Biden Visits Poland

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming speech in Warsaw, Israel’s latest move toward judiciary overhaul, and the postponement of a Brexit deal.

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Biden to Speak in Warsaw

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming speech in Warsaw, Israel’s latest move toward judiciary overhaul, and the postponement of a Brexit deal.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

U.S. President Joe Biden, following a surprise trip to Kyiv in which he pledged continued American support for Ukraine’s effort in its war against Russia, returned to Poland, where he is set to speak today.

Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and then speak from Warsaw Castle.

“I have no doubt that the visit of President Biden in Poland and his address in Warsaw will be of world dimension,” Duda said over the weekend.

“I think it’s safe to say that as well, that he’s likely to talk about the road that we’ve traveled together over the last year, where we are today and, as I said, our enduring commitment to Ukraine’s success, which is all of our success,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

Those tuning in from Poland or elsewhere in Central Eastern Europe will be paying particular attention, listening for two “big deliverables,” Roger Hilton, defense researcher at GLOBSEC, a Bratislava-based think tank, wrote in an email to Foreign Policy. “First, for Washington’s military and financial aid to Kyiv to remain ironclad, even if delivery is slow and a minority of voices in Congress push to reduce.” A year into Russia’s war in Ukraine, Kyiv’s European allies still follow Washington’s lead.

“Second…Biden should provide unambiguous statements about America’s position vis-à-vis NATO’s Eastern Flank and what would happen should Russia challenge the region—that it would be met with an overwhelming American military response in concert with political leadership,” Hilton wrote.

Some of Biden’s political opponents have downplayed the threat Russia poses to NATO’s eastern members. “The fear of Russia going into NATO countries and all that and steamrolling, you know, that has not even come close to happening,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whom some expect to run in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, said Monday.

In a sort of parallel diplomatic reality, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his state of the nation address today, doubling down on his version of history and claiming “I would like to repeat, they started the war, and we used force in order to stop it.” He is slated to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi this week.

Wang just wrapped up a tour of Europe, which included speaking at the Munich Security Conference, where he said, of Russia’s war in Ukraine, “We do not add fuel to the fire, and we’re against reaping benefits from this crisis,” a swipe at the United States which has warned China against supplying weapons to Russia.

What We’re Following Today 

Israel passes first reading of bills reforming judiciary. Following weeks of protests and while being heckled, the Israeli Knesset passed the first reading of two amendments that will go toward overhauling the country’s judiciary. Justice Minister Yariv Levin claimed the legislation would “restore democracy in Israel and bring it in line with other Western countries.” The first part of the overhaul, and the part that passed Monday, will allow the coalition to stack the judicial appointment committee and will prevent the Supreme Court from striking down “basic laws.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid called it the first step toward Israel becoming a non-democratic state. Arab Knesset member Ahmad Tibi said that, though Israel’s courts—including the Supreme Court—show “no mercy to the Arab community,” he opposes the changes, which will “collapse the judiciary.”

Post-Brexit deal unlikely this week. Hopes that a deal on Northern Ireland might be reached this week between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the European Union appear to be slipping away. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has said that a deal to which they do not agree will mean the party will continue to boycott Northern Ireland’s assembly, and members of Sunak’s own Conservative party say that DUP backing is key for a deal. Meanwhile, British Home Secretary Suella Braverman reportedly urged Sunak not to abandon legislation to unilaterally override the Northern Ireland protocol. Former Prime Minister British Johnson is also reportedly concerned that Sunak would drop this particular element.

Keep an Eye On

Cyclone cost climbs in New Zealand. A week after Cyclone Gabrielle hit New Zealand, thousands remain missing and 11 people are confirmed dead. Chris Hipkins, New Zealand’s prime minister, called the storm, which hit the country’s north, this century’s greatest natural disaster. Hipkins has told the press that more fatalities are sadly still possible, saying, “The true extent of the devastation and loss become clearer with every passing day.”

Bangladesh shuts major opposition newspaper. Bangladesh’s main opposition party’s only publication has been shut down after a government suspension was upheld. The decision marks the end of Bengali-language broadsheet Dainik Dinkal’s three decade run. Dhaka district authorities ordered it to stop publishing in late December. A court has now upheld that decision. Unions and journalists protested the shutdown.

Can Russia Ever Become a ‘Normal’ European Nation? by Adrian Karatnycky

U.S. Deterrence Failed in Ukraine by Liam Collins and Frank Sobchak

What Putin Got Right by Stephen M. Walt

Poroshenko prank. Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, better known as Vovan and Lexus, pranked former German Chancellor Angela Merkel by calling her up and pretending to be former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Merkel’s office said that, after the call on Jan. 12, she informed Germany’s foreign ministry of the “impression that she gained of the caller during the call,” but her office did not specify what impression that was.

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