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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.

What does the US withdrawal from Afghanistan mean for NATO?

By pulling out of Afghanistan, Joe Biden has put an end to 20 years of U.S. troop involvement in Afghanistan and thus to Washington's "forever war" in the mountainous, landlocked country. This strategic decision leaves the democratically elected government in Kabul struggling to hold on to power. The withdrawal of US and NATO troops is therefore likely to fuel an assortment of security and geostrategic consequences contrary to Euro-Atlantic interests.

Black Genocide: Classifying the Transatlantic Slave Trade and U.S. Slavery of Africans as a Genocide

The American slave trade remains one of the most horrific periods of American history. Many in the United States classify the Atlantic Slave Trade, the American slavery system, and the Jim Crow laws as reprehensible acts, crimes committed by White Americans and English, and a stain upon the United States, and rightly so. However, these events should also be classified as genocide as they meet the legal criteria for such crimes and also follow a very similar line when looking at other, more internationally recognized forms of genocide.

The slow death of media freedom in Hungary – How the country’s last independent radio station fell

Hungarian media is once again under attack. After years under the Orbán regime, most media outlets have been closed down or taken over by government sympathizers, and media pluralism is now virtually nonexistent in Hungary. In February 2021, Klubrádió, Hungary's last independent radio station was stripped off of its license and is henceforth only available online - presenting another blow to media freedom in Hungary.

Putin is punishing Ukraine for choosing the West and why it is (not) the West’s fault

In 2014, John J. Mearsheimer wrote an article in Foreign Affairs called "Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West's Fault". He argues that the West bears the majority of the responsibility for the crisis in Ukraine in 2014, because of NATO's expansion in Russia's backyard by which Russia felt increasingly threatened, and because of EU enlargement in the same geographical area as well as its support to pro-democracy movements in the region. The same argument is now revived as the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolds before the world's eyes. However, this argument misses a crucial point. The West might be responsible for what is happening in Ukraine, but not in the way most people think.

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