MOSCOW (AP) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that he's open to a call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss a possible prisoner swap involving American basketball star Brittney Griner.
For killing leaders of extremist groups, it seems the Hellfire RX9 also known as a `ninja bomb’ is the munition of choice for the US. On Tuesday (August 2, 2022) according to reports, the US used the `ninja bomb’ to kill al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri, 71, in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Two missiles were reportedly fired at Zawahiri’s home, however the images available in the public domain show no sign of explosion and the US officials have claimed that no civilian lives were lost.
US had earlier reportedly used this bomb back in 2017 when al-Qaeda senior leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was killed in Syria and there was no loss of civilian lives.
This Air to Ground (AGM) 114 Hellfire missiles are subsonic missiles and have significant anti-tank capacity. The missile used by the US, on August 2, is a warhead-less missile and it is equipped with six razors like blades. And it is these blades that killed the al-Qaeda head.
These missiles do not explode and to avoid collateral civilian damage, these missiles are known to release knife-like blades which hit the targets with precision. This missile has several variants based on the guidance system, its physical variants and the latest addition is the Hellfire R9X. This variant uses pop-up blades and is used for targeted killings by the US. These missiles are also known as the flying `Ginsu’. They are not known to cause any damage to the area where as there is no explosive which would explode, and there is no payload it carries.
Though no one will acknowledge using it publicly, the CIA or the Pentagon are the agencies that can use it to target extremist leaders. In 2017, it was used for the first time ever to kill al-Qaeda senior leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri while he was travelling in a car and it was deployed again in 2020 when the US forces had targeted an al-Qaida-linked trainer in Syria in 2020.
As has been reported in Financial Express Online, this was probably used to assassinate Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
Reports indicate that this variant of the missile was developed during the Obama administration and the focus was to kill the target with minimum loss to the civilian population.
There are six long blades inside the missile and are deployed through the skin of the missile just a few seconds before the impact. This ensures that anything in its tracks is shredded. It is different from the traditional Hellfire missile. It leaves no mark, no burns, no scorches and all that is left is the points of entry.
This new variant weighs about 45 kg and can be launched from drones, helicopters, and aircraft. The US forces have fired these missiles from Humvees by their ground troops.
Depending on the variant being fired these missiles have a range which can be anything between 500 metres to 11 km.
For the killing of the al-Qaeda leader, the US had used specific intelligence to target him while he was on the balcony of his house in Kabul.
The US has been using drones excessively to target enemies and their camps and, in the process, have caused a lot of civilian damage.
And the new variant of Hellfire Missile causes less damage.
These missiles can be launched by the MQ9 Predator drones from the US based General Atomics. These drones as reported by Financial Express Online earlier have the capability to detect targets using inbuilt radars and sensors and have the endurance of more than 27 hours. They can carry payloads of almost 1700 kgs and capacity of flying up to 50,000 feet with 6,000 nautical miles.
Not yet. India is in the process of finalising US $3 billion deal with General Atomics for 30 armed drones for the three services –Indian Navy, Air Force and the Indian Army. And these drones can be used for hitting the target with either missiles or bombs. Since they come with stealth features, they go undetected.
In the exact wars, Azerbaijan had used armed drones against Armenia. And the Ukrainian forces have used UAVs against Russia in the ongoing war.
WASHINGTON ― Amid pressure from U.S. lawmakers, the White House is weighing a September rollout for its long-delayed National Security Strategy, now being rewritten to emphasize Russia alongside China following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, Defense News has learned.
President Joe Biden and his administration had been making a full-court press in Congress to pass signature legislation aimed at competing with China economically and technologically, but his National Defense Strategy remains secret, fueling frustrations from Capitol Hill that open discussions about strategy-driven budgeting are being hamstrung.
The White House roll-out of its overarching National Security Strategy can’t come soon enough for national security-focused lawmakers on both sides of the aisle because the unclassified version of the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy, now four months old, is behind it in the Biden administration’s queue.
The White House contends the broader document needed extra time after the invasion and a personnel shakeup on the National Security Council, but, even from within Biden’s own party, the heat is on. Mandated by Congress, the strategy helps lawmakers weigh the president’s national security priorities for budgeting, shows allies and adversaries those priorities and helps government officials speak with a single voice on national security matters.
