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Asia’s New Geopolitics: Essays on Reshaping the Indo-Pacific

Asia’s New Geopolitics: Essays on Reshaping the Indo-Pacific

  • Charles Edel
  • January 19, 2021

Several years ago, a Chinese general remarked to me that “unlike the United States, we think in grand strategic terms. We think about how things are connected, and we see more than two issues at a time.” While it was unclear if this comment was offered as an observation, boast, or rebuke, the message was clear: Beijing’s confidence in its strategy was high, its perception of American statecraft was dim, and those views derived from a fundamental belief that the United States was hobbled by a myopic outlook, while the People’s Republic of China benefitted from its long-term and broad-ranging perspective.

At a moment when China’s increasingly aggressive policies have generated widespread concern in and beyond Asia, the wisdom of Beijing’s grand strategy certainly seems up for debate. But, as Michael Auslin emphasizes in his insightful collection of essays,  Asia’s New Geopolitics , U.S. strategy is often hobbled by its inability to grasp the totality of China’s actions and its failure to treat the Indo-Pacific region as an integrated theater.

Consider the South China Sea. Auslin writes that the “intense interest in the South China Sea, however justified, occluded a larger picture of the strategic environment in East Asia, even as it revealed fears about America’s position within it.” For Auslin, America’s constricted view of the forces at work in Asia is a perennial challenge because Washington, he writes, “appears to prefer focusing, or is able to focus, on only one sub-region at a time.”

This collection of essays is his attempt to correct that partial view by painting on a larger canvas. Auslin, a historian and Asia specialist at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, does so by enumerating the growing number of regional players, highlighting the connections between Asia’s different sub-regions, examining the trends most likely to affect the region’s future, and providing conceptual frameworks to understand regional dynamics.

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Book Q&A: Michael R. Auslin On Asia’s New Geopolitics: Essays On Reshaping The Indo-Pacific

In this interview, Michael R. Auslin, Payson R. Treat Distinguished Research Fellow in Contemporary Asia, discusses his newly released book by Hoover Institution Press, Asia’s New Geopolitics: Essays on Reshaping the Indo-Pacific. Auslin describes the geopolitical importance of Asia’s inner seas, and how the Indo-Pacific region is impacted by China’s ambitions, US force posture, North Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons, the Sino-Japanese competition, and India’s struggles as the world’s largest democracy.


by Jonathan Movroydis

In this interview,  Michael Auslin , Payson R. Treat Distinguished Research Fellow in Contemporary Asia, discusses his newly released book by Hoover Institution Press,  Asia’s New Geopolitics: Essays on Reshaping the Indo-Pacific .

Auslin describes the geopolitical importance of Asia’s inner seas and how the Indo-Pacific region is impacted by China’s ambitions, US force posture, North Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons, the Sino-Japanese competition, and India’s struggles as the world’s largest democracy.

What are the origins of this book project?

At the end of the Cold War, the United States believed that geopolitics was over, because it assumed Asia, particularly China, would follow a developmental path that we had seen with Japan, Korea and Taiwan. We believed that as Asian nations modernized and became economically and politically integrated with the rest of the world, they would then adopt many of the norms that the United States had established in the post–World War II era, including adherence to international law, free trade, and more open societies.

We also assumed that ideology was dead and that the Western liberal capitalist model had triumphed. Any country subject to a regime short of a complete totalitarian dictatorship like North Korea would eventually figure out that liberalization would benefit their intelligentsia. Thus, economically productive sectors would push their societies on a road toward joining a new world order defined by rules, cooperation, and respect for international organizations. 

The reality was that as the region grew richer and more integrated with the world, it also saw increased competition over resources and territory, ideological conflict, espionage, and intimidation of smaller countries by larger ones.

Asian countries haven’t yet figured out a way to peacefully coexist. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), for its part, has not figured out a way to coexist cooperatively with the world. I covered a lot of this topic in my last book,  The End of the Asian Century  (2017). In  Asia’s New Geopolitics,  I wanted to write a series of essays that would explore different aspects of this geopolitical competition.

What key factors define Asia’s “new” geopolitics?

We call the approach nation-states adopt toward their physical environment  geostrategy . It is a clunky term, but I think it is important to make the distinction with the term  geopolitics , which helps us understand the geographical distribution of power, and the connection between a country’s foreign policy and its economics and geography. A nation adopts a geostrategy that responds to the geopolitics of a region. An example would be China’s plans to become dominant in the South China Sea at the expense of countries situated in those waters.

The United States ignored the reality of geopolitics and thus failed to have a geostrategy at the end of the Cold War. We believed our model was so self-evidently superior that everyone would inevitably adopt it. The US felt that it didn’t need to engage in traditional competition with other nations.

The US also modernized its military through the reliance of computer networks, GPS, and unmanned systems, and thus increased the lethality of forces while it reduced its geographical presence, assuming that the so-called “revolution in military affairs” meant that we could project power anywhere on the globe we wanted at any time.

Economic globalization is also an important factor to how the United States changed its engagement with Asia. It is hard for us to remember a period when goods and capital did not seamlessly flow across borders. Until a third of a century ago, most US companies did not offshore their manufacturing. So, again, we lost a sense of geography, because suddenly everything we needed magically appeared in stores and we never saw the back end of that process.

Finally, we thought that the world would never again be separated into blocs, as it was during the Cold War, when the US led the West and the Soviet Union led the East. All countries would now meet in international fora like the United Nations or the World Economic Forum to solve the world’s problems. Even the European Union, which is by definition a regional political and economic union, largely ignored the concept of the nation-state and geographical boundaries.  For all these reasons, we discounted geopolitics.

Can you explain what you mean by a term you use in the book, “Asiatic Mediterranean?”

During the 1940s, in the midst of the Cold War, there was a school of thought represented by geopolitical thinkers such as Nicholas John Spykman and Walter Lippmann that was very sensitive to the question of geography, especially before the era of mass international air transport. Spykman tried to revise the “heartland theory,” articulated at the beginning of the twentieth century by Halford Mackinder, which held that whoever controls the “heartland,” which he basically described as the Asiatic and Russian steppe, controls the “world Island,” and whoever controls the world Island controls the world.

Spykman looked at what he called the crucial role played by the “inner seas.” When you look at the history of the world, most political and economic activity has occurred in the areas around the inner seas such as the English Channel or the Mediterranean Sea. Spykman expanded that concept to Asia and postulated that Asia's inner seas (what Spykman also called “marginal seas”) need to be included as well. Rather than focusing on the Indian and Pacific Oceans, we should instead consider the Sea of Japan, the East Sea, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea. He looked at these seas from the standpoint of forming one continuous geographic maritime region and referred to it as the “Asiatic Mediterranean.” Historically, this is where most of Asia’s political and economic activity has taken place. It’s where war has broken out. This area is densely populated, because people generally live in close proximity to water.

In order to think about Asia properly, we must think about the “Asiatic Mediterranean.” The first chapter of the book revives that concept and focuses on China’s behavior in this space. China also sees this group of inner seas as an integrated region. Evidently, this is where China has deployed most of its forces and seeks to establish control. If it controls this region, specifically the boundaries of the first and second island chains, then it controls Asia.

What are China’s ambitions?

It is a great question. It is very clear that the CCP seeks to make China the dominant country in Asia. I think there is a lot of evidence that it seeks to become the dominant country in the world. But it wants to delegitimize liberal and democratic norms around the world, making the world safe for the CCP’s brand of authoritarianism.

Beijing believes that its economy was the strongest and most innovative in the world up until the coronavirus pandemic that began in Wuhan. PRC [People’s Republic of China] leaders are confident in saying that global trade routes, technology transfer, and the like should all be centered around China. They came up with programs that reflect these ambitions, including the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and “Made in China 2025.” Beijing has expanded its military capabilities throughout the Eurasian sphere and deep into the Pacific Ocean. It has even reached the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, not to mention Africa and Latin America. It has a global strategy, centered on expanding its political influence and developing new trade networks, buttressed by an increasingly globally capable military.

