopard tanks to Ukraine, his country was prepared to build a “smaller coalition” of countries that would send theirs anyway. “Almost a year had passed since the outbreak of war,” Morawiecki said in an interview with Polish state news agency PAP published Sunday. “Evidence of the Russian army’s war crimes can be seen on television and on YouTube. What more does Germany need to open its eyes and start to act in line with the potential of the German state?” Read more: Deadly missile strike adds to Ukraine war fears in Poland Previously, some officials in Poland indicated that Finland and Denmark also were ready to send Leopards to Ukraine. Earlier Sunday, the speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, said governments that give more powerful weapons to Ukraine risked causing a “global tragedy that would destroy their countries.” “Supplies of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” Volodin said. “If Washington and NATO supply weapons that would be used for striking peaceful cities and making attempts to seize our territory as they threaten to do, it would trigger a retaliation with more powerful weapons.” French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said Sunday that he had asked his defense minister to “work on” the idea of sending some of France's Leclerc battle tanks to Ukraine. Read More: The AP Interview: Envoy says Taiwan learns from Ukraine war Macron spoke during a news conference in Paris with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as France and Germany commemorated the 60th anniversary of their post-World War II friendship treaty. In a joint declaration, the two countries committed to their “unwavering support” for Ukraine. France will make its tank decision based on three criteria, Macron said: that sharing the equipment does not lead to an escalation of the conflict, that it would provide efficient and workable help when training time is taken into account, and that it wouldn’t weaken France’s own military. Scholz did not respond when asked about the Leopard 2 tanks Sunday, but stressed that his country already has made sizable military contributions to Ukraine. “The U.S. is doing a lot, Germany is doing a lot, too," he said. "We have constantly expanded our deliveries with very effective weapons that are already available today. And we have always coordinated all these decisions closely with our important allies and friends.” Read More: German caution on Ukraine arms rooted in political culture In Washington, two leading lawmakers urged the U.S. on Sunday to send some of its Abrams tanks to Ukraine in the interests of overcoming Germany’s reluctance to share its own, more suitable tanks. “If we announced we were giving an Abrams tank, just one, that would unleash” the flow of tanks from Germany, Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC’s “This Week on Sunday.” “What I hear is that Germany’s waiting on us to take the lead.” Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat who is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also spoke up for the U.S. sending Abrams. “If it requires our sending some Abrams tanks in order to unlock getting the Leopard tanks from Germany, from Poland, from other allies, I would support that,” Coons said. Read More: Defense leaders meet amid dissent over tanks for Ukraine Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of the Russian Security Council, said Friday's U.S.-led meeting at the air base in Germany “left no doubt that our enemies will try to exhaust or better destroy us,” adding that “they have enough weapons” to achieve the purpose. Medvedev, a former Russian president, warned that “in case of a protracted conflict,” Russia could seek to form a military alliance with "the nations that are fed up with the Americans and a pack of their castrated dogs." Ukraine has argued it needs more weapons as it anticipates Russia's forces launching a new offensive in the spring. Oleksii Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council, warned that Russia may try to intensify its attacks in the south and in the east and to cut supply channels of Western weapons, while conquering Kyiv “remains the main dream” in President Vladimir Putin’s "fantasies,” he said. Read More: Kyiv helicopter crash kills 18, including Ukraine’s interior minister, his two children In a column published by online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda. he described the Kremlin’s goal in the conflict as a “total and absolute genocide, a total war of destruction" Among those calling for more arms for Ukraine was the former British prime minister, Boris Johnson, who made a surprise trip to Ukraine on Sunday. Johnson, who was pictured in the Kyiv region town of Borodyanka, said he traveled to Ukraine at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “This is the moment to double down and to give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job. The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and for the whole world,” Johnson said in a statement. The last week was especially tragic for Ukraine even by the standards of a brutal war that has gone on for nearly a year, killing tens of thousands of people, uprooting millions more and creating vast destruction of Ukrainian cities. Read More: Netherlands says it will send Patriot assistance to Ukraine A barrage of Russian missiles struck an apartment complex in the southeastern city of Dnipro on Jan. 14, killing at least 45 civilians. On Wednesday, a government helicopter crashed into a building housing a kindergarten in a suburb of Kyiv. Ukraine's interior minister, other officials and a child on the ground were among the 14 people killed. Zelenskyy vowed Sunday that Ukraine would ultimately prevail in the war. “We are united because we are strong. We are strong because we are united," the Ukrainian leader said in a video address as he marked Ukraine Unity Day, which commemorates when east and west Ukraine were united in 1919. Read More: Ukraine strike deaths hit 40; Russia seen preparing long war
The AP Interview: Envoy says Taiwan learns from Ukraine war
