CFR – Daily News Brief – Feb. 17, 2023

Top of the Agenda

Munich Security Conference Focuses on Ukraine War Effort

Hundreds of Western officials are in Munich to discuss boosting support for Ukraine, which could include further military aid and stronger sanctions against Russia. In a video address to attendees, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for accelerated weapons deliveries (NYT) to defend against Russian forces. A report issued by the chair of the conference warned that “revisionist actors” are threatening the international order, but also said that the order should better address (DW) the interests of countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The leaders of countries including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are expected to attend the security conference, while both Russia and Iran were uninvited (FT). Instead, the Belarusian and Russian presidents met separately to discuss their alliance. Meanwhile, Russian shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut killed five people (Kyiv Independent) yesterday, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said.

“The war is expected to last at least another year, and the crowing about unity, while generally merited, will be tested. Few expect a sudden breakthrough by either side, and the cost of sustaining the Ukrainian fight against a larger foe is also expected to create new strains among allies,” the New York Times’ Michael Crowley and Steven Erlanger write.

“The world’s autocrats are finally on the defensive. But to seize this moment and swing the pendulum of history back toward democratic rule, we must break down the wall that separates democratic advocacy from economic development work and demonstrate that democracies can deliver for their people,” USAID’s Samantha Power writes for Foreign Affairs.
Pacific Rim

FT: Senior Pentagon Official Visits TaiwanThe U.S. Defense Department’s top China official, Michael Chase, is in Taiwan, four people told the Financial TimesHe is the most senior U.S. defense official to travel to Taiwan in four years. The Pentagon did not comment on the trip. 

Japan: The inaugural flight of a rocket designed to launch satellites and probes for government missions was postponed (Kyodo) after onboard systems detected an abnormality just before takeoff.
South and Central Asia

Sri Lanka Raises Electricity Prices by 66 Percent in Search of IMF Deal

Officials hope the increase will encourage (Reuters) the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to grant the country a bailout amid its economic crisis. The government raised prices by 75 percent last year. 

Bangladesh: UN-appointed human rights experts called for donations to the World Food Program, which plans to cut food rations (UN News) for Rohingya refugees by 17 percent in March. Officials said further cuts would follow in April without additional funding.
Middle East and North Africa

Videos Show Fresh Anti-government Protests Across Iran

Iranians marched across multiple cities (AP) to commemorate forty days since two men were executed on protest-related charges, videos posted on social media showed. Iran’s most widespread protests in weeks, the marches continue the anti-government demonstrations sparked by a young woman’s death in morality police custody last year.  This photo essay shows the start of Iran’s protests.

U.S./GCC: The United States ended a series of meetings with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a grouping of six Arab Gulf states, with a joint statement vowing to work together (Bloomberg) against Iran’s “destabilizing activities.” The meetings had been postponed over tensions surrounding an output cut by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its oil producing partner countries, a bloc known as OPEC+.
Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa CDC: Mpox Vaccines Expected to Arrive in Two Weeks

Mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, was declared a global health emergency in July, and rich countries quickly bought up (AP) the world’s vaccine supply. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said the continent’s hardest-hit countries will receive vaccines first. For Foreign Affairs, Hamza Tariq Chaudhry, Samantha Kiernan, and CFR’s Thomas J. Bollyky discussed the mpox outbreak and the rise of vaccine nationalism.

Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Orthodox Church said it resolved an internal rift and will expand Oromo-language services (Africanews, AFP) in the Oromia region. Several priests had established a breakaway synod after accusing church authorities of discrimination.

Portugal Scraps New Visas for Wealthy Non-Europeans to Control Housing PricesPrime Minister António Costa cited “price speculation in real estate” (FT) as the cause for canceling the so-called golden visas that grant residency permits to wealthy investors. Earlier this week, Ireland canceled its own golden visa program over security threats.

Canada to Send Navy Vessels to Aid Haitian PoliceCanadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the ships will remain off the Haitian coast and provide intelligence support (CBC) to help Haitian police reduce rampant gang violence. 

Brazil/Brussels: After a phone call with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the two were committed to finalizing (MercoPress) a free trade deal between the European Union and the Mercosur trade bloc.
This Backgrounder looks at Mercosur.
United States

Auto Regulator Prompts Recall of 362,000 ‘Full Self-Driving’ Tesla Vehicles The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tesla’s driver-assistance system, which can steer, brake, accelerate, and change lanes on its own, allows the vehicles to travel (NYT) in “an unlawful and unpredictable manner.” 
Friday Editor’s PickThis series by Forbidden Stories and its international partners exposes “disinformation mercenaries” operating in countries around the world.

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