China has also become dominant in international organizations such as the United Nations, the East Asian summit, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, among others. Over the past two decades, China has also made every effort to effectively compete with and eclipse the United States, using whatever means it can, fair or (very often) foul. It has engaged in cyber hacking, traditional espionage, and direct intimidation of America and its allies. All of these actions are justified, China’s leadership believes, because they are setting their country free from the shackles of the post-1945 world. The irony, of course, is that the post-1945 world has benefited China more than almost any other country, the United States included.

The benefits China reaped after integration into the global community by the late 1970s have been nearly unimaginable. Despite these benefits, China has appeared to act as though it were unfair that the United States acts as sole superpower and influencer. Supplanting the existing international system, or at least coopting it, and the United States’ position within it, has become increasingly a goal of China.  At the same time, Beijing tries to assure the US that a relationship based on terms that recognize China as a dominant actor benefits everyone.

Beijing is above all intent on protecting the position of the Communist Party at the pinnacle of society. A weak China means a weak party. A strong China means a strong party. In many ways, all of China’s international activities, whether to become dominant in Asia or dominant in the world have actually been designed to ensure the survival of the Communist Party.

How does North Korea feature in the geopolitical space in which China and the United States are competing?

The United States has to worry about North Korea, because it is a dangerous and destabilizing force in the region and the world. It has attacked its neighbors in different ways. It has undermined international law. It has tried to proliferate weapons of mass destruction. The point of that essay is that it’s very hard for a country like North Korea to maintain a nuclear weapons program safely. Even the United States has had dozens of accidents with its nuclear forces, and can’t account for six nuclear weapons it lost during the Cold War. The Soviet Union had similar, if not worse, challenges.

It is also very difficult to know how and when to use nuclear weapons. The world twice came very close to nuclear exchanges because of false information that was sent to the Russian command-and-control authority. The North Koreans certainly won't have sophisticated systems in place to make informed decisions about threats to their arsenal.

We also don’t know who in North Korea will ultimately maintain political control over weapons. We don’t know if Kim Jong-un has the capability to be a prudent nuclear decision maker. We also don’t know if he will delegate the operating of nuclear weapons to a qualified military subordinate.

I wrote in the essay that, given these dangers, we may want to consider helping North Korea develop and maintain safety procedures for their nuclear weapons program. Such a policy would be highly controversial, because it abandons calls for the Kim regime to denuclearize, but we have to make sure above all that the regime’s nuclear weapons can’t be launched accidentally, that they cannot be highjacked by rogue actors inside North Korea, and that an accident won’t trigger a nuclear exchange. 

You devote a chapter to India. India is the world’s largest democracy, but its female citizens have fallen behind the rest of the world in terms of political rights and professional development. Why do you believe this issue is integral to India’s progress as a power in the region?

India wants to play a much larger global role economically, politically, and socially. However, it simply cannot do that if half of its population cannot share equally in all of those activities. India is obviously not the only country experiencing gender inequality. But in India, inequality is pervasive and women face an enormous number of cultural barriers, despite the fact that a select few have risen to the very top of government and the entertainment world.

The road to equality runs up against longstanding cultural traditions. In some parts of India, progress is being made. In this essay, I feature three women whom I interviewed while researching in India a few years ago. Each of these women dealt with their challenges very differently.

Most of the challenges relate to marriage. Many Indian women are still subject to arranged marriages and have virtually no say about choosing their husbands. Some don’t even meet the groom until their wedding day. These women are often dragged away from their family to another region of India. In some of the colleges I visited, the majority of the student body were women. Yet, none of that mattered, because as soon as these women marry, they’re expected to revert to traditional gender roles. 

The barriers to women will clearly hold India back entrepreneurially. It will hold it back politically as well. For India to really take a type of leadership role as the world's largest democracy, composed of 1.3 billion people, and facing enormous challenges of poverty, illiteracy, and public health, it really needs to empower women more substantially. While I witnessed a few glimmers of hope, it still has a long way to go.

You indicate that Japan has been slow to adapt to modernity, but that the economic and social conditions within the country could well place it at an advantage in Asia. Can you explain this seeming paradox?

In the 1970s and 1980s, we all felt that Japan had the next great answer to globalization. We thought it would become a political and maybe even a military power again. Once Japan’s economic bubble burst at the end of the 1980s, however, we lost all interest in the island nation and assumed that it really had nothing left to teach us. As we fully embraced globalization, and experienced the dot-com revolution and the beginnings of the digital economy in the 1990s and 2000s, we concluded that Japan was not progressing in a manner that we expected from a modern state.

It is sort of ironic, because Tokyo looks as modern as any city. However, the US concluded that Japan really wasn’t all that open to the world and was also culturally retrograde, meaning that it wasn’t fully open to the world in terms of multiculturalism, immigration, risk taking, etc.  These observations are partially true, but they haven’t necessarily proven to be weaknesses. On the contrary, they may help Japan maintain stability as our societies struggle with integration, income inequality, racial tensions, and the like. 

In my research for this essay, I compared the US and Japanese economies over the past twenty-five to thirty years. I found that Japan’s economy seemed to be stagnant. On the other hand, it didn’t nearly have as much inequality as the United States. Japan wasn’t as entrepreneurial and innovative as it was in years past. Yet at the same time, it hadn’t experienced anything like America’s 2008 financial crisis. In addition, Japan’s citizens were spared from post-2001 terrorism and the types of social dislocations affecting Europe and now the United States.

The question was really simply to reassess Japan’s own engagement with modernity and to say that maybe they made better choices than we gave them credit for. In some ways, they made better choices than we did and very conscious ones. The point is not that they couldn't learn from the West or what it meant to be fully modern, but rather they completely understood the road not taken, and they charted a different path of greater social stability.

Data shows that Japan consistently ranks nearly the top in education, security, and public health. I also write about the persistence of the of the imperial system in Japan, and the cultural and political stability it provides in contrast to the volatile nature of modern democratic and capitalism systems. 

Japan is very much a hybrid state. It is as modern as any other state, and yet it consciously maintains barriers against the world and consciously seeks to have a national communal goal that is different from the rampant individualism in the West. I am not trying to claim that one system is inherently better than the other but that we certainly should not have dismissed Japan's choices the way that we did.

What defines the competitive nature of the Sino-Japanese relationship?

We are very used to thinking about the US-China competition, which I believe is certainly the most important competition in Asia. However, for literally a millennium before the United States arrived in Asia, Japan and China had a very intimate, intertwined, and fraught relationship—one in which they learned enormously from one another. While Japan and China fought wars with each other, they also had an incredible amount of cultural, intellectual, and economic exchange.

For most of that period though, and I’m talking the equivalent of 1,500 years, there was an inverse relationship in which one of those countries dominated at the expense of the other. China was stronger at least until the nineteenth century. Then Japan became enormously strong in the twentieth century while China was not. Now there is the historically anomalous scenario in which both are strong. Japan’s standard of living is far above China’s and of course in the aggregate, China is far wealthier than Japan. The two now find themselves locked in an increasingly competitive relationship in which they both have capable militaries and are searching for allies, expanding trade partnerships, and driving technological innovation at rapid speed.

In some ways, the Sino-Japanese competition may be more important in Asia than the one between the United States and China. The United States is an outside actor, while Japan and China will persist eternally. The two Asian countries also represent two entirely different models of governance: A closed totalitarian model in China and an open, messy, and inefficient democratic model in Japan. The two offer very different visions about the future of Asia.

What are US goals in the Indo-Pacific region?

It is interesting, because there’s so much talk over the past decade about what America’s role and strategy should be in Asia. Stretching back to the mid-nineteenth century, the United States, whether explicitly articulated or not, has always aimed for what the Trump administration calls a “free and open Indo-Pacific” region. We use the term Indo-Pacific because the Europeans first discovered Asia from the Atlantic Ocean through the Indian Ocean. They didn't cross the Pacific. We have thus thought about Asia in an Indo-Pacific perspective long before we ever thought of it in a pure Asia-Pacific sense.