Taiwan has learned important lessons from Ukraine’s war that would help it deter any attack by China or defend itself if invaded, the self-ruled island’s top envoy to the U.S. said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. Among the lessons: Do more to prepare military reservists and also civilians for the kind of all-of-society fight that Ukrainians are waging against Russia. “Everything we’re doing now is to prevent the pain and suffering of the tragedy of Ukraine from being repeated in our scenario in Taiwan,” said Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s representative in Washington. “So ultimately, we seek to deter the use of military force. But in a worst-case scenario, we understand that we have to be better prepared,” Hsiao said. Hsiao spoke at the quiet, more than 130-year-old hilltop mansion that Taiwan uses for official functions in Washington. She talked on a range of Taiwan-US military, diplomatic and trade relations issues shaped by intensifying rivalries with China. No Taiwanese flag flew over the building, reflecting Taiwan’s in-between status as a U.S. ally that nonetheless lacks full U.S. diplomatic recognition. The U.S. withdrew that in 1979, on the same day it recognized Beijing as the sole government of China. The interview came after a year of higher tensions with China, including the Chinese launching ballistic missiles over Taiwan and temporarily suspending most dialogue with the U.S. after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August. Asked if new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy should make good on his earlier pledge to visit Taiwan as well, Hsaio said. “That will be his decision. But I think ultimately the people of Taiwan have welcomed visitors from around the world.” Beijing’s leadership, she added, “has no right to decide or define how we engage with the world.” Taiwan, which split from the mainland in 1949 during a civil war, is claimed by China. The decades-old threat of invasion by China of the self-governed island has sharpened since China cut off communications with the island’s government in 2016. That was after Taiwanese voters elected a government that Beijing suspected of wanting to take Taiwan from self-rule to full independence. In Washington, Taiwan’s self-rule is one issue that has strong support from both parties. U.S. administrations for decades have maintained a policy of leaving unsaid whether the U.S. military would come to Taiwan’s defense if China did invade. China’s military shows of force after Pelosi’s visit had some in Congress suggesting it was time for the U.S. to abandon that policy, known as “strategic ambiguity,” and to instead make clear Americans would fight alongside Taiwan. Asked about those calls Friday, Hsiao only praised the existing policy. “It has preserved the status quo for decades, or I should say it has preserved peace,” she said. President Joe Biden has repeatedly volunteered in public comments that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense, only to have aides walk that back with assurances that strategic ambiguity still prevails. Read more: China renews threat against Taiwan as island holds drills Meanwhile, after watching the Ukrainians’ successful hard-scrabble defense against invading Russian forces, Taiwan realizes it needs to load up on Javelins, Stingers, HIMARS and other small, mobile weapons systems, Hsiao said. The Taiwanese and Americans have reached agreement on some of those, she said. Some security think tanks accuse the U.S. — and the defense industry — of focusing too much of the nation’s billions of dollars in arms deals with Taiwan on advanced, high-dollar aircraft and naval vessels. China’s mightier military could be expected to destroy those big targets at the outset of any attack on Taiwan, some security analysts say. Taiwan is pushing to make sure that a shift to grittier, lower-tech weapon supplies for Taiwanese ground forces “happens as soon as possible,” Hsaio said. Even with the U.S. and other allies pouring billions of dollars worth of such weapons into Ukraine for the active fight there, straining global arms stocks, ”we are assured by our friends in the United States that Taiwan is a very important priority,” she said. At home, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen announced last month the government was extending compulsory military service for men from four months to a year, and Taiwan is increasing spending on defense. Hsiao would not directly address a report by Nikkei Asia on Friday that U.S. National Guard members had begun work training in Taiwan, saying only that Taiwan was exploring ways to work with the U.S. Guard members to improve training. Ukraine’s experience has had lessons for the U.S. and other allies as well, she said, including the importance of a united allied stand behind threatened democracies. “It’s critical to send a consistent message to the authoritarian leaders that force is never an option ... force will be met by a strong international response, including consequences,” Hsiao said. Hsiao also spoke on the United States’ push under the Biden administration to boost U.S. production of computer chips. Supply chain disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic have underscored semiconductors’ crucial importance to the U.S. economy and military — and the extent of U.S. reliance on chip imports. Greater U.S. production will push the nation into more direct trade competition with Taiwan, which is a global leader, especially for advanced semiconductors. Concern that China could interfere with semiconductor shipping through the Taiwan Strait has helped drive the United States’ new production effort. Hsiao pointed out that Taiwan’s computer chip industry took decades to develop and expressed confidence it “will continue to be an indispensable and irreplaceable contributor to global supply chains in the decades to come.” She noted Taiwan’s investment of $40 billion in a new semiconductor plant in Arizona, a project big enough that Biden visited the site last month, and expressed frustration at what she called a continuing U.S. financial penalty for Taiwanese companies doing business in the United States. Read more: China holds large-scale joint strike drills aimed at Taiwan The United States’ diplomatic non-recognition of Taiwan as a country means that Taiwan – unlike China and other top U.S. trading partners – lacks a tax treaty with the U.S. and thus pays extra taxes. Surmounting hurdles to fix that would make U.S.-Taiwan business investments “much more successful and sustainable in the long run,” she said.
