On April 7, a batch of classified documents detailing American national security secrets from Ukraine to the Middle East to China surfaced on social media sites. It caused a shock in Washington. The leaked documents contained some Ukrainian war plans and also an alarming assessment of Ukraine’s air defense. But they also revealed that the Russian military is struggling in its war in Ukraine.
Last Monday in an article titled, “Biden’s Surreal and Secretive Journey into a War Zone”by Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear, the New York Times shared some details of President Biden’s visit to Ukraine with the reader.[i] It said the president played his part in the ruse which included a dinner at the Red Hen restaurant with the First Lady where they enjoyed the rigatoni before going back to the White House, hours before his departure for Europe. And that was just the beginning.
Two years ago, on February 19, 2021, at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference, President Biden addressed the global community for the first time. He defined the partnership between Europe and the US as the cornerstone of all that the West hopes to accomplish in the 21st century, just as it did in the 20th century. He said, “I know — I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined — determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership.”
On January 25, Chancellor Scholz told the Bundestag that Germany will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. For some, the German government was bowing to growing “international pressure”. For Mr. Scholz and others, the German government was maintaining that its lockstep approach to weapons deliveries is the best way to support Ukraine, and the only way this can be done is by having the support of the German public opinion.
Last week President Macron paid a state visit to Washington, the first of the Biden administration.
In widely reported remarks, “France has jumped to the head of the queue,” said Professor Charles Kupchan, who was a senior adviser on European issues in the Obama White House. “The state visit is symbolically significant as the return of the trans-Atlantic relationship to the center of American strategy in the world, and it’s notable that the country getting the first nod is France, not Germany or Britain.”
With the opening of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, world attention turned to New York. But what made the headlines during the past two days was the September 21 Kremlin address by President Putin announcing the partial mobilization of the Russian Federation and emphasizing that “only military reservists, primarily those who served in the armed forces and have specific military occupational specialties and corresponding experience, will be called up.” Moreover, Mr. Putin declared, “I would like to remind those who make such statements regarding Russia that our country has different types of weapons as well, and some of them are more modern than the weapons NATO countries have. In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”[i]
President Biden’s trip to the Middle East took place against the background of Arab-Israeli disenchantment with the Obama White House, the Netanyahu-Trump relationship, the uncertain future of the Iran nuclear deal, the far-reaching consequences of the war in Ukraine, the strategic competition with China and Russia, and his plummeting approval rates at home.
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, in an interview with newspaper editors in Cairo in March 2018 said that Türkiye, Iran, and extremist groups represented a “triangle of evil” in the region. This was widely reported in the Egyptian press. Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Ankara issued a statement saying that MBS had mentioned not Türkiye but the Muslim Brotherhood and radical groups.
Last week, the Turkish government sent a letter to the United Nations formally requesting that henceforth it be referred to as “Türkiye” which was immediately agreed upon. The move was seen as part of a push by Ankara to dissociate its name from the bird, turkey, and some negative connotations that are associated with it. The Turkish word for Egypt is “Mısır”. The word also means corn. Yet, never in my life, not even once, have I thought of corn, popcorn, or genetically modified corn when I heard the word Mısır. For me, regardless of being called Turkey or Türkiye, my country will always be Atatürk’s Republic.
On March 26, in Poland, President Biden referring to President Putin said, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Administration officials immediately scrambled to clarify that what he meant was not regime change. “That’s not for Biden to decide,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. “The president of Russia is elected by Russians.” Two days later, Mr. Biden said that his comment was an expression of his outrage and not a change in American policy.