Russian President Vladimir Putin rang in the new year by launching fresh strikes against Kyiv, killing at least four people . The attacks continued into New Year’s Day. Ukrainian Air Force Command said it destroyed 45 Iranian-made drones. Putin, in his annual New Year’s address, echoed his reasons for going to war in the first place; he spoke against Western elite hypocrisy and support for alleged neo-Nazis. (Ukraine is not, in fact, run by Nazis.)
Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the year ahead for Ukraine , Brazil’s new president , and Chinese state media ’s COVID-19 damage control.
Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the year ahead for Ukraine, Brazil’s new president, and Chinese state media’s COVID-19 damage control.
What Will 2023 Bring Ukraine?
Russian President Vladimir Putin rang in the new year by launching fresh strikes against Kyiv, killing at least four people. The attacks continued into New Year’s Day. Ukrainian Air Force Command said it destroyed 45 Iranian-made drones. Putin, in his annual New Year’s address, echoed his reasons for going to war in the first place; he spoke against Western elite hypocrisy and support for alleged neo-Nazis. (Ukraine is not, in fact, run by Nazis.)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, said all he wanted for 2023 was victory for his country. “That’s the main thing,” he said. “One wish for all Ukrainians.”
But what will 2023 bring Ukraine? That the war that some thought would be over in a matter of days has stretched into a new year speaks to the failures of Russia’s military operation, the determination of the Ukrainian people, and the commitment of Ukraine’s allies and partners to support the country.
Many pundits and analysts have predicted that in 2023, Russia will try to win the war by breaking Western support for Ukraine. The United States sent nearly $50 billion to Ukraine in 2022 when humanitarian, financial, and military support is taken together.
It is unlikely that U.S. support for Ukraine will falter in 2023, although a Republican-controlled House of Representatives might make things more difficult for the Biden administration. Some members of the party have expressed skepticism over support for Ukraine, with high-profile figures on the right offering open contempt for Zelensky. (Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. called him a “welfare queen.”)
Europe, meanwhile, has been surprisingly steadfast in its support for Ukraine, although French President Emmanuel Macron came under criticism for not distancing himself enough from Putin and for comments last month on “how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table.” The larger issue, though, is that Russia, at present, seems poised to fight this war for as long as it takes. Some wonder whether Ukraine’s partners will be similarly patient.
Putin has one wish for Ukraine. Zelensky and Ukrainians have another. The year will show what the country’s allies want to see and what they are willing to give—and give up—to get it.
The World This Week
Monday, Jan. 2: Brazilian soccer legend Pelé is laid to rest.
Tuesday, Jan. 3: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. visits China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Wednesday, Jan. 4: Myanmar marks 75 years of independence from the United Kingdom.
Friday, Jan. 6: Iraq marks its annual Iraqi Army Day.
What We’re Following Today
Brazil has a new president. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was inaugurated as Brazil’s president on Sunday. Lula previously ran the country from January 2003 to January 2011. He was imprisoned in 2018 for corruption but released in 2019 after a supreme court ruling. Lula has always maintained that the case against him was political.
In his first speech as president on Sunday, Lula vowed to rebuild Brazil, which he described as being in “terrible ruins.” Lula pledged to undo the work of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, particularly on the environment, health, and education. Additionally, while he said his government would not operate in a “spirit of revenge,” people would be held responsible for their mistakes. Bolsonaro had flown to Florida shortly before.
China’s state media tries to assuage COVID-19 concerns. Authorities and state media are attempting to communicate calm to the Chinese people, saying the current COVID-19 strategy is a “planned, science-based approach.” State news agency Xinhua also said manufacturing of medicine picked up last month. China recently reversed course and eased some of its strict policies toward COVID-19, effectively abandoning its “zero-COVID” approach.
But amid widespread questions about the reliability of the government’s data on both case numbers and mortality, some suspect all is not as well as state news would have the Chinese people and wider world believe.
Keep an Eye On
France urges screening for Chinese travelers. Beginning Jan. 5, France will start screening Chinese travelers for COVID-19, becoming the third country in the European Union to do so, joining Italy and Spain. The United Kingdom, United States, and Japan are also putting such requirements in place. France is also urging all other EU countries to start testing passengers arriving from China. At present, a traveler could enter an EU country that does not require a test and then travel unimpeded and unchecked to France.
French Health Minister François Braun said controls on arrivals for passengers “will allow us to follow the different variants extremely precisely.”
Termites in Australia on the up and up. Termites love extreme heat, which allows them to increase their “wood discovery and consumption.” The Australian species of termite is the most primitive termite there is, and any member can transform itself into the colony’s queen should the actual queen be killed. All of this means that climate change is good news for Australian termites—less so for those who have to live with them.
Sunday’s Most Read
• 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2023 by Comfort Ero and Richard Atwood
• Elections to Watch in 2023 by Allison Meakem
• The Taliban Are Abusing Western Aid by Lynne O’Donnell