U.S. troops in Poland. In an interview with the Financial Times, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher said the number of U.S. troops stationed in Poland – which currently stands at 4,000 – will increase. Poland has been pushing the U.S. to set up a permanent military base there, but Mosbacher would not say whether there were any plans to do so. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to be in favor of a more permanent presence in the country. During a trip to Budapest on Tuesday, he said Washington would be willing to increase defense cooperation with Poland in exchange for Warsaw minimizing its ties with Iran and China. Poland has been in talks with China to build major infrastructure projects under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Chinese military strength. Chinese President Xi Jinping has issued an order to establish an oversight system to strengthen military training and combat readiness. Monitors will oversee officers’ training responsibilities and penalize them for failures. China is likely concerned that its sizable military force may be unprepared for combat because it hasn’t been engaged in battle since the war with Vietnam in 1979. A former lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army identified this weakness last week when he testified in front of a U.S. Congressional committee, referring to China’s lack of combat experience as “peace disease.” He said the Chinese army was aware of the problem and that it was affecting Beijing’s ability to project power externally.

Eyes on the Black Sea. Anonymous diplomatic sources told the Financial Times that the U.S. and European Union were nearing an agreement on new sanctions against Russia over the incident in the Kerch Strait last November, when the Russian coast guard intercepted three Ukrainian ships as they passed from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Meanwhile, Russia has warned the U.S. that its planned joint naval exercises with Ukraine in the Black Sea are dangerous and would be considered a threat. It’s unlikely that Russia will take action beyond issuing statements of its disapproval for now, but the Black Sea is an area deeply connected to Russian interests, and any Western military operations there will be watched closely.

Honorable Mentions

  • The first train full of Belarusian exports destined for China is headed to Nanchang along the New Silk Road route.
  • Adm. Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command, has said a Brazilian general will join the Southern Command in an advisory role.
  • After two months of contraction, Japan’s economy grew in December by 1.2 percent.
  • Israel launched another airstrike in Syria, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Ford said it was preparing to move its U.K. operations out of the country because of uncertainty over Brexit.