What We’re Watching: Foreigners advised to leave Ukraine, Egypt-Sudan blockade, Canadian truckers vs auto makers
Ukraine alert level rises. Americans and Brits are being urged to leave Ukraine. On Friday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan advised American citizens “to depart [Ukraine] immediately” within the “next 24 to 48 hours” and characterized the threat as “immediate.” A Russian military move against Ukraine, he said, could begin "before the Olympics have ended." Sullivan also noted that a significant amount of territory in Ukraine could be occupied by Russian troops. The British foreign office similarly told Brits living in the region to leave while commercial flights are still available.
Lithuania, meanwhile, says it will send Kyiv a cache of Stinger surface-to-air missiles in the next few days to bolster Ukrainian defenses against a possible Russian invasion. Battlefield bonafides aside, the symbolism is rich: these same weapons helped bury the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to prevent war continue, if choppily. The UK defense minister will meet his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Friday, though the Kremlin doesn’t seem to take London very seriously. Russia’s top diplomat shot down threats of British sanctions as “empty slogans” and said his talks on Thursday with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss were a meeting of “the mute with the deaf.” With Russia massing troops on Ukraine’s border and running massive war games in neighboring Belarus, stakes are high. The next big diplomatic moves? German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before heading to Moscow to see Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
Sudan-Egypt trade route blockade. Things are heating up along a crucial trade route between Sudan and Egypt. The Northern Artery has been blocked by Sudanese protesters angry about electricity price hikes. As a result, thousands of Egyptian truckers are unable to deliver home staples like vegetables, and the blockade is disrupting the livestock trade. Stakes are high for both sides. For Egypt, maintaining warm(ish) ties with Sudan is crucial: the two countries share a long border, and they are on the same side of a Nile dam dispute with Ethiopia. Cairo also needs Khartoum for intelligence sharing in an increasingly volatile region. Sudan, which long suffered from crippling US sanctions, relies heavily on trade with Egypt. Will Cairo or Khartoum intervene before things get even more out of control at the border?Canadian truckers sideswipe car manufacturers. Several major auto plants in Canada have halted production due to supply shortages caused by the ongoing truckers protest. Since Monday, the “Freedom Convoy” — a group of several hundred truckers occupying central Ottawa to protest pandemic restrictions — has blocked the Ambassador Bridge, which carries about a quarter of all US-Canadian trade. Ottawa says this is thwarting roughly $300 million in daily commerce, and Washington is warning of the effects on northbound agriculture exports from Michigan. Prime Minister Trudeau refuses to meet with the truckers and has deemed the protests “unacceptable.” But it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere soon. Is there an off-ramp here, or is a big crash likely?