“We keep making clear that this is a necessary requirement for the Senate and insisting [the strategy come] as soon as possible,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., told Defense News last week. The benefits “are a coherent operational view of the world, starting with threats, and then capabilities against those threats. It gives us insight into how much to fund and where to fund.”
Then-President Donald Trump’s 2018 strategy is best known for its profound shift away from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars toward prioritizing China and Russia ― a focus that’s since driven innumerable national security budget and policy decisions in the U.S. and among allies. In Washington, the recommendation from the National Defense Strategy Commission for 3%-5% annual defense spending increases became an oft-repeated Republican talking point in Capitol Hill budget debates.
By law, Congress must establish its Commission on the National Defense Strategy no later than 30 days after the defense secretary submits the strategy, but congressional leaders have so far named only a handful of the eight members. According to Reed, Congress must first wait for the unclassified strategy.
Where Trump in 2018 issued a 14-page unclassified summary of his National Defense Strategy, Biden has so far released only a two-page summary in March, with the promise of a fuller version later. In the meantime, lawmakers have had access to the classified defense strategy, but because it’s considered secret, they are barred from discussing it publicly.
The National Defense Strategy is traditionally followed by other topic-specific reviews focused on nuclear weapons and missile defense.
In exact days, lawmakers on the armed services committees have included near-identical language in the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023 that would order the Pentagon to submit both a classified and unclassified National Defense Strategy ― an expansion from the “summary” required under existing law.
“The unclassified version of the Trump administration strategy was pretty beefy, and it was a document serious enough that we could have a conversation about it in public. Now what we’ve gotten from this Department of Defense is just a fact sheet, and that fact sheet actually says nothing,” said one Republican aide who was not authorized to speak with the press. “I just think it’s a massive middle finger to the Congress.”
Members of Congress are not only seeking answers about how to fix defense industrial base weaknesses laid bare by U.S. efforts to arm Ukraine from its own military supplies, but they’re getting deeper into their debate of the federal budget and mammoth NDAA for 2023.
So far, lawmakers have yet to reach a spending deal, but increases backed by the armed services committees would rebuke Biden’s $802 billion request and instead approve more than $850 billion.
“It has made it very difficult and we’ve expressed our aggravation with the administration — both me and Adam Smith — about it,” House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said, referencing the panel’s chairman. “We’re gonna go on and do our work. If they don’t want us to factor in what they think, we’re going to do it our own way.”
Smith, in a statement, downplayed those concerns, saying the committee had been aided in its work by its access to and briefings on the classified version, but didn’t deny pushing the administration to release its strategy.
“I do agree that we should get an unclassified version as soon as possible, but we do already have some very deep visibility on the NDS, and that visibility is informing the work of the committee,” said Smith, D-Wash.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s top Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe, wants to discuss how, in his view, the strategy’s view of China’s designs on Taiwan are clearer-eyed than Trump’s in 2018.
Inhofe in April called for the administration to let Congress know when lawmakers can expect the National Security Strategy, but has yet to receive a timeline, he said in a statement last week. There are “zero excuses” for delaying public debate and “a lot of reasons to move faster,” he said.
“It’s way past overdue, and it’s impeding our ability to do our jobs — and help the military get what it needs, according to the strategy itself,” Inhofe said.
“We know China is our pacing threat — this strategy does a good job of laying that out — and we know the world has gotten even more dangerous since the last National Defense Strategy was released four years ago, but it’s hard to impress on the American people the scale, scope and urgency of the challenges we face if the strategy isn’t public.”
“There’s also some things in the strategy I’m concerned with, and we need to debate those things in public,” Inhofe added.
The Defense Department said in a statement it would release the unclassified National Defense Strategy “after the President’s National Security Strategy is published.” Its classified strategy “was released on March 28, 2022 to inform the budgetary process, and the Department is currently focused on NDS implementation,” said Pentagon spokesman Oscar Seára.
While the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy documents aren’t public, the strategies themselves have not been a complete mystery.
Just 45 days into Biden’s administration, he took the unique step of publicly issuing an Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, months before the administration was required to do so. Its emphasis on alliances was seen as a rebuke and reversal of Trump’s “America First” strategy ― as was the Biden strategy’s broad focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shocks associated with it, racial injustice and climate change.
