Welcome to Foreign policy‘s SitRep! Happy Thursday. We assume you’re all tuned in to the Financial Modeling World Cup, where top contenders from around the world battle it out over their spreadsheet skills this past week. But in case you missed it, here is a summary.
Okay, after that adrenaline rush, we’ve got some natsec news for you too. Here’s what’s on the agenda for the day: Frustration is mounting in US Congress over President Joe Biden’s statement Ukraine policy, the United States Senate approves a full permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs bill for the first time in two decades, and China builds troops on the border with India.
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Congress hopes to thaw aid to Ukraine
Congress is growing frustrated that the Biden administration has not moved forward with a package of military aid earmarked for Ukraine, sources familiar with the decision said, fearing the White House is doing too little to address the possibility of a Russian military invasion. of the country.
The White House has not yet approved a package of lethal and non-lethal aid for the Ukrainian military, including Javelin anti-tank munitions, counter-artillery radars, sniper rifles, various small arms and communications and electronic warfare equipment, according to a source familiar with the case. . NBC News reported first that military aid was withdrawn on Saturday.
The White House feared the aid would be too provocative for Russia, the source said. The Biden administration followed a similar logic in April when it withheld military aid to Ukraine that was eventually delivered to Kiev after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington in August.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that if Russia invaded Ukraine again, the United States would provide additional defensive weapons on top of what Washington has already supplied. A National Security Council spokesman said the United States has supplied Ukraine with Javelin missiles, commando launch units, two patrol boats and a large number of electronics and spare parts. The spokesman also said the United States would provide additional equipment and supplies through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative in the coming weeks and months, and was still reviewing more military aid packages.
Meanwhile, top officials for Biden and other Western leaders are on a diplomatic offensive to bolster political support for Kiev and try to deter Russia from launching the invasion. Karen Donfried, Biden’s top European envoy, visited Kiev this week, while on Thursday NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met Zelensky.
Frustrated by the slowdown in military aid, however, members of Congress have gone to the region in search of answers for themselves. Over the weekend, the bipartisan trio of US Representatives Michael Waltz, Ruben Gallego and Seth Moulton visited Ukraine to meet with US embassy officials, Ukrainian national security leaders and troops in the field (and even some spar with Russian diplomats). Waltz was concerned that the “underlying premise” of the Biden administration is not to antagonize Russia, he said during an appeal that SitRep connected on Tuesday.
“The next round of lethal aid is literally over [Biden’s] desk,” Waltz said. “[The] Ukrainians practically beg for it. There was frustration with part of the American team that things are going slow. They don’t understand.”
The source familiar with the aid freeze told SitRep that some Republicans on Capitol Hill see hardening Ukraine with defensive weapons as a greater opportunity to influence Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculation. The more likely Putin will face a bloody and slow invasion, the source said, the more likely the Russian leader will be cautious.
Waltz, Moulton and Gallego, who were visiting with Florida National Guard troops and the leader of Ukraine’s special forces during their visit, said they were encouraged by the military advances they saw on the ground. That view is also echoed by Eastern European diplomats, who say that what the Ukrainian armed forces lack in modern military equipment they make up for with tactical skills and professionalism.
“It’s going to be very bloody,” Kaimo Kuusk, Estonia’s ambassador to Ukraine, recently said SitRep. “It’s going to be really bloody, because Ukraine’s armed forces are really, really good. They have been fighting against Russian forces for more than seven years.”
Biden announced a series of nominees on Wednesday, all of whom need confirmation from the Senate. Biden elected caroline kennedy, the US Ambassador to Japan during the Obama administration and the eldest child of former US President John F. Kennedy, to serve as US Ambassador to Australia.
As our colleague Colum Lynch reported first, Biden tapped Robert Wood to be the number three official on the US mission to the United Nations.
Biden has also selected former Olympic figure skater and State Department official Michelle Kwan to be its ambassador to Belize. Fun fact: as our friends on Twitter Note, Belize is not a member of the international bodies that regulate ice hockey and skating.
Biden nominated at the Pentagon Frank Calvellic to be Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisitions and Franklin Parker become Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
Also for the Pentagon, Ilan Goldenberg left the Center for a New American Security to become Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
On the intelligence side Ryan T. Young used to be called executive assistant director of the FBI’s intelligence division.
At the Energy Department, Biden tapped Marvin Adams as his candidate for Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
At the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Tanzanian diplomat Joyce Msuya Deputy Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.
In advocacy country, Sara Haghdoosti is promoted to executive director of the forward-thinking foreign policy organization Win Without War and its education fund. Before that she was deputy director.
Which should be high on your radar, if not already.
Authentic news. The Senate passed a full State Department authorization bill as part of the massive defense spending bill just passed. This is a big problem. The last time a full State Department authorization bill was passed and signed by the president was in 2002 — a time when Barack Obama was just a freshman senator in Illinois and less than 10 percent of the world’s population was using the internet.
A new development in the bill: special envoys now need to be confirmed by the Senate (with some exceptions). Presidents and secretaries of state have historically been able to appoint special envoys to address specific diplomatic crises without having to go through the (sometimes) lengthy and arduous Senate confirmation process that has led to a proliferation of envoys and caused some headache at Foggy Bottom.
Oh, not this again. China is back gather military forces near the high-altitude Himalayan border with India are setting the stage for another tense clash between the two nuclear powers, a senior defense official told Jack. The standoff could convince India to take a tougher stance on China, something US officials in Washington would likely welcome with open arms.
Advance to Damascus. After 10 long years of being an international pariah, Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is finally getting some countries to call back, like Bente Scheller writes for Foreign policy.
Never mind that he spent ten years killing and gassing his own people, supported by Iran and Russia. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries have slowly (and quietly) started talking to Assad again, an indication that the Syrian leader and war criminal has managed to cling to power while crossing red lines left and right, usually by waiting for the crisis.
A Ukrainian soldier walks in a trench on the front lines of the conflict with Russian-backed separatists, not far from the town of Avdiivka in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, on Dec. 10.Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images
Saturday December 18: Russia’s withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty takes effect.
“If Putin invades, I want him to know that for the next five minutes, he will struggle to buy soda from a vending machine.”
-Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton calls for punitive US sanctions against Russia in the event of a possible invasion of Ukraine on Dec. 14.
The house of the gingerbread people. It’s Christmas in the US House of Representatives. Fred Johnson, the top chef of the lower chamber, has built a scale gingerbread replica of the United States Capitol for the fifth year in a row. Look. And for those who ask: no, you can’t eat it.
Obituary of the year. Watch this wild ride from an obituary in the Fayetteville Observer. You won’t regret reading it. Rest in peace, Renay Mandel Corren.
Update, December 16, 2021: This story has been updated to provide additional information about US military aid to Ukraine.