Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 01/23/2023

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter January 17 – January 22, 2023 GERMANY RELENTS ON APPROVING LEOPARD TANKS FOR UKRAINE After weeks

RADAR SWEEP

Geopolitics Newsletter January 17 – January 22, 2023

GERMANY RELENTS ON APPROVING LEOPARD TANKS FOR UKRAINE

After weeks of pressure from the US, Ukraine and other European allies, German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has clarified that the German government would not oppose Poland sending German-manufactured Leopard tanks to Ukraine if Poland requests such authorization. The German constitution requires the German government’s authorization for such delivery to Ukraine. It comes after repeated refusals to guarantee such unconditional approval in recent weeks. The latest refusal came on January 20 when new German defense minister, Boris Pistorius, declined to give such a commitment at a meeting of allied foreign ministers at Ramstein Airbase in Germany on Friday.

Earlier in the week, Scholz’s administration signaled it would be willing to approve the release if the US also sent its M1 Abrams tanks. This was met with consternation from Washington given the significant logistical and supply chain support required for the Abrams. Furthermore, Poland had signaled it may consider ignoring Germany and sending their Leopard tanks anyway.

The release of the Leopard tanks potentially marks an important turning point in the war in Ukraine. There are 2,000 Leopard tanks in operation throughout Europe. Ukraine says it needs 300 of them. Combined with the nearly 600 other armored military vehicles and sophisticated weaponry pledged to be sent to Ukraine in the past month, the Ukrainian army would see a significant improvement in their operational capability to retake occupied land.  Read more

Germany Ukraine US

Defense Minister of Germany Boris Pistorius meets his US and Ukraine counterparts at Ramstein – Photo: ABC News

Indo-Pacific

Protests over inflation and high costs of living commenced in Pakistan – Jan. 16

Ousted former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) held protests in Punjab province this week in response to Pakistan’s heightening inflation concerns. The rolling protests held in different towns since December 31 aims to eventually force a no-confidence vote in the ruling coalition government. Read more

North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly convened – Jan. 17

Discussions in North Korea’s annual rubberstamp parliament focused on national budgets and the nuclear agenda, as the Assembly legalized nuclear pre-emptive ballistic strikes in the last session. Read more

Chinese ministerial delegation concluded visit to Sri Lanka – Jan. 18

Led by International Department Vice-Minister Chen Zhou, the five-day visit centered on assisting Sri Lanka to restructure its debts. However, Beijing has been reluctant to write down debt lest it set a precedent for other debtors to China’s Belt and Road projects around the world. Read more

Indian foreign minister visited Sri Lanka – Jan. 19

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and India’s economic assistance to Sri Lanka’s government as it attempts to recover from last year’s debt crisis. Colombo is desperate to restructure its debt obligations to international creditors such as India, but the visit also serves India’s geostrategic goals of limiting Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean region.  Read more

Diplomacy

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang completed a five-nation Africa tour – Jan. 16

The successor to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, newly appointed Foreign Minister Qin Gang, began his tenure by meeting with counterparts in Angola, Benin, Egypt, Ethiopia and Gabon.  Qin’s trip focused on two parts of China’s Belt & Road Initiative—the construction of infrastructure in East Africa on the one hand and Egypt’s debt to China on the other.  Read more

Ukrainian allies met in Ramstein, Germany – Jan. 20

Defense ministers from Ukraine’s allies met at Ramstein Airbase to discuss the latest weapons assistance for Ukraine. Defensive weapons systems and armored vehicles were agreed to but no consensus was reached on main battle tanks—specifically German-manufactured Leopard tanks. Read more

World Economic Forum concluded in Davos, Switzerland – Jan. 20

The week-long annual conference—drawing 2,000 governmental and non-governmental delegates together from around the world—deliberated over the global cost of living crisis, the ongoing effects of COVID-19, climate change and the war in Ukraine.  Read more

French and German leaders met in Paris – Jan. 22

French President Emmanuel Macron and German counterpart Olaf Scholz led a joint cabinet meeting of senior ministers from both governments. Disagreements between Paris and Berlin over energy, defense and the war in Ukraine have strained Franco-German relations in recent years. However, both capitals share common ground in their opposition to US energy subsidies which would disadvantage EU energy investment. Read more

National Security

NATO deployed AWACs surveillance planes to Romania – Jan. 17

The military alliance has stepped up military deployments over Eastern Europe to reassure NATO members in the region following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The choice of Romania—which shares a border with Ukraine’s occupied southern regions—suggests NATO is ramping up its intelligence-sharing operations with Ukraine’s military. Read more

Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu visited US – Jan. 17

Mevlut Cavusoglu´s visit largely centered on the pending NATO membership bids of Finland and Sweden as well as the potential sale of US F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. Ankara’s continuing opposition to the Scandanavian bids is increasingly imperiling the F-16 deal. Read more

Second Russian mobilization in the pipeline – Jan. 20

Experts believe an upcoming speech by Russian leader Vladimir Putin commemorating the Soviet victory during the World War II siege of Leningrad will outline a second mobilization drive for the invasion of Ukraine. Last year’s first mobilization drive was met with widespread protests and the emigration of military-age men. Read more

Kurds in Sweden, supporters protested further NATO concessions to Turkey – Jan. 21

In response to Turkey’s demands for x. in exchange for Ankara’s support for Sweden’s NATO membership, the Swedish government has steadily agreed to a more hardline stance towards the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)—a group that Turkey deems a terrorist organization. However, Stockholm has stopped short of agreeing to crack down on anti-Turkish protests. Read more

Society

China’s population decreased for the first time in 60 years – Jan. 17

Beijing this week announced the population decreased by 850,000 last year. Trends pointed to declining population growth in recent decades since the late 1970s with the one-child policy. Slowing population growth has also resulted in societal changes as men outnumber women and a growing elderly population. Read more [External]

Sierra Leone passed legislation reserving 30% of jobs for women – Jan. 21

The law also ringfences a proportion of senior managerial jobs for women, establishes 14-week maternity leave and codifies equal access to bank credit and training opportunities. President Julius Maada Bio’s government instituted the law as a response to widespread discrimination against women in the workforce. Read more [External]

Politics

French labor unions protested President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms – Jan. 19

A key plank of Macron’s economic reforms in his second term, the proposals to raise the pension age from 62 to 64 years of age has been met with vociferous opposition from labor unions as well as a broad spectrum of political opposition in the National Assembly. Read more

Guatemala announced 2023 general election dates – Jan. 19

The Central American country scheduled legislative elections for June 25. Corruption and voter intimidation have marred previous elections, as organized crime remains pervasive in Guatemalan politics.  Read more

Successor to New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern chosen – Jan. 22

Christopher Hipkins, known in New Zealand as the minister in charge of Jacinda Ardern’s successful COVID-19 response, was confirmed as the country’s new prime minister this week. He replaces globally revered but domestically polarizing Ardern who unexpectedly resigned three days earlier. Read more

THE WEEK AHEAD

Tunisia to put 13 judges on trial on terrorism-related charges – Jan. 24

Defense lawyers and human rights advocates argue that the charges are politically motivated as part of a wider crackdown on political opposition by President Kais Saied. Read more [External]

New Zealand’s new Prime Minister, Christopher Hipkins, to be sworn into office – Jan. 25

Also to be sworn in will be new Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni, the first New Zealander of Pacific Islander heritage to attain such high political office Read more [External]

Australia to commemorate controversial National Australia Day – Jan. 26

The day that marks the start of British colonization of Australia is opposed by indigenous people as celebrating a controversial and ‘genocidal’ colonial past. Read more [External]

 

Contributions by: John Milo, Joseph Egidio