Like Trump’s strategy, Biden’s guidance identified China, Russia, North Korea and Iran as potential adversaries, but Biden has drawn fire from GOP hawks for playing up diplomacy and playing down the role of nuclear weapons. The guidance also codified a call for the military to “shift our emphasis from unneeded legacy platforms and weapon systems to free up resources for investments in cutting-edge technologies.”
The White House had a National Security Strategy drafted in January, when it hit pause to see how the Russia-Ukraine conflict would unfold. Then in February, the official drafting the strategy, Sasha Baker, left NSC to become deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. In late April, she was replaced as NSC’s senior director of strategy by Thomas Wright, an expert on trans-Atlantic relations and foreign policy.
China and the Indo-Pacific will remain a top theme, but for Europe, the strategy will recognize the land war in Europe’s major geopolitical implications, a senior administration official told Defense News. The first six months of the war have seen NATO begin to expand and enhance its force posture, while Ukraine has fought Russia to a near standstill using western aid.
“I think it would be a mistake to look at it and say ‘China down, Russia up,’” said the senior administration official, who spoke with Defense News on condition of anonymity. “That’s definitely not the case, but it will reflect some of the big geopolitical events that we’ve seen.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a speech on May 26, called Russia “a clear and present threat” and China “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order,” but said the U.S. is determined to avoid conflict or a new Cold War.
That’s a subtly different construction from the National Defense Strategy, whose fact sheet released March 28 says it judges China as the “most consequential strategic competitor and the pacing challenge for the Department,” and identifies Russia as an “acute threat.”
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Pentagon leaders are caught in “an intellectual straitjacket” in their strategy’s emphasis on China, the complex future threat that they want to confront, while Russia causes the worst security crisis in Europe since 1945. The solution, in O’Hanlon’s view, is to prioritize Russia and China equally.
“There’s this sort of cognitive dissonance, where they are trying to prioritize China, even as Russia is the one that’s obviously threatening global order much more acutely. Their stance doesn’t quite accommodate that reality,” O’Hanlon said.
Beyond a geopolitical view, the strategy lays out three priorities: “integrated deterrence,” or coordinating military, diplomatic and economic levers from across the U.S. government to deter an adversary from taking an aggressive action; “campaigning forward” to build up the capability of international coalitions and complicate adversaries’ actions; and “building enduring advantages” through investing in the right technologies and people.
Military leaders privy to the classified strategy have meanwhile been linking their plans to those public principles. The chief of naval operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, recently issued an updated Navigation Plan 2022 that reframes the role of the service in terms of the strategy, saying, for instance, the U.S. needs a larger and more capable Navy to, “build enduring warfighting advantages.”
Former Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim, now a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Washington needs to publicly discuss how to budget for a National Security Strategy that prioritizes China, Russia and ― potentially, given Biden’s exact visit there ― the Mideast.
“The interim strategy’s been overcome by events,” Zakheim said of the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. “That version talked about China being the No. 1 threat, but we’ve done so much for Ukraine and will continue to do so. And the president’s visit to the Middle East shows that one hasn’t diminished entirely. So it begs the question, how can we fund all of that?”
Bryant Harris contributed to this report.
THORNHILL, ON, June 29, 2022 /CNW/ - Ontario drivers say they aren't feeling as safe as they used to on highways, and they're seeing more dangerous driving behaviours on the roads.
A new study by DIG Insights on behalf of CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) indicates that 98 per cent of Ontario drivers witnessed unsafe driving behaviours in the past year – up three per cent last year. This increase in unsafe driving behaviours could also explain why six per cent fewer drivers are feeling safe on our roads, specifically on highways with speed limits of 100 km/h.
"Ontario police services continue to report significant amounts of speeding, stunt and aggressive driving. Although the pandemic amplified the awareness, the issue was growing well before that," says Michael Stewart, community relations consultant, Government and Community Relations, CAA SCO.
About half of respondents point to speeding as a big problem in Ontario which is no surprise considering the most common behaviour seen was speeding, followed by aggressive driving, unsafely changing lanes and distracted driving.
"Traffic returning to pre-pandemic levels could be the reason why we're seeing this increase in unsafe driving," says Stewart.
"Some drivers even admit to doing it themselves."
In total, 58 per cent admitted to engaging in dangerous driving behaviours. Forty-three per cent of Ontario drivers admitted to speeding, 17 per cent say they've driven distracted, eight per cent say they've made unsafe lane changes and six per cent have driven aggressively.
