🌍 Impasse on Capitol Hill throws US support for Ukraine into doubt

Plus: Lenin's fake passport for Finland

Hi Intriguer. We’ve already had eight key elections this year, and Pakistanis are currently voting right now as this is hitting your inbox.

But one election looms larger than all the rest, and its influence is already being felt far from US shores. Today’s briefing unpicks the US Senate’s rejection of military aid to Ukraine yesterday and the effect it might have on the battlefield.

When ‘consuming’ US politics, I find a dash of humour helps the medicine go down, which is why I’m reminded of the late Senator John McCain’s observation that, in the US Senate, "it's always darkest before it goes totally black”.

Hey, black humour is still humour.

- John Fowler, Co-Founder

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TODAY’S NEWS

Pakistan votes. Voting is now underway in Pakistan with few doubts about who’ll emerge on top (three-time former PM, Nawaz Sharif). Authorities have suspended mobile phone services across the country for election day, citing a “recent surge in terrorist incidents”.

Israel rejects Hamas deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the proposal, which included the release of hostages in exchange for a four-and-a-half-month truce and a plan to permanently halt hostilities, “delusional”. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who’s in the region seeking a breakthrough, is confident there’s still “space to continue to pursue an agreement”. Meanwhile, Netanyahu ordered his troops to prepare to expand their operation to Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where a million Palestinians have taken refuge.

US kills Iran-backed group leader in strike. A US drone strike killed a senior commander of Kataib Hezbollah in Baghdad yesterday. The US believes he was responsible for the attack that killed three US troops in Jordan last month.

White House leaves top Asia job unfilled. The Biden administration has opted not to replace its top Asia official in the White House, Kurt Campbell, after he was confirmed on Tuesday as deputy secretary of state. The decision to leave his White House role vacant has reportedly caused concern among some US allies seeking more US presence in the region to counter China.

Azerbaijan leader cruises to re-election. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has won a fifth term in office with 92% of the vote. The result is no surprise given his control over the media, an opposition boycott, and his success in capturing the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh (where he cast his vote) from Armenia last year.

World breaches new 1.5°C threshold. Global temperature rises breached the world’s 1.5°C limit for an entire year in 2023 for the first time ever, according to the EU’s climate service. World leaders set the 1.5°C goal in 2015.

TOP STORY

Impasse on Capitol Hill throws US support for Ukraine into doubt

Image credits: AP, NBC News, Getty Images.

The US Senate yesterday rejected sprawling legislation that would have sent military aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. The senators who voted against the bill largely did so for domestic political reasons.

Many lawmakers say they still want to send the aid, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated he’ll introduce a more streamlined bill worth $95B that would include:

  • $60B in military aid for Ukraine

  • $14.1B in security assistance for Israel

  • $9.15B for humanitarian purposes

  • $2.44B to support US military operations in the Red Sea, and

  • $4.83B for US allies in the Pacific "to deter aggression by the Chinese government".

Punchbowl News reported yesterday that a ‘clean’ foreign aid bill might get enough support to pass the Senate, and there’s also a potential path forward in the House of Representatives.

That sounds like a whole lot of equivocating, but in a presidential election year, that’s about as much certainty as we’re likely to get.

Meanwhile, Europe says it will step up its support for Ukraine

Last year, the EU promised to send one million shells to Ukraine by March 2024. As of late 2023, it had provided only ~330,000. The EU is expected to deliver only about half of the originally promised shells by next month’s deadline.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell blamed the EU's slow deliveries on supply chain problems and an overall lack of investment in defence manufacturing due to complacency during the relatively peaceful post-Cold War years.

Nevertheless, Borrell yesterday committed the EU to giving Ukraine 1,155,000 artillery shells by the end of 2024.

The EU also agreed last week to send Ukraine $54B of budgetary help (which is separate from military aid).

What does all this mean for Ukraine?

The New York Times reported that the Ukrainian army is now “critically short of ammunition” as “mortar crews are forced to ration artillery shells” as they are “almost exclusively engaged in defensive operations”. While the war remains a stalemate, Russia is doing most of the attacking.

Further afield, a video released Monday shows Ukrainian special forces fighting Russia-aligned mercenaries in the Sudanese civil war. The troops’ presence so far from home is likely part of Ukraine’s strategy of using relatively ‘cheap’ special operations to score propaganda victories and demonstrate that its forces can hit Russia anytime, anywhere.

Back in Kyiv, a bill to draft as many as 500,000 troops is under debate in the Ukrainian Parliament and President Zelensky is said to be considering a major shake-up of government officials.

