September 22, 2023QiOSK
On Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda delivered an emphatic speech in support of Ukraine on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly.
“This brutal war must end, and not be converted into a frozen war,” Duda declared from the rostrum. “This can only be done by restoring the full territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders!”
“If someone attacks your household, you have the right to defend it, and the neighbors should not stay indifferent,” he continued. “Ukraine would not be able to resist the aggression and effectively stand for its independence if it were not for the assistance of other countries.”
That tone, characteristic of Poland’s approach to the war to date, changed quickly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia of helping Russia by banning imports of Ukrainian grain in response to complaints by local farmers over unfair competition.
The comments led Poland to summon Ukraine’s ambassador to Warsaw for a diplomatic dressing down, followed by a public version from the Polish president himself.
“Ukraine is behaving like a drowning person clinging to anything available,” Duda told reporters later on Tuesday.”A drowning person is extremely dangerous, capable of pulling you down to the depths.”
Poland appeared to up the ante further on Wednesday when Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, in response to a question about whether the grain dispute would affect Poland’s support for Ukraine, that Warsaw is “no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons.”
It remains unclear whether the apparent policy shift is related to the dispute, but the timing of the comments has drawn significant concern from the West.
To some degree, the contours of this spat should come as no surprise. While European countries have shown a remarkable willingness to accept economic pain to support Ukraine, observers have long worried that this steadfastness would fade as the war drags on.
“[A]lways look at history, geography and interests as both sides see them,” wrote Gerard Araud, a former French UN ambassador, on X. “International relations are anything but romantic. Poland and Ukraine are only united by the existence of a common enemy.”
In this case, Polish leadership is more concerned with impressing voters ahead of elections next month when Duda’s Law and Justice party hopes to stave off a challenge from the Civic Coalition, an increasingly popular center-right bloc. The Law and Justice party reportedly hopes to bolster support among farmers by responding decisively to their concerns about Ukrainian grain.
Though the agriculture ministers from Poland and Ukraine have said they will “work out an option to cooperate on export issues in the near future,” it appears likely that grain issues will continue to create friction between the two countries.
Meanwhile, a larger challenge to Western unity is brewing in Slovakia, where leftist former Prime Minister Robert Fico looks poised to return to power in elections later this month. Fico has said that, if he wins, he would block arms shipments to Ukraine and prevent Kyiv from joining NATO.
“It’s naive to think that Russia would leave Crimea,” Fico recently told the Associated Press. “It’s naive to think that Russia would ever abandon the territory it controls.”
His position is, to a large extent, a reflection of Slovakia’s ambivalence toward the causes of the conflict. While most Western countries firmly blame Russia for the war, fully 51 percent of Slovaks say Ukraine or the West are responsible.
With Slovakian elections set for September 30, the West will soon face far greater challenges in maintaining unity on Ukraine than at any time since the war began.
In other diplomatic news related to the war in Ukraine:
— U.S. President Joe Biden called on world leaders to maintain pressure on Russia to end its war in Ukraine during a speech at the UN, according to the New York Times. “Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence,” Biden said. “We have to stand up to this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow.” In contrast, a number of Global South leaders, including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva and Colombian President Gustavo Petro, used their General Assembly speeches to call for talks to end the war in Ukraine.
— Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Biden and a range of other top American officials during a trip to the United States for the UN General Assembly, according to AP News. But, as Blaise Malley recently wrote in RS, the visit was a far cry from the warm welcome Zelensky received in his previous U.S. trip. “Zelensky returns to a vastly changed landscape in Washington Thursday, as a growing number of GOP lawmakers have expressed their reluctance — or outright opposition — to continued funding for Ukraine,” Malley reported.
— Mark Milley, Washington’s top military official, toldCNN that, while he remains hopeful about Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the larger goal of expelling all Russian troops from the country is “a very high bar.” “It's going to take a long time to do it,” Milley argued. The comments come as the mood around the chances of Ukrainian military success continues to sour, with even mainstream outlets like the New York Times giving dour takes on the future of the war. “The currency of the counteroffensive is ammunition, vehicles and human lives,” Times reporters Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Lauren Leatherby wrote on Wednesday. “This is what is certain: More people will die, more buildings will burn and the surrounding farmlands will be seeded with land mines [sic] and unexploded shells that probably will take decades to clear.”
