Today's D Brief: US economic anxiety grows; International arms to Ukraine; Turkey's 5 demands; Erdogan's Greek row; And a bit more.
Can the U.S. have a strong economy and punish Russia for invading Ukraine at the same time? Given a choice between the two, more Americans are increasingly picking the economy at the expense of justice, with a growing number more concerned with their finances than are interested in seeing a nuclear-armed thief and bully like Vladimir Putin face the consequences of his actions.
The difference between the two positions is close: “45% of U.S. adults say the nation’s bigger priority should be sanctioning Russia as effectively as possible,” the Associated Press reports in a new survey of voters, “while slightly more—51%—say [American leaders] should be limiting damage to the U.S. economy.”
Just one month ago, those numbers were flipped, AP reports. And that points to a big-picture consideration we’ve highlighted several times in this newsletter since early March: Can Western unity and sanctions withstand rising gas and consumer prices that come with isolating Russia? Or can Putin just play out the clock until Westerners demand cheaper gas and home prices and let him have the cities and ports his military has taken from Ukraine?
What all this suggests: The White House has some serious explaining to do if it wants voters to support sanctioning Russia for what is likely to be several more months to come. Perhaps former Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby can help, since he’s been a clear communicator for the military. Kirby’s moving over to a new post as the White House’s new National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications.
Food for thought, in terms of the U.S. economy: “Tariffs [against Chinese goods] probably contributed to inflation. So did stimulus checks,” according to China-watcher Patrick Chovanec, writing on Sunday. “So did the war in Ukraine, disruptions from Covid, and unprecedented Fed easing. You don't have to choose one and deny all the others.”
Meanwhile in Moscow, “Russia’s economy is imploding,” wrote Robin Brooks of the International Institute of Finance, warning Sunday with new import/export data. “We forecast a GDP collapse of -30% by end-2022,” he said. Read over why, here.
New: Denmark is sending Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, officials in Copenhagen said Monday. The U.S. is sitting on some of the naval-use variants; but Denmark has several that can be fired from Ukraine’s coast, which would be far more useful in the currently-contested Black Sea domain. Read more on their potential impact via a Twitter thread Monday from Finnish analyst and former NATO official Edward Christie. Gerry Doyle of Reuters has ideas, too.
Denmark is just one of 20 countries that have newly committed weapons to Ukraine, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Monday. That includes the Czech Republic, which has offered attack helicopters, tanks, and rocket systems, according to Austin. Italy, Greece, Norway and Poland are sending artillery and ammo. More from Austin’s Monday presser at the Pentagon, here.
Coverage continues below the fold…
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Turkey’s president is publicly upset again, and says he will never speak to the prime minister from Greece. That development comes about a week after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the U.S. amid Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO. Mitsotakis warned U.S. lawmakers against inflaming “instability on NATO’s southeastern flank,” which was an understood reference to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who has courted Russia’s Putin for years, leading to Moscow selling Ankara its S-400 air-defense system against the wishes of Washington and other NATO allies like Greece. “I ask you to take this into account when you make defense procurement decisions concerning the eastern Mediterranean,” Mitsotakis said in Washington last Tuesday, according to The Hill.
Erdogan and Greek leaders have been in a very public row over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Erdogan is also heated over Greece placing military units on some of its islands in the Aegean Sea, close to Turkey. What’s more, Mitsotakis’s trip to the U.S. last week yielded an extension of a defense pact with Washington, which lets the U.S. military access the island of Crete, as well as three other bases in mainland Greece.
The response from Greek officials: Athens “will not get into a confrontation of statements with Turkey’s leadership,” a spokesman said Monday, and added, “Greek foreign policy is strongly founded on history, international law, and our alliances, however much that may annoy some.” AP has more, here.
New: Turkey’s Erdogan also says he’s ordered a new offensive in northern Syria, this time reaching some 30 km into Syria in a new attempt to build a “buffer zone” in Kurdish-held lands that Erdogan wanted back in the Trump administration. According to Reuters, Erdogan said Monday that this new operation will begin “as soon as military, intelligence, and security forces have completed their preparations.”
The operation could trigger Trump-era sanctions against Turkish officials, according to Max Hoffman of the Center for American Progress. It would also “likely kill any chance of an F-16 sale getting through Congress (at least without a BIG fight Biden doesn’t want),” he added.
New: Sweden and Finland sent officials to Ankara today to talk over Turkey’s reluctance to greenlight NATO membership to the Nordic nations.
Turkey says it has five conditions that must be met to earn its approval for NATO expansion, and the government released those demands in several languages on Monday. Turkey’s “expectations” include:
- Stockholm must lift sanctions against Turkish officials and arms-makers;
- Sweden must stop its "political support for terrorism,” which is a reference to about a dozen parliamentarians of Kurdish descent; the demand would seem to be that these elected officials be removed from office;
- Sweden must stop giving financial aid to Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, including an alleged $376 million pledge from Stockholm;
- Sale or transfer of anti-tank weapons and drones to Kurds must stop, too;
- And Turkey wants a commitment to continue its pressure against Kurds beyond this possible NATO expansion application period.
Get to better know the Kurds and the “Gulenists” via an explainer Reuters published Monday, here. Or trace the contours of some recent controversies that have been following Erdogan, including allegations he “plans to escape the country” and “has been moving large sums of money abroad,” here.
- “Russia’s Shrinking War,” via the New York Times in an infographic explainer;
- “World economy has 'buffer' against recession, says IMF's Gopinath,” via Reuters, reporting from Davos on Monday;
- “US Must Be ‘Strategic’ on China Tariffs, Trade Chief Says,” via Bloomberg, reporting Monday; or see the Washington Examiner’s coverage, headlined in an editorial as, “Biden kowtows to China by flirting with ending tariffs”;
- And “Numerous neo-Nazis are fighting for Russia in Ukraine,” via Hamburg-based Der Spiegel, reporting Sunday off an alleged German intelligence report.
Lastly: A U.S. Navy submarine crash in October could have been prevented, an investigation into the incident has found.
The USS Connecticut ran aground in the South China Sea on Oct. 2, 2021, while operating “in a poorly surveyed area in international waters,” Stars & Stripes reports. The crash injured 11 sailors and damaged the submarine. But “prudent decision-making and adherence to required procedures” in navigational planning, management, or watch team communication “could have prevented the grounding,” Rear Adm. Christopher Cavanaugh wrote in the report. Read on, here.