US Secretary of State Blinken calls for joint approach to counter Beijing at NATO summit: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a strong rebuke Wednesday of China’s sweeping use of coercive measures and urged NATO allies to work with the United States in order to mount pushback on Beijing. Blinken, in an address at NATO headquarters in Brussels, said the US wouldn’t force its European allies into an “us or them choice.” However, he made clear that Washington views China as an economic and security threat, particularly in the realm of technology, to NATO allies in Europe. The secretary said there is still space to cooperate with China on common challenges like climate change and health security, but called for NATO to stand together when Beijing coerces one of the alliance’s members.
China and Iran sign comprehensive cooperation agreement: Iran and China have signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement addressing economic issues amid crippling US sanctions on Iran. The agreement dubbed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership covers a variety of economic activity from oil and mining to promoting industrial activity in Iran, as well as transportation and agricultural collaborations, state TV reported. The deal marked the first time Iran has signed such a lengthy agreement with a major world power. China had been mindful of the US sensitives over Iran and largely avoided edging too close to the Islamic republic since the establishment of official ties with Washington in 1979, according to former Chinese ambassador to Tehran Hua Liming. “Since the Carter administration, the US has often reminded China of its relations with Iran, which was seen by Americans as an impediment to the US-China relationship. But with fundamental changes in China-US relations in recent months, that era has gone,” he said.
EU leaders eye potential Turkey trade-off on gas, migrants: EU leaders on Thursday offered the possibility of deepening trade ties with Turkey, they told Ankara to stick to democratic norms and to avoid worsening a row over energy in the Mediterranean Sea. Aiming to reward Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for pulling back from a confrontation over gas exploration, the bloc will start preparations for a deeper customs union with Ankara, according to the draft communique. On migration, the leaders launched a plan that aims to keep alive the 2016 agreement with Turkey, which has significantly reduced the arrival of refugees on the Greek islands. While the deal was initially funded with €6 billion, it now needs to be replenished — and Turkey is still hosting around 4 million Syrian refugees.
US suspends all diplomatic trade engagement with Myanmar: A series of airstrikes by Myanmar’s military has driven thousands of people across the country’s border with Thailand. The weekend strikes, which sent ethnic Karen people seeking safety in Thailand, represented another escalation in the violent crackdown by Myanmar’s junta on protests of its 1 February takeover. On Saturday, more than 100 people were killed in and around demonstrations throughout the country — the bloodiest single day since the takeover. The Biden administration announced the suspension of all diplomatic trade engagement with Myanmar on Monday. Biden called the violence in Myanmar „terrible“ and „absolutely outrageous.“
theguardian.com, apnews.com, cnn.com
Syria conference aims to raise billions for decade-long crisis: The international community is being asked to donate over 8 billion euros towards addressing the most critical humanitarian issues affecting Syria and neighboring countries that host its refugees. The Syria donor conference is being held virtually Monday and Tuesday, with over 50 countries represented. Painting a bleak picture of homes, hospitals, schools and water systems destroyed, and humanitarian law flouted with impunity, UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore told ambassadors that since the fighting began, violence has killed or injured a verified 12,000 children, and likely many more. The money raised at the conference is earmarked for food, medical aids and schooling for children, among other things. Fighting between Syrian army forces and rebels has subsided since a deal a year ago ended a Russian-led bombing campaign that had displaced over a million people, but Russian air strikes, along with Iranian and Syrian-backed militaries, continue to attack rebel outposts.
euronews.com, news.un.org, reuters.com
Isis claims deadly attack in northern Mozambique theguardian.com
Serbian leader blasts EU report on corruption, rule of law apnews.com
Internal investigation at the German Bundeswehr due to violation by Covid infected Colonel spiegel.de
Norway, Germany to buy six submarines from Thyssenkrupp reuters.com
Controversy between Brussels and London over vaccine german-foreign-policy.com
ZAHL DER WOCHE
According to a Civey survey on behalf of the „Tagesspiegel“ newspaper, for which 2,501 Germans were polled, 59 percent of residents in the Eastern states would agree to be vaccinated with the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, but „only“ 49 percent of residents in the Western states.
France and Germany are arguing over their shared sixth-gen fighter jet: A multi-country effort to build a shared European fighter jet is in jeopardy as Germany and France enter crisis talks to save the program. The countries are arguing over classified technology, cost sharing, and jobs surrounding their Future Combat Air System (FCAS). FCAS is a sixth-generation fighter that follows in the footsteps of previous European aircraft programs. France and Germany are deadlocked over two of seven points of cooperation, Reuters reports. One issue is intellectual property rights, with France complaining that Germany’s participating defense industry wants access to French tech—a charge Germany denies. The two countries are also apparently squabbling over dividing payments, the exact job description of the fighter, and even Germany’s lack of participation in combat operations abroad.
German court ruling on illegal arms exports to Mexico is final: Germany’s Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has upheld a 2019 lower court decision, finding that employees at German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch (H&K) knowingly falsified information as to the nature and destination of arms sold by the company in order to attain federal export licenses. In 2019, the District Court of Stuttgart ruled that two H&K employees had broken federal law by failing to declare the true destination of arms sold by the company in so-called end-use statements. Though the court found three individuals innocent in the case, it gave 17 and 22-month suspended sentences to two defendants, as well as issuing a €3.7 million fine to H&K. The new ruling upheld the lower court guilty verdicts against the two individuals as well as the fine against the company.
Study leaves doubts about NATO military mobility in Eastern Europe: A study by the Center for European Policy Analysis under the leadership of the former commander-in-chief of the US Army in Europe, Ben Hodges, arouses considerable doubts about NATO’s ability to quickly deploy troops and equipment in the Baltic states in the event of an attack. The investigation assumed a hypothetical hybrid attack by Russia on the eastern flank of NATO, which the so-called NATO spearhead, a task force of 5,000 soldiers, is supposed to counter. In all five operational scenarios played out, the study authors encountered various challenges in terms of infrastructure and political regulations that could massively hinder rapid deployment to the eastern border of the military alliance.
„If we take our own values seriously, there can be no neutrality. That doesn’t mean that we will necessarily get into a confrontation with China.“
German parliament president Wolfgang Schäuble in an interview with Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev about the challenges in an increasingly multilateral world, future cooperation with the US and Germany’s role in a US-China conflict.
Trump comeback at wedding: Former US president Donald Trump turned up at a wedding at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida over the weekend and railed against Joe Biden, China and Iran. The former president hopped on the mic at the ceremony and wasted little time in getting political. He referenced the situation at the border with Mexico and raised yet more questions about November’s presidential election, which he lost.