South Ossetia asks for help. The breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia has appealed to Russia to fulfill its treaty obligations. According to the TASS news agency, South Ossetia’s parliament has asked to hold consultations with both houses of Russia’s parliament to discuss Georgia’s alleged erection of a police post in a village called Chorchana on the South Ossetia-Georgia border. This is the same area where Georgia said last week that it had observed a “mobilization of military equipment and personnel” and warned of a potential confrontation. South Ossetia’s parliament wants Russia to help de-escalate tensions, saying that under Article 2 of the 2015 Treaty of Alliance and Integration, Russia is responsible for the defense and security of South Ossetia.
The chancellor and the chairman. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping met yesterday in Beijing. Merkel reportedly said Germany wanted to increase communication and coordination with China and to help build closer EU-China ties, while Xi stressed the need for strategic communication between the two countries. These kinds of platitudes lack substance, but the general openness exhibited by the two leaders is important in itself. Earlier today, on her way to the city of Wuhan, Merkel reportedly asked to deviate slightly from the itinerary to stop on a bridge overlooking the Yangtze River and take a few pictures, which apparently was no problem for Merkel’s Chinese hosts. The bigger developments here may come in the months ahead, as Merkel tries to build an EU-wide approach to China to balance Beijing’s growing political and economic clout in Eurasia. This trip, her 12th visit to China as chancellor, may have been laying the initial groundwork for doing just that.
The end of the Kerch Strait incident. Last November, the world collectively held its breath after Russia blocked three Ukrainian naval vessels from crossing the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov, seizing the ships and imprisoning the sailors on board. At the time, we said Russia was not spoiling for a fight and that the Ukrainian government had more reason to provoke an incident than Russia, but even so, the risk of miscalculation or conflict seemed high. Nine months later, the Ukrainian sailors have been released as part of a prisoner swap between the two countries. In total, each side released 35 prisoners. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described it as the first step toward the end of the long-simmering war in eastern Ukraine, while Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that he was hopeful for a return to “normal” bilateral relations between Kyiv and Moscow. Of course, both countries have very different ideas about what “normal” relations should look like, but at least for now, it appears they are headed in a positive direction.
U.S.-Mexico relations. Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said yesterday that the flow of migrants through Mexico to the United States dropped by 56 percent since Mexico implemented new security measures in recent months, partly at the behest of the United States. Ebrard, who visited Washington on Tuesday, also said he did not expect the U.S. to threaten to impose new tariffs on Mexican goods because of how well the strategy is working. But according to an anonymous Department of Homeland Security official who spoke to The Washington Post, Mexico’s efforts to halt migration had “largely stalled” and the U.S. will increase pressure on Mexico next week to reduce the number of migrants arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Venezuela’s coast guard intercepted a Guyana-flagged tanker accused of smuggling Venezuelan fuel.
- Israel’s air force launched airstrikes in the Gaza Strip twice overnight, once in response to rockets fired from Gaza after two Palestinian protesters were killed on Friday, and again in response to a drone attack at an Israeli military position at the border.
- The British Parliament has approved a bill that would block a no-deal Brexit and force Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek another Brexit delay.
- According to Turkey’s defense minister, Turkey and the U.S. will conduct joint patrols in a safe-zone in northern Syria.
- A day after Iran said it was removing limits on centrifuge research and development, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said Tehran had no intention of reinstating the International Atomic Energy Organization’s access to Iranian facilities.
- Pakistan’s government refuted media reports suggesting that it may have to renegotiate an International Monetary Fund reform program, insisting the country was on track to meet certain benchmarks.
- The Pakistani armed forces’ media wing said India was trying to use the inadvertent crossing of two Pakistanis across the Line of Control while “grass cutting” on Aug. 21 as grounds for a false flag operation.