The United States has always wanted an Asia that was open for trade and never dominated by any single power. That aim was first formally expressed in the “open-door policy” articulated by Secretary of State John Hay at the turn of the twentieth century. Since 1945, the US military has been the dominant military power in the region. This was in large part accomplished through the deployment of forward-based US forces from Hawaii westward. Currently, there are 300,000 Americans stationed in the Pacific Ocean region. These forces are augmented by alliances and partnerships in the Pacific and within Asia’s inner seas.

Today this US led force structure is under threat from China and a nuclearized North Korea. With this in mind, we need to rethink our strategy and recognize that we cannot be all powerful or try to block China at every turn. Rather, we need to do our best to ensure that the region remains open, peaceful, and not dominated by any single power. The US can’t force this goal on the region. It should be working more closely with allies and partners who share this vision.

In the last chapter you frame a hypothetical conflict between the US and China. Do you believe, as Graham Allison predicts, that the US and China are “destined for war”?

There is no reason to believe that we are  destined  for war. There is also no reason that we should begin accommodating China in order to avoid the specter of war. However, it's very clear that our geostrategic competition has already dramatically intensified. What I am worried about in particular is a further breakdown of communication and cooperative relations that could result in an accident of the kind I outlined in the chapter on a US-Sino war.

The scenario I lay out is by no means fanciful or fictional. It is drawn directly from real events.  The question I want readers to think about is, What happens if we are plunged into a war? I don't want to give too much away, because I hope people will actually read the book and that essay in particular. Suffice it to say that there is no clear winner in that conflict.

Does this book foreshadow current Sino-American tensions?

The book was finished long before the coronavirus crisis. I don’t think that relations between China and the world will ever go back to normal. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have a peaceful relationship with China, but it has to be a relationship built on reciprocity.

The CCP has lost credibility with the rest of the world for its efforts to cover up the pandemic, for exporting shoddy medical equipment, and for bullying nations not to criticize China over the pandemic. Other countries are going to act very differently in the future in order to protect themselves from a repetition of the events of 2020. The era of globalization is going to change from embracing radical, unbounded globalization to something that is more carefully controlled. It is likely that nationalism will rise, borders will be re-erected, and the flow of people and goods will be restricted.

In one essay, I take a 30,000-foot look at the way in which China has attempted to enforce a set of rules, which I call the “China rules,” on the rest of the world. The Communist Party’s aim is to buy or coerce people who hold leadership positions in other country’s societies in order to paint a positive picture and quash any negative images about China. The “China rules” have been laid bare as a result of the CCP’s actions during the coronavirus outbreak.

China’s propaganda campaigns have affected the West’s cultural institutions and universities. They have shaped international law and suborned global institutions like the World Health Organization to work in their favor. Beijing has also forced international companies to apologize for “offending” China. Various offenses include acknowledging Hong Kong’s or Taiwan’s sovereignty. 

Unfortunately, far too much of the world, especially the elites, have submitted to this pressure because they feel there is so much to be gained from engaging with China rather than upholding freedom of speech or protecting intellectual property.

Beijing has only tightened pressure on those who have capitulated to demands. Therefore, I believe that these new “China rules” will be one of the great challenges for the next decade.

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Blinken lands in Australia ahead of Indo-Pacific meeting

United States' Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he disembarks from his plane in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Blinken will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne as well as their Indian and Japanese counterparts who form the so-called "Quad." (William West/Pool via AP)

United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he disembarks from his plane in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Blinken will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne as well as their Indian and Japanese counterparts who form the so-called “Quad.” (William West/Pool via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he steps from his plane upon arrival in Melbourne, Australia Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken steps from his plane upon his arrival in Melbourne, Australia Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP)

United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, is met by United States’ Charge ‘dAffaires to Australia Michael Goldman after arriving in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Blinken will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne as well as their Indian and Japanese counterparts who form the so-called ÅgQuad.Åh (William West/Pool Photo via AP)

United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second right, is met by United States’ Charge ‘dAffaires to Australia Michael Goldman, right, and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade first Assistant Secretary Craig Chittick, left, after arriving in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Blinken will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne as well as their Indian and Japanese counterparts who form the so-called “Quad.” (William West/Pool Photo via AP)

United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he disembarks from his plane in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Blinken will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne as well as their Indian and Japanese counterparts who form the so-called “Quad.” (William West/Pool Photo via AP)

United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks from his plane after arriving in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Blinken will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne as well as their Indian and Japanese counterparts who form the so-called “Quad.” (William West/Pool via AP)

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken and key allies are “voting with their feet” by flying to Australia to focus on challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, Australia’s foreign minister said Wednesday, as fears rise of a Russian invasion of Ukraine on the other side of the globe.

Blinken landed in the Australian city of Melbourne on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne as well as their Indian and Japanese counterparts who form the so-called “Quad.”

It will be the fourth such ministerial-level meeting of the bloc of Indo-Pacific democracies that was created to counter China, and Blinken’s arrival makes him the most senior member of the Biden administration to set foot in Australia.

The visit comes as tensions between Washington and Moscow continue to escalate over Ukraine.

Payne said the gathering sends a message to Beijing that security in the Indo-Pacific remains an important challenge to Washington.

The Quad ministers were “voting with their feet in terms of the priority that they accord to issues” important to the Indo-Pacific, said Payne, who will host the meeting Friday.

Blinken’s trip is designed to reinforce America’s interests in Asia and its intent to push back against increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region. He will also visit Fiji and discuss pressing concerns about North Korea with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Hawaii.

While China will top the Quad meeting agenda, U.S. officials say Ukraine and the relationship between Beijing and Moscow will also be a topic for discussion.

With the Quad, Blinken is expected to highlight the benefits of Indo-Pacific nations aligning themselves with democracies and democratic values, officials said. “That part of that discussion will relate to the challenges that China poses to those values and to the rules-based order,” said Daniel Kritenbrink, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded to a question about Blinken’s visit with a lengthy attack on American democracy and a defense of China’s contributions to the global order.

“With its so-called democracy having collapsed long ago, the U.S. is forcing other countries to accept the standards of the American democracy, drawing lines with democratic values and piecing together cliques. That is a complete betrayal of democracy,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.

Zhao said China “seeks peace and development, promotes cooperation, promotes the construction of an equal, open and inclusive security system in the Asia-Pacific region that does not target third countries.”

“We oppose forming exclusive cliques and setting up groups within groups, as well as creating confrontation between camps,” he said.

Blinken is also expected to address threats posed by a growing partnership between authoritarian Russia and China, particularly after the Sunday meeting in Beijing between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the opening of the Winter Olympics.

The U.S. had hoped that the Xi-Putin meeting would have demonstrated Chinese wariness about Russia’s military buildup along Ukraine’s borders. Instead, as China increasingly asserts its determination to reunite the island of Taiwan with the mainland, Xi was largely silent on the matter.

“That meeting should have provided China the opportunity to encourage Russia to pursue diplomacy and de-escalation in Ukraine. That is what the world expects from responsible powers,” Kritenbrink said. If Russia invades Ukraine and “China looks the other way, it suggests that China is willing to tolerate or tacitly support Russia’s efforts to coerce Ukraine even when they embarrass Beijing, harm European security, and risk global peace and economic stability.”

U.S. officials have noted that Russia previously mounted military action against a former Soviet republic during a Beijing-hosted Olympics when it moved against Georgia during the 2008 Summer Games.

The U.S. and its allies have spoken out forcefully about Chinese policies toward Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong, the western region of Xinjiang and the South China Sea. They accuse Beijing of rampant human rights abuses, repression of dissent and forcefully seizing territory that its smaller neighbors also claim.

U.S. officials say they expect Blinken and others at the Quad meeting in Melbourne to reiterate concerns about China’s actions, especially recent show-of-force demonstrations directed at Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province. On Monday, the Biden administration greenlit a $100 million arms sale to Taiwan that will support its U.S.-made missile defense systems.

After a brief stop in Fiji, where he will be the first secretary of state to visit since 1985, Blinken will return to Washington via Hawaii, where he will hold North Korea-focused talks with the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers.

A series of recent North Korean missile tests have underscored the threat posed by the nuclear-armed nation, which has ignored multiple entreaties by the United States to return to the negotiating table.

