The meeting that didn’t happen. U.S. President Donald Trump said he would not meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit. His stated reason: Russia’s detainment of Ukrainian soldiers after the Kerch Strait incident last weekend. Observers can’t help but wonder whether the new developments in the Mueller investigation also played a part in the meeting’s cancellation. Russia has taken the slight in stride, with a spokesman saying Putin has plenty other matters to attend to. (Our analysis published after the Helsinki summit on why Ukraine would be the biggest sticking point in U.S.-Russia relations can be found here.) All the while Ukraine continues to stoke the coals. Yesterday, a senior security official in Kiev said the government was considering “mirror actions” in response to Russia’s moves in the Black Sea. It’s hard to imagine what that means, given the size of Ukraine’s navy, but more important is the fact that Ukraine is calling as much attention to the issue as possible.

A scare in the South China Sea. Several media outlets, including the South China Morning Post, reported this morning that China’s Southern Theater Command was dispatching ships to the South China Sea “to stop a U.S. warship sailing through disputed waters.” That would be a marked escalation of affairs, but it appears as though something was lost in translation. The Southern Theater Command statement does not say that China’s ships were sent to stop the USS Chancellorsville, but rather that they were sent to monitor the vessel’s progress and to warn it that it should leave. The statement went on to say that the Southern Theater Command would continue monitoring activity in the area to “prevent the happening of events that [pose] a threat to national security.” In other words, this is business as usual: The U.S. sails ships through waters China does not want it to sail ships into, some statements are made and some warnings issued, and it all happens again. The confusion over each other’s intention is perhaps more alarming. As the incident in the Kerch Strait shows, sometimes events take on lives of their own.

Mexico has a new president. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the first candidate from a non-establishment political party to win a presidential election in Mexico, assumes office today amid no shortage of political, economic and security problems. Today, the speculation over what kind of president he will be ends, and the demonstration begins. We suspect Mexico will shape him more than he shapes Mexico.

Honorable Mentions

  • OPEC’s Economic Commission Board recommended that member states cut total output by 1.3 million barrels per day from October levels ahead of next week’s OPEC meeting.
  • Officials from Egypt and Saudi Arabia held a meeting to discuss boosting military cooperation.
  • Iran launched a new destroyer today, one the government claims was entirely domestically made and contains advanced radar-evading stealth technologies.
  • Hungary’s prime minister said yesterday in Prague that Hungary stood behind Ukraine even though there is “an anti-Hungary government” in Kiev.
  • Nicaragua’s president abruptly canceled his plans to travel to Mexico to attend Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s inauguration.