Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 18, 2022

Newsline: US Reopens Embassy in Kyiv After Three Months

The US has reopened its embassy in Ukraine’s capital three months after shutting it down. “Today we are officially resuming operations at the US Embassy in Kyiv,” Secretary of State Blinken said in a statement. “The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again.” Blinken said “we have put forward additional measures to increase the safety of our colleagues who are returning to Kyiv.” (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/ukraine-latest-finland-sweden-hand-105700818.html) The decision to close the embassy in February had drawn criticism as sending a signal of doubt about Ukraine’s ability to hold out against the threatened Russian invasion that came soon after.

Newsline: U.S. State Department suggests Russia may be violating Vienna Convention

The U.S. State Department raised the notion Tuesday that “sporadic contact” with WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is being held in Russia, is insufficient and may fail to meet the minimum requirements under the Vienna Convention. Griner has been held in Russia since February for allegedly possessing vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis when she was coming back to Moscow. Her arrest wasn’t reported until March and her pre-trial detention was extended for another month last week. The State Department is still pushing to have regular contact with Griner. A consular official was able to meet with the Phoenix Mercury star last week. “That consular official came away with the impression that Brittney Griner is doing as well as might be expected under conditions that can only be described as exceedingly difficult,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “But sporadic contact is not satisfactory. It also may not be consistent with the Vienna Convention to which Russia has subscribed.” (https://www.foxnews.com/sports/brittney-griner-arrest-state-department-russia-vienna-convention) Article 36 of the Vienna Convention requires a country that arrested a foreign national to give the detainee access to their consulate and to give the foreign national the right of consular access. The Biden administration has classified Griner’s status as “wrongfully detained.”

Newsline: Italian PM calls Russia’s expulsion of diplomats “hostile act”

Russia’s decision to expel Italian diplomats is an “hostile act”, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday, warning diplomatic channels with Moscow must not be interrupted. “This absolutely must not lead to an interruption of diplomatic channels because it is through those channels that, if we succeed, peace will be achieved and that is certainly what we want,” Draghi said. (https://wsau.com/2022/05/18/russias-expulsion-of-italian-diplomats-hostile-act-pm-draghi/) Russia will expel 24 Italian diplomats in a retaliatory move, news agency RIA cited the foreign ministry as saying – the latest in a series of tit-for-tat responses to European countries that have ordered out Russian staff.

Newsline: Russia expels 85 diplomats from France, Spain and Italy

Russia said on Wednesday it was expelling a total of 85 embassy staff from France, Spain and Italy in response to similar moves by those countries, highlighting the damage to relations with leading EU members since it launched its war on Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry said it was ordering out 34 diplomatic staff from France, 27 from Spain and 24 from Italy. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-expels-34-french-diplomats-103905975.html) The three countries are among European nations that have collectively thrown out more than 300 Russians since the Feb. 24 invasion. In many cases, they accused Russian diplomats of spying, which Moscow has denied. Russia’s response has included sending home 45 Polish staff and 40 Germans last month. It has also announced tit-for-tat moves against Finland, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Japan, among others.

Newsline: Ambassadors of Sweden, Finland hand applications for NATO membership

Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications to join the NATO military alliance early Wednesday, ending the Nordic nations’ decades of military neutrality in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Ambassadors Klaus Korhonen of Finland and Axel Wernoff of Sweden handed their applications to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels during a brief press conference, officially initiating the membership process that could take several months to complete. “This is a good day at a critical moment in our security,” Stoltenberg said. “And I warmly welcome the requests from Finland and Sweden to join NATO.” (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2022/05/18/brussels-Finland-Sweden-NATO-applications/6591652852929/) The 30 member states will now consider the applications in regards to their own security interests, with Stoltenberg projecting confidence during the press conference that they would work through any issues quickly.

Newsline: Pace of in-person international diplomacy quickens as China stays on sidelines

Some of Europe and Asia’s most powerful leaders are clocking thousands of air miles in a flurry of diplomatic activity, but there has been one major absentee: China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has not left the country since the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020 and now, with the country fighting its worst Covid-19 outbreaks yet, is left watching from the sidelines as Europe steps up its engagement with Asian rivals India and Japan. The whirlwind of diplomacy “is the result of political and economic rationales combined”, said a senior EU official. “These [rationales] have long been there, but with the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine they have become more pressing.” (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/while-china-stays-sidelines-pace-093000219.html) It has gathered momentum since last month’s EU-China summit, held by video link, and viewed in European capitals as a disaster. European leaders failed to convince Beijing to use its influence to stall Russia’s war on Ukraine, or to address other grievances over trade, human rights and economic coercion. Observers say China’s absence from top-level, face-to-face diplomacy could exacerbate these divisions.