Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dropped his opposition to Sweden's entry into NATO, it was announced just ahead of the opening of the military alliance summit in Vilnius July 11. US President Joe Biden thanked Erdogan for his "courage" in clearing the way for Stockholm's bid. In an apparent quid pro quo, the State Department said the administration is dropping its objections to Turkey purchasing F-16 fighter jets from the US. Congress opposed sales of the jets to Turkey after Ankara bought Russian S-400 missile systems in 2017.
The US announced July 7 that it will provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, despite a plea from Human Rights Watch (HRW) for both Russia and Ukraine to cease their use of the controversial weapons, which have already caused many civilian deaths and injuries over the course of the war. In a White House press briefing, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stressed that the US deferred the decision for as long as possible due to such considerations, but ultimately found that the harm of a continued Russian offensive outweighed the risks of providing the munitions.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released a report May 30 finding that Afghanistan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the US all participated in human rights violations against Abd al-Rahim Hussein al-Nashiri, the man accused of involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Al-Nashiri is currently held in Guantanamo Bay prison, though he is said to have been previously detained in the territories of each of these countries.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia reacted with outrage after China's ambassador in Paris appeared to question the sovereignty not only of Ukraine, but all the former Soviet republics. Interviewed on French television April 21, Lu Shaye was asked whether Crimea (unilaterally annexed by Russia in 2014) was part of Ukraine under international law. He replied that Crimea was historically Russian and had been handed over to Ukraine; and then added: "Even these countries of the former Soviet Union do not have an effective status in international law, since there is no international agreement that would specify their status as sovereign countries." Fearing diplomatic censure, Beijing's Foreign Ministry backpedalled, releasing a statement saying: "China respects the sovereign status of former Soviet republics after the Soviet Union's dissolution." (The Guardian, NYT)
The Russian Foreign Ministry on March 9 issued sanctions against 144 citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Moscow accused the individuals of hostile acts against the Russian state. The alleged acts include lobbying for sanctions, interference with Russia's internal affairs, and inciting "Russophobic" sentiments. The names of the individuals are not yet available.
Tens of thousands of conscription-age Russian men have fled to neighboring countries since President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization of military reserve troops to fight in Ukraine. The tide has grown in recent days amid fears that the Kremlin will impose an exit ban. The sense of a closing window has led to chaotic scenes on Russia's land borders with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia—countries that do not require a visa for visiting Russians. There has been a particular crush at Russia's sole border crossing with Georgia, where some 3,500 cars have backed up the road for nearly 10 kilometers. (Moscow Times)
Belarus on Feb. 28 voted in a referendum to approve constitutional changes that include dropping the country's nuclear-free status. On the eve of the vote, President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his willingness to redeploy nuclear arms in the country's territory, saying: "If [the West] transfers nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, to our borders, then I will turn to [Vladimir] Putin to bring back the nuclear weapons that I gave away without any conditions."
Amid quickly escalating tensions over Ukraine, Russia has lodged a diplomatic protest with the US embassy in Moscow, claiming that a US nuclear submarine penetrated Russian territorial waters near the Kuril Islands. According to Moscow's Defense Ministry, a Virginia-class US Navy submarine was detected Feb. 12 off Urup Island, where Russia's Pacific Fleet was conducting exercises. The Defense Ministry said the submarine was chased off by Russian vessels, and retreated at "maximum speed." The statement accused the US of a "violation of Russia's state border." The Pentagon issued a statement, saying: "There is no truth to the Russian claims of our operations in their territorial waters." US President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin spoke by phone for an hour later that day to discuss Ukraine, but according to the Kremlin the Kurils incident was not brought up. (TASS, Reuters)