CFR – Daily news brief Jan. 12, 2023

Top of the Agenda

Putin Replaces Russia’s Top General in Ukraine After Battlefield Setbacks

Russia’s highest-ranking military officer, General Valery Gerasimov, was promoted to lead the country’s forces (FT) in Ukraine, replacing General Sergey Surovikin. Since Surovikin was appointed three months ago (CBS), Russia has lost control of the southern town of Kherson and struggled to provide basic equipment to the hundreds of thousands of troops it started conscripting in September. Surovikin has also faced criticism for housing hundreds of troops in a building that was bombed by Ukraine. He will now serve as one of Gerasimov’s deputies.
Meanwhile, tensions have reportedly flared between Russia’s military and its Wagner Group of mercenaries over which forces deserve credit for alleged territorial gains in the town of Soledar. An unnamed source told the Financial Times that Surovikin’s demotion could be linked to the Wagner Group’s apparent successes.
Analysis

“This reasserts the [Russian Defense Ministry]’s position overseeing the war,” the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Rob Lee tweets. “This may also partially be a response to Wagner’s increasingly influential and public role in the war.” “[The leadership change is] confirmation, if we needed it, that there will be serious offensives coming, and that even [Russian President Vladimir] Putin recognises that poor coordination has been an issue,” University College London’s Mark Galeotti tweets.
CFR’s Colonel Timothy J. MacDonald discusses whether Ukraine’s deployment of light tanks sent by its Western allies could lead to further Russian losses.
Pacific Rim

South Korean President Says He Would Consider Building Nuclear Weapons

President Yoon Suk-yeol said he would consider the option (NYT) if the nuclear threat from North Korea grew. It was the first such comment from a South Korean president since the United States withdrew its own nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991. 

Taiwan: Chip-making giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company said customers’ demand for more geographically diverse supply chains have prompted it to consider building (Nikkei) a second plant in Japan and its first in Europe.
For the Net Politics blog, Chris Miller and CFR’s David Sacks discuss the global war over semiconductors.
South and Central Asia

India Holds Virtual Summit With Global South Countries

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told attendees that the goal for India’s Group of Twenty (G20) presidency would be emphasizing the interests (The Hindu) of lower-income countries. India sent summit invitations to about 120 envoys from lower-income countries, often referred to as the Global South.   

Myanmar/India: Civil society groups in the Indian border region of Mizoram are planning a cross-border medical assistance mission (ThePrint) after Myanmar’s military bombed a rebel camp on its side of the border. One shell crossed the border (Indian Express) and damaged a truck.
Middle East and North Africa

United Arab Emirates Names Oil Boss to Lead Next UN Climate Talks

Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber is the head of the country’s national oil company and its minister for industry and advanced technology. Environmental campaigners called for him to step down (BBC) from the company to avoid a conflict of interest. CFR’s Alice C. Hill discusses which demands will headline this year’s UN climate summit.

Iran: Former Deputy Defense Minister Alireza Akbari was sentenced to death (NYT) on spying charges, Iran’s judiciary announced. Akbari is an Iranian British dual citizen.
Sub-Saharan Africa

Benin’s Opposition Rejects Results of Parliamentary Elections


Opposition members alleged that vote buying (AFP) and fraud allowed allies of President Patrice Talon to win a majority of seats in Sunday’s elections. It was the opposition’s first time participating in elections after effectively being barred from the previous vote. 

Ethiopia/France/Germany: The foreign ministers of France and Germany arrived in Ethiopia today (AFP) to meet with officials in support of a November 2022 peace deal that ended fighting between the Ethiopian government and rebels from the Tigray region.
CFR’s Global Conflict Tracker looks at Ethiopia’s war.
Europe

European Parliament to Present Anticorruption PlanThe body is set to unveil a fourteen-point plan (EU Observer) aimed at preventing corruption following an influence-peddling scandal involving Morocco and Qatar.
Americas

Canada, Mexico Win USMCA Dispute on Local Content for CarsThe countries had opened a trade dispute (Bloomberg) with the United States under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) due to differing interpretations on how much local material cars need to qualify for tariff waivers. The United States had pushed for an interpretation that required more components made in North America.

Colombia: Members of the UN Security Council condemned an assassination attempt (AP) made against Vice President Francia Márquez Mina.
United States

South Korean Firm Plans $2.31 Billion Solar Panel Plant in Georgia, Hanwha Solutions, will hire some two thousand workers (AP) for the Cartersville plant. The company said it aims to supply around 30 percent of U.S. solar panel demand by 2027. 
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