It's not necessary to use visa broker to apply for US visa: Embassy
In coordination with the U.S. Embassy, Bangladesh police have arrested six individuals who were selling fraudulent entry and exit stamps to U.S. visa applicants. U.S. visa applicants are responsible for the information they provide on visa application forms and for any documents they provide at the interview. The best guidance for prospective visa applicants is to review information on the U.S. Embassy website, be prepared for their interview with any supporting documentation, and provide factual and truthful answers during the visa process and interviews, said the US Embassy in Dhaka in a media statement on Friday. Read more: US Embassy to host university fairs in Dhaka, Chattogram It is not necessary to use a visa broker to apply for a U.S. visa, Embassy Spokesperson Jeff Ridenour said. U.S. visa applicants are encouraged to complete their own applications online, as all the information needed to make an application can be found on our website. "We also caution prospective applicants that presenting false information and documents may not only result in a visa denial but may also result in an ineligibility that prevents future travel to the United States," reads the statement.
Health service delivery: Promising interventions, good practices highlighted at URC event
US-based international organisation URC has recently organised the event "Integrated Community Development for Better Health: Perspectives from Bangladesh" at a city hotel. Bangladesh has been a leader in public health research and implementation on a large scale for low-cost technologies provided at the community level. The event highlighted promising interventions and good practices in health service delivery at the community level. Integrated Community Development for Better Health: Perspectives from Bangladesh provided an opportunity for the Bangladesh government of officials, the international donor community – including the United States Agency for International for Development (USAID) – and representatives from Bangladeshi NGOs and the university community, to discuss how to best ensure delivery of high-quality care at all levels of the health care system in Bangladesh and beyond. The programme featured keynote remarks from Professor Ainun Nishat, former vice-chancellor of Brac University, USAID Mission Director Kathryn Stevens, and Dr Jahir Uddin Ahmed, director of the board of Social Marketing Company. Read more: Govt plans a big push in medical education and facilities by 2024, says official document Two panel discussions featured voices of individuals with experience in designing, implementing, and sustaining health systems that are responsive to the needs and preferences of the communities where they work. Max Foundation Country Director Riad Mahmud, Public Health Physician and URC Technical Advisor Dr Najmus Sadiq, Social Sector Management Foundation CEO Dr Abu Muhammad Zakir Hussain, RDRS head of Agriculture and Environment Programs Mostafa Nurul Islam Reza, Social Marketing Company Managing Director and CEO Toslim Uddin Khan, URC Portfolio Director Jean Margaritis, DAM Health Sector Deputy Director Md Mukhlesur Rahman were the panellists. They discussed how incorporating strong community actions and voices into health systems strengthens societal partnerships, builds capacity in communities, and promotes trust and shared accountability for health system performance.
Treasury: US, China officials agree to climate finance work
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met Wednesday with her Chinese counterpart and pledged an effort to manage differences and “prevent competition from becoming anything ever near conflict” as the two nations try to thaw relations. Yellen’s first face-to-face meeting with Vice Premier Liu He in Zurich is the highest-ranking contact between the two countries since their presidents agreed last November to look for areas of potential cooperation. Liu, for his part, said he was ready to work together to seek common ground between China and the U.S. "No matter how circumstances change, we should always maintain dialogue and exchanges," he said. A U.S. Treasury readout of their meeting says the two agreed that the U.S. and China would cooperate more on climate finance issues and would both work to support "developing countries in their clean energy transitions." The readout also indicates that Yellen plans to travel to China and welcomes her counterparts to the U.S. in the near future. The meeting comes as the U.S. and Chinese economies grapple with differing, but intertwined challenges on trade, technology and more. Yellen, in opening remarks in front of reporters, told Liu: “While we have areas of disagreement, and we will convey them directly, we should not allow misunderstandings, particularly those stemming from a lack of communication, to unnecessarily worsen our bilateral economic and financial relationship.” She said the two countries “have a responsibility to manage our differences and prevent competition from becoming anything even near conflict." Both economies have their challenges. The Chinese economy is reopening after a COVID-19 resurgence killed tens of thousands of people and shuttered countless businesses. The U.S. is slowly recovering from 40-year-high inflation and is on track to hit its statutory debt ceiling, setting up an expected political showdown between congressional Democrats and Republicans. The debt issue is of keen interest to Asia, as China is the second-largest holder of U.S. debt. There is also the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which hinders global economic growth — and has prompted the U.S. and its allies to agree on an oil price cap on Russia in retaliation, putting China in a difficult spot as a friend and economic ally of Russia. And high interest rates globally have increased pressure on debt-burdened nations that owe great sums to China. Read more: US-China tensions threaten global climate change efforts “A wrong policy move or a reversal in the positive data and we could see the global economy head into a recession in 2023,” said Josh Lipsky, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center. “Both countries have a shared interest in avoiding that scenario." The World Bank reported last week that the global economy will