Most of the time, these behaviours are witnessed on higher-speed highways, says Stewart.
"It can be nerve-wracking when you come across a driver who is behaving this way," he says.
"If you do come across a speeding or aggressive driver, the best thing you can do is stay calm, focus on your driving and do not engage with the other driver.
"If possible, drivers should safely pull over and call 911 if someone is driving erratically or you believe their behaviour could be an immediate danger to others."
The rise in speeding and stunt driving prompted the Ontario government to introduce tougher fines and penalties in 2021, called Moving Ontarians More Safely Act.
While most drivers say they believe photo radar helps deter speeding and that photo radar should be in school zones and community safety zones, one in three Ontario drivers say they try to avoid roads that have photo radar, and 43 per cent say they accelerate after passing a photo radar camera.
"Drivers need to be mindful of driving to the posted speed limit, because speeding isn't worth the risk of a collision, fine or penalty," says Stewart.
About CAA South Central Ontario
As a leader and advocate for road safety and mobility, CAA South Central Ontario is a not-for-profit auto club which represents the interests of over 2.2 million Members. For over a century, CAA has collaborated with communities, police services and governments to help keep drivers and their families safe while travelling on our roads.
SOURCE CAA South Central Ontario
View original content to get multimedia: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/June2022/29/c6555.html
Staff shortages and luggage backups mean travelers need to be patient
TORONTO, July 13, 2022 /CNW/ - CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) has compiled a list of ten things that Ontarians should be aware of if they are considering travelling this summer – both inside and outside the country.
"Those who are considering booking a trip should make sure they understand the scope of what travel looks like at the moment," said Nadia Matos, manager external communications, CAA SCO. "The checklist for planning a trip has changed and we want to help people navigate this new environment.
"Airports are experiencing delays with varying degrees of impact, and Ontarians should be prepared."
Through consultation with its top travel agents, CAA SCO has identified ten key considerations that potential travelers may not be aware of. Anyone who is considering travel in the current environment should remember that travel requirements and regulations are continually changing.
Expect itinerary changes. CAA SCO travel agents say our members are experiencing schedule changes for flights. Subscribe to the airline's text message service to be immediately notified of any changes, and book connecting flights with more time in between than you normally would if available. A travel agent is also a valuable resource if this happens.
Consider packing a carryon instead of checking luggage. Potential baggage delays mean that your luggage may not arrive with you or take extra time to be unloaded off the plane. If you bring a carryon, make sure it fits the size requirements for all the airlines you are flying on, and with any tour operators. When using a carryon to travel, you still need to follow the 3-1-1 rule: three ounces of liquid, gel, aerosol, cream or paste that fit in one quart-sized resealable bag. If you are checking luggage, make sure your carryon has your hygiene essentials, any medications, and a change of clothing.
Expect longer wait times at the airport. The old standby of being at the airport one hour before takeoff for domestic flights and two hours before international flights no longer apply. CAA currently recommends arriving at the airport a minimum of two hours before domestic flight departures and at least three hours for international flights.
Make sure all your documentation is in order before you book. Your passport should still be valid six months after your travel date, as this is required in several countries. Passports themselves are taking longer than usual to renew, so it should be done several months before you travel. Each destination has varying documentation requirements, so make sure you fully understand what information you need to have ready and in what format.
Buy travel insurance and understand what is covered. Make sure you have $5 million in coverage for emergency medical situations and that illness related to COVID-19 is included. Understand your entitlements for situations like denied boarding in the event of a positive test, trip cancellation or delays, what luggage is covered and what isn't.
Car rentals need to be booked months in advance. High demand as well as a shortage of vehicles means a shortage of rental cars. Some rental agencies, particularly on the east and west coasts, are not allowing vehicles to be rented in one city and left in another. A travel agent can help you navigate this.
COVID-19 is still a major consideration. Confirm the COVID-19 situation at destination prior to booking. Understand the risk level associated with travel to a particular destination by checking the Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisories website. Individual travel advisories remain on a country-by-country basis. It is important that Ontarians understand the ongoing uncertainty associated with international travel, whether that be related to the continued community transmission of COVID-19, or state of health care systems in destinations hit hard by the pandemic. Canadians returning home must have all required documentation loaded onto the ArriveCAN App or website.
