Your Thursday Briefing: Tanks for Ukraine
Tanks for Ukraine
Yesterday, Germany and the United States pledged to send tanks to Ukraine after weeks of diplomatic manoeuvring. The pledges could unlock a wave of additional aid ahead of an expected escalation in fighting in the spring.
It could take a year or more for 31 American M1 Abrams tanks to reach the battlefield. But the American promise allowed Germany to commit to sending 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks, which could arrive in several months.
Germany’s decision to allow other nations to transfer their own Leopards prompted Finnish, Dutch and Spanish officials to say they would seek to send tanks to Ukraine, or were willing to do so.
Struggle: The announcements come at a critical time. Ukraine said yesterday that its forces had withdrawn from Soledar, a key town near the eastern town of Bakhmut.
Natural gas shortage in China
China is the latest country to be affected by the global energy disruptions that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But after spending on expensive “zero Covid” measures, local governments have few resources to buy expensive natural gas.
The Chinese national government told local governments to provide heating, but it didn’t give them money to pay for it. Mass testing campaigns in the last days of “zero Covid” have emptied their coffers. As a result, provincial and municipal governments have reduced the usual natural gas subsidies that previously helped keep heating bills down.
From now on, gas is effectively rationed, with households receiving the minimum necessary for cooking but very little for heating. Tens of millions of people are angry and their frustration has spread on social media. “Nothing seems to be working, partly because no one seems to have a lot of money,” one expert said.
Time: China, like Europe, has long depended on Russia for some of its gas. But Europe experienced an unusually warm winter, which lowered gasoline prices and helped countries through the crisis. In China, on the other hand, unusually freezing temperatures pushed gasoline prices higher.
Big picture: Climate change could usher in an era of trade wars.
Notice: It is in the interest of the United States to help China develop new treatments to curb the spread of Covid, Michael V. Callahan argue.
Modi deletes a documentary
A new BBC documentary criticizes the Indian leader. Although the Indian government did not outright ban it, they went to great lengths to suppress the film, both online and on campuses.
“India: The Modi Question” focuses on the Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, which killed around 1,000 people, most of whom were Muslim. Critics accused Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s then chief minister, of either leading the way in the carnage or turning a blind eye. A major revelation in the film: an unprecedented British investigation found Modi “directly responsible” for the massacres.
Modi’s government is getting help from international social media companies. Alphabet, YouTube’s parent company, cooperated with India to block the segments from appearing on the site. Even Twitter, which has always resisted India’s content ban, has also blocked posts related to the images.
Reaction: Students are subject to police custody and attacks by masked men to organize screenings. “By doing this,” said one student activist, “they are making this documentary more popular, and now everyone wants to watch it.”
Details: Modi’s government is rolling out “IT rules”, passed in 2021, that allow it to remove virtually all information online. The government has always used laws in its ongoing crackdown on press freedom.
THE LAST NEWS
Gen Zers love distorted photos: they opted for the 0.5 ultra-wide-angle lens, an AI portrait generator to simulate a painting, and the lo-fi digital camera for grainy nostalgia.
Now they are in the traffic mirror. (Some commenters on TikTok praise them as “bus driver core,” though the fish-eye look is reminiscent of the 1990s, which Gen Z often mimics.) “Looks funny,” said one 24 year old youngster. “But it looks funny on purpose.”
Lives Lived: Balkrishna Doshi, the first Indian architect to receive the Pritzker Prize, contributed to the development of Indian modernism. “We wanted to find our own identity,” he said. He died at 95.
SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICA
A diplomatic competition
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Africa this week for his second diplomatic tour in less than a year. While Russia relies on a long-standing diplomatic network on the continent, Ukraine has far fewer embassies there.
Yet as the war in Ukraine nears the end of its first year, many African countries have remained neutral. Lavrov’s visit began in South Africa, with stops in Botswana and Eswatini before heading to Angola, a major oil producer. Along the way, he extended invitations to a Russia-Africa summit in July. The trip overlaps with visits by two top US officials: UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Yellen, who was visiting Senegal, Zambia and South Africa, warned that Russia’s “barbaric aggression” was hurting African economies, including through rising food prices.
Thomas-Greenfield said: “Africa is key to putting pressure on Russia because we need to send a strong and unified message to Russia that what they are doing in Ukraine is unacceptable.
Lavrov is expected to be back in the coming weeks for a planned visit to North Africa. —Lynsey Chutel, Writer of Briefings in Johannesburg
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