come “ perilously close ” to a recession this year, led by weaker growth in all the world’s top economies — including the U.S. and China. Low-income countries are expected to suffer from any economic downturns of superpowers, the report said. “High on the list is debt restructuring,” Lipsky said of Wednesday's talks. Several low-income countries are at risk of debt default in 2023 and many of them owe large sums to China. “Leaders have been trying for two years to get some agreement and avoid a wave of defaults but there’s been little success and one reason is China’s hesitancy. I expect Yellen to press Liu He on this in the meeting,” Lipsky said. Liu laid out an optimistic vision for the world’s second-largest economy in an address Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “If we work hard enough, we are confident that in 2023, China’s growth will most likely return to its normal trend. The Chinese economy will see a significant improvement,” he said. After her stop in Switzerland, Yellen will travel to Zambia, Senegal and South Africa this week in what will be the first in a string of visits by Biden administration officials to sub-Saharan Africa during the year. Zambia is renegotiating its nearly $6 billion debt with China, its biggest creditor. During a closed-door meeting at the Africa Leaders Summit in Washington in December, Yellen and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema discussed “the need to address debt sustainability and the imperative to conclude a debt treatment for Zambia,” according to Yellen. The Zurich talks are a follow-up to the November meeting between President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. The two world leaders agreed to empower key senior officials to work on areas of potential cooperation, including tackling climate change and maintaining global financial, health and food stability. Beijing had cut off such contacts with the U.S. in protest of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in August. “We’re going to compete vigorously. But I’m not looking for conflict," Biden said at the time. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be traveling to China in early February. Among economic sticking points, the Biden administration blocked the sale of advanced computer chips to China and is considering a ban on investment in some Chinese tech companies, possibly undermining a key economic goal that Xi set for his country. Statements by the Democratic president that the U.S. would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion also have increased tensions. And while the U.S. Congress is divided on many issues, members of the House agreed last week to further scrutinize Chinese investments. New House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California has identified the Communist Party of China as one of two “long-term challenges” for the House, along with the national debt. Read more: US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency “There is bipartisan consensus that the era of trusting Communist China is over,” McCarthy said from the House floor last week when the House voted 365 to 65 — with 146 Democrats joining Republicans — to establish the House Select Committee on China. Last year, the U.S. Commerce Department added dozens of Chinese high-tech companies, including makers of aviation equipment, chemicals and computer chips, to an export controls blacklist, citing concerns over national security, U.S. interests and human rights. That move prompted the Chinese to file a lawsuit with the World Trade Organization. Yellen has been critical of China's trade practices and its relationship with Russia, as the two countries have deepened their economic ties since the start of the war in Ukraine. On a July call with Liu, Yellen talked “frankly" about the impact of the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the global economy and “unfair, non-market” economic practices, according to a U.S.
Inflation report could show another month of cooling prices
The U.S. inflation report for December being released Thursday morning could provide another welcome sign that the worst bout of spiking prices in four decades is slowly weakening. Or it could suggest that inflation remains persistent enough to require tougher action by the Federal Reserve. Most economists foresee the more optimistic scenario: They think December marked another month in which inflation, though still uncomfortably high, continued to cool. According to a survey by the data provider FactSet, analysts have predicted that consumer prices rose 6.5% in December compared with a year earlier. That would be down from 7.1% in November and well below a 40-year high of 9.1% in June. On a month-to-month basis, the economists think prices were flat in December. Even more significant, a closely watched gauge of “core” prices — which excludes volatile energy and food costs — is expected to have risen just 0.3% from November to December and 5.7% from a year earlier. The Fed closely tracks core prices, which it sees as a more accurate indicator of future inflation, in setting its interest rate policies. Another modest rise in core prices would increase the likelihood that the Fed would raise its benchmark rate by just a quarter-point, rather than a half-point, when its next meeting ends Feb. 1. For now, inflation is falling, with the national average price of a gallon of gas declining from a $5 a gallon peak in June to $3.27 a gallon as of Wednesday, according to AAA. Supply chain snarls that previously inflated the cost of goods have largely unraveled. Consumers have also shifted much of their spending away from physical goods and instead toward services, such as travel and entertainment. As a result, the cost of goods, including used cars, furniture and clothing, has dropped for two straight months. Economists will pay particular attention Thursday to the prices of services, which are seen as a stickier component of inflation. They reflect rising wages among labor-intensive businesses such as restaurants, hotels and health care companies. If the data show only a small increase in services costs, that would likely strengthen hopes that the economy can avoid recession and instead experience a “soft landing." Such a scenario would mean slow growth and likely a small rise in unemployment but much