What We're Watching
After a marathon few days in New York where he attended the UN General Assembly, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Washington on Thursday where he attempted to convince US lawmakers that continuing to fund Ukraine’s war effort is an investment worth making. On Friday, Zelensky traveled to Canada for the first time since the war began.
In Washington, Zelensky met with President Joe Biden at the White House, after which a Biden aide said that the administration would continue to provide Kyiv with military aid, emphasizing new air defenses.
But the White House stopped short of committing to provide Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMS – ballistic missiles with a range of up to 190 miles that could fit in Ukraine’s existing rocket launchers – that Zelensky has been requesting since last year.
“US reluctance has been driven primarily by concerns that providing ATACMS to the Ukrainians could lead to a jump in US-Russia tensions,” says Eurasia Group’s Russia expert Alex Brideau, noting that this is “either because of the transfer itself, or if Ukraine were to use the missiles on targets on Russian territory.”
The Ukrainian president had his work cut out for him on Capitol Hill, where he was trying to convince lawmakers to green-light $24 billion in military aid requested by the White House. During the visit, Biden confirmed an extra $325 million in military aid would be doled out, but it is a far cry from the total awaiting approval from Congress.
Dealing with growing opposition to additional funds for Ukraine within his caucus, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy refused to let Zelensky address a joint session of Congress, saying he was able to do so last December. While other lawmakers – particular Senate leadership – were much more deferential to Zelensky, one key question kept coming up on the Hill: What is the plan for victory?
Rupert Murdoch announced he is stepping down as chairman of his Fox News and News Corp global media empire, and relinquishing control to his son, Lachlan Murdoch, in a succession that raises questions about the influence of the Murdoch dynasty in the 2024 US elections and beyond.
Over his 70 year career, Murdoch dominated conservative media baron in the US, UK and Australia, using his outlets to sway the political pendulum to the right and act as a kingmaker within the Republican Party. Fox News was instrumental in bringing Donald Trump to power in 2016.
The transition comes at a difficult time for the conglomerate, which paid out a $787.5 million settlement and faces multiple shareholder lawsuits over spreading misinformation during the 2020 elections. It is also seeing ratings stagnate as viewers move towards extreme outlets like Newsmax and individual creators like Tucker Carlson– whom Fox ousted earlier this year.
Ahead of the 2024 election, whether Fox News will be able to maintain its power without Murdoch and amidst a more competitive and decentralized political media landscape remains to be seen.
As President Joe Biden left the Big Apple last night, his administration announced that Venezuelans already in the country could legally live and work in the US for the next 18 months.
The decision will affect 472,000 Venezuelans nationwide and roughly half of New York City’s migrants, letting them support themselves and easing the strain on New York’s social safety net. (For more on the situation in New York, see our explainer).
The bigger picture: Adams is pushing Biden to extend the authorization to migrants from other nations, but the White House is wary that a broad policy could incentivize even more migrants to cross the border. On the national level, Democratic leaders fear the GOP could sweep suburban house districts in 2024 by weaponizing the migrant issue, as they did with crime in 2022.
On Monday, India opened its first special session of parliament since 2017, and expectations rose that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a plan to use the short session to make an unusual – maybe historic -- announcement.
There’s precedent for that assumption. Six years ago, Modi used a special session to roll out a nationwide goods and services tax to help centralize India’s economy. Many analysts now credit that move with sharply boosting internal trade across India, strengthening the country’s overall economic performance.
On Wednesday, in a nearly unanimous vote, India’s lower house of parliament passed the so-called Women’s Reservation Bill that will reserve one-third of its seats for women, who currently hold just 15%. They will also hold at least one-third of seats in state legislative assemblies.
The bill will move to the upper house for approval this week. It will then require approval from at least half of India’s 28 states.
If nothing else, the women who make up nearly half of India’s 950 million registered voters can have confidence their influence will play a much larger role in the direction of the world’s largest democracy.