Stay connected. It is important to have access to trusted, up-to-date information while travelling so you can monitor changing conditions and requirements and adapt accordingly. Bookmark the Global Affairs Canada website prior to departure and check it regularly while abroad. It is also a good idea to sign up for Registration of Canadians Abroad and stay in touch with a family or friend that has knowledge of your travel plans. Find these and more information at http://www.caasco.com/travel.
Confirm change and cancellation flexibility with your travel service provider. Many airlines and hotels have been providing more flexibility when it comes to refunds and changes to bookings. Make sure you understand any key dates related to cancellation and changes and whether you are entitled to a refund or a future travel voucher or credit at the time of booking.
Be patient, be kind. Around the globe, airlines are dealing with staff shortages and luggage handling back-ups. Keep in mind that the staff at the airports are there to help you, and that things may take longer than usual.
About CAA South Central Ontario
For over a hundred years, CAA has been helping Canadians stay mobile, safe and protected. CAA South Central Ontario is part of the CAA Club Group of Companies and is one of eight auto clubs across Canada, providing roadside assistance, travel, insurance services and Member savings for over 2.2 million Members.
SOURCE CAA South Central Ontario
View original content to get multimedia: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/July2022/13/c9845.html
For decades, Beijing has worried about security in Afghanistan. During the Taliban’s first stint in power in the 1990s, Beijing worried about the possibility of Uyghur militants using camps in Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks against China. Then, in the early 2000s, Chinese workers were killed and kidnapped in the country. China also shares a remote but direct border with Afghanistan, and even before the Taliban takeover, increasing violence in the wider region gave China good reason to worry.
Despite this, China’s approach to its neighbor for a long time was, as prominent Central Asia analyst Zhao Huasheng aptly characterized it, essentially to act as an observer, leaving security questions to the United States and its allies. That changed in 2012, after then-U.S. President Barack Obama signaled he wanted to get Washington out of the conflict he had inherited. As the potential security vacuum left by Western withdrawal came into sharper relief, Beijing realized that it would have to play a role in encouraging a more stable and developed future for Afghanistan. Even then—and even after security concerns rose once again after the U.S. withdrawal in 2021—China never fully came to assume that role.
The Taliban takeover in 2021 came after we had concluded writing our book Sinostan: China’s Inadvertent Empire. But many of the trends and patterns we observed continued to hold. Although China has undeniably stepped into a far more prominent role than ever before, it has continued to hedge its bets and refused to take on a leadership role in the country. China’s unwillingness to take on that role, even though it is increasingly being thrust into it, serves as a perfect example of the central concept our book: China is doomed to play a significant role in the country, but is studiously avoiding it.
China’s clear, yet gradual, shift from cultivated disinterest to growing engagement in Afghanistan took place over the past decade.
The most visible and significant element of China’s newfound attention on Afghanistan was Politburo member and security supremo Zhou Yongkang’s visit to Kabul in September 2012—the first visit by a Politburo-level Chinese official to Afghanistan since 1966.
But even earlier that year, when we visited Afghanistan, China was seeking to advance diplomacy with Afghanistan and Pakistan. In February 2012, Beijing hosted the first Afghanistan-China-Pakistan trilateral dialogue. Then, in May 2012, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. State Department initiated a joint training program for Afghan diplomats. The group of a dozen young diplomats would get a 15-day experience in Beijing, followed by another 15 days in Washington.
That June, as China was hosting the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Beijing, then-Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a bilateral “strategic and cooperative partnership” agreement with then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai and welcomed the country as an official SCO observer state. Just over a month later, then-Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Gen. Guo Boxiong met with then-Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak to “enhance strategic communication and strengthen pragmatic cooperation in order to contribute to bilateral strategic cooperation.”
The signaling was clear. As Washington approached a drawdown, China was going to have to step in more, though the extent of it was unclear. Yet there were clearly dissenters in Beijing, and many of the security-focused Chinese officials and experts we met were quite clear that this was a problem of Washington’s making that China wanted little to do with.
All of this change in Chinese activity was, however, undermined by the fact that Washington did not leave. In the end, Obama did not withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Although its presence shrunk considerably, the United States retained a capability to launch attacks and kept bases in the country.
Meanwhile, within China, security concerns increased. In April 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Xinjiang. This came after a tumultuous period where incidents linked to Xinjiang spread across the country—including a car and incendiary device attack on Tiananmen Square, a mass stabbing incident in Kunming, and escalating violence in Xinjiang itself. Just as Xi was leaving Xinjiang, attackers launched a knife and bomb attack on the train station in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital.