less economic pain than a full-fledged recession. Read more: Europe's inflation slows again but cost of living still high Indeed, last week's jobs report bolstered the possibility that recession could be avoided. Even after the Fed's seven rate hikes last year and with inflation still high, employers added a solid 223,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, matching the lowest level in 53 years. At the same time, average hourly pay growth slowed, which should lessen pressure on companies to raise prices to cover their higher labor costs. “The soft landing narrative has gained some credibility this year, and that has also led to a stock market rally," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors. Another positive sign for the Fed's efforts to quell inflation is that Americans overall expect price increases to decline over the next few years. That is important because so-called “inflation expectations” can be self-fulfilling: If people expect prices to keep rising sharply, they will typically take steps, like demanding higher pay, that can perpetuate high inflation. On Monday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said that consumers now anticipate inflation of 5% over the next year. That's the lowest such expectation in nearly 18 months. Over the next five years, consumers expect inflation to average 2.4%, only barely above the Fed's 2% target. Still, in their remarks in recent weeks, Fed officials have underscored their intent to raise their benchmark short-term rate by an additional three-quarters of a point in the coming months to just above 5%. Such increases would come on top of seven hikes last year, which caused mortgage rates to nearly double and made auto loans and business borrowing more expensive. Futures prices show that investors expect the central bank to be less aggressive, and implement just two quarter-point hikes by March, leaving the Fed's rate just below 5%. Investors also project the Fed will cut rates in November and December, according to the CME FedWatch Tool. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has sought to push back against that expectation of fewer hikes this spring and cuts by the end of the year, which can make the Fed's job harder if investors bid up stock prices and lower bond yields. Both trends can support faster economic growth just when the Fed is trying to cool it down. The minutes from the Fed's December meeting noted that none of the 19 policymakers foresee rate cuts this year. Read more: Wall Street braces for earnings to get hit by inflation Still, last week James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, expressed some optimism that this year, “actual inflation will likely follow inflation expectations to a lower level," suggesting 2023 could be a “year of disinflation.”
China sends 39 warplanes, 3 ships toward Taiwan in 24 hours
China’s military sent 39 planes and three ships toward Taiwan in a 24-hour display of force directed at the island, Taiwan’s defense ministry said Thursday. China’s military harassment of self-ruled Taiwan, which it claims is its own territory, has intensified in recent years, and the Communist Party’s People’s Liberation Army has sent planes or ships toward the island on a near-daily basis. Between 6 a.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday, 30 of the Chinese planes crossed the median of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial boundary once tacitly accepted by both sides, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense. Read more: China sanctions Pelosi, sends 100 warplanes to Taiwan drills Those planes flew to the island’s southwest and then horizontally all the way to the southeastern side before doubling back, according to a diagram of the flight patterns provided by Taiwan. Among the planes were 21 J-16 fighter jets, 4 H-6 bombers and two early-warning aircraft. Taiwan said it monitored the Chinese moves through its land-based missile systems, as well as on its own navy vessels. China’s military held large military exercises in August in response to U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Beijing views visits from foreign governments to the island as de facto recognition of the island as independent and a challenge to China’s claim of sovereignty. Read more: US reaffirms Taiwan support after China sends warplanes In its largest military exercises aimed at Taiwan in decades, China sailed ships and flew aircraft regularly across the median of the strait and even fired missiles over Taiwan itself that ended up landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Analysis: Biden, Zelenskyy try to keep Congress from balking
Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s dramatic visit to Washington was a moment for the White House to demonstrate to Russia’s Vladimir Putin that the United States would sustain its commitment to the war for, as President Joe Biden put it, “as long as it takes.” It also provided the Ukrainian president, dressed in military green, the opportunity in the grand setting of the U.S. Capitol to thank Congress for the billions of dollars that are sustaining his country in the fight. “As long as it takes” is powerful rhetoric, but it now collides with a formidable question: How much more patience will a narrowly divided Congress — and the American public — have for a war with no clear end that is battering the global economy? On Wednesday night, Zelenskyy made his case. In an address before a joint meeting of Congress, he melded Ukraine’s struggle to maintain its sovereignty with America’s battle for freedom. He spoke of the battle for Bakhmut — where a fierce, monthslong battle in eastern Ukraine is underway — as his country’s Battle of Saratoga, a turning point in the American Revolutionary War. Zelenskyy, who visited the frontlines of Bakhmut shortly before traveling to Washington, presented members of Congress with a Ukrainian flag signed by the troops. And while he expressed thanks for U.S. aid, he also told the lawmakers “your money is not charity.” “It’s an investment in global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelenskyy said. The majority of Americans, polls show, continue to support aid for Ukraine as it has managed to repel a Russian military some U.S. government officials initially believed would quickly overwhelm