Council on Foreign Relations
Daily News Brief
December 28, 2021
Top of the Agenda
U.S., Russia Set Security Talks Amid Ukraine Crisis
U.S. and Russian officials said the two countries will meet for talks (Reuters) on January 10 amid rising tensions on the Russia-Ukraine border. The White House said that Russian officials are then expected to meet with representatives from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes the United States, that same week.

The January 10 meeting will be held (AFP) as part of the Strategic Security Dialogue that U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin launched during their June summit in Geneva. The dialogue’s focus is arms control agreements but is now expected to also cover the Russian military buildup near Ukraine’s border. Moscow has laid out security demands (AP) to Western countries that include the removal of NATO troops from Central and Eastern Europe.
“Putin’s actions suggest that his true goal is not to conquer Ukraine and absorb it into Russia but to change the post-Cold War setup in Europe’s east. That setup left Russia as a rule-taker without much say in European security, which was centered on NATO,” the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Dmitri Trenin writes for Foreign Affairs

“With NATO now on Russia’s doorstep and future enlargement possible, the downside of this choice [to signal support for NATO enlargement] is increasingly apparent: Moscow’s problems with its neighbors are now quickly translated into problems for the US despite debatable relevance or immediate salience to US interests,” tweets Boston University’s Josh Shifrinson.

CFR’s Stephen Sestanovich grades the Biden administration’s response to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Pacific Rim
China, Japan to Launch Military Hotline
The countries have a longtime territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea. In virtual talks yesterday with his Japanese counterpart, China’s defense minister said the countries should work together (SCMP) to prevent tensions from rising.

North Korea: Top officials are gathered for a policy meeting (Yonhap) that is expected to lay out plans for responding to U.S. President Joe Biden’s invitation to restart nuclear talks. 

This Backgrounder looks at North Korea’s military capabilities.

South and Central Asia
Sri Lanka to Close Diplomatic Offices Amid Foreign Currency Shortage
Sri Lanka will close consulates (AFP) in Cyprus and Germany and a diplomatic office in Nigeria in an effort to preserve dwindling foreign currency reserves.

India: The central government said it will block foreign donations (WSJ) to a Christian missionary group founded by Mother Teresa. Critics say the move is the latest example of increasing religious discrimination by the government.

Middle East and North Africa
Israel Reportedly Strikes Syrian Port for Second Time This Month
Syrian state media reported the attack (AP) on the port of Latakia, which handles most imports to Syria, early today. No casualties were immediately reported.

Iraq: The Supreme Court rejected an effort (Al Jazeera) by the Iran-backed political party Fatah to overturn the results of October parliamentary elections.
This Day in History: December 28, 1973
The Gulag Archipelago: An Experiment in Literary Investigation is published in France. The multi-source narrative, written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn between 1958 and 1968, details the Soviet forced labor camp system, known as the gulag.

Sub-Saharan Africa
Ethiopia Complains About U.S. Revocation of Trade Privilege
Ethiopia’s trade ministry said the country is unhappy (AP) with Washington’s decision last week to revoke duty-free access for its exports. Washington cited its disapproval of the ongoing war in the Tigray region.

For the Africa in Transition blog, CFR’s Michelle Gavin discusses the daunting obstacles to peace in Ethiopia.

CAR: The United Nations reported that its peacekeepers expelled scores of militants (UN News) from the Central African town of Boyo, where they had taken over people’s homes.

This Backgrounder looks at the role of peacekeeping missions in Africa.

Russia Orders Country’s Oldest Rights Watchdog to Close
Authorities said that Memorial failed to identify itself as a foreign agent (Moscow Times), a charge that the human rights group rejected.

Venezuela Nearly Doubles Monthly Oil Output With Iran’s Help
A deal with Iran to supply a diluent helped Venezuela boost its output (Reuters) in November by 90 percent over its level a year earlier. Venezuela’s state oil company also rolled over old debts.

Barbados: Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that Barbados will hold a snap general election (Reuters) on January 19. Last month, Barbados left the British monarchy and transitioned to a republic.

This In Brief looks at the significance of Barbados’s step away from the Crown.

United States
CDC Reduces Recommended COVID-19 Quarantine to Five Days
The updated recommendation for asymptomatic cases is based on research (NPR) pointing to increased transmissibility of the virus during the first days of infection.
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