Today's D Brief: Zelenskyy visits liberated Kherson; Xi-Biden bilat in Bali; DCIA Burns in Turkey; Bombing in Istanbul; And a bit more.
Leaders of the world’s two most powerful economies met today in Bali. U.S. President Joe Biden sat down for an in-person meeting with China’s autocratic leader Xi Jinping, who recently secured an unprecedented third term as Beijing’s General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The two met Monday on the sidelines of the G20 summit, which this time does not involve Russia’s Vladimir Putin—though worries stemming from his sputtering Ukraine invasion still loomed like a cloud over events in Bali, according to Reuters.
“There need not be a new Cold War,” Biden told reporters afterward. “And I do not think there is any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan, and I made it clear that our policy on Taiwan has not changed at all,” the president said. “I made it clear that we want to see cross strait issues peacefully resolved.”
In terms of U.S. resolve and leadership on the world stage, Biden said the midterm election results seem to show a stabilizing democracy that’s “ready to play…The Republicans who survived, along with the Democrats, are of the view that we’re gonna stay fully engaged in the world. And that we, in fact, know what we’re about.”
When it comes to North Korea, Biden conveyed a message of solidarity with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts Sunday in Cambodia, following a meeting of ASEAN leaders. “For years, our countries have been engaged in a trilateral cooperation out of a shared concern for the nuclear and missile threats North Korea poses to our people,” Biden said before the three ducked behind closed doors. “And we face real challenges, but our countries are more aligned than ever,” he added. Review the White House’s readouts from those meetings with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, here; and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, here.
- “President Biden, Xi Jinping Underscore Opposition to Use of Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine,” the Wall Street Journal reported off Monday’s meeting in Bali;
- “Xi tells Biden that China and the United States should take history as a mirror - state media,” Reuters reports in a shorty from Beijing;
- And “Surrounded by Threats, Japan Rethinks Decades of Military Dependency,” the New York Times reported Monday from Tokyo.
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New: CIA Director William Burns is in Turkey for secretive talks about escalation with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Naryshkin, Russian daily Kommersant reported on Monday. CNN reached out to the White House for elaboration, and was told Burns is not there to talk about peace just yet. Rather, “He is conveying a message on the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, and the risks of escalation to strategic stability,” and “will also raise the cases of unjustly detained U.S. citizens.”
The White House doesn’t think Russia is ready for genuine peace talks any time soon. That’s according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who told reporters Saturday, “As long as Russia holds the position that it simply gets to grab as much territory as it wants by force, it’s hard to see them as a good-faith counterparty in a negotiation.”
“[A]t a 30,000-foot level,” Sullivan said, “Ukraine is the party of peace in this conflict, and Russia is the party of war. Russia invaded Ukraine. If Russia chose to stop fighting in Ukraine and left, it would be the end of the war. If Ukraine chose to stop fighting and give up, it would be the end of Ukraine.” And that’s why the U.S. and NATO allies vow to continue arming and supplying Ukraine’s military to help give it the best position possible in negotiations. Speaking of which…
The U.S. announced another $400 million in weapons and equipment for Ukraine on Thursday. That included HAWK air defense system missiles; four Avenger air defense systems and Stinger missiles; more HIMARS long-range artillery rounds (number not specified); 100 more humvees; 400 grenade launchers; 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds; 21,000 standard 155mm rounds; 10,000 120mm mortar rounds; small arms; cold weather gear; and more.
Ukraine’s president made a surprise visit to the recently liberated city of Kherson, in the south, on Monday. After eight months of occupation, the Russian military retreated from the provincial capital last week following two months of Ukrainian advances first in the east around Kharkiv, then closer to Kherson as October gave way to November.
Next for Russia: It will likely re-prioritize defending occupied territory in Ukraine’s east, around the region known as the Donbas, where some 20,000 troops are regrouping, according to the Wall Street Journal, reporting Monday.
Review some of the military equipment Russians left behind or tried to destroy before they retreated across the Dnipro river near Kherson in a short Twitter thread compiled by RAND Corporation’s Dara Massicot on Saturday.
See also obvious damage to three bridges as well as a dam partially destroyed by retreating Russians around Kherson in these eight photos collected Friday by the commercial satellite imaging firm Maxar. Imagery includes quite a few damaged sections of the Antonovskiy Bridge across the Dnipro River, including several “spans [that] have [been] dropped into the water below,” according to Maxar.
Developing: Russian naval activity in the Black Sea has dropped significantly, H.I. Sutton of Covert Shores noted Sunday on Twitter, with supporting imagery. The Jerusalem Post has more on how Russia seems to have “drastically” cut back on its cruise missile operations from the Black Sea.
For Ukraine’s part, it’s crowd-funding a new fleet of drone boats—possibly similar to ones allegedly used in an attack in late October, according to Business Insider, reporting Friday. The War Zone has more on those drone boats, here.
Zambian officials are quizzing Moscow about how one of its citizens was killed fighting with Russian prisoners in Ukraine. “The Zambian student, who was studying nuclear engineering at a university in Moscow, was convicted and jailed for nine years and six months” because of an unspecified offense back in 2020, Reuters reports. Tiny bit more, here.
- “Kirill Stremousov: rise, fall and death of Russia-installed Kherson official,” The Guardian reported Monday;
- “Amid the war ruins in Ukraine, Banksy seeds art,” the Associated Press reported Sunday from just outside Kyiv;
- Listen to “A Conversation with Ukraine’s Special Operations Commander,” via War on the Rocks, which spoke with Ukraine’s Brig. Gen. Viktor Khorenko for a podcast posted Monday;
- And don’t miss, “Russian software disguised as American finds its way into U.S. Army, CDC apps,” Reuters reported Monday after a months-long investigation.
And lastly: Turkish officials say they’ve taken a Syrian woman into custody after an afternoon bombing in Istanbul killed six people and wounded 81 others on Sunday. The arrested woman allegedly sat on a bench for 40 minutes before departing moments before the apparent detonation. The BBC reports she is among nearly four dozen people detained by police so far in the wake of the bombing.
Turkish authorities say the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, is responsible for the attack; the group denied any role. But Reuters reports police say the arrested woman admitted under questioning to being “trained by Kurdish militants and enter[ing] Turkey through Afrin, another northern Syrian town.” Read more, here.