“Countering the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs remains a top priority for the United States and I am confident the same can be said for our Japanese and South Korean partners,” Kritenbrink said of the talks planned for Honolulu.

“We have made clear many times that we remain prepared to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy without preconditions to achieve that end and to make tangible progress. We have reached out repeatedly to Pyongyang. However, to date, we have not received a substantive response,” he said.

China is North Korea’s most important ally, and Zhao reiterated Beijing’s call for the U.S. to lift its unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang and take the North’s “legitimate security concerns” into consideration.

asia's new geopolitics essays on reshaping the indo pacific

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Asia's New Geopolitics: Essays on Reshaping the Indo-Pacific

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Michael R. Auslin

Asia's New Geopolitics: Essays on Reshaping the Indo-Pacific Hardcover – 30 May 2020

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  • Print length 264 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Hoover Institution Press
  • Publication date 30 May 2020
  • Dimensions 15.24 x 2.29 x 22.86 cm
  • ISBN-10 0817923241
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"Auslin's book is a must-read for anyone interested in the question of how the U.S. can respond to China's ambitions to dominate East and South Asia." --James Hankins, Claremont Review of Books "China is contesting for control, not of the high seas like Germany in World War I or Japan in World War II, but of the marginal seas and skies of Asia, even while the United States remains dominant on the high seas of the Pacific." -- The National Interest "The future of Asia will not be determined solely by the relationship between the United States and China. A more ancient power struggle--between China and Japan--is just as significant a factor in the course of world events in the Indo-Pacific region." -- The Bridge "In this interview, Michael Auslin, Payson R. Treat Distinguished Research Fellow in Contemporary Asia, discusses his newly released book by Hoover Institution Press, Asia's New Geopolitics: Essays on Reshaping the Indo-Pacific . Auslin describes the geopolitical importance of Asia's inner seas and how the Indo-Pacific region is impacted by China's ambitions, US force posture, North Korea's quest for nuclear weapons, the Sino-Japanese competition, and India's struggles as the world's largest democracy." -- Stanford Report "An extremely engaging and timely discussion of the US strategy in the Indo-Pacific in the midst of China's growing influence and the diminishing US presence in the region. Auslin reminds us why we cannot remain a spectator to the reshaping of regional order." --Gi-Wook Shin, the William J. Perry Professor of Contemporary Korea and director of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University "Auslin identifies the critical factors that will determine whether the future for free and open societies across the Indo-Pacific region remains bright or a darker future emerges in which autocratic and closed systems are ascendant." --H. R. McMaster, former US national security advisor and author of Battlegrounds "Auslin presents a wide-ranging analysis of the implications of this new great-power rivalry. . . . [He] succeeds in his aim of reviving an older method of geopolitical thinking." -- National Review "If the Indo-Pacific is the map on which the future power balance will be redrawn, this book is a good investment in familiarizing yourself with the terrain." -- The Wire China "Michael Auslin is one of America's sharpest analysts of Asia's geopolitics. This collection brims with insights about the future of the world's most important region." --Hal Brands, coauthor of The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and World Order "Written with the depth of a true historian, Asia's New Geopolitics offers a set of insightful essays about some of the key challenges in this part of the world over the next generation." --Victor Cha, vice dean and D.S. Song-KF Professor of Government, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, and former senior director for Asia, National Security Council

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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hoover Institution Press (30 May 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 264 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0817923241
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0817923242
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.24 x 2.29 x 22.86 cm
  • 224,878 in History (Books)
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About the author

Michael r. auslin.

Michael Auslin, PhD, a historian and geopolitical analyst, is the inaugural Payson J. Treat Distinguished Research Fellow in Contemporary Asia at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and is also a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. The best-selling author of four non-fiction books, he is a longtime contributor to the Wall Street Journal, and his writing appears in The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Politico, and National Review, among other leading publications. Formerly an associate professor of history at Yale, he was a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and Fulbright Scholar, among other awards. He appears frequently in U.S. and foreign media, and is the Vice Chairman of the Wilton Park USA Foundation.

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Russia-Ukraine War Xi and Putin Pledge to ‘Cooperate Closely’; Japan’s Leader Visits Ukraine

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, repeated Beijing’s established position on the war in Ukraine, suggesting there had been little progress on peace efforts during his state visit to Moscow.

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Victoria Kim ,  Amy Chang Chien and Shashank Bengali

Here are the latest developments.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Tuesday declared an enduring economic partnership that could help insulate their nations from Western sanctions and other consequences of the war in Ukraine.

The two leaders drew a sharp division between their countries and the West on the second day of Mr. Xi’s state visit to Moscow, outlining an economic order in line with their shared goal of counterbalancing United States and its Western allies. They signed 14 agreements of wide-ranging collaboration, from media enterprises to scientific research. And they promised to bring more Russian oil to China and more Chinese companies to Russia.

On the same day, Japan’s prime minister made an unannounced visit to Kyiv , underscoring his alignment with much of the West in supporting Ukraine and highlighting the division between Asia’s two largest economies. China’s Foreign Ministry responded to Mr. Kishida’s visit by saying that Japan should “help de-escalate the situation instead of the opposite.”

While Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin had made only cursory public references to the war in Ukraine on Monday, China’s leader used a joint appearance with Mr. Putin on Tuesday to call again for peace talks to resolve the war, repeating a position that Kyiv’s Western allies have rejected as unworkable until Russia withdraws its troops.

Here are other developments:

Mr. Xi said he had invited Mr. Putin to visit China, underlining Beijing’s robust support just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader, accusing him of war crimes. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the visit amounted to “diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit” war crimes in Ukraine.

An explosion on Monday night struck the city of Dzhankoi, a Russian military logistics hub in occupied Crimea. Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility, but military analysts said the city has long been in Kyiv’s sights as it plans a possible counteroffensive in the south.

Russian police officers searched the homes of eight employees of Memorial , a Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights organization, in what activists say is part of a broader suppression of government critics. Last month, the Russian authorities began an investigation into some Memorial employees over what the authorities described as a “rehabilitation of Nazism.”

Robin Stein ,  Aleksandra Koroleva and Dmitriy Khavin

Radio intercepts capture Russia’s real-time hunt for the U.S. drone downed in the Black Sea.

Audio recordings obtained by The New York Times appear to capture Russian military efforts to retrieve debris of the U.S. surveillance drone downed in the Black Sea last week.

The intercepts, recorded by radio hobbyists who were monitoring publicly accessible airwaves last Tuesday, begin about eight hours after the MQ-9 Reaper drone encountered two Russian warplanes in the first recorded physical clash between Russia and the U.S. since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.

The exchanges provide an unusual, unfiltered window into wartime communications among Russian military personnel.

The audio recordings, which are fragments of chatter that took place over a span of nearly four hours, captured conversations between crew members of multiple ships and aircraft at the crash site.

Using call signs, the voices coordinate efforts to retrieve objects from the water, including parts of an engine’s casing, nose, wing and gas tank.

There’s also a recurring series of transmissions about the vessels’ declining fuel reserves and concerns about whether they will have enough to make it back to shore. Several vessels eventually return to piers in Sevastopol, with one crew member indicating that he is passing by an area called Striletska Bay.

These details help verify that these units are operating near the crash site.

There is no indication that particularly sensitive U.S. technology is recovered, but the intercepts are rife with audio interference and military code words that make them sometimes difficult to understand.

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The Pentagon said that, after the drone was damaged, it took steps to prevent foreign forces from obtaining useful intelligence should it be found or recovered.

“Whatever is left of that that’s floating will probably be flight control surfaces, that kind of thing — probably nothing of real intrinsic value to them in terms of re-engineering or anything like that,” John F. Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, said during an interview with CNN last Thursday. “We’re not overly concerned about whatever they might get their hands on.”

A statement from Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Friday said two fighter pilots had been honored with state awards for preventing the U.S. drone from entering Russian airspace. It claimed that there was no physical contact between the aircrafts, and that “quick maneuvering” caused the drone to fall into “unguided flight with a loss of altitude” and eventually crash into the sea.

That contradicted the U.S. government’s version of events, which claimed that a Russian jet rammed the drone and damaged its propeller.

