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Updated May 14, 2024, 7:15am EDT
Europe
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Blinken makes surprise trip to Kyiv as Putin readies to meet Xi

Insights from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Economist

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in Kyiv on May 14, 2024. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Pool via REUTERS
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Pool via REUTERS
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The News

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Ukraine on a surprise visit Tuesday to offer reassurances of support as long-delayed American weaponry arrived in the country.

The trip comes as the Kremlin announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing this week, as the two nations strengthen their “no-limits” partnership. Beijing has operated as a lifeline for Moscow, which has been penalized for its invasion of Ukraine through widespread Western sanctions.

The US recently agreed a $61 billion aid package for Kyiv that includes air defense interceptors, artillery, and long-range ATACMS missiles.

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Ukraine facing barrage of missiles as Russia ups offensive

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Sources:  
The New York Times, The Washington Post

Ukraine has been less successful at fending off Russian missile strikes in recent months, a New York Times analysis found. The Russian military has “improved its tactics, firing larger and more complex barrages,” the report said, and Ukraine’s shortage of reliable ammunition or defenses has meant that it can’t properly defend itself. Moscow has also upped its offensive on the country’s eastern front, targeting communities that faced the initial invasion in 2022. Residents are fleeing en masse from their homes, and believe that Russia is making a run at taking the city of Kharkiv, located just 25 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border.

China-Russia partnership strengthening

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Source:  
CNN

Russia’s economy has survived Western sanctions, and in a surprise cabinet reshuffle over the weekend Putin appointed an economist as the new defense minister — a move viewed as an attempt to emphasize the Kremlin’s focus on curbing runaway wartime spending. The US has repeatedly threatened to crack down on Beijing for sending supplies to Russia that could aid its war effort, but Xi seems to be strengthening his relationship with Putin. “Russia is fundamental to China’s grand strategy,” Manoj Kewalramani, head of Indo-Pacific studies at the Bangalore-based Takshashila Institution, told CNN. Xi may be trying to avoid escalating tensions with the West, but “there is a deep interest in making sure that Russia doesn’t lose the war,” he said.

‘Financial warfare’ surging around the world

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Source:  
The Economist

China has closely watched the US impose sanctions against Russian banks following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Washington targeted the Russian elites’ dollar-based assets — a move that alarmed Beijing, which has sought to find ways of circumventing a similar financial crisis. Sanctions are being deployed by Western nations against nations or individuals, sparking “an unprecedented surge in financial warfare,” The Economist noted. As a result, nations are becoming adept at finding a way around sanctions. Western countries “must contend with the growing prosperity and financial sophistication of ‘third countries’ — ones that neither impose American and European sanctions, nor are under sanctions themselves,” the outlet added.

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