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Russian Airstrike Sends Message to NATO

Moscow targeted a Ukrainian military facility around 15 miles from the border with Poland, a member of the alliance.

By , a senior editor at Foreign Policy.
A man wounded in an airstrike is assisted by medical staff in Ukraine.
A man wounded in an airstrike is assisted by medical staff in Ukraine.
A man wounded in an airstrike at a nearby military complex is assisted by medical staff in Novoiavorivsk, Ukraine, on March 13. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Russia strikes a Ukrainian military facility near the Polish border and an apartment block in Kyiv, China sees a major surge in COVID-19 cases, and what to watch in the world this week. I’m filling in for Colm Quinn, who has the day off.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Russia Strikes Ukrainian Base Near Poland

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Russia strikes a Ukrainian military facility near the Polish border and an apartment block in Kyiv, China sees a major surge in COVID-19 cases, and what to watch in the world this week. I’m filling in for Colm Quinn, who has the day off.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Russia Strikes Ukrainian Base Near Poland

Escalating Russian attacks in Ukraine over the weekend brought the war closer to NATO borders with no clear diplomatic offramp in sight. Russia conducted an airstrike against a large military base in western Ukraine around 15 miles from the Polish border on Sunday, killing at least 35 people and injuring more than 100, according to a local official.

The attack occurred in a part of Ukraine that has seen less fighting than in the eastern cities near Russian borders, and it came after a Saturday warning from Moscow that it considered potential Western arms shipments to Ukraine to be “legitimate targets.” The military facility had hosted NATO troops for years. On Sunday, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reiterated that any Russian attack against NATO territory would result in a response from the alliance.

“The president has been clear repeatedly that the United States will work with our allies to defend every inch of NATO territory, and that means every inch,” Sullivan said on Face the Nation.

The airstrike so close to Poland’s borders made the heightened risks of the conflict stark, and NATO defense ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting later this week to address its regional implications. Ukrainian officials have called for the alliance to implement a no-fly zone over its territory. The United States said that Sunday’s attack would not change its opposition to such a proposal, which many experts warn could lead to direct U.S.-Russian conflict, given the offensive force required to establish such a zone.

Meanwhile, as Russia faces wide-reaching sanctions from the United States, Europe, and Asian partners, U.S. officials reported that Moscow has requested military and financial assistance from Beijing. The two countries have grown closer under Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, although the Chinese leader may not have been fully aware of Putin’s plans before the invasion. China has issued vague statements calling for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, while condemning sanctions.

Sullivan plans to meet senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome today, where he aims to discuss the conflict in Ukraine—although a statement from National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne ahead of the talks said the leaders would not negotiate “specific issues or outcomes.” The Chinese Embassy in Washington denied knowledge of Russia’s request for assistance.

And as the world looks on, Russian and Ukrainian officials engaged in talks have not reached anything like a breakthrough. But they did strike a more optimistic tone on Sunday, suggesting there could be some results from the talks in the coming days. “We will not concede in principle on any positions. Russia now understands this. Russia is already beginning to talk constructively,” Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said.

Moscow is reportedly “no longer making ultimatums, but are listening carefully to our proposals,” he added. A source told the Financial Times there was “movement” in recent days on issues such as demilitarization and Ukraine’s potential future neutrality.

As virtual talks began, the violence continued. A Russian shell hit a residential building in northern Kyiv on Monday morning, killing at least two people, while 15 others were rescued from the ensuing fire. In the besieged southern city of Mariupol, a pregnant woman—whose photo became a symbol of Ukrainian defiance after the Russian bombing of a maternity hospital last week—has died along with her baby.


The World This Week

Monday, March 14: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz makes his first visit to Ankara, Turkey, since entering office, where he will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The leaders are expected to discuss bilateral ties and the situation in Ukraine.

Monday, March 14: U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meets with senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Tuesday, March 15, through Thursday, March 17: Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin visits Washington, where he will meet U.S. President Joe Biden.

Tuesday, March 15: Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the Parliament of Canada. He will be introduced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Wednesday, March 16: NATO defense ministers hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the conflict in Ukraine and its regional implications.

Saturday, March 19, through Sunday, March 20: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is scheduled to visit New Delhi and meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


What We’re Following Today

China’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak since 2020. A surge in coronavirus cases across China has led to new lockdowns, posing a serious challenge to the zero-COVID-19 policy the country has pursued since the initial phase of the pandemic. China reported nearly 3,400 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, twice the previous day’s count. The outbreak seems to be driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, although some provinces are reporting delta variant clusters.

On Sunday, authorities restricted access to Shanghai and imposed a weeklong lockdown in Shenzhen, a city of 17.5 million people not far from Hong Kong that is a finance and technology hub. Meanwhile, Hong Kong is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak of much larger proportions: The city recorded more than 32,000 new cases on Sunday. Its death rate is currently the highest in the world; many of those succumbing to the virus are unvaccinated elderly residents.

Saudi Arabia carries out mass execution. Saudi Arabia said in a statement on Saturday that it had put 81 people to death for “multiple heinous crimes”—the country’s largest mass execution in years. Human rights organizations swiftly condemned the executions, which came despite promises by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reform the country’s justice system and limit its use of the death penalty. One rights group said that charges against some of the people executed were related to their participation in protests.

On Sunday, Iran suspended a fifth round of talks with its rival Saudi Arabia, a state-affiliated website reported without citing a reason behind the decision. Tehran also condemned the mass execution, which reportedly included 41 Shiite Muslims. Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016 after Iranian protesters responded to the execution of a Shiite cleric by storming the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.


FP Live: How to End Putin’s War in Ukraine

Should the West be playing a larger role in Ukraine? What steps should be taken to avoid any nuclear consequences? How far will Russian President Vladimir Putin go? Join FP editor in chief Ravi Agrawal for a live conversation with Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO under President Barack Obama and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, to explore these questions and more on Monday, March 14, at 12 p.m. ETSubscribers can register here.


Keep an Eye On

Colombia’s presidential primaries. Colombians went to the polls on Sunday for congressional elections and presidential primaries ahead of the first round of voting in May. Incumbent President Iván Duque is not eligible to run for reelection. Voters from both the right-wing and left-wing coalitions were choosing among five candidates, with Gustavo Petro—who lost to Duque in 2018—expected to triumph for the left.

In January, John Padilla and Sergio Guzmán argued in Foreign Policy that Colombia was a test case for China’s encroachment in Latin America.

Greece-Turkey relations. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a rare meeting in Istanbul on Sunday. Despite being NATO allies, the countries have long had strained relations, disagreeing over maritime issues, territory, and migration. But amid the conflict in Ukraine, the leaders agreed to improve their relationship, according to a Turkish statement.

In Foreign Policy last week, Jeffrey Mankoff wrote that the war in Ukraine has upset Turkey’s geopolitical calculations as it seeks to balance both Kyiv and Moscow.

Audrey Wilson is a senior editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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