The audio recordings indicate that some in the Russian military continue to use open, unencrypted radio channels for operational communications in Ukraine, as The Times previously has reported .

Christoph Koettl and John Ismay contributed reporting.


Anushka Patil

Anushka Patil

Japan’s leader visits Ukraine and criticizes Russia as a threat to world order.

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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan decried Russian aggression as a threat to international order and announced additional aid for Ukraine on Tuesday during an unannounced visit to Kyiv.

The visit, the latest from a leader of a Group of 7 nation, came as China’s president, Xi Jinping, met in Moscow with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and served as yet another a reminder of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to carve the world into different camps.

Mr. Kishida called Russia’s invasion “an aggression that shakes the foundation of international order” at a joint news conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky. He added that he had now seen “the tragedy of the Russian invasion with my own eyes.”

Mr. Kishida’s comments came after he made a solemn visit to the town of Bucha , where scores of Ukrainian civilians were massacred in one of the defining horrors of the war. Mr. Kishida bowed in silence after he laid flowers near the site of a mass grave and told reporters that he felt “a strong indignation at these cruel acts,” the Kyodo News service reported.

Speaking later Tuesday at the joint news conference, Mr. Kishida invoked his country’s own painful history, saying that “as the only country that has been a victim of a nuclear bombing,” Japan “cannot accept Russia’s intimidation by nuclear weapons.”

Mr. Kishida said Japan would give Ukraine $470 million in new bilateral aid for its energy and other sectors, as well as $30 million in nonlethal equipment through NATO trust funds.

Mr. Kishida has sought a more prominent role in international affairs for Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with Russia over islands seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. The significance of his visit to Ukraine was hailed on Tuesday by Ukrainian and American officials alike.

“Given Japan’s strength, its leadership in Asia in defending peace and the rules-based international order, and Japan’s responsibility as the Group of 7 chair, our talks today can truly yield a global result,” Mr. Zelensky said in his nightly address.

Senator Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho and the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Twitter that the visit reflected Japan’s position as a “vital partner ready to lead not only in the Indo-Pacific, but across the world.”

Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, juxtaposed Mr. Kishida’s and Mr. Xi’s visits, arguing that Mr. Kishida “stands with freedom, and Xi stands with a war criminal.”

“Which Pacific leader is the right partner for a better future?” Mr. Emanuel asked on Twitter .

Victoria Kim and Ben Dooley contributed reporting. Hiroko Tabuchi and Hiroko Masuike contributed translation.

Valerie Hopkins

Valerie Hopkins

“Right now there are changes the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years,” President Xi Jinping of China told Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, through an interpreter after the state dinner. “And we are the ones driving these changes together,” he said, offering his hand in farewell, according to footage released by the Kremlin press pool. “I agree,” Putin said. “Please take care of yourself, my dear friend,” Xi said before walking to his car. “Have a good trip,” Putin responded.

Here is what Putin and Xi agreed to in Moscow.

MOSCOW — Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, sought to project a sense of unity and normalcy on Tuesday, during the second day of Mr. Xi’s grand state visit, which included the signing of 14 agreements.

“We signed a statement on deepening the strategic partnership and bilateral ties, which are entering a new era,” Mr. Xi said after talks with Mr. Putin in the Kremlin. He added that his conversations with the Russian leader were “frank, friendly and rich in results.”

However, Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, described the agreements as “pretty thin.”

He said they were mostly incremental updates to arrangements that both parties had agreed to before the summit, including an addendum to a 1997 agreement creating a framework for regular meetings between the leaders of China and Russia and an agreement about a nuclear power plant that Russia is already building in China. Both countries also agreed to cooperate “in the field of joint production of television programs.”

What was missing, Mr. Gabuev said, was a deal on a natural gas line known as Power of Siberia 2 that Mr. Putin is keen on building to bolster energy sales to China.

He noted that this was due in part to Mr. Putin’s increasing status as a global pariah, which was reinforced last week when the International Criminal Court announced an arrest warrant for him accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine.

“There is some substantive agenda,” Mr. Gabuev said, “but it’s nothing where you can pin Xi Jinping down and say, ‘Oh, but with this agreement you are providing money to Putin’s war chest. You financed this genocidal war in the middle of a kind of Russian terrorist campaign against Ukrainian civil infrastructure.”

Also missing was any public breakthrough to end the yearlong war in Ukraine. Mr. Xi had framed his visit to Moscow as a peace mission, Mr. Gabuev said, but the result was a clear signal to the rest of the world that not only is China gaining increased leverage in Russia, it also plays by its own rules.

Marc Santora

Marc Santora

A three-story building located near a monastery in Odessa was struck by a Russian missile Tuesday night, injuring at least three people, Ukrainian officials said . It was one of four missiles fired at the port city. Two were shot down.

The Russians fired 4 missiles (probably of the X-59 type) at Odessa. Two were shot down by Ukrainian air defense. Two more hit the city. Unfortunately, a three-story building situated on a monastery land was damaged. Three people injured so far. — Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) March 21, 2023

Eric Schmitt

Eric Schmitt

Ukrainian soldiers are nearly finished training in the U.S. on Patriot missiles.

FORT SILL, Okla. — Several dozen Ukrainian soldiers are wrapping up their training on the Patriot missile system and within a few weeks will deploy to the war’s front lines, armed with America’s most advanced ground-based air defense to help protect against Russian missile attacks.

The Ukrainian soldiers, all seasoned combat veterans skilled in Russian-designed artillery systems, have surprised their American instructors by how quickly they have mastered the complexities of operating and maintaining the sophisticated Patriots, which can knock down Russia’s ballistic missiles, unlike other systems the West has provided, and can hit targets much farther away.

Now at the end of a 10-week custom-designed crash course at this U.S. Army base, the Ukrainians are essentially running their own training, American instructors said, adapting tactics and techniques in real time in response to Russian strikes on electrical grids and other targets back home.

On a cloudy, windswept training range, the Ukrainians on Tuesday rehearsed setting up a Patriot battery — tracking radar, control systems, a generator and launching stations that can fire multiple missiles at a time — like the one the United States agreed to donate in December. The drill, completed in less than 45 minutes, stopped short of firing live missiles.

“Our assessment is that the Ukrainian soldiers are impressive, and absolutely a quick study due to their extensive air defense knowledge and experience in a combat zone,” Brig. Gen. Shane P. Morgan, the commander at Fort Sill, told reporters.

The U.S. military has trained, or is in midst of training, nearly 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers at ranges in Germany. But for the Patriot system, Pentagon officials decided to train the Ukrainians on American soil. Fort Sill, a storied former frontier cavalry post in southwestern Oklahoma, is where 5,100 troops a year from the United States and 18 other nations learn how to operate and maintain the Patriot system.

Since arriving in mid-January, the Ukrainian students have spent 10 hours a day, six days a week on classroom instruction and drills, military officials said. The sessions are generally in English, with some translation.

In more informal exchanges, American trainers say they are picking up tips from their Ukrainian students, who have battled Russian forces that the Americans have yet to directly engage in combat.

American instructors said they have been able to speed through introductory coursework and move to more advanced concepts because the Ukrainians were already familiar with Soviet-era systems, giving them a point of reference when working on a more automated platform like the Patriot.

“This is Patriot training done at lightning speed; it’s pretty remarkable,” said Thomas Karako, who directs the missile defense project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and has written extensively about the Patriot system and training.

The Army on Tuesday, for the first time, provided a group of reporters access to the training of 65 Ukrainian soldiers who were picked by their commanders to learn how to run the Patriot system. The Pentagon said in January that 90 to 100 Ukrainians were expected to undergo the training, roughly the number of American troops it takes to operate a U.S. Army Patriot battery, but Ukraine decided to send fewer forces, American officials said.

The Pentagon imposed strict guidelines on the three-hour visit. It prohibited photos or video of the training and its participants, and barred interviews with the fatigue-clad Ukrainian soldiers standing just a few yards away from the reporters on the training range.