Ukrainian forces. But the outmanned Ukrainians, with the help of some $21.3 billion in American military assistance since the February invasion, have managed to rack up successes on the battlefield and exact heavy losses on Russian troops. Zelenskyy, seated next to Biden in the Oval Office, with a fire crackling in the fireplace behind them, acknowledged that Ukraine was in its more favorable position because of bipartisan support from Congress. “We control the situation because of your support,” said Zelenskyy, who presented Biden with a medal that had been awarded to the Ukrainian captain of a HIMARS battery, a rocket system provided by the U.S., that the officer wanted Biden to have. Yet even as support for Ukraine was being hailed by both Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell as serving core American interests, bipartisan unity on Ukraine was starting to fray. “I hope that we’ll continue to support Ukraine, but we got to explain what they’re doing all the time,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said shortly before Zelenskyy landed in Washington on Wednesday afternoon. “I think you have to keep selling things like this to the American public. I don’t think you can just say, you know, for the next, whatever time it takes.” Just before Zelenskyy’s arrival, the U.S. announced a $1.85 billion military aid package for Ukraine, including Patriot surface-to-air missiles, and Congress planned to vote on a spending package that includes an additional $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine. Pelosi and others compared Zelenskyy’s visit to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s 1941 visit for talks with President Franklin D. Roosevelt following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. Read more: Zelenskyy to meet Biden, address Congress as war rages on Pelosi, in a letter to fellow lawmakers Wednesday, noted that her father, Rep. Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., was a House member when Churchill came to Congress on the day after Christmas “to enlist our nation’s support in the fight against tyranny in Europe.” “Eighty-one years later this week, it is particularly poignant for me to be present when another heroic leader addresses the Congress in a time of war — and with Democracy itself on the line,” said Pelosi, who will soon step down as speaker with Republicans taking control of the House. Biden, born less than a year after Churchill’s historic visit, observed that Zelenskyy has showed enormous fortitude through the conflict. “This guy has, to his very soul — is who he says he is. It’s clear who he is. He’s willing to give his life for his country,” Biden said during a news conference with Zelenskyy. McConnell made the case in a speech on the Senate floor that supporting Ukraine is simply pragmatic. “Continuing our support for Ukraine is morally right, but it is not only that. It is also a direct investment in cold, hard, American interests,” McConnell said. Still, there are signs of discontent in the Republican conference. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is vying to be the next House speaker when Republicans take over in the new year, as said his party won’t write a “blank check” for Ukraine once it’s in charge. Some of the most right-leaning members of the Republican conference have lashed out at McConnell over his support of Ukraine. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., in a Wednesday morning Twitter post accused McConnell of pressing for passage of the $1.7 trillion spending bill that includes new funding for Ukraine “so that he can hand a $47 BILLION dollar check to Zelenskyy when he shows up in DC today.” “But in my district, many families & seniors can’t afford food & many businesses are struggling bc of Biden policies,” she added. For now, hers is mostly an isolated voice. Unlike in other conflicts of the past half century in which the U.S. has been deeply involved — Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan — the cost of helping Ukraine has been strictly financial. While the far right is beginning to turn up the volume on its skepticism on spending, the Ukrainian cause is an easier sell than those long costly conflicts, said Elliot Abrams, who served in senior national security and foreign policy roles in the Donald Trump, George W. Bush and Reagan administrations. “With Ukraine, I think it’s much easier to make the argument that helping Kyiv resist Russian aggression is a valuable thing to do, and grinding down the Russian military is a valuable thing to do,” said Abrams, who is now chairman of the conservative foreign policy group Vandenberg Coalition. “And the cost of American lives is zero.” As the war in Ukraine has passed 300 days, polling shows Americans have grown less concerned and less supportive of U.S. aid. In September, just 18% of U.S. adults said the U.S. wasn’t providing enough support to Ukraine, according to Pew Research Center, compared with 31% in May and 42% in March. Still, about as many — 20% — said in September that the U.S. was providing too much support. About a third said the level of support was about right, and about a quarter weren’t sure. Republicans were roughly three times as likely as Democrats to say support was too much, 32% vs. 11%. Read more: G20: Zelenskyy, Biden trying to persuade world leaders to further isolate Russia Biden acknowledged that the past 10 months have been difficult and lamented that Russian President Vladimir Putin showed no sign of having the “dignity” to call off the invasion. He assured Zelenskyy that the U.S. wasn’t going anywhere. “You don’t have to worry, we are staying with Ukraine,” Biden said. Petr Pudil, a board member of Slovakian-based nongovernmental group Globsec, said Zelenskyy’s mission of keeping America engaged is a difficult one, but he is up to the task. Pudil’s group earlier this month helped organize a visit to Washington by Ukrainian parliament members who made their case that American support is going to be needed for some time while assuring lawmakers that it will not be wasted. “One of the goals of Zelenskyy for this trip is convincing those who are still skeptical that winning is a real option,” Pudil said. “But it can be done, and only if they deliver the right support. Everyone needs to understand that there is a chance to win.”