U.S. State Department news:
The State Department did not hold a press briefing this week.
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September 21, 2023QiOSK
Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammad bin Salman said on Wednesday that a merger between Saudi-owned LIV Golf and the PGA would amount to a monopoly, an admission that could give federal officials ammunition to block it.
During an interview with Fox News’s Brett Baier, MBS blew off charges that his regime is engaged in “sports washing” — or laundering its reputation via professional sports investments — and vowed to continue the practice. “Is sports washing going to increase my GDP by one percent? Then I will continue doing sports washing,” he said. When asked if he was okay with the pejorative term “sports washing,” MBS said, “I don’t care.”
Later, when Baier asked what he thought of LIV Golf possibly merging with the PGA, MBS called it a “gamechanger” and admitted it would become a monopoly.
“You will not have competition,” he said, adding, “and you will have focus on developing the game, and that's good for the players and the fans who love golf.” Watch:
MBS’s admission is a bit ironic, particularly since 11 golfers associated with LIV filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA last August. Nearly a year later, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia — which owns LIV Golf — and the PGA, along with Europe’s DP World Tour, announced that they would not only end their dispute but also join forces.
The Wall Street Journal reported in June that the Justice Department would review that merger over antitrust concerns and that lawyers who specialize in the field said that PGA commissioner Jay Monahan’s statement that the merger would “take the competitor off of the board” could be “potentially problematic.”
Ben Freeman, who directs the Quincy Institute’s Democratizing Foreign Policy program, said you can add MBS’s statement to that list.
“It’s hard to imagine that a comment like that would not catch the eye of Justice Department investigators, whom we know are already investigating this deal on antitrust grounds,” he told RS.
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September 20, 2023QiOSK
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), one of the strongest critics of Saudi Arabia in the Senate, raised concerns Wednesday morning about the possibility of offering Riyadh a security guarantee in exchange for the normalization of relations with Israel.
Appearing on CNN, Murphy said that he supported the idea of the Biden administration brokering a deal in the Middle East, saying it would be “good for the United States if there is peace between the Gulf and in particular between Saudi Arabia and Israel,” but questioned the price that Washington is willing to pay to accomplish that objective.
Murphy ticked off a list of human rights abuses that Saudi Arabia has been linked to, specifically the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the recent reported killing of hundreds of migrants crossing over the country’s border with Yemen. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership, Saudi Arabia also launched the war on Yemen, which continues to be one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in the world today. In 2018, Murphy was one of the lead co-sponsors of a War Powers resolution that would have ended the United States’ involvement in that war.
“Is this the kind of stable regime that we should commit American blood to defending?,” asked Murphy on CNN.
In separate comments to reporters on Wednesday, Murphy noted that “there’s a reason why we generally only sign up countries for defense treaties with the United States who share our values.”
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the Biden administration was considering modeling the agreement with Riyadh after defense treaties with Asian allies Japan and South Korea. “Under such an agreement, the United States and Saudi Arabia would generally pledge to provide military support if the other country is attacked in the region or on Saudi territory,” reports the Times. “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, regards a mutual defense agreement with the United States as the most important element in his talks with the Biden administration about Israel.”
Murphy is skeptical of such an arrangement. “I would be very wary of committing the United States, through a treaty, to the defense of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Many Americans agree with Murphy’s assessment, according to a recent poll from the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Sixty percent of Republican respondents and 54 percent of Democrats said that offering a defense pact to Saudi Arabia would be a “bad deal for the U.S. and there is no justification for committing U.S. soldiers to defend Saudi Arabia.”Murphy said that he would wait until he saw details to issue a final judgment on the deal, and told Jewish Insider that he had extensive conversations with the Biden administration about “what I think would constitute a good deal, and what would be a bad deal for the United States.”
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