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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The G-7 nations weigh whether to sanction the Taliban in a virtual meeting, Poland and Lithuania plan to build a fence to keep out migrants entering the European Union from Belarus, and the WHO calls for a COVID-19 vaccine booster moratorium .
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The G-7 nations weigh whether to sanction the Taliban in a virtual meeting, Poland and Lithuania plan to build a fence to keep out migrants entering the European Union from Belarus, and the WHO calls for a COVID-19 vaccine booster moratorium.
If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.
Will the G-7 Recognize or Sanction the Taliban? British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is convening an emergency virtual G-7 meeting today to address the crisis in Afghanistan. At stake will be how the G-7 countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—plan to approach the Taliban. What the G-7 nations decide may stand in stark contrast to China and Russia, which are also navigating their relationship with the militant group amid the U.S. withdrawal.
When he announced the meeting on Sunday, Johnson focused on Afghanistan’s looming humanitarian crisis. The international community must work together to “ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years,” he wrote on Twitter—striking a similar tone as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in a statement on Sunday.
Evacuations in particular have become a flash point as leaving the country has become more perilous, with at least 20 deaths last week in and around Kabul’s international airport.
Sanctions on the horizon? Another key focus will be sanctions. Johnson reportedly plans to advocate for economic sanctions against the Taliban and for only providing aid on the condition the Taliban not commit human rights abuses or provide a safe haven for terrorist groups. It’s unclear how U.S. President Joe Biden and other leaders will respond, but the U.S. president said Friday that Washington would coordinate with its allies to set “harsh conditions” for cooperating with the Taliban.
Two diplomatic sources told Reuters the G-7 will coordinate on recognizing—or sanctioning—the Taliban. Unified recognition could be used to get the Taliban to follow through on their human rights commitments.
U.S.-U.K. tensions? Johnson also reportedly intends to pressure Biden to extend his Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan. (Britain currently has more than 1,000 armed forces personnel in Kabul and no fixed withdrawal date.) Biden hasn’t ruled out extending the deadline, but Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen has said Aug. 31 is a “red line” and any extension would “provoke a reaction.”
Downing Street has said there’s no ongoing dispute between the two nations’ leaders, even as Britain has made its displeasure with the U.S. deadline known. The countries’ differences amid the withdrawal have forced Britain to reckon with the fact that it can’t depend on Washington for its security, as retired British Gen. Richard Barrons, who formerly commanded Britain’s Joint Forces Command, discussed with FP’s Elisabeth Braw.
China and Russia. Meanwhile, Beijing and Moscow, which have conducted public diplomacy with Taliban leaders for years, have yet to officially recognize the Taliban government. Both states have interests in Afghanistan, including preventing instability from spilling over into Central Asia. Russia in particular has indicated it’s ready to engage with the group, praising the Taliban and conducting its diplomatic operations as normal—even though it officially considers the group a terrorist organization.
The U.N. addresses Afghanistan. Despite its different approach to the Taliban takeover, Britain is collaborating with France on a U.N. Security Council resolution—covering aid, counterterrorism, and engaging with the Taliban—that it is hoping will appeal to China and Russia. “We’re going to have to bring in countries with a potentially moderating influence like Russia and China, however uncomfortable that is,” said U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has faced calls to resign after he remained on vacation rather than returning to London immediately during the fall of Kabul.
What We’re Following Today
Belarus’s “hybrid” war? Poland and Lithuania have each announced plans to build a razor-wire fence on their border with Belarus to stop migrants from entering the European Union—an effort to combat what they’ve called a “hybrid attack.” Poland and the Baltic States have accused Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko of flying asylum-seekers to Minsk and then sending them to the EU in retaliation for the bloc’s sanctions on his regime.
Poland, which has already deployed more than 900 soldiers to the border, intends to send more soldiers to stop the migrants, who are primarily Afghans and Iraqis. Last week, the Polish government said more than 2,000 migrants have tried to cross illegally from Belarus this month.
Meanwhile, tensions have increased in Poland over the government’s decision not to allow 30 migrants stuck on the border—some of whom reportedly need medical attention—to apply for asylum. The U.N. refugee agency has said it is monitoring the situation.
Booster moratorium? World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called on countries planning to offer third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to implement a two-month moratorium on the boosters to reduce global vaccine inequality. Earlier this month, Hungary became the first country in the European Union to allow people to sign up for third shots, and the United States announced its own plans to distribute boosters last week.
A new Israeli study found a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine significantly reduces the chance of infection among older people. But the WHO has repeatedly called on wealthy countries to help improve vaccine access in the developing world to prevent further contagion.
“The virus will get the chance to circulate in countries with low vaccination coverage, and the delta variant could evolve to become more virulent,” Tedros said.
Keep an Eye On
Kamala Harris’s trip to Asia. As U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris continues her visit to Singapore, the White House has announced new agreements between the two countries on climate change, cyber threats, and the coronavirus pandemic. The trip—Harris’s first official visit to the region—is intended to counter China’s growing influence. She heads to Vietnam later this week.
New sanctions over Tigray war. Washington imposed new sanctions on Monday over the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which has led to thousands of deaths and left at least 350,000 people threatened by famine. The sanctions targeted Filipos Woldeyohannes, the Eritrean defense forces chief of staff, for leading troops accused of serious human rights abuses and sexual violence in Tigray.
“The United States will continue to identify and pursue action against those involved in serious human rights abuse in Ethiopia and prolonging the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement. He also called for Eritrea to withdraw all military forces from Ethiopia, as the country agreed to do earlier this year.
Odds and Ends
Capybaras have invaded one of Argentina’s most famous gated communities north of Buenos Aires, fueling a debate on class and environmental responsibility. In recent weeks, the wealthy residents of Nordelta have complained about the giant rodents—which can be 2 feet tall, 3 feet long, and weigh up to 132 pounds (60 kilograms)—attacking pets, damaging lawns, disrupting traffic, and leaving excrement throughout their manicured development.
While Nordelta’s residents have grumbled, progressive Argentinians and environmentalists have rallied behind the rodents, known locally as carpinchos. Environmentalists have long criticized developers for encroaching on critical wetlands and worsening floods in nearby under-resourced neighborhoods. Ecologist Enrique Viale argues the residents, not the rodents, are the invaders. “It’s the other way round: Nordelta invaded the ecosystem of the carpinchos,” he said.
On social media, they have become a symbol of the country’s class struggle. “My strong support for the Peronist carpinchos of Nordelta recovering their habitat,” one supporter tweeted.