Council on Foreign Relations – Daily news brief Dec. 29, 2022

Editor’s note: There will be no Daily Brief until Tuesday, January 3, in observance of New Year’s Day.
Top of the Agenda

Russia Rejects Ukraine’s Peace Conditions, Bombards Its Power Grid

Russia fired nearly seventy missiles (WaPo) at Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities today in what appeared to be one of its biggest strikes on Ukraine’s energy grid. Ukraine’s military said it shot down fifty-four of the missiles. The attack came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s rejection (Al Jazeera) of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s conditions for peace. 
In recent weeks, Zelenskyy has promoted a peace plan in which Russia would face a war crimes tribunal and give up occupied territories in eastern Ukraine. A Kremlin spokesperson yesterday rejected the possibility (NYT) of ceding the territories, while Lavrov said today that Kyiv’s plans to drive Russia out of eastern Ukraine were an “illusion.” 

“At the moment, any ceasefire or peace negotiations can only have one effect: buying Russia time to regroup and renew its attacks in the spring,” the Centre for East European and International Studies’ Gwendolyn Sasse writes for Carnegie Europe.
“Complete [Ukrainian] victory could require a very long war, and it would also mean that its ultimate duration would depend on political factors beyond the West’s control,” the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Vladislav Zubok writes for Foreign Affairs.
Pacific Rim

Vietnam Announces Its Highest GDP Growth Since 1997 

The 8 percent annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP) was driven in part (Reuters) by strong exports. Companies such as Apple have turned to Vietnam (FT) as they shift supply chains away from China. This Backgrounder explains why Washington is rethinking its commercial relations with China. 

China/Brussels: Envoys from European Union (EU) health ministries are meeting today (RFI) to discuss a bloc-wide response to rising COVID-19 cases in China. Some countries, including the United States, have reinstated COVID-19 testing requirements for passengers from mainland China. 
South and Central Asia

Pakistani Generals Pledge Renewed Military Efforts Against TTP

At their first monthly conference since a change of command in November, top army officials vowed to “fight against terrorists without any distinction” (Dawn), referring to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). 

Afghanistan: The United Nations said it temporarily halted (Reuters) some of its activities in Afghanistan due to the Taliban’s ban on women aid workers.
Middle East and North Africa

Israel Swears In Its Most Far-Right Government Ever

The head of Israel’s military held rare talks (FT) with returning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week to relay concerns that some of the new government’s proposed policies could escalate violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. 

Syria/Turkey: At a conference in Moscow, the Syrian and Turkish defense ministers met for the first time (Bloomberg) since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Turkey has recently indicated that it will seek a rapprochement with Syria. This Backgrounder examines Turkey’s foreign policy ambitions in Syria and elsewhere.
Sub-Saharan Africa

Rwanda Accuses DRC Plane of Breaching Its Airspace

The accusation comes amid bilateral tensions (AFP) over allegations that Rwanda is backing rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

South Africa: At a conference in South Africa, Russian fertilizer tycoon Andrey Melnichenko encouraged African leaders to pressure the EU into removing sanctions that are hurting Russia’s fertilizer trade, Bloomberg reported.

ExxonMobil Sues EU Over Proposed Windfall Tax

The U.S. company says the planned tax on excess profits from fossil fuel firms would exceed the EU’s legal authority (Politico). A spokesperson for the European Commission said the measure would be “fully compliant with EU law” (BBC).

Arrest of Bolivian Governor Prompts Protests

Santa Cruz Governor Luis Fernando Camacho was detained (BBC) as part of a probe of the events that led to the 2019 resignation of President Evo Morales Ayma, the state attorney’s office said. Camacho led protests that encouraged Morales to step down.

 Brazil: The country’s official gazette published an authorization (Bloomberg) for an army official to travel with President Jair Bolsonaro to Miami, suggesting that the outgoing leader could skip the inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. 
This In Brief looks at what Lula’s return means for Brazil.
United States

Man Receives Sixteen-Year Prison Sentence for Plot to Kidnap Michigan Governor

Prosecutors called Adam Fox the “driving force” of the 2020 plot (WaPo) by right-wing extremists to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer and provoke a civil war.
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