“The Chinese air force sent a fleet of aircraft close to Taiwan for the second time this week in the latest sign of military intimidation against the separately ruled island,” Bloomberg reports.
“President Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council,” Axios reports.
“Rojansky has been praised for his scholarship on Russia and is frequently cited in U.S. media for his expert commentary. But his work has drawn criticism — including in a 2018 open letter from Ukrainian alumni of Kennan that blasted the think tank he runs as an ‘unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference.'”
Times of London: “Russia has moved troops, tanks and heavy artillery to a new base about 150 miles from the Ukrainian border, stoking fears of a military offensive. It is thought to be Russia’s biggest show of force in the area since 2015, when Ukraine and Kremlin-backed separatists signed a peace deal to end fighting in the eastern Donbass region.”
Hal Brands: “Over the past century, globally ambitious autocracies have frequently made two fatal mistakes. First, they have underestimated the U.S., a country whose shambolic democracy masks its tremendous resilience and strength. Second, they have failed to see how their own aggressive behavior will, eventually, drive their multiplying enemies together. Judging by recent events, Xi Jinping’s China is making both mistakes at once.”
“Britain will pass the threshold for herd immunity on Monday, according to dynamic modelling by University College London, placing more pressure on the government to move faster in releasing restrictions,” the Telegraph reports.
“The number of people who have protection against the virus either through vaccination or previous infection will hit 73.4% on April 12 – enough to tip the country into herd immunity.”
“Sebastian Kurz, a political wunderkind who became Austria’s leader at just 31, rose to power by cultivating a youthful, do-gooder image that endeared him to young and old alike. And then he went rogue,” Politico reports.
“A cache of private text messages between the center-right chancellor and his deputies and other correspondence uncovered by Austrian authorities as part of a sweeping investigation into political corruption portrays Kurz not as the well-mannered ‘favorite son-in-law of the nation’ who captured the heart of his compatriots and much of the EU, but rather as a shrewd behind-the-scenes operator willing to do whatever it takes to push through his agenda, whether dealing with the Catholic Church, doling out political favors or taking on rivals.”
“Kurz’s metamorphosis might sound like a familiar coming-of-age political tale, but at a time when much of Central Europe has slipped into a form of soft authoritarianism, his transformation and the larger corruption scandal engulfing Austria’s political class suggest that the erosion of democratic norms in the region threatens to spread into Western Europe.”
“Without coming right out and saying it, President Joe Biden seems ready to let lapse a May 1 deadline for completing a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Orderly withdrawals take time, and Biden is running out of it,” the AP reports.
“Biden has inched so close to the deadline that his indecision amounts almost to a decision to put off, at least for a number of months, a pullout of the remaining 2,500 troops and continue supporting the Afghan military at the risk of a Taliban backlash. Removing all of the troops and their equipment in the next three weeks — along with coalition partners that cannot get out on their own — would be difficult logistically, as Biden himself suggested in late March.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that politicians and judges in the country will no longer be exempt from rules barring workplace sexual harassment.
Israeli public health experts say about 56% of the country’s 9.2 million citizens are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and another 15% have recovered from the disease, Israel21c reports.
Alexei Navalny, the most prominent opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin, is “seriously ill” in prison after contracting symptoms of a respiratory illness in prison, the Financial Times reports.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports Amnesty International says Navalny is incarcerated in conditions that amount to torture and may slowly be killing him.
“The American military is warning that China is probably accelerating its timetable for capturing control of Taiwan, the island democracy that has been the chief source of tension between Washington and Beijing for decades and is widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic U.S.-China war,” the AP reports.
CNBC: “The State Department denied Tuesday evening that it was considering a joint boycott alongside allies of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.”
Politico: “Unlike Barack Obama and Donald Trump, Biden hasn’t named a special envoy to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio. Unlike Bill Clinton, Biden has no plans for any sort of peace conference, or even a peace process, anytime soon. Biden’s closest antecedent may be George W. Bush, who initially resisted engaging with the issue — but eventually found he couldn’t ignore it.”
“Aside from taking a few small steps to reorient the U.S. position away from the heavily pro-Israel tilt it took under Trump — including restoring some modest aid to the Palestinians — Biden and his team are signaling that the conflict is simply not a priority.”
North Korea continues to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus in its latest report to the World Health Organization, the AP reports.
The United States and its allies are considering a joint boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, CNBC reports.
“Editors at Proyekt, a small Russian website, were jittery as they hit the button to publish their latest investigation – one of their most provocative to date,” The Telegraph reports.
“The team had been researching something completely different when they stumbled upon an incredible story: a secret lover of Vladimir Putin and a teenage daughter who looked incredibly like the Russian president.”
“They knew the consequences would be drastic, and they were right. Since the exclusive was published, some sources no longer take the team’s calls. Emails and social media accounts are often hacked. Some of the journalists were followed.”
Associated Press: “It’s a national security pitch for a domestic spending program: that the $2 trillion proposal for investments in U.S. transport and energy, manufacturing, internet and other sectors will make the United States more competitive in the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s massive infrastructure-building campaign.”
“The argument is that competition today with China is more about economic and technological gains than arms — and its outcome will impact the United States’ financial growth and influence, its ability to defend U.S. security alliances and interests abroad, and the daily lives of Americans… That pitch hasn’t won over Republicans.”
“Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing him to run for two more terms in the Kremlin once his current term ends in 2024,” Reuters reports.
“The legislation, which could pave the way for Putin to stay in power until 2036 should he choose to do so and win re-election, reflects sweeping changes to the constitution that were brought in last year.”