There’s also speculation that the Ukrainian Ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, will be elevated to a senior position in Kyiv thanks to her close ties with the Biden administration.

INTRIGUE’S TAKE

Seen in the cold light of geopolitical day, sending military support to Ukraine has helped the West stress test its war machine.

For example, most of the $60B in Schumer’s proposed bill won’t leave the US - it’ll go to the Pentagon to buy brand new weapons from US defence manufacturers to refill the older stock that has been sent to Ukraine.

And one imagines European defence strategists are thankful that their military manufacturing and supply chain issues have come to light now in Eastern Ukraine rather than later and much closer to home.

Of course, none of that is any comfort to Ukraine as it stares down the barrel of Russia’s invasion entering its third year.

Also worth noting:

  • The Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Amir Ohana, is in D.C. taking meetings on Capitol Hill this week. The Israeli Embassy will no doubt be furnishing him with talking points to persuade US lawmakers to pass the military aid bill.

  • EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell took refuge in a bomb shelter in Kyiv on Wednesday morning as Russian drone and missile strikes killed five and injured at least 50.

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MEANWHILE, ELSEWHERE…

  1. 🇵🇰 Pakistan: Two bombs targeting political offices killed over 25 people in Pakistan on the eve of the country’s general election yesterday. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. 

  2. 🇷🇺 Russia: Controversial former Fox News host Tucker Carlson has travelled to Russia to sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview due to air as soon as today (Thursday). It’s the first interview the Russian president has given Western media since the beginning of the war.

  3. 🇹🇭 Thailand: The Thai government and Muslim separatists have held a first round of peace talks in Malaysia and agreed to a roadmap to end a decades-long insurgency in southern Thailand. Almost 7,000 people have died since 2004, but negotiations made little headway until recently. 

  4. 🇬🇹 Guatemala: Guatemala, a traditional partner of Taiwan, is considering reaching out to establish formal trade ties with China, according to the Central American country’s new foreign minister. But Guatemala also wants to maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, an idea Beijing would presumably reject.

  5. 🇹🇷 Turkey: Turkish defence company Baykar has begun building a drone-producing plant in Ukraine. The weapons manufacturer, which has become a key supplier to the Ukrainian army, expects the plant to produce around 120 drones annually.  

EXTRA INTRIGUE

Here’s what people around the world googled yesterday 

  • 🇯🇵 Users in Japan looked up ‘ブルースカイ’ (BlueSky) after the X/Twitter rival social media service opened sign-ups to the broader public. 

  • 🇮🇳 Accounting students in India googled ‘ICAI’ to check their test results with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.  

  • 🇩🇰 And Danes searched for the latest at ‘Ørsted’ after the Danish offshore wind company announced it was slashing renewable targets and cutting 800 jobs.

PASSPORT OF THE DAY

Credits: Wikipedia.

Given many of you loved our previous fake passport segment, we’re back with another one! 

Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin used a counterfeit ID card to escape to Finland in 1917 to evade a warrant for his arrest issued a few months prior by the provisional government.

In the forged documents, Lenin is identified as Konstantin Petrovich Ivanov, a worker of the Sestroretsk Armory. You’ll note that Lenin is without his iconic moustache and goatee and appears to be wearing a wig. Are Intriguers for or against the more clean-cut revolutionary look?

DAILY POLL

Do you think Europe will fill the gap if Washington fails to send more military aid to Ukraine?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Yesterday’s poll: Which of the following sectors would cause the most chaos if it went on strike?

🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🌾 Agriculture (13%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🚚 Transport (27%)

🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🚽 Sanitation (14%)

🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️ ☎️ Telecomms (18%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 👷 Construction (1%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🎖️ Security (5%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 💸 Finance (8%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 📖 Education (1%)

🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🏥 Health (11%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (2%)

Your two cents:

  • 🚚 M: “In a digital world people forget about the importance of transport. Food doesn't arrive in megacities by wi-fi.”

  • 🚽 S.H: “A long enough strike of sanitation workers would bring the streets of cities back to the middle ages.”

  • 🏥 K.S.R: “The global pandemic gave us the answer to this. We know we can survive with everything near grinding to a halt…except the health services.”

  • ☎️ C.Y: “Any of these industries on a mass strike would be chaos, but if we couldn't get in touch with each other to discuss it, I can't even begin to imagine...”

  • ✍️ T.J.W: “Energy sector … natural gas, LPG, gasoline, diesel, electricity production and distribution. Without power, the wheels of everyday living and business stop.”

Join the conversation

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