Your Wednesday Briefing: Biden and Putin Speak on Ukraine
“This war was never a necessity, it’s a tragedy,” President Biden said in Warsaw.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Biden and President Vladimir Putin laid out radically different visions for Ukraine’s future in two speeches, just three days before the anniversary of Russia’s invasion. The only point they seemed to agree on was that the war was nowhere near over.
Hours after his brief but dramatic visit to Kyiv, Biden spoke at the Royal Castle in Warsaw on a cold, drizzly day. He vowed that the U.S. and its NATO allies would remain steadfast. “Our support for Ukraine will not waver, NATO will not be divided and we will not tire,” he said, while noting the real prospect of “hard and very bitter days” ahead.
A few hours earlier in Moscow, Putin gave a lengthy state-of-the-nation address in which he signaled that Russia was prepared to intensify the fighting. He announced that he would suspend Russia’s participation in the New START treaty, the last surviving arms control agreement between Washington and Moscow.
Blame: In his address, Putin claimed that Western nations had “started the war” in Ukraine — an assertion that Biden flatly rejected in Warsaw. “President Putin chose this war. Every day the war continues is his choice,” Biden said. He accused the Russian leader of committing atrocities on a vast scale.
A long war: Putin showed no sign that he would change course. He sidestepped Russia’s battlefield struggles and used his speech to lay out a plan for a long war to come. He promised changes to the education system, and to science and technology policy, to help Russia outlast Western sanctions. And he pledged that fighters would receive two weeks of leave every six months.
A Russian attack in Kherson killed at least six people at a bus station. Russia is also shelling northern areas to tie up Ukrainian troops who might otherwise defend against attacks in the south.
Wang Yi, China’s most senior foreign policy official, met with Putin in Moscow after a tour of Europe. The visit showed Beijing’s fragile position as it seeks to mend ties with the E.U. without alienating Russia.
Saudi Arabia’s crackdown
Authorities in the conservative Islamic kingdom are meting out harsher punishments than ever to people who criticize the government. Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the crackdown.
Take the case of Saad Almadi, a 72-year-old Saudi American living in Florida who, in 2015, criticized Mohammed bin Salman on Twitter. Seven years later, Almadi was arrested during a visit to Saudi Arabia and sentenced to 16 years in prison. After he appealed, his sentence was lengthened to 19 years.
The State of the War
- Biden Visits Kyiv: President Biden traveled covertly to the besieged Ukrainian capital, hoping to demonstrate American resolve and boost shellshocked Ukrainians. But the trip was also the first of several direct challenges to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
- Nuclear Treaty: Mr. Putin announced that Russia would suspend its participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty — the last major such agreement remaining with the United States.
- In the North: A different sort of war game is playing out in northern Ukraine, where Russian shelling is tying up thousands of Ukrainian troops that might otherwise defend against attacks farther south.
- Portending a Global Rift: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that China is strongly considering giving military aid to Russia, a move that would transform the war into a struggle involving three superpowers.
Ten years ago, Almadi’s account may have prompted a warning or an interrogation.Saudi prosecutors now argue that posts that are critical of the government, including Almadi’s, support terrorism or other views that threaten its security.
Context: Until recently, prison sentences longer than 20 years were rare in the kingdom, and Saudis with American citizenship or ties to local elites, like Almadi, would have been able to draw on connections to protect themselves. “One of the merits of Mohammed bin Salman is that he’s created equality of injustice for all,” said a Saudi lawyer who lives in exile in Germany.
The Philippines’ shift
In his nearly eight months in office, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has adopted the Philippines’ most muscular foreign policy in close to a decade. Driven by the territorial dispute that the Philippines has with Beijing, Marcos is making the Philippines the linchpin of the U.S. effort to counter China with a stronger military presence in Asia.
Last week, Marcos summoned the Chinese ambassador after a Chinese vessel directed a military-grade laser at a Philippine ship. It was the first time in years that a Philippine president had personally lodged such a protest. Marcos has granted the U.S. military access to four new defense sites and the U.S. has said it will restart joint patrols of the South China Sea, which the Philippines had suspended.
Marcos also has concerns about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan. He has said that “it’s very hard to imagine a scenario where the Philippines will not somehow get involved.” The Times reports that three of the new sites soon opening to the U.S. military face Taiwan — and one is bordering the South China Sea. Manila could grant the U.S. access to additional sites in the coming months, despite anger from China.
Subic Bay: The Philippines ordered the U.S. in 1991 to leave its naval base there, then its largest overseas, but the U.S. may be invited back.
THE LATEST NEWS
North Korea’s underground nuclear tests may have contaminated groundwater, a human rights group based in Seoul said.
BYD, the Chinese automaker that sells the most electric vehicles in the world, has begun offering three of its models in Germany.
The case of a U.S. Navy officer imprisoned in Japan for causing a deadly traffic accident has caused friction between the two allies.
Around the World
A powerful new quake has complicated the task of already exhausted rescuers in Turkey.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about whether social media companies are liable for what their users post.
Israel is unlikely to extradite a former Mexican official accused of orchestrating a cover-up of the disappearance of 43 students in 2014.
United Airlines and other companies started a $100 million venture capital fund to invest in sustainable aviation fuel.
A Morning Read
New editions of Roald Dahl’s books, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” have been rewritten to cut potentially offensive language. The changes prompted widespread criticism from prominent literary figures and others, including Salman Rushdie.
ARTS AND IDEAS
When Morioka, Japan, was featured on our annual 52 Places to Go travel list, the choice became national news. Our writer Craig Mod was interviewed by journalists from nearly 20 Japanese media outlets. They asked: Why Morioka? It’s just another midsize city. What’s the fuss?
After returning to Morioka for a visit, Craig wrote about his controversial travel recommendation. (He’s now something of a local celebrity there.)
“I’ve become sensitive to cities and towns with strong socioeconomic foundations that elevate their residents, enabling them to live rich, full and creative lives,” Craig wrote. “Cities that feel — to distill it to a single word — healthy.”
Morioka, which is just a few hours north of Tokyo by high-speed rail, offers a combination of kindness, cuisine, walkability and history. And young people come back to take over their parents’ businesses. “Morioka enables its residents to thrive,” Craig wrote.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Tamarind cream pie is bright and bittersweet.
What to Read
“Trust the Plan” tracks the rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
What to Watch
The Australian drama “Lonesome” depicts characters who feel most comfortable communicating through sex.
Every woman should strengthen her pelvic floor.
Now Time to Play
Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Add fancy decorations to (five letters).
Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia
P.S. Jonathan Knight, The Times’s head of games, talked to VentureBeat about Wordle, the Spelling Bee, the crossword and all the other fun stuff.
“The Daily” is about Chinese companies making products in Mexico.
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