In Other News – China presents itself to Central America as ready economic alternative to the United States & More – 12/17/2021

December 17, 2021

Regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, Putin’s not giving up on Ukraine. While the near-term threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine has diminished significantly, Putin strongly believes Ukraine belongs in his sphere of influence and is prepared to go to extreme measures to make that a reality. Putin has demonstrated this in the past by his egregious invasion and occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and he’s hard fixed on keeping Ukraine out of NATO and preventing Washington from strengthening Ukraine’s military offensive capabilities. It is likely Putin would consider further territorial encroachments of Ukraine if he thought he could get away with it and if Ukraine was drifting out of his grasp. In the meantime, the spymaster president can be expected to try to undermine the political, economic, and military strength of Ukraine. This will remain one of his highest priorities and will be a continuing point of friction with Washington and the West.

Nicaragua cuts ties with Taiwan as China presents itself to Central America as ready economic alternative to the United States. Last week Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who was recently reelected for the fourth time in a sham election, declared that his nation will no longer recognize Taiwan. The announcement was made on the first day of the US-held Summit for Democracy, that included Taiwan not China, and comes on the heels of new US sanctions on Ortega’s aides. While Taiwan had been a relatively important trade partner for Nicaragua, Beijing has quickly signaled that it’s a ready economic alternative to the United States and its allies; just days after Ortega’s regime shunned Taipei, China reportedly rewarded Managua with one million Covid vaccines. Since 2016, Taiwan has lost support from eight nations, and Ortega’s move lowers Taiwan’s total number of diplomatic allies to 14. Notably, in addition to Nicaragua, several nations who recently flipped allegiance are in the Caribbean and Central America- including the Dominican Republic, Panama, and El Salvador. Newly elected President Castro of Honduras has also considered opening ties with China.

As France withdraws more troops from Mali, European Union sanctions Russian private military contractor Wagner Group. In a continued effort to curb Russian aggression and the nation’s associated human rights abuses abroad, this week the European Union (EU) issued sanctions on Russia-backed private military contractor Wagner Group. Eight individuals and four entities connected to Wagner were also sanctioned for their participation in “torture and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, or in destabilising activities in some of the countries they operate in, including Libya, Syria, Ukraine (Donbas) and the Central African Republic.” Putin has denied any wrongdoing and asserted that the Wagner Group is not a Russian political entity and is allowed to act on its own volition provided it doesn’t break any Russian laws.

The Wagner Group has made headlines in the past few weeks as France is withdrawing some of its longstanding troops from Mali, and interim Malian President Goita was rumored to be looking to Wagner for military support. On Wednesday, after Mali reportedly turned down an offer of additional UN peacekeepers, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Goita that a deal with Wagner would waste money and further destabilize Mali; French President Macron is expected to have a similar conversation with Goita next week. But the issue is yet another example of how Russia is taking advantage of an unstable environment to present itself as a viable alternative to the West.

For Jack’s take on how the United States can better position itself against Russia and Chinese aggression, click here for his latest op-ed: