Russia has greatly increased the troops stationed on the border of Ukraine, signaling a potential invasion. In response, the US, UK and EU have all pledged support to Ukraine, and earlier today German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered direct pushback on the subject to Vladimir Putin.
Germany is Russia’s main trading partner among EU nations, and Merkel speaks Russian fluently. While Putin seems unlikely to heed anyone’s warnings, those of Germany hold greater significance than those of many other world allies.
The German government has put out a statement about the conversation. From Reuters: “Among other things, the conversation was about the strengthened Russian military presence in the environs of East Ukraine,” the statement read. “The Chancellor demanded that this build-up be unwound in order to de-escalate the situation.”
In associated news, Ukraine’s President Zelensky spoke at length in a private call with Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau on Tuesday. Zelensky is seeking admission into NATO, with the recognition that Putin might be hesitant to invade a NATO country due to the mutual defense pact which would effectively trigger war with the US, EU, the UK, and Canada. While pledges of support are valuable and undoubtedly appreciated, statements of military allegiance are more desirable.
On the other side of the world, China has been moving aggressively on Whitsun Reef, an area of the South China Sea that is within the economic zone controlled by the Philippines. Hundreds of Chinese fishing boats have been moored near the reef, with Chinese military vessels passing through the area as an obvious deterrence to the Philippines against forcing the fishing boats away. This is the latest strike against Philippine President and admitted murderer Duterte, who pivoted the country away from ties with the United States following his election in 2016 despite historically close relations between the nations.
Duterte’s pro-China efforts have emboldened the expansionist nation. In response, the United States has recently sent an aircraft carrier group through the contested waters. This morning, the USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship, was moved into the sea near the Whitsun Reef. It is likely part of a diplomatic effort to strengthen ties with the people of the country, who remain strongly pro-American in their views, and possibly encourage a shift away from China for Duterte and his administration.