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Can Biden Give Zelensky What He Wants?

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. President Joe Biden meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Washington, Poland plans for a state of emergency, and Saudi Arabia intercepts a drone attack.


Biden Meets Zelensky in Washington

U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are set to meet at the White House today, after months of tense relations. Washington says the meeting is a sign of its continued commitment to Ukraine and its territorial sovereignty. But after the tumultuous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Kyiv is expected to seek greater assurances, especially on the security front. Russia deployed around 80,000 troops at the Ukrainian border in the spring, and relations between Washington and Kyiv have been strained by issues such as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Ukraine’s NATO candidacy. 

Seeking assurances. After the recent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ukraine is on edge. The biggest issue in Kyiv now is the Afghanistan military drawdown and what it means for the future of its security relationship with Washington, as Vladislav Davidzon wrote in Foreign Policy this week. The seeming abandonment of U.S. allies in Afghanistan has left Ukraine worried that it’s next. 

“America’s commitment to Ukraine’s security is in doubt given everything that has happened in past months, from the US-German NS2 agreement to the debacle in Afghanistan,” one of Zelensky’s advisors told the Financial Times. “Zelensky is going to want reassurances … that the US will not abandon Ukraine.”

Controversial pipeline. When Biden and Zelensky meet, there will be at least one sore point: the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which will transport Russian natural gas to Germany. In July, the Biden administration reached a deal with Germany that allowed the completion of the project, despite longtime opposition. 

The pipeline would circumvent a preexisting network in Ukraine, costing it billions of dollars and leaving it more vulnerable to Russian advances. Kyiv was, unsurprisingly, angered by the decision. “We’re not exaggerating when we say it’s a real security problem for Ukraine,” Yuriy Vitrenko, the CEO of Naftogaz, the Ukrainian state oil and gas giant, told Foreign Policy in July. 

Joining NATO? Another point of contention will likely be Ukraine’s NATO candidacy: Kyiv wants to join, but Washington and others have hesitated, possibly to avoid provoking Moscow. In June, when Biden was asked for a “yes or no” answer about Ukraine’s candidacy, he gave an ambiguous answer, saying corruption needed to be addressed first. 

Zelensky has said that the obscurity surrounding the issue is just “a signal to other countries that you guys are not welcome here.” As before, Biden is expected to pressure Ukraine to focus on addressing corruption, although Zelensky has resisted the criticism before. “It’s very popular to accuse Ukraine of corruption, and … I’ve always felt offended by this,” Zelensky told the Washington Post. “No country is free of corruption.” 

Previously, Zelensky has also been mired in U.S. political scandals. It was his infamous phone call in 2019 with former U.S. President Donald Trump that resulted in Trump’s impeachment


What We’re Following Today

State of emergency. Poland is planning to declare a state of emergency along its border with Belarus to restrict the entry of migrants after hundreds of asylum seekers crossed this month. The European Union has accused Minsk of orchestrating the flow of migrants to retaliate against Brussels, which imposed sanctions in June. According to the EU, Belarus encourages refugees from the Middle East to come on tourist visas before traveling on to neighboring EU countries. 

Now, desperate migrants, including some who have fled Afghanistan, are the ones paying the price. Thirty-two Afghan refugees have been trapped on a small patch of land between Poland and Belarus for nearly three weeks, without shelter, clean water, or a consistent food supply. 

Saudi airport attack. A drone attack wounded at least eight people in a civilian plane at Saudi Arabia’s Abha international airport on Monday. The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has blamed Houthi rebels for the assault—and although the group hasn’t claimed responsibility, it has targeted international airports in Saudi Arabia since 2015. One man was left in critical condition, according to Saudi forces, who also said that it was the second such strike on the airport in 24 hours.

The strike came days after one of the deadliest recent attacks in Yemen’s civil war, where drones and missiles—that Yemeni officials blamed on the Houthis—killed at least 30 Saudi-backed Yemeni troops at an important military base.


Keep an Eye On

Europe pressures Afghanistan’s neighbors. The EU is drafting a $700 million aid package to incentivize Afghanistan’s neighbors to temporarily absorb transit refugees fleeing the Taliban takeover. The decision comes after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees warned that up to half a million Afghans could flee by the end of the year. Pakistan said it has absorbed enough refugees, warning it will not take more refugees permanently, while Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan have closed their borders. 

EU ministers pledged to “prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements faced in the past” during the closing statement of a Tuesday meeting in Brussels.

Decade-high eurozone inflation. Eurozone inflation has jumped to its highest level in nearly 10 years, raising questions about whether the European Central Bank will scale back on its bond purchases and ease COVID-19 stimulus measures when the monetary union meets on Sept. 9. 

August’s consumer price increase of 3 percent from a year ago, which is higher than most economists predicted, has been affected by rising energy costs, supply chain bottlenecks, and the rebound from the pandemic—all factors that have driven up inflation worldwide, though many economists expect rates to fall next year.

China tightens its grip on LGBTQ groups. Beijing is increasingly clamping down on the LGBTQ space, echoing moves it made earlier this summer, when WeChat removed LGBTQ accounts from its platform. Now QQ, a popular Chinese messaging platform, is blocking search terms such as “gay,” “lesbian,” and “LGBTQ.” And it’s not just messaging apps: Shanghai University has reportedly asked for lists of LGBTQ+ students and reports on their “state of mind,” a move that has alarmed activists. 


Odds and Ends

Geronimo, the eight-year-old alpaca that galvanized the British public after being sentenced to death four years ago for testing positive twice for bovine tuberculosis, was executed on Tuesday after a long legal battle. Although Geronimo was granted a stay of execution in mid-August, he was ultimately removed from his Gloucestershire farm and euthanized. “I am absolutely disgusted by this government. These are barbaric actions,” said Helen Macdonald, Geronimo’s owner.

The four-year legal battle to save Geronimo resonated with the public, who notably formed a human shield to protect the alpaca. Geronimo’s dedicated supportersor “alpaca angels”also camped out on his farm to guard him, and almost 100,000 people signed a petition urging the British government to reverse the decision. 


That’s it for today.

Chloe Hadavas and Zinya Salfiti contributed reporting.

This is not a CAPTIS article. Originally, it was published here.