In his speeches about the threat in 2014, Xi made a clear link between what was going on in Afghanistan and Xinjiang. Beijing’s answer to this concern appears to have been to push a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, Beijing escalated its engagement with the Afghan authorities, building on what was already being done to create a wave of bilateral and multilateral formats with other partners in Afghanistan. On the other hand, it strengthened its contacts with the Taliban, making sure it was covering its bases for all eventualities. It seemed as though China was going to take on a more active role in the country, aware of the fact that no matter whether the United States stayed or left, it was likely to be an erratic partner Beijing could not rely on.
In July 2014, China appointed Sun Yuxi, a popular former ambassador to Kabul, as its first special envoy for Afghanistan. His role was to serve as a point of contact and a coordinator for China’s engagement with the Taliban, and after his arrival, there was a noticeable uptick in public engagement among China, the Taliban, and the Afghan government.
When Ashraf Ghani became Afghanistan’s president that September, he immediately signaled the importance he placed on the relationship with China by making Beijing the first capital he visited in his first formal trip abroad. During this visit, he laid the groundwork for formal peace talk negotiations with the Taliban at a meeting hosted by the Chinese government.
By early 2015, stories emerged that China was playing a more forward role in brokering peace talks and in conversations; officials we spoke to in Beijing said they were willing to act as hosts for any future peace talks. By May 2015, senior Taliban figures were meeting with representatives from the Afghan High Peace Council in Urumqi. In July, another round of talks was held in Pakistan, at which Chinese participants also played a role. This was followed by more multilateral engagements.
The Chinese-supported peace track seemed to be bearing fruit, until abruptly, in late July 2015, news leaked that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died back in 2013. This declaration scuttled the discussions and set the Taliban in disarray as an internal leadership struggle surfaced over his successor. It also complicated China’s role, since it was not clear whom Beijing would engage with on the Taliban side.
Accusations of blame were passed between Islamabad and Kabul, but the net result was an uptick in violence that made it harder for the Afghan government to negotiate with full confidence or for Beijing to feel like it could do much. Chinese officials we spoke to at the time almost immediately fell back into stating that it was up to the United States to step up and support the Afghan government and its national security forces. They further noted that until there was greater clarity about who the main Taliban negotiator was, talks were unlikely to bear much fruit.
But it seemed that China maintained its contacts with the Taliban. In fact, Beijing has had a long history of contacts with the Taliban, dating to when the group was in power in Kabul before September 2001. At the time, China was one of the few countries that engaged with them, though this was largely through China’s contacts in Islamabad.
In the early days, Beijing seemed to focus its discussions on ensuring that any trouble in Afghanistan did not spill into China and that the Taliban maintained control over Uyghur groups. Some Chinese experts who visited Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s told us they were surprised during their visit to learn of large numbers of Uyghur militants in the country. Taliban authorities reportedly sought to reassure Beijing that they would stop these individuals from launching attacks against China, though it was never clear whether the Uyghur groups adhered to this and did not launch attacks or use the territory to plot against China. We later met individuals who had been to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and al Qaeda-managed camps who told us stories—corroborated by others—of Uyghurs in the camps in large numbers.
In 2015, it seemed as though China decided to use its contacts with the Taliban to help protect its longer-term interests in the country. Aside from seeking to broker greater discussions among the Taliban, Pakistan, and the government in Kabul, China also sought to bring the United States into the discussions. Around this time, Beijing was engaged in numerous bilateral, multilateral, and minilateral engagements concerning Afghanistan.
One senior Afghan diplomat told us during a session in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, that he was exhausted from running between these different events, though it was not clear to him how useful they were. Other Afghans we spoke to were far more scathing about Beijing’s engagement behind closed doors. One former senior defense official told us that they had been forced to dispose of most of the equipment that China had handed over, claiming “it was full of bugs.” Others said they had evidence that Beijing was paying off and providing military equipment to the Taliban to develop contacts and maintain influence, something that was partially confirmed to us by a Chinese contact who mentioned in passing being involved in handing over bags of money to Taliban contacts. We were never able to independently confirm this, but it did speak to a greater sense of confidence in Beijing about what China was doing in Afghanistan.