The restrictions reflect continuing concerns at the White House and Pentagon about stoking Russian anger over the West’s involvement in the war or triggering a wider conflict. At the same time, however, the Biden administration has insisted that the U.S.-based training itself is not likely to worsen tensions with Russia. Officials on Tuesday repeated that the Patriot is a defensive system, not an offensive weapon.

“The Patriot air defense system presents no, I say again, no threat to Russia,” said Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. Army forces in Europe and Africa, which oversees the U.S. training in Germany.

After finishing up at Fort Sill in the next several days, the Ukrainians will travel to Poland, where their Patriot system will be waiting for them, American officials said. The troops will then spend a few weeks with other Ukrainian soldiers who have been carrying out similar training in Europe on a Patriot battery donated by Germany and the Netherlands, the officials said.

Once any operational kinks are worked out, the two Ukrainian-operated Patriot batteries will deploy to the war zone, mostly likely in April, officials said. France and Italy have said they would send air defense systems that are similar to the Patriot.

Where and how the Patriot systems will be deployed will be up to the Ukrainian government, officials said. Since President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February last year, Moscow has unleashed a torrent of missile and airstrikes on civilian and military targets.

Ukraine’s leaders will probably use the Patriots to defend high-priority targets, like key portions of the country’s electrical grid and other civilian infrastructure. Those have been hit particularly hard by Russian high-speed ballistic missiles.

The Patriot system works most effectively as part of what the military calls a “layered defense” that includes other air defenses used to down or thwart drones and warplanes, as well as a range of cruise and ballistic missiles, officials said. Its ability to counter weapons like Russia’s Kinzhal hypersonic missile is as yet unknown.

Air defense specialists warned against considering the Patriot a silver bullet against all threats. “One Patriot battery cannot turn the conflict,” Mr. Karako said. “But in combination with the German and Dutch battery, it allows Ukraine to design defenses in depth.”

President Biden’s decision in December to send the Patriot system was a powerful sign of the United States’ deepening military commitment to Ukraine. The Pentagon’s active-duty Patriot units frequently deploy for missions around the world, and experts say the United States does not have the kind of deep stockpiles of Patriot missiles available for transfer that it did with munitions like artillery shells and rockets.

The Patriot is one of the most sought-after air defense systems on the American weapons market, used by Saudi and Emirati forces in Yemen and throughout the NATO alliance in Europe.

The Patriot is also by far the most expensive single weapon system that the United States has supplied to Ukraine, at a total cost of about $1.1 billion: $400 million for the system and $690 million for the missiles.

One single interceptor missile costs about $4 million, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Each launcher costs around $10 million.

The New York Times

The New York Times

The U.S. Army opens its first permanent garrison in Poland, a symbolically important move.

WARSAW — The United States Army on Tuesday opened its first permanent garrison in the eastern fringe of Europe once dominated by Moscow, establishing a small but symbolically important military headquarters in Poland, a NATO ally that has taken a central role in providing weapons and robust diplomatic support to Ukraine.

The opening of the garrison, in the city of Poznan, highlighted America’s growing military presence in the region since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year — a military onslaught that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had hoped would reverse NATO’s expansion into what Moscow considers its sphere of influence.

At a ceremony in Poznan, the Polish defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, called the garrison’s opening a “historic moment, a sign that the United States is committed to Poland and NATO and that we are united in the face of Russian aggression.”

Poland, which shares a 330-mile border with Ukraine and has become the main transit route for Western weapons to help Ukraine defend itself, has for years pleaded with Washington for a permanent U.S. military presence instead of just temporary rotations of NATO troops.

The Pentagon has rotated thousands of troops through Poland over the past year and has sent military personnel to operate a Patriot missile battery defending a Polish airport in Rzeszow that serves as a logistical hub for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Those have been temporary posting, however. The new facility, located a Camp Kosciuszko in Poznan, is the U.S. Army’s first permanent garrison in Eastern and Central Europe, a region occupied by the Soviet Red Army from the end of World War II in 1945 until the early 1990s. The garrison will be the headquarters in Poland of the U.S. Army’s V Corps.

“We have been striving for this for years- for this word ‘permanent’,- and it has now become fact,” the Polish defense minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, said in Poznan.

Poland was the linchpin of a now defunct Soviet military alliance known as the Warsaw Pact, but over the past year, the country has become the pivot around which much of the West’s support for Ukraine against Russia turns. Last week, it announced that it would soon send Ukraine Soviet-era MIG-29 fighter jets , which would be the first warplanes sent by a NATO country since Russia invaded last year. Slovakia, another NATO, member followed suit, pledging to send Ukraine its own MIG-29s.

The new garrison in Poznan, which lies in Poland’s west, has only 13 American soldiers and 140 civilian staff. Its mission is to provide infrastructure and services, like banking, for American troops on duty throughout Poland. Still, the commander of the U.S. Army V Corps in Europe, Lt. Gen. John S. Kolasheski, described its opening as a “new beginning” for America’s role in the region.

And Mark Brzezinski, the U.S. ambassador in Warsaw, said at the garrison’s opening ceremony: “It signals that we are here to stay. It signals to the world that the United States is committed to Poland and the NATO alliance. That we are united in the face of Russian aggression.”

Peter Baker

Peter Baker

China is just ‘parroting Russia propaganda,’ a White House spokesman says.

WASHINGTON — The White House offered a sharp riposte to a joint Russian-Chinese statement issued on Moscow on Tuesday, dismissing the notion that Beijing could play a peacemaking role in the war in Ukraine and accusing the Chinese of facilitating war crimes by President Vladimir V. Putin.

At a briefing at the White House held shortly after Mr. Putin and President Xi Jinping of China issued the statement on their second day of meetings, John F. Kirby, a national security spokesman for President Biden, declared that Beijing was just “parroting Russian propaganda” by signing onto a communiqué blaming the West for the war, an assertion he called “just a bunch of malarkey.”

Mr. Kirby walked through several of the points made in the Russian-Chinese statement and rebutted them. He noted, for instance, that the statement called for following the United Nations Charter. “We agree,” he said. “Following the U.N. Charter would mean that Russia should withdraw from all of the territory of Ukraine, the territory of another member state of the U.N.”

He noted that the statement likewise called for steps to avoid prolonging hostilities. “We agree,” he said again. “One way to stop the hostilities is to pull Russian troops out of Ukraine. But short of that, Mr. Putin, stop bombing hospitals, stop bombing schools, stop launching Iranian drones at civilian infrastructure and stop the forcible deportation of young kids, thousands of them, putting them in filtration camps inside other places, inside Ukraine but also inside Russia.”

China has suggested that Mr. Xi wants to help mediate an end to the fighting between Russia and Ukraine, but Mr. Kirby said Mr. Xi was hardly an impartial figure, noting that he has regularly met with Mr. Putin and highlighted their friendship, but never visited Ukraine or met with its embattled leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“If China wants to play a constructive role in this conflict, then it ought to press Russia to pull troops out of Ukraine,” Mr. Kirby said.

John Ismay

The Pentagon plans to send older, refurbished Abrams tanks to Ukraine by fall, far sooner than expected.

WASHINGTON — The United States will send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine far more quickly than expected, with a number of them now scheduled to arrive later this year, the Pentagon said in a briefing to reporters.

The tanks will come from the U.S. military’s existing inventory of older M1A1 Abrams and will be renovated before shipment to Kyiv, which is expected to take several months. The U.S. military announced in January that Ukraine would receive approximately 30 newer M1A2 Abrams tanks, but they were expected to take a year or more to be made and delivered.

The new plan will take excess M1A1 tank “hulls” and refit and refurbish them in order to make them ready on a quicker timeline for Ukraine, Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said on Tuesday afternoon, noting that the plan came from an Army study that had analyzed different ways to get American tanks to Ukraine even faster.

“Based on that further study and analysis, this is the approach that we landed on, that we feel confident will get these tanks to them by the fall time frame,” General Ryder said.

The Abrams will give the Ukrainians a “significant main battle tank capability on the battlefield,” he added, and said that Ukrainian soldiers will receive all necessary training on them before their delivery.

Ivan Nechepurenko

Ivan Nechepurenko

Opening the gala reception for the Chinese delegation in the Kremlin’s storied Faceted Chamber, Putin toasted “the health of our friend, respected chairman of China, Xi Jinping,” according to a video released by a Kremlin pool’s reporter.

