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Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following escalating tensions over Taiwan , Mikhail Gorbachev’s legacy , and Europe’s efforts to rein in spiraling energy prices .
Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following escalating tensions over Taiwan, Mikhail Gorbachev’s legacy, and Europe’s efforts to rein in spiraling energy prices.
If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.
Taiwan Fires Warning Shots at Chinese Drone
Tensions are high in the Taiwan Strait after Taiwan fired warning shots at a Chinese drone for the first time on Tuesday, the latest flash point in a geopolitical firestorm that has only intensified in recent weeks.
The exchange underscores just how much Beijing’s pressure campaign against Taiwan—which it sees as Chinese territory—has escalated since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial trip to the island earlier this month. In its aftermath, China has held large-scale military exercises, deployed drones and fighter jets, and launched missiles nearby.
On Tuesday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen urged her country’s forces to remain calm yet ready for countermeasures. “I want to tell everyone that the more the enemy provokes, the more calm we must be,” she said. “We will not provoke disputes, and we will exercise self-restraint, but it does not mean that we will not counter.”
As China ramped up the pressure, the United States and Taiwan moved forward with formal trade talks and continued routine U.S. warship transit operations in the Taiwan Strait despite Beijing’s warnings. Washington is also planning a $1.1 billion weapons sale to the island, its biggest in nearly two years, according to Bloomberg.
Like Pelosi, several U.S. lawmakers have since traveled to Taiwan in a show of support, enraging Beijing. A group led by Sen. Edward Markey touched down in the island in mid-August, while Sen. Marsha Blackburn arrived last Friday. This week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is set to meet with Tsai and representatives of semiconductor companies.
Other leaders in the Indo-Pacific are much less enthused, with the majority of the region actually backing Beijing over Taiwan, as Derek Grossman argued in Foreign Policy. Many of their responses “predictably and overwhelmingly upheld Beijing’s ‘One China’ principle—that Taiwan is part of mainland China,” he wrote.
But as tensions over the island continue to heat up, policymakers and political commentators are asking the wrong questions, as FP’s Howard W. French argued. The focus, French wrote, should be on how to prevent conflict over the island—not who would be the champion.
“There are no guarantees in any of this, of course, except that the future of China and Taiwan will keep the world on a knife’s edge,” French wrote. “That makes working smartly to avoid a conflict as important as preparing for one.”
What We’re Following Today
Gorbachev’s legacy. Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who helped end the Cold War and ultimately oversaw the Soviet Union’s demise, died on Tuesday, Russian media reported. He was 91 years old.
Gorbachev “was a rare bright spot in the tragic, grim, blood-splattered history of Russia,” Vladislav M. Zubok wrote in an obituary for Foreign Policy. “A passionate political animal, he refused to cling to power for power’s sake.”
Europe’s energy measures. As energy prices soar and Russia repeatedly slashes its gas exports to Europe, European leaders have announced plans to intervene in the electricity market in order to ease painful financial pressures on consumers and businesses.
Spiking energy prices are “exposing the limitations of our current electricity market design,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “That’s why we, the Commission, are now working on an emergency intervention and a structural reform of the electricity market.”
Keep an Eye On
Pakistan economic relief. As Pakistan buckles under an economic crisis and extreme flooding, the International Monetary Fund has put together a more than $1.1 billion aid package to help the country avert default. The bundle comes as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned that Pakistan was confronting a “monsoon on steroids.”
Sudan’s labor triumph. In a major triumph for workers’ rights, Sudanese journalists have voted to establish Sudan’s first union in decades.
“It’s historic,” said the union’s president, Abdulmoniem Abu Idrees. “It will be a notable day for the unions, a day in which we exercise our democracy under a military rule and despite all the manacles that prevent[ed] us from doing so.”
Tuesday’s Most Read
• International Relations Theory Suggests Great-Power War Is Coming by Matthew Kroenig
• You Have No Idea How Bad Europe’s Energy Crisis Is by Christina Lu
• Where Does the Ukraine War Go From Here? by Jack Detsch
Odds and Ends
More than 150,000 tomatoes inundated a busy California highway on Monday after the truck carrying them swerved, creating a thick red slush that baffled drivers, caused car crashes, and ground traffic to a halt. “Those tomato skins, man,” highway patrol officer Jason Tyhurst told the New York Times. “Once they hit the asphalt, it’s like walking on ice.”