Neutral Austria Faces International Criticism

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Austrian neutrality, arrests over construction in Turkey, and the U.S. shoots down another flying object.

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Vienna Issues OSCE Visas for Sanctioned Russian Officials 

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Austrian neutrality, arrests over construction in Turkey, and the U.S. shoots down another flying object.

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

Vienna Issues OSCE Visas for Sanctioned Russian Officials 

Austria has come under criticism after it issued visas to sanctioned Russian officials so that they could attend a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna.

Austria has condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine but has nevertheless tried to maintain diplomatic relations and remains committed to military neutrality, which it officially adopted in 1955. In April of last year, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer became the first (and, to date, only) European leader to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in person since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Russia plans to send 15 Russian lawmakers currently under European sanctions to the OSCE meeting, which will be held on Feb. 23 and 24—the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Associated Press reported that 81 OSCE delegates from 20 countries sent a letter calling on Austria to ban the sanctioned Russians from participating.

“It is important to remember that Russian parliamentarians are an integral part of the power system and complicit in the crimes Russia commits every day in Ukraine. They have no place in an institution tasked with promoting sincere dialogue and opposition to the war,” the letter read.

Public support for Austrian neutrality remains strong. Still, even before the war, the closeness of some Austrian officials to Russia raised eyebrows: Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited to then-Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl’s 2018 wedding; Kneissl was later nominated to the board of directors at Russian oil giant Rosneft (she resigned in May). Her far-right FPÖ party also came under scrutiny for its ties to Russia. And Austria has been more reluctant than other countries to expel Russian diplomats, though it has expelled nine since 2020, including four earlier this year.

Monday, Feb. 13: Wendy Sherman, U.S. deputy secretary of state, hosts a trilateral meeting between the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

Tuesday, Feb. 14: The U.N. Security Council debates the security risks of sea level rise.

Wednesday, Feb. 15: The European Parliament debates Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Thursday, Feb. 16: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Friday, Feb. 17: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks on opening day of the Munich Security Conference.

What We’re Following Today 

Turkey issues 113 arrest warrants. Officials in Turkey say that they have issued 113 arrest warrants connected to the construction of buildings that collapsed last week when a deadly earthquake hit the country. At least 12, including contractors, have already been taken into custody. However, some believe that these and other anticipated arrests are a diversion and an attempt to shift blame away from the government, which for years, its critics say, ignored warnings that buildings were unsafe because of corruption, meaning that devastation from the earthquake was worse than it needed to be.

On a visit to the disaster zone, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan said, “It’s part of destiny’s plan,” which will hardly placate those who have pointed to government policies that encouraged construction above safety. As Gonul Tol argued in FP, “Powerful earthquakes kill people, but they are more deadly in countries like Turkey, where building regulations aren’t enforced, unqualified loyalists fill key positions, independent state institutions do not exist, civil society organizations have been wiped out, and the interests of a corrupt few are prioritized above all else.”

Poland hesitates on sending F-16s to Ukraine. Polish President Andrzej Duda told the BBC that sending F-16s to Ukraine would be a “very serious decision,” and one “not easy to take.” Poland has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, and pledged last month to send tanks and more equipment. But though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is now requesting planes, Duda said sending the planes would be a “serious problem” for Poland, as there are fewer than 50 F-16s in the Polish air force. He also added that it would not be enough to send only a few planes, as they have a “very serious need for maintenance.”

Keep an Eye On

U.S. shoots down another flying object. The United States shot down an octagonal object flying over Michigan and Lake Huron on Sunday afternoon—the fourth flying object downed over U.S. and Canadian airspace in just over a week; after the well-known Chinese balloon was downed off the coast of South Carolina, two others were shot down over Canada’s Yukon Territory and off Alaska’s north coast, respectively.

The aerial object had drifted over Montana but radar operators lost track of it there. It was relocated over Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan flying at 20,000 feet—posing a potential risk to commercial flights. It was taken down by a Sidewinder missile fired from an F-16.

Arab leaders issue warning to Israel. Leaders and senior officials from Arab and Islamic countries have warned on Sunday that violence in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank threatens regional stability. They were convening in Cairo at a meeting hosted by the Arab League. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in attendance. Speakers denounced what they described as “unilateral measures” carried out by Israel. So far this year, 45 Palestinians and 10 Israelis have been killed, according to the Associated Press.

Also on Sunday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, in a rare address, issued a warning of his own: he described his country as being “on the verge of constitutional and social collapse.” He said he was seeking a “broad agreement” in lieu of the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary, and that the family of a recent victim of violence asked him to do “everything to stop the madness.”

India opens the first stage of its longest expressway. India inaugurated the beginning stage of its longest expressway, a project worth $13 billion that is part of a broader infrastructure push that is intended to make the country more competitive with China. The expressway, when completed, will connect New Delhi and Mumbai, go a distance of 861 miles, and should halve the driving distance between the two, reducing it to about 12 hours.

Ukrainian Women’s Looks Are None of Your Business by Oleksandra Povoroznyk 

How Corruption and Misrule Made Turkey’s Earthquake Deadlier by Gonul Tol

It’s High Time to Decolonize Western Russia Studies by Artem Shaipov and Yuliia Shaipova

Yes, chef. Customers at a restaurant in Zagreb, Croatia can order as many as 70 dishes prepared in a single pot by a robot chef. The owners of BOTS & POTS Sci Fi bistro believe theirs is the only restaurant where one-pot meals are prepared entirely by robots (save for being loaded with ingredients, which is done by humans).

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