Restoring U.S.-Russia relations. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and President Vladimir Putin in the resort city of Sochi, where, according to Putin’s aide, they discussed issues such as strategic stability, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in 2021. Moscow has said that if Washington doesn’t decide on its position on strategic offensive arms in advance, it “will have to take the necessary measures to ensure its own security and defense capability.” Still, the Russians described the talks in Sochi as “not bad,” while other politicians submitted the talks as evidence that there is a mutual desire for both sides to restore bilateral ties.
Battlefield Iraq. Pompeo’s unannounced trip to Iraq earlier this month was prompted by intelligence showing Iran-backed militias positioning rockets near bases where U.S. troops were stationed, Reuters reported, citing two Iraqi security sources. Pompeo apparently warned Iraqi officials that the U.S. would take action if Iraqi forces did not keep the militias in check, going so far as to say Washington would respond to attacks on U.S. targets without coordinating with Baghdad. The State Department has not confirmed the report, but on Wednesday, it ordered all non-emergency staff to leave the embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Irbil, citing an increased threat level in the Middle East. Germany’s Defense Ministry also suspended its army training missions in Iraq.
Russia’s energy security. Vladimir Putin has approved Russia’s new energy security doctrine, which articulates all the goals, objectives and challenges to Russia’s most important source of revenue. The previous doctrine, which was approved in 2012, was in dire need of an update to reflect the new challenges facing the country – namely, the development of liquified natural gas production, the economic growth of the Asia-Pacific region, the slowdown in global energy demand growth, and the growth of alternative energy. The new doctrine specifies current threats to Russian energy security from without, including the decline in its traditional energy supply markets, the difficulties of entering new energy markets, the legal and financial instruments other countries can use to undermine Russian energy security, and the prospect of conflict associated with transporting energy resources. It also detailed the threats from within, including an excessive financial burden on fuel and energy companies, unreasonable monopolization and unequal competition in some energy sectors, inefficient consumption of energy resources and uncoordinated development of fuel and energy. The full report can be read here.
China’s diplomatic offensive. China has undertaken a diplomatic offensive against the U.S. now that the latest round of trade talks have broken down. The Ministry of Commerce formally presented to the World Trade Organization its reform proposals, which Beijing said were necessary to combat an existential crisis facing free trade and globalization. The Foreign Ministry said that while it does not want a trade war, it will fight one until the end. (It also took the time to note how the U.S. fails to keep its promises.) President Xi Jinping, for his part, took advantage of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing to call for solidarity among all Asian peoples, warning against outside civilizations seeking to transform them into their own image.
The Sharia economy. Joko Widodo, the president of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, has launched the country’s first major Sharia economy plan. Set to be implemented over the next five years, it’s designed to increase exports to Muslim-majority countries, with the express purpose of becoming a net exporter, rather than a net importer, of halal goods. The plan calls for increased production of food, beverages and fashion and encourages the Sharia finance sector to give capital to halal businesses. Small and medium-sized businesses are seen as the main drivers and biggest beneficiaries and will be supported by online platforms that will promote their products to both domestic and foreign markets.
- In an official announcement published on his website, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said neither the U.S. nor Iran want to go to war. He did, however, rule out the possibility of negotiations.
- Germany’s Federal Statistics Office reported that gross domestic product grew 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the previous quarter.
- Ukraine has imposed new economic sanctions against Russia. Certain types of industrial goods, mineral fertilizers, agriculture products and transport vehicles are now banned.
- The Islamic State attributed recent attacks in Pakistan to its new affiliate. The news comes five days after IS announced the creation of a similar branch in India.
- Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will soon be in Washington for a visit that just so happens to coincide with the possible lifting of U.S. sanctions on Canadian steel and aluminum.
- Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi will meet today with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They will discuss Iraq’s reconstruction, trade, energy, water supply and Syria.
- Huawei’s chairman said the company is willing to sign a no-spy agreement with the U.K. and other countries. He said the company was willing to have its equipment meet no-spy, no-backdoor standards.