After making remarks to reporters about their two-day state visit, Putin hosted Xi in the Kremlin’s 15th Century Faceted Chamber, a ceremonial throne room. Putin read an elaborate toast to his Chinese counterpart. Then the two men raised and clinked their glasses, which appeared to contain white wine. Xi also made a toast to Putin and to the “new era” of Chinese relations with Russia that he said the visit presaged.

The Faceted Chamber is one of the most historic ceremonial venues at the Kremlin, according to historians. Commissioned by Tsar Ivan III and designed by Italian Renaissance architects, the hall has been the site of many seminal events in Russia’s history. When Mao Zedong came to Moscow in the middle of the last century, Josef Stalin hosted a reception for him there. In the 1990s, Boris Yeltsin hosted the Queen of England there.

Steven Erlanger

Steven Erlanger

Despite the war in Ukraine, NATO members are not meeting their military spending targets.

BRUSSELS — Even with Western arms pouring into Ukraine to support its war effort, only seven of the 30 member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are meeting the alliance’s target of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on the military, NATO said on Tuesday.

In his annual report on the alliance , Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, admitted the shortfall, even as he urged nations to make 2 percent “a floor, not a ceiling” when they meet at the next NATO summit meeting in Lithuania in July, citing the new threats from Russia and China.

But the category of those under the 2-percent “floor” has gotten crowded, with Mr. Stoltenberg saying that two countries he thought would reach the target did not because their economies (and hence their G.D.P.) grew more than expected after the slump produced by the Covid-19 pandemic. Those countries are France and Croatia, though Mr. Stoltenberg did not name them.

In 2014, after the Russians invaded Crimea, the alliance met in Wales and set a goal for member nations to spend 2 percent of G.D.P. on their militaries by 2024, with 20 percent of that spending on “major equipment” rather than salaries and housing.

Clearly that goal has not been reached, though promises are being made.

The members of the European Union, which represent 21 of NATO’s 30 members — plus Sweden and Finland — pledged on Monday to spend more on producing and providing urgently needed artillery ammunition for Ukraine. Their aspiration is to provide a million 155-millimeter artillery rounds to Ukraine by the end of the year, in large part by drawing from their own meager stocks, and to try to jump-start European ammunition production with collective purchasing.

In the report he released on Tuesday, Mr. Stoltenberg emphasized that there had been an increase in spending among NATO allies other than the United States for eight years in a row, noting that “since 2014, European allies and Canada have spent an extra $350 billion.”

But, in presenting his report in a news conference, he said: “There is no doubt we need to do more, and we need to do it faster. The pace we have when it comes to increase defense spending is not high enough.”

He added: “In a more dangerous world, we need to invest more in defense.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan visited the town of Bucha, where scores of civilians were massacred under Russian occupation in one of the defining horrors of the war. He laid a wreath near a mass grave at a church, expressing his condolences and a “strong indignation at these cruel acts,” Kyodo News reported.

Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley

Xi repeats China’s position that it supports peace talks to resolve what he calls the “Ukraine crisis,” and says that China has always taken an “objective and fair” view of the conflict. His remarks, repeating China’s established position on the war, suggest that there has been no major movement on China's peace plan for Ukraine.

Xi Jinping said his talks with Putin were “frank, friendly and rich in results.” He added that he and Putin have “established close relations and built strategic communication.”

The leaders of China and Russia signed 14 agreements during the state visit, according to a list released by the Kremlin. They include an agreement on the joint production of television programs and increased collaboration on “fundamental scientific research.” They also agreed to exchanges between state media bodies and state atomic energy companies.

China’s peace plan for the war in Ukraine “are consonant with Russian approaches and can be taken as a basis for peaceful settlement in Ukraine when the West and Kyiv are ready for this,” Putin said, referring to a plan that Ukraine’s Western allies have criticised as an unreasonable framework to end the war. Putin said that he and Xi had spent a long time discussing the plan.

The relationship between Russia and China is “at the peak of its historical development,” Putin said in his statement to the press after the talks.

Putin and Xi signed a joint statement on “plans for the development of primary joint areas of partnership through 2030,” Russia’s Interfax news agency said, without specifying the content of the documents. “Russia and China can find solutions to even the most complicated problems,” Putin said.

Putin and Xi have ended their talks in the Kremlin, according to TASS, a Russian state news agency. The two leaders first met with a group of high-ranking officials, including defense ministers, and then had another meeting in an expanded format. They are now expected to deliver statements to the press.

Xi’s opening remarks before talks with Putin were careful and diplomatic. “Our two sides must enhance communication and cooperate closely, promoting new and greater advancement in practical cooperation between our two countries,” he said.

Glenn Thrush

Glenn Thrush

The U.S. Justice Department embraces a supporting role in pursuing war crimes in Ukraine.

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick B. Garland makes a point of refusing to discuss active investigations, but during a recent trip to Ukraine he broke form, revealing that U.S. prosecutors had identified “several specific” Russians suspected of war crimes against one or more Americans.

Despite Mr. Garland’s assessment, the possibility of identifying Russians who targeted Americans in a war zone and bringing them to justice in the United States — rather than charging them in absentia — appears remote for now. As a result, the Justice Department is increasingly focused on a supporting role: providing Ukraine’s overburdened prosecutors and police with logistical help, training and direct assistance in bringing charges of war crimes by Russians in Ukraine’s courts.

“In terms of actually bringing cases in the United States anytime soon, it’s probably a very slim possibility at this point,” said David J. Scheffer, who served as the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues from 1997 to 2001 and helped create international judicial systems to prosecute defendants from the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

“But we’re providing a lot of assistance on the investigative side to help other people bring cases in other courts,” Mr. Scheffer said, “and that’s a big deal.”

To coordinate that effort, Mr. Garland appointed Eli Rosenbaum , a veteran prosecutor, in June to oversee the Justice Department’s war crimes accountability efforts. The choice was well-received: Mr. Rosenbaum is best known for his dogged pursuit of Nazi war criminals and the unmasking in the 1980s of the former U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim’s role in the mass killings of civilians during World War II.

Mr. Rosenbaum’s selection came as a surprise to him — he was on the verge of retirement — and he was immediately struck by the magnitude of the task. The prosecutor general’s office, Ukraine’s equivalent of the Justice Department, was sagging by the end of last year with a caseload of more than 70,000 accusations of Russian war crimes.

“The Ukrainian authorities are confronting challenges unlike anything that we’ve experienced, even in our most complex cases, and they’re having to do this during wartime,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. “We have a responsibility to do anything we can to help.”

The work being done by the American and Ukrainian prosecutors is separate from that being carried out by the International Criminal Court, which on Friday issued a warrant for the arrest of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia , saying he bore criminal responsibility for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children. (The United States has never joined the International Criminal Court out of concern that it could someday try to prosecute Americans. The Pentagon has been blocking an effort by other agencies in the Biden administration, including the Justice and State Departments, to share intelligence with the court about Russian atrocities.)

One of Mr. Rosenbaum’s first tasks was to work on an agreement , signed in September by Mr. Garland and Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Andriy Kostin, that allowed officials in both countries to communicate without seeking State Department approval for every interaction. The deal allowed them to exchange evidence and information over secure channels.

Justice Department officials see Russian atrocities in Ukraine as a grave threat to the rule of law and say they believe that pact could be a gateway for greater involvement. They are now assisting Mr. Kostin’s deputies on at least one major investigation involving a Russian attack, which is seen as test case for potential future collaborations.

But the Ukrainians would like more help, in particular greater access to intelligence on Russian military assets, units and leadership. The two sides are currently exploring new “avenues for exchange of intelligence information,” Mr. Kostin wrote in an email.

Even without additional help, Ukraine has already brought dozens of cases using intercepted open-line communications and video evidence, resulting in the conviction of 25 Russians on charges such as shelling civilians and torturing Ukrainian soldiers. Many have been charged in absentia: Only 18 of the more than 200 Russians identified by Ukrainian prosecutors as possible war criminals have been captured.

