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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks by video link during NATO's annual parliamentary assembly in Madrid, Spain.

Europa Press/ABACA via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: NATO doubles down on Ukraine, Erdoğan mulls Syria ground operation, Chinese COVID protests mellow, Assange petition

Lasting support for Ukraine?

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hoped for a quick victory that would disarm Ukraine and replace its government. Ukrainian fighters, backed and armed by NATO governments, have shredded Putin’s Plan A. His Plan B is to inflict punishment on Ukrainian civilians with attacks on the infrastructure that provides light and heat during the cold, dark winter ahead to try to divide opinion in Europe and the United States over their long-term support for Ukraine’s government. That’s the backdrop for two noteworthy pieces of news this week. On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers, gathered in Bucharest, will renew their vow, first made in 2008, that Ukraine will one day join their alliance. In the meantime, individual member states will offer more weapons, perhaps including US small precision bombs fitted to rockets that help Ukraine strike enemy targets deep behind Russian lines. The alliance itself will offer electricity generators, fuel, and medical supplies. The message to Moscow: You won’t win a war of attrition. Ukraine’s allies will boost that country’s defenses for as long as it takes to deny Russia a victory.

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Iran's Ahmad Noorollahi, Sadegh Moharrami, and Alireza Jahanbakhsh line up during the national anthems before the World Cup match against England.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

What We're Watching: Iran's silent anthem, Russia's tech brain drain

Iran’s Kurds rise up, soccer squad goes silent

Even as widespread anti-government protests over democracy and women’s rights continue across Iran, things are getting particularly dicey in Kurdish-majority areas along the northwestern border with Iraq. Iran’s revolutionary guards have not only cracked down on the protests in the city of Mahabad, but they also reportedly sent missiles across the border into Kurdish areas of Iraq for good measure. Kurdish groups have struggled for independence from Iran for more than a century, and Mahabad is hugely symbolic — it was the capital of a short-lived independent Kurdish state in the 1940s. Meanwhile, the broader anti-government protests continue to get high-level sympathizers. Two prominent female actors who removed their headscarves publicly in solidarity were arrested over the weekend. Then, on Monday, Iranian footballers stunningly refused to sing Iran’s national anthem ahead of their opening World Cup match in Qatar as a show of support for the protests back home.

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US House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) arrives for leadership elections at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
REUTERS/Leah Millis

What We’re Watching: Republican House, Israeli robo-guns, Poland’s back

GOP wins slim House majority

More than a week after the US midterm elections, the Republican Party finally clinched its 218th seat in the House on Wednesday, giving the GOP a razor-slim majority in the chamber. But with several races still not called, the exact margin remains unclear — the tighter it is, the harder it'll be for Kevin McCarthy, who’s expected to replace Nancy Pelosi as House speaker, to keep his caucus together. A Republican-held House effectively kills the Democrats’ legislative agenda, although retaining control of the Senate will keep extremist proposals away from President Joe Biden's desk and allow him to appoint federal judges. For the GOP, it's an opportunity to launch investigations on stuff like the origins of COVID, the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Republicans' favorite target: Biden's own son, Hunter. It might even lead to impeaching the president. On foreign policy, expect the GOP to penny-pinch US aid to Ukraine and make Congress get even tougher on China — perhaps not the best idea after Biden and Xi Jinping decided to cool things down at the G-20 in Bali.

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Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussien and Tigray delegate Getachew Reda attend signing of the AU-led negotiations to resolve the conflict in northern Ethiopia.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Ethiopian peace deal, Russia’s grain U-turn, Kim Jong Un’s wrath, China’s production woes

Peace at last in Ethiopia?

The government of Ethiopia and rebels from the Tigray region agreed on Wednesday to “permanently” end their civil war. The conflict, which began in late 2020 as Tigrayan forces sought more autonomy from the central government, spiraled into a brutal war that displaced millions, drew in forces from neighboring Eritrea, brought parts of the country to the brink of famine, and led to possible war crimes on both sides. The precise terms of the peace agreement, reached during African Union-brokered peace talks in South Africa, aren’t yet clear, but former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who oversaw the negotiations, said the sides had pledged to put down their weapons, restore “law and order” and open full access to humanitarian aid. One big wildcard? Eritrea, which was not involved in the talks but has its own security interests and territorial claims along its border with Tigray.

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Luisa Vieira

Winter is coming

The image of Russian (and Ukrainian) soldiers dug into snow banks to repel invaders has a long history. Napoleon and Hitler learned the hard way that winter provides defenders with a major home-field advantage.

Once again, winter will soon descend on a battlefield. Rain will turn hard earth into mud, slowing military movement. Snow will leave advancing forces with fewer places to hide and no good way to cover their tracks.

Ukrainian fighters know that winter will slow their current momentum, and Russians know it will cripple their ability to push hard in the opposite direction.

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Will the 2022 Midterms Affect US Support For Ukraine? | US Politics In :60 | GZERO Media

Will the 2022 midterms affect US support for Ukraine?

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, DC shares his perspective on US politics.

How is the US policy towards Ukraine shifting?

With Republicans well positioned to take control of the House of Representatives next year, the next likely Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, recently warned that the US would no longer give a "blank check" to Ukraine when Republicans were in charge. This has lots of folks worried about a softening commitment to financing the Ukrainian defense against the Russian invasion.

But should they be? The United States has committed over $60 billion in aid so far to fund the military effort, humanitarian aid, and to directly finance the Ukrainian government. That is a lot of money that passed very quickly with little debate in the US, though it is broadly in line with US public opinion. A poll from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that 80% of Americans continue to support US economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia.

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Paige Fusco

Is US support for Ukraine waning?

Republicans and Democrats disagree on pretty much everything these days, yet they’ve shown remarkable unity to date on one issue: Ukraine.

But as midterm elections loom, the winds are changing in Washington, D.C., where an increasing number of legislators on both sides of the aisle – particularly Republicans – have warned that the days of unchecked handouts to Ukraine could soon be over.

That’s bad news for Ukraine, of course, but it’s also bad news for President Joe Biden, who has staked his dwindling reputation on being able to unite a Western alliance – including a politically divided US – against an aggressive Russia.

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Local residents at a site of a residential building damaged by a Russian missile attack in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Allies talk “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine, dark clouds brew over France, Medvedev channels his inner James Bond

Ukraine latest: Is it too soon to talk reconstruction?

With Ukrainian forces continuing to push their counteroffensive, winter coming, and Russian attacks crippling the country’s energy infrastructure, it seems like a dicey time to talk about pumping close to a trillion dollars of reconstruction aid into Ukraine. But it’s never too early to plan/hope, so that’s what’s on the agenda this week at two conferences in Berlin headlined by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. They are calling for a 21st-century “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine that could last decades. But who, precisely, is willing to foot the bill for bridges, roads, and power plants that will remain indefinitely in Russian crosshairs is an open question. Meanwhile, in ominous news from Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday wondered aloud whether the fragile UN-backed Ukrainian grain export deal will be renewed next month, citing the Kremlin’s demand for more data on where the grain shipments have actually been going. The grain deal helped to take some of the pressure off record highs in global food prices, which are having a disproportionate impact on the world’s poor.

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