Maybe you saw the shock headline – “Poland no longer supplying weapons to Ukraine amid grain row” – and wondered how such close allies had experienced such a significant wartime falling-out.
Early Wednesday, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the country had stopped weapons shipments to Ukraine, presumably in response to criticism from Ukraine’s President Zelensky over Poland’s refusal to buy Ukrainian grain diverted by war. But the shocked international response to Morawiecki’s message forced Poland’s government to quickly backtrack/clarify its position.
Here’s the critical context:
· Poland will continue to supply Ukraine with weapons it has already promised to deliver.
· Poland’s stock of excess weapons is currently close to depletion, leaving its government with little more to offer, at least for the moment.
· Poland is, and will remain, the path through which arms shipments from other countries reach Ukraine.
One more point to remember: Poland will hold parliamentary elections on October 15. Prime Minister Morawiecki is well aware the far-right Confederation party can pull votes from his center-right party by criticizing the cost of continuing support for Ukraine. By appearing to punish Poland’s eastern neighbor, Morawiecki can try to protect his vote share.Bottom-line: Don’t be fooled. Poland remains Ukraine’s staunch ally against Russia.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during a visit to Italy that both countries had reached the “limits of [their] capacity” to accommodate migrants, and called for “fair distribution” of the burdens of migration across the European Union.
The background. In just the last week, over 11,000 people have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa. They’re part of the 127,000 migrants who have landed in Italy in 2023, more than double the number who had arrived by this point in 2022.
Under current EU asylum regulations, migrants are required to apply for asylum in the member state to which they first arrive. Should they, say, leave Italy to try their chances with Germany’s relatively generous system, they’re to be deported back.
But Rome has recently been refusing to accept back asylum-seekers who leave, citing the disproportionate influx. That caused a row with Berlin, which announced last week it would suspend a voluntary agreement to take in 3,500 asylum seekers who had landed in Italy — before suddenly reversing course.
The European Union received over 519,000 asylum requests between January and June, a 28% year-on-year increase and the most since 2016. Germany fielded 30%, about as many as France and Spain combined. That’s not counting over a million Ukrainian refugees whom Germany hosts, far and away the most in Western Europe.
So when Meloni says the rest of the bloc needs to share the burden, it resonates in Berlin. It’s also in the SPD’s interest to be seen taking a more proactive anti-immigration stance, as their conservative rivals have recently revived the idea of a national migrant cap. It’s part of a larger shift on migration politics in Germany, as even SPD’s left-wing allies in the Green party call for tougher migration standards faced with the ascendance of the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland.
Convincing the rest of the bloc to step up will be difficult. Since migration to Europe from Syria spiked in 2015, the EU has struggled to find consensus on bloc-wide immigration policies due to conflicting pressures in the politics of each member state.
Just one day after launching a fresh assault on the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan halted its offensive under a ceasefire in which ethnic-Armenian separatists there reportedly agreed to surrender and disarm.
This effectively marks the end of Karabakh’s decades-long de facto independence from Azerbaijan. As a reminder, Karabakh is officially part of Azerbaijan, but historically had an ethnic-Armenian majority and has been run by Armenian separatists since a war of independence in the early 1990s.
In a 2020 flare up of the conflict, Azerbaijan — with ample help from Turkey — reconquered parts of Karabakh and surrounded it.
The capitulation of the Karabakh authorities means that the enclave is now effectively under Azeri control. For Azerbaijan, retaking Karabakh has been a nationalist dream for decades. President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday promised to turn Karabakh into “a paradise.”
But the fate of ethnic Armenians there is now in the balance. Both sides have carried out ethnic cleansing of each other’s populations over the past 30 years. Thousands of ethnic Armenians have reportedly rushed the airport already at Stepanakert, the Karabakh capital, looking to flee ahead of any Azeri reprisals.
Russia, whose peacekeepers have spottily overseen a ceasefire in the region since 2020, said that it would host talks on the future political and ethnic composition of Karabakh beginning on Thursday.