U.S. officials and nongovernmental human rights groups have quietly tried to help Ukraine’s prosecutors to focus on bigger, more significant cases first. But the Russian invasion and the wanton killings of civilians have awakened a powerful national determination in Ukraine to see justice carried out and to see that no atrocity goes unpunished — or at the very least, unexamined.

Several officers with Ukraine’s national police attended a conference of U.S. law enforcement officials in Dallas this fall, where they shared details on several uncompleted investigations, including a Russian attack in the first days of the war that reportedly resulted in the deaths of 14 civilians.

A senior official with Ukraine’s national police flipped open his tablet to show an edited, 10-minute video, much of it taken by security cameras that Russian soldiers had failed to destroy.

It began with a battered, disorderly column of Russian support vehicles redeploying into a wooded area off a main road, north of Kyiv, for protection. From their hidden position, soldiers could be seen firing indiscriminately at speeding cars of panicked civilians who were trying to flee.

One local man, who risked his life to check on one of the vehicles afterward, filmed with a cellphone what he found: a family of four, mother, father and two young children so riddled with bullets their lifeless bodies were almost unrecognizable. He was able to notify their relatives by retrieving identification from the crashed car.

By the time Ukrainian forces recaptured the area, many of the cars, bodies and other evidence were gone. It took the police months to compile video and eyewitness accounts; the man who found the family was terrified of Russian retribution and had to be coaxed to share his video. But the material collected included identifiable unit markings on Russian trucks and images of individual soldiers.

The Russian soldiers ended up on a spreadsheet pieced together by Ukrainian investigators, with their names, photographs and biographies harvested from social media accounts.

“They tried to get away with it, but they left too many traces behind,” said a Ukrainian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his safety.

“One of the biggest problems” in bringing cases against the men, the official added, “is that a lot of the guys who did this have been killed already.”

What makes Ukraine different from previous battlefield investigations is the omnipresence of video, along with other digital evidence from texts, emails, social media accounts and private messaging apps. But using it effectively is another matter.

Mr. Rosenbaum was surprised to learn that some investigators in Ukraine, a country with a robust tech sector, still relied on “traditional, paper-based” record-keeping. He reached out to prosecutors all over the Justice Department to tap their extensive experience in bringing big-data cases.

It turned out that American prosecutors had been repeatedly required to devise complex, cloud-based storage, analysis and communications systems for specific cases. Few provided as many important lessons as the system built to handle the largest investigation in the department’s history: the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.

The department has shared that information with European partners, who have been working to create a state-of-the-art case management system for Ukraine. It is expected to go online this year.

Many European countries have had a significant law enforcement presence on the ground in Ukraine for much of the war. The Justice Department, by contrast, only recently authorized one of its staff members to return to the country, apart from F.B.I. officials assigned to the embassy in Kyiv, according to people familiar with the situation.

The only other U.S. law enforcement officials who have operated in Ukraine during the war are four contractors employed by the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program run by the Justice Department, which has provided Ukrainian police departments with training and equipment for decades. They quickly pivoted to providing training and evidence collection assistance for war crimes, said the program’s director Gregory Ducot.

In Washington, prosecutors began collecting information on American victims from the first hours of the war. Christian Levesque, who is leading the investigation by the department’s human rights section, said her team was examining “anything at all” — from news reports to intelligence — that could possibly yield evidence.

“This is the most important thing that I’ve done in my career,” Ms. Levesque said.

She declined to discuss which cases the department was currently pursuing, although she echoed Mr. Garland’s assessment that they were gaining ground.

The potential universe of cases involving American victims is very small, with no more than a handful having been killed or injured. They include the disappearance of Grady Kurpasi, who was severely injured and captured by Russian forces in fighting near Kherson last fall; Pete Reed, a humanitarian worker who was killed in a missile strike last month while treating wounded Ukrainian civilians in Bakhmut; and James Hill, an American living in Ukraine, who was killed in Chernihiv shortly after the Russians invaded early last year.

The legal bar for indictment is high. Prosecutors would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that those charged with crimes knowingly attacked an American with the intent to harm — rather than mistakenly attacking noncombatants. No one has been charged under the main U.S. war crimes law since it went on the books in 1996.

The Justice Department could also bring cases under the federal torture statute, but that has also been sparingly used.

Late last year, Congress amended existing law to give U.S. prosecutors sweeping new powers to prosecute war crime offenses “regardless of the nationality of the victim or the offender,” provided the person is present in the United States. That gave U.S. prosecutors similar investigative authority as some international tribunals.

Mr. Rosenbaum — who once brought charges against a concentration camp guard 75 years after the Holocaust based on a waterlogged record found in a shipwreck — believes that this new authority will result in cases, but only if future generations keep up the grinding, time-consuming work.

“We can bring these people to justice,” he said. “But it will take years, probably decades, not weeks or months.”

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping held a joint meeting with large delegations from both countries. Putin said that Russia was ready to meet China’s growing demand for energy and that the governments had agreed on “practically all parameters” of a second pipeline carrying gas from Siberia to China. The Russian president also said he saw potential to develop a northern sea route with China.

A blast in Crimea hits a town long in Ukraine’s sights.

An explosion  on Monday night in a key Russian road and rail hub in occupied Crimea has refocused attention on the city of Dzhankoi, whose importance to the Russian military has steadily grown since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.

Dzhankoi, which is about 50 miles south of the Ukrainian mainland, was hit by an apparent drone attack, the details of which were disputed by Russia and Ukraine.

asia's new geopolitics essays on reshaping the indo pacific

Dnipro River

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said the blast had destroyed a shipment of Russian Kalibr cruise missiles that were being transported by rail. The Kremlin-appointed authorities in Crimea denied that, saying, “there were no military facilities nearby.” Neither account could be independently confirmed.

Ukraine typically maintains a policy of strategic ambiguity about strikes in Crimea, which Russian forces seized in 2014, but its military all but confirmed that it was behind the strike on Monday.

“They need to deal with what happened,” Natalia Humeniuk, the spokeswoman for southern command, said on national television on Tuesday, referring to the Russians. “They felt quite calm, especially at such a distance, and believed that they would have time to evacuate long before our weapons started responding to places of serious deployment.”

Ukrainian military officials and Western analysts have long pointed to Dzhankoi’s strategic importance for Russia and suggested that it would be in Kyiv’s sights. As Ukraine prepares for an anticipated offensive aimed at driving Russian forces out of southern Ukraine, independent analysts say that Kyiv’s military planners are likely examining ways to disrupt the flow of Russian weapons and supplies in and out of Crimea.

A city of about 39,000 people, Dzhankoi was a staging ground for Russia’s invasion force a year ago. It became even more important last summer, after the delivery of longer-range Western weapons to Kyiv compelled the Kremlin to push its supply hubs farther from the front lines.

In September, when the Russians were forced to retreat from the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, it became the central node for much of Russia’s logistical operations in the south.

It is home to the main rail lines running from southern Russia across the Kerch Strait into Crimea, and on into Kherson, where Russian forces are arrayed on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. A canal carrying fresh water from the Dnipro into Crimea runs through the town, where two major highways intersect.

Satellite photos taken by the company Planet Labs in October appeared to show dozens of Russian attack helicopters at the airfield in Dzhankoi.

Ben Hodges, a retired general and former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, has argued that one of the reasons the West should give Ukraine longer-range weapons is to enable strikes on Dzhankoi and other targets in Crimea.

A senior Ukrainian official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military matters, said recently that disrupting rail and road links in Dzhankoi would paralyze supply lines flowing from Russia into southern Ukraine, as well as to the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

Dzhankoi has been targeted before. Last summer, after explosions at ammunition depots outside the city burned for hours, a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the blasts were the work of an elite Ukrainian military unit operating behind enemy lines.

Mick Ryan, a retired Australian army major general who is a fellow at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based research group, said that Ukraine would be able to collect intelligence on the Russian response to the blast in Dzhankoi as it planned future military operations.

“It is an indication of how Ukraine will be able to conduct such strikes across Crimea,” he wrote on Twitter , adding that such attacks would likely become more frequent as Ukraine begins offensive operations in the south.


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