Morning Brief

Foreign Policy’s flagship daily newsletter with what’s coming up around the world today. Delivered weekdays.

U.S. Keeps Ukraine Close Amid Russian Build-Up

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin meets with his Ukrainian counterpart on Thursday as Washington keeps its attention on Russia.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on Aug. 31.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on Aug. 31.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on Aug. 31. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosts his Ukrainian counterpart at the Pentagon, the United States aims to boost global vaccine production, and Mexico’s and Canada’s leaders head to the White House.


U.S. Signals Support for Ukraine Amid Russia Buildup 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov is in Washington Thursday to meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as the United States continues to show support for Ukraine amid tensions with Russia over a recent military buildup.

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosts his Ukrainian counterpart at the Pentagon, the United States aims to boost global vaccine production, and Mexico’s and Canada’s leaders head to the White House.


U.S. Signals Support for Ukraine Amid Russia Buildup 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov is in Washington Thursday to meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as the United States continues to show support for Ukraine amid tensions with Russia over a recent military buildup.

Although the meeting is meant to signal support for Ukraine during the latest strain in relations with its eastern neighbor, it’s not the only constituency Austin is trying to connect with, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, the director of the trans-Atlantic security program at the Center for a New American Security, told Foreign Policy.

“I think the audience for this meeting is both the Kremlin and also European allies because their eyes are focused very much on what’s happening in Belarus,” said Kendall-Taylor, who briefly served as senior director for Russia and Central Asia on U.S. President Joe Biden’s National Security Council.

“I don’t think Europe has come around to the same degree of concern and view of seriousness of where I think the U.S. administration is,” Kendall-Taylor added.

The buildup has come while Belarus and Poland navigate a border standoff, with EU and Polish leaders accusing Belarus of encouraging migrants to cross into EU territory. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sees the two as linked and accused Belarus of raising tensions in order to distract from Russia’s activities near Ukraine.

The unusual nature of the Russian troop and equipment movements near the Ukrainian border has alarmed analysts and the Biden administration. Unlike in April, this buildup doesn’t line up with scheduled military exercises and has added to hardware already left in place in those previous maneuvers.

Recent satellite imagery analysis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that the increase in troops includes elements of the 41st Combined Arms Army, a group usually stationed 2,000 miles away from its current position.

That doesn’t mean Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the political decision to deploy those military units and risk tearing up months of carefully calibrated U.S.-Russia diplomacy. “It comes down to the question: What is Putin’s calculus?” Kendall-Taylor said. “I think Putin respects Biden, but he would easily be willing to jeopardize Biden’s approach to a stable and predictable relationship if his calculus is that he’s thinking about legacy.”

“I think he’s thinking about the fact that the current trajectory in Ukraine is not moving in Russia’s favor. And Russia has learned that if you can’t do it politically, then you do it militarily. And so that’s the risk.”

Putin may give a deeper insight into his own analysis of the situation during a speech to Russian diplomats Thursday in Moscow.

So is this all a grand plan to help Russian troops march on Kyiv? Unlikely, Jeff Hawn writes in Foreign Policy. To Hawn, the slow pace of the buildup seems more likely to be a change in general strategic posture across its regional military commands than a pretext for war.

Between the prospect of international condemnation and being forced to face Ukraine’s advanced capabilities and motivated military, the costs of a Russian invasion would likely be too high.

“Russia may indeed see conditions someday where an invasion of Ukraine would be to its advantage,” Hawn writes. “But today, if Russia were to attack Ukraine it would have a lot to lose for almost no gain.”


What We’re Following

The Three Amigos in Washington. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador join U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House Thursday for three-way talks, informally known as the Three Amigos summit. Biden is expected to meet with both leaders separately before the summit begins. The meeting comes as both Mexico and Canada warily eye a provision for tax credits on U.S.-made electric vehicles under consideration in Congress that both countries see as a protectionist move.

Writing in Foreign Policy on Wednesday, Edward Alden explained why all is not well in the trilateral relationship. 

Vaccine plans. The United States is planning to greatly boost its own coronavirus vaccine production with a multibillion-dollar investment in manufacturing capacity, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing two Biden administration officials. The funding aims to help increase capacity within the next six months to the point where the United States can produce 1 billion doses a year, both for domestic and overseas use.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration has stepped up its efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic at home, pledging $5 billion for 10 million courses of Pfizer’s new coronavirus treatment pill and a further $3 billion for rapid testing.


Keep an Eye On

Violence in Sudan. Sudanese military forces opened fire on protesters Wednesday in the deadliest incident in the country since last month’s coup. At least 17 people were reported killed in the violence, which occurred in protests in the cities of Bahri and Omdurman as well as the capital of Khartoum. Speaking in Kenya on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “engaged intensely” with Sudan’s challenges and pledged his full support in restoring the country’s democratic transition.

Australia’s tech future. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to make his country a regional power in next-generation quantum technology, heralding its applications in the defense and communications sectors and highlighting U.S. cooperation in the matter in the wake of the AUKUS agreement. The Australian government is set to spend roughly $81 million over the next 10 years investing in the technology, which will include setting up a hub to spur commercialization.

The relatively small sum comes on the heels of a $740 million investment in the country over the next five years from Google and adds to a 2020 government pledge to spend almost $1 billion over the next 10 years improving its cybercapabilities.


Odds and Ends

Barbados is taking a step into the diplomatic unknown, aiming to be the first nation to establish an embassy in the metaverse, a new (and not necessarily improved) version of the internet that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has bet his company’s future on. Barbadian authorities have already signed a deal with Decentraland, one of the many metaverse platforms, and are in talks with others, AFP reports, with plans to eventually offer virtual consular services. “Barbados looks forward to welcoming the world in its metaverse embassy,” Foreign Minister Jerome Walcott said.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

Join the Conversation

Commenting on this and other recent articles is just one benefit of a Foreign Policy subscription.

Already a subscriber? .

Join the Conversation

Join the conversation on this and other recent Foreign Policy articles when you subscribe now.

Not your account?

Join the Conversation

Please follow our comment guidelines, stay on topic, and be civil, courteous, and respectful of others’ beliefs.

You are commenting as .

More from Foreign Policy

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a commission on military-technical cooperation with foreign states in 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a commission on military-technical cooperation with foreign states in 2017.

What’s the Harm in Talking to Russia? A Lot, Actually.

Diplomacy is neither intrinsically moral nor always strategically wise.

Officers with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) wait outside an apartment in Kharkiv oblast, Ukraine.
Officers with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) wait outside an apartment in Kharkiv oblast, Ukraine.

Ukraine Has a Secret Resistance Operating Behind Russian Lines

Modern-day Ukrainian partisans are quietly working to undermine the occupation.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron wave as they visit the landmark Brandenburg Gate illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag in Berlin on May 9, 2022.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron wave as they visit the landmark Brandenburg Gate illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag in Berlin on May 9, 2022.

The Franco-German Motor Is on Fire

The war in Ukraine has turned Europe’s most powerful countries against each other like hardly ever before.

U.S. President Joe Biden holds a semiconductor during his remarks before signing an executive order on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
U.S. President Joe Biden holds a semiconductor during his remarks before signing an executive order on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

How the U.S.-Chinese Technology War Is Changing the World

Washington’s crackdown on technology access is creating a new kind of global conflict.