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Weekly Newsbriefing #2

Ukraine

On Monday, two top officials, secretary of state Antony Blinken and defence secretary Lloyd J. Austin, went to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Then, on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres embarked on his trip to Moscow for talks and then finally visited war-torn Ukraine. During his visit to Kyiv, Guterres was a witness to airstrikes that were carried out by Russia.  

In response to Europe’s sanctions on Russia and its arms support to Ukraine, Russia stopped gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria, possibly leading to a gas crisis in Europe.  However, Russia argued that the reason to halt gas supplies to these two countries was their unwillingness to pay in rubles – despite the fact that the contracts state that payments are to be made in either euros or dollars. 

The countries that have been subject to Russian gas cuts will now receive gas supplies from other EU member states to compensate for the losses. 

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Russia

Two months into Russia’s war in Ukraine, the European Commission is preparing the sixth package of sanctions on Russia, and EU leaders are now finally preparing an embargo on Russian oil. 

A final decision on the embargo is yet to be made. However, it is expected that there will be opposing voices within the EU. Mostly, Germany and Hungary have been critical of banning Russian oil, given that this would seriously harm their economies.

Amidst increased weapons deliveries from the west to Ukraine, the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov accused NATO of engaging in a “proxy war” and emphasised once again that the threat of the war escalating into a nuclear conflict should not be underestimated. 

Twitter

On Monday, April 25, Elon Musk struck a deal to take over Twitter for roughly $44 billion, almost two weeks after Musk made a bid to buy the social media platform. The company first adopted a so-called “poison bill”, being alarmed by the proposal and wanting to prevent Elon Musk from taking over the platform. And yet, roughly ten days later, the company’s board decided to take thMusk’s offer and sell Twitter. 

Assumptions on how the platform could change emerged after the deal was set, referring to some cues Elon Musk has given previously. For example, Musk has been very vocal about “free speech” and critical of the company’s content and moderation policies. It is thus likely that he seeks to implement some changes in this area. Moreover, it is possible that he will bring back people that have previously been banned from the platform.  

In other News

Hungary: On Wednesday, April 27, the European Commission took a historic step and finally triggered the Rule of Law Mechanism against Hungary, which could result in the country losing its access to EU funds. You can read our take on it here.

Moldova: On Monday and Tuesday, several explosions struck Transnistria, the breakaway region in Moldova that is allied with and dependent on Russia, raising fears of Moldova being dragged into this conflict. Current investigations by Moldovan authorities suggest Russian involvement in the explosions. The event also heightened concerns that Russia would open up a new front to attack Ukraine.

Beijing: Further lockdowns are imposed in Beijing amid a surge of Coronavirus infections, just as  Covid measures in Shanghai begin to ease. 

That’s it for this week! Thank you for reading, and we hope you enjoyed this newsletter. If you would like to support this briefing, you can do so here.

Damage Control: What Ms. Marvel Tells Us About the State of Homeland Security in the United States

Marvel Studios’ latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is Ms. Marvel, the TV series which showcases Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American high school student who gains cosmic energy powers from a family heirloom, fights crime and becomes a superhero in her native home of Jersey City, NJ. One area that has been often overlooked in the discourse surrounding this series has been the behavior of the U.S. Department of Damage Control (DODC), a rather lesser agency than S.H.I.E.L.D or S.W.O.R.D, yet one that has been around for many years within the background of the MCU. With Ms. Marvel, however, we get a rather different view of the agency, one that has been hinted at before but never fully seen.

The Authoritarian Regime as China’s Top Export

China’s global prominence is not only because it is the largest provider of commodities and manufactured goods. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been equally successful in terms of politics and diplomacy, and it manages to do so by selling its authoritarian model across the globe. Whereas developing and fragile states are more susceptible to it, also Western democracies have been receiving these implicit totalitarian elements.

The politics of confusion – The fifth fragment: Where does it leave the citizens?

The contemporary political narrative is loud, filled with politicians fighting over wealth and power. This leaves little space for issues that are relevant to Polish citizens, such as economic security, freedom of speech and social stability. So what is really going on in Poland, an entity defined not by a group of megalomaniac politicians, but by the inhabitants, which make it all work?

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