Zelenskyy tells cheering US legislators funding Ukraine’s war effort “not charity” but an “investment”
Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy told cheering U.S. legislators during a defiant wartime visit to the nation’s capital on Wednesday that against all odds his country still stands, thanking Americans for helping to fund the war effort with money that is “not charity,” but an “investment” in global security and democracy. The whirlwind stop in Washington — his first known trip outside his country since Russia invaded in February — was aimed at reinvigorating support for his country in the U.S. and around the world at a time when there is concern that allies are growing weary of the costly war and its disruption to global food and energy supplies. Zelenskyy called the tens of billions of dollars in U.S. military and economic assistance provided over the past year vital to Ukraine’s efforts to beat back Russia and appealed for even more in the future. “Your money is not charity,” he sought to reassure both those in the room and those watching at home. “It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.” Just before his arrival, the U.S. announced a new $1.8 billion military aid package, including for the first time Patriot surface-to-air missiles. And Congress planned to vote this week on a fresh spending package that includes about $45 billion in additional emergency assistance to Ukraine. The speech to Congress came after President Joe Biden hosted Zelenskyy in the Oval Office for strategy consultations, saying the U.S. and Ukraine would maintain their “united defense” as Russia wages a “brutal assault on Ukraine’s right to exist as a nation.” Biden pledged to help bring about a “just peace.” Zelenskyy told Biden that he had wanted to visit sooner and his visit now demonstrates that the “situation is under control, because of your support.” The highly sensitive trip came after 10 months of a brutal war that has seen tens of thousands of casualties on both sides and devastation for Ukrainian civilians. Zelenskyy traveled to Washington aboard a U.S. Air Force jet. The visit had been long sought by both sides, but the right conditions only came together in the last 10 days, U.S. officials said, after high-level discussions about the security both of Zelenskyy and of his people while he was outside of Ukraine. Zelenskyy spent less than 10 hours in Washington before beginning the journey back to Ukraine. In his remarks to lawmakers, Zelenskky harked back to U.S. victories in the Battle of the Bulge, a turning point against Nazi Germany in World War II, and the Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga, an American victory that helped draw France’s aid for U.S. independence. The Ukrainian leader predicted that next year would be a “turning point” in the conflict, “when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom — the freedom of people who stand for their values.” Zelenskyy received thunderous applause from members of Congress and presented lawmakers with a Ukrainian flag autographed by front-line troops in Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s contested Donetsk province. The flag was displayed behind him on the rostrum by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. Pelosi, in turn, presented Zelenskyy with an American flag that had flown over the Capitol that day, and Zelenskyy pumped it up and down as he exited the chamber. Declaring in his speech that Ukraine “will never surrender,” Zelenskyy warned that the stakes of the conflict were greater than just the fate of his nation — that democracy worldwide is being tested. “This battle cannot be ignored, hoping that the ocean or something else will provide protection,” he said, speaking in English for what he had billed as a “speech to Americans.” Read more: US to send $3 billion in aid to Ukraine as war hits 6 months Earlier, in a joint news conference with Biden, Zelenskyy was pressed on how Ukraine would try to bring an end to the conflict. He rejected Biden’s framing of finding a “just peace,” saying, “For me as a president, ‘just peace’ is no compromises.” He said the war would end once Ukraine’s sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity were restored, and Russia had paid back Ukraine for all the damage inflicted by its forces. “There can’t be any ‘just peace’ in the war that was imposed on us,” he added. Biden, for his part, said Russia was “trying to use winter as a weapon, but Ukrainian people continue to inspire the world.” During the news conference, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “no intention of stopping this cruel war.” The two leaders appeared to share a warm rapport, laughing at each other’s comments and patting each other on the back throughout the visit, though Zelenskyy made clear he will continue to press Biden and other Western leaders for ever more support. He said that after the Patriot system was up and running, “we will send another signal to President Biden that we would like to get more Patriots.” “We are in the war,” Zelenskyy added with a smile, as Biden chuckled at the direct request. