Council on Foreign Relations – Daily news brief Sept. 21, 2022

Top of the Agenda

Putin Escalates Russian War Efforts With New Troop Mobilization ”

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a new mobilization of troops (FT) to fight in Ukraine in a televised address today. Three hundred thousand reservists will be called up to fight, Russia’s defense minister said. Putin also hinted at his willingness to use nuclear weapons, saying Russia “will use all the means at its disposal” if its territorial integrity is threatened. 

In addition, Putin voiced support for referendums that would let Russia illegally annex four occupied regions of Ukraine. The votes could happen as soon as this weekend. Yesterday, the Russian parliament increased penalties (RFE/RL) for soldiers who surrender or refuse to fight and used the words “mobilization” and “martial law” to describe the conflict in Ukraine for the first time. 

“Mobilization…would radically upset the Kremlin’s careful management of the war at home. Dramatically increasing Russia’s manpower might seem a logical choice for a country with a population that is three times the size of Ukraine’s, but the war’s popularity has depended on it being far away,” the German Marshall Fund of the United States’ Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage write for Foreign Affairs. 

“If the Kremlin’s annexation gambit fails to stop the fighting and support to Ukraine, the Kremlin will need to lash out to show it is serious. That means escalation that could come in different forms,” the RAND Corporation’s Dara Massicot tweets. 
Pacific Rim

China’s Economic Growth Trails Emerging Asia Due to COVID-19 LockdownsChina’s economic growth this year will be slower (Nikkei) than the average growth of all emerging Asian economies for the first time in three decades, the Asian Development Bank said. 

Japan: A man set himself on fire (Kyodo) in front of Japan’s parliament in an apparent protest against the upcoming state funeral for assassinated Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Polls show that the majority of Japanese people oppose the funeral.
South and Central Asia

Nepali President Refuses to Sign Citizenship Law That Twice Passed CongressPresident Bidya Devi Bhandari set herself up for a dispute (Hindustan Times) with Nepal’s Parliament after refusing to sign a bill that would grant citizenship to five hundred thousand people.  

Myanmar: UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned an attack (UN News) by military forces that killed eleven children at a school in a rebel-held area. CFR’s Joshua Kurlantzick discusses whether Myanmar’s opposition forces can defeat its military junta.
Middle East and North Africa

Israeli, Turkish Leaders Meet for First Time Since 2008Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly discussed (WaPo) economic and energy cooperation when they met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session yesterday. The thaw between their countries has hastened following Israel’s discoveries of natural gas sites off of its coast.  CFR’s Steven A. Cook explains how Israel and Turkey benefit from restoring relations. 

Iran: Hackers shut down (Al Jazeera) several government websites in solidarity with protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish Iranian woman who died after being detained by police.
Sub-Saharan AfricaEritrean Troops Scale Up Offensive in Ethiopia’s TigrayTigrayan rebel fighters reported a fresh offensive (BBC) by Eritrean troops, which would escalate Ethiopia’s conflict following the collapse of a cease-fire last month. The Eritrean and Ethiopian governments have not commented on the rebels’ claims.

South Africa: Aerospace company Paramount Group produced and sold (Bloomberg) the first military aircraft made in South Africa since the 1980s. It did not reveal which two countries bought the nine aircraft.

Germany Nationalizes Its Largest Natural Gas ImporterThe $29 billion takeover of struggling utility Uniper is Germany’s biggest corporate bailout (FT) since the 2008 financial crisis. 

UN Report: Venezuelan Intelligence Agencies Committed Torture, Rape of DetaineesThe accusations against Venezuela’s military and civilian state intelligence agencies came in a report released by a UN fact-finding mission. A member of the mission said the human rights violations were “orchestrated at the highest political levels” (FT) and occurred “in a climate of almost complete impunity.”

Turks and Caicos Islands: The Category 3 storm Hurricane Fiona triggered floods (Reuters) on the islands. The hurricane reportedly killed at least four people in Puerto Rico before making landfall in Turks and Caicos.
United States

Biden to Address UNGA, Attend Meeting on Combating Disease In his address to the General Assembly today, President Joe Biden is expected to focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (NPR) and announce new support for countries facing food insecurity due to the war. He will skip a roundtable (Bloomberg) on climate action but is set to attend a meeting for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
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