Here’s a look at what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top diplomats have been doing this week:
US, Russia, Ukraine
The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies speak with one voice in urging Russia to de-escalate tensions along Ukraine’s border and reject Moscow’s demand that the alliance cease expansion, as diplomats meet in Europe.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led the U.S. delegation to participate in Wednesday’s NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels and Monday’s U.S.-Russia meeting in Geneva, told reporters the talks ended with “a sober challenge” for Moscow to reduce tensions and “choose the path of diplomacy” and “to continue to engage in honest and reciprocal dialogue.”
While NATO is not budging on its “Open Door” policy, the Western alliance has offered no timetable to Ukraine’s call to be admitted into NATO, prompting some observers to argue Russian President Vladimir Putin is already exercising a veto on NATO membership.
US, NATO Navigate Diplomacy as Russia Avoids De-Escalation
Aside from Kyiv, No One in Rush for Ukraine to Join NATO
US, Russia Hold ‘Frank and Forthright’ First Day of Talks Amid Ukraine Tensions
US, North Korea
The United States imposed sanctions January 12 on five North Koreans it alleges are responsible for securing goods for Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. The latest U.S. sanctions come after North Korea declared success in what it called its second “hypersonic missile” test this year.
“It is our estimation that some rethinking will need to be done on Pyongyang,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price when pressed by reporters that current U.S. policy does not appear to be working as North Korea continues its nuclear and missile programs and dialogue has hit an impasse.
US Targets North Koreans in Russia, China for Aiding Pyongyang’s Weapons Development
State Media: Kim Jong Un Observed North Korea’s Latest ‘Hypersonic’ Launch
The State Department said it welcomes “reports of calm” in the city of Almaty but cautioned Washington would continue to call upon the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the government of Kazakhstan to respect human rights. Secretary Blinken questioned why Russia deployed troops and condemned a shoot-to-kill order issued by Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Protests broke out in Kazakhstan earlier this month over fuel prices and escalated into widespread violence, the worst since the former Soviet republic gained independence three decades ago.
Putin: No More Color Revolutions
Kazakh President Issues Shoot-to-Kill Order to Quell Protests
The U.S. and European Union on Monday announced sanctions on six Nicaraguan officials for what the Biden administration called “fraudulent national elections orchestrated by their regime in November, further consolidating their control of power to the detriment of the Nicaraguan people.” The announcement comes on inauguration day for President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The U.S. Treasury Department accused the six officials of “state acts of violence,” spreading disinformation and targeting journalists.
US Announces More Sanctions on Nicaraguan Officials
The United States and Japan agreed to sign a new defense collaboration deal to counter emerging defense threats, including hypersonic and space-based capabilities after top diplomats and defense chiefs met on January 6 during the virtual U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”) meeting.
Secretary Blinken said the two nations must “strengthen our alliance and address the toughest challenges” while citing Russia’s military buildup against Ukraine, Beijing’s “provocative” actions over Taiwan and North Korea’s latest missile launches.
US, Japan to Launch New Defense Research and Development Agreement
US, Japan to Hold Virtual Talks on Security, Indo-Pacific Region
Horn of Africa
Secretary Blinken has named career diplomat David Satterfield as the new special envoy to the Horn of Africa “amidst some of the world’s most challenging conflicts.” Satterfield, 67, who has experience in the Persian Gulf states, Lebanon and Iraq, most recently served as ambassador to Turkey. He is replacing Jeffrey Feltman, another veteran diplomat, who had held the Horn of Africa posting, covering the countries of Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia, since last April.
Blinken called the appointment “instrumental” in continued efforts “to promote a peaceful and prosperous Horn of Africa and to advance U.S. interests in this strategic region.”
US Names New Horn of Africa Envoy