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” Biden told Zelenskyy that it was “important for the American people, and for the world, to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about Ukraine’s fight, and the need to continue to stand together through 2023 Zelenskyy had headed to Washington after making a daring and dangerous trip Tuesday to what he called the hottest spot on the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) front line of the war, the city of Bakhmut. Poland’s private broadcaster, TVN24, said Zelenskyy crossed into Poland early Wednesday on his way to Washington. The station showed footage of what appeared to be Zelenskyy arriving at a train station and being escorted to a motorcade of American SUVs. TVN24 said the video, partially blurred for security reasons, was shot in Przemysl, a Polish border town that has been the arrival point for many refugees fleeing the war. Officials, citing security concerns, were cagey about Zelenskyy’s travel plans, but a U.S. official confirmed that Zelenskyy arrived on a U.S. Air Force jet that landed at Joint Base Andrews, just outside the capital, from the Polish city of Rzeszow. Biden told Zelenskyy, who wore a combat-green sweatshirt and boots, that ”it’s an honor to be by your side.” U.S. and Ukrainian officials have made clear they do not envision an imminent resolution to the war and are preparing for fighting to continue for some time. The latest infusion of U.S. money would be the biggest yet — and exceed Biden’s $37 billion request. Biden repeated that while the U.S. will arm and train Ukraine, American forces will not be directly engaged in the war. The latest U.S. military aid package includes not only a Patriot missile battery but precision guided bombs for fighter jets, U.S. officials said. It represents an expansion in the kinds of advanced weaponry intended to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses against what has been an increasing barrage of Russian missiles. Read more: Russia warns of ‘consequences’ if US missiles go to Ukraine Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said the delivery of the advanced surface-to-air missile system would be considered a provocative step and that the system and any crews accompanying it would be a legitimate target for Moscow’s military. “It’s a defensive system,” Biden said of sending the missile system. “It’s not escalatory — it’s defensive.” The visit comes at an important moment, with the White House bracing for greater resistance when Republicans take control of the House in January and give more scrutiny to aid for Ukraine. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California has said his party will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine. Zelenskky appeared well aware of political divisions in the U.S. over prolonged overseas spending, and called on the House and Senate lawmakers to ensure American leadership remains “bicameral and bipartisan.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer opened the chamber’s session on Wednesday by saying that passage of the aid package and confirmation of the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne M. Tracy, would send a strong signal that Americans stand “unequivocally” with Ukraine. Tracy was confirmed later on a 93-2 vote. The Senate’s top Republican, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, said “the most basic reasons for continuing to help Ukraine degrade and defeat the Russian invaders are cold, hard, practical American interests.” He said “defeating Russia’s aggression will help prevent further security crises in Europe.” Russia’s invasion, which began Feb. 24, has lost momentum. The illegally annexed provinces of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia remain fiercely contested. With the fighting in the east at a stalemate, Moscow has used missiles and drones to attack Ukraine’s power equipment, hoping to leave people without electricity as freezing weather sets in.
More than 25 million watched World Cup final in U.S.
Argentina’s dramatic victory over France in penalty kicks in the World Cup final was the second most-watched soccer match of any kind in the United States. The early numbers from Nielsen, Fox and Telemundo show Sunday’s match had an English- and Spanish-language combined audience of 25,783,000. That trails the 26.7 million that tuned in to the 2015 Women’s World Cup final, when the U.S. beat Japan 5-2 in a match that aired in prime time for most of the United States because the tournament was held in Canada. Fox’s numbers from Sunday should increase when the “match-only” rating is released later Tuesday. The 16,783,000 average released by Fox and Nielsen includes some pre- and post-match coverage. The high viewership comes as the U.S., Canada and Mexico are set to host the 2026 World Cup. Read more: Millions jam Buenos Aires streets to celebrate World Cup win Argentina’s first World Cup title since 1986 was Fox’s most-watched match of the tournament, surpassing the 15,491,000 that watched the Americans 0-0 draw with England during group-stage play on Nov. 25. Sunday’s combined audience was a 31% increase over the 2018 final, which averaged 17.83 million on Fox and Telemundo. Fox’s audience increased 25.5% from four years ago, when France defeated Croatia in the final. Telemundo’s total audience of 9 million is a 65% jump from 2018. Nearly one-third — 2.96 million — streamed Sunday’s match on Peacock and Telemundo’s digital services, which made it the most-streamed World Cup match in U.S. history, regardless of language. By comparison, the 6.04 million who watched on Telemundo was triple the 1.9 million that watched the network’s broadcast of Super Bowl 57 earlier this year. Read more: Argentines erupt in joy after epic World Cup final While the Super Bowl continues to lead championship viewing — this year’s game had a combined audience of 112.3 million — the World Cup final did outdraw other sports. Game 5 of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros averaged 12.77 million on Fox, and was the most-viewed game of the six-game series. The series-clinching games of the NBA Finals and NHL’s Stanley Cup finals averaged 13.99 million and 5.8 million, respectively, on ABC.