In March 2016, then-Chinese People’s Liberation Army Chief of Joint Staff Gen. Fang Fenghui visited Kabul, seemingly to help start a new minilateral regional organization. That organization, the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism (QCCM), brought together the chiefs of army staff of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan “to coordinate with and support each other in a range of areas, including study and judgment of counter terrorism situation, confirmation of clues, intelligence sharing, anti-terrorist capability building, joint anti-terrorist training and personnel training,” according to a statement by the Chinese defense ministry.
By bringing together senior security officials with all the countries that had a presence around the Wakhan Corridor, China was helping secure its own border and creating a format through which it could monitor it. The structure also formalized the People’s Liberation Army’s responsibilities in Afghanistan.
Alongside the creation of the QCCM, China started to make its security contributions to the other members of the group more public. In Afghanistan, Beijing revealed it had helped build a base and was providing funding for a mountain security force in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province. Locals reported seeing Chinese soldiers patrolling the region. Other reports highlighted how Afghan forces were being trained in China. In Tajikistan, China built around a dozen border posts for Tajik border guards as well as a base for its own forces in the country’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. China was, in essence, creating a security buffer to seal itself off from direct threats from its border regions with Afghanistan.
Although the China-Afghanistan relationship continued to stay relatively strong over the next few years, in the dying days of Afghanistan’s government under Ghani, there was growing turmoil between the two countries. The first loud signal of trouble was the U.S. decision in November 2020 to de-list the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement from its list of terrorist organizations. It was a decision Kabul reportedly did not agree with and one that caused friction with China.
Then, in December 2020, a spy scandal erupted with the Afghan National Directorate of Security detaining a network of 10 Chinese nationals who, it claimed, were spies undertaking covert activities against the government in Kabul. The Afghan and Chinese governments worked to keep the story out of the media and rushed to get the spies out on a private jet back to China, denying everything, though the story was leaked in considerable detail to the Indian media.
But the Afghan government was very careful about how it handled the scandal. Unlike the United States that was now heading for the door, Kabul recognized that it needed to maintain a working relationship with Beijing.
It was later revealed that their counterterrorism relationship had also come under strain, with Kabul apparently stopping its regular repatriation of Uyghur militants it caught on the battlefield. This was made public when in the wake of Kabul’s fall, news emerged that some 30 or so Uyghurs who had been in custody were released when the Taliban emptied the country’s prisons.
But this revelation cut both ways: On the one hand, it showed how the relationship between Kabul and Beijing had broken down, but it was also an early indication of the Taliban’s lack of capability or interest in managing the problem of militant Uyghurs in Afghanistan to Beijing’s desires (highlighted by the fact that they freed them).
In current Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, there is no denying that China is more prominent. The Chinese Embassy was one of the few that stayed during the Taliban takeover. A number of Chinese businessmen are reportedly showing up to try their fortune. China has engaged with, participated in, and hosted numerous regional formats on Afghanistan. It has also sponsored some limited bilateral trade efforts and provided aid of some substance across the country, and Chinese state-owned enterprises have started to talk about restarting their projects with Taliban authorities. China has done everything except formally acknowledge the Taliban as the rulers of Afghanistan—a step it is unlikely to take until it sees others in the international community do so first.
But talk to Chinese experts, and the picture is more circumspect. They hold little hope for the Taliban to create an inclusive government, see instability on the horizon, and worry about the worsening security situation in the broader region.
Although China has spoken of Afghanistan as part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and some exact trade has started, in reality, the tangible economic links between China and Afghanistan amount to the export of Afghan pine nuts to China and the construction of a fiberoptic cable down the Wakhan Corridor to help Afghanistan get on the internet. Talk about the BRI in Kabul, and people will say good things and hope for greater engagement, but they are still waiting for it to materialize. Afghan businessmen still find it difficult to get visas into China, flights are irregular, and COVID-19 continues to make travel to China difficult.
China is still concerned about its security interests in Afghanistan, but, as in the past, its answer has been to largely seal itself off, hardening its own and nearby borders. Through a web of multilateral engagements, China has offered itself as a host and discussant but never a moderator—in other words, China is willing to be involved but does not want to take the key role of confronting actors and forcing them to resolve their issues. Beijing is certainly doing more than it did before, but it is clear that it is not going to step into a leadership role. China has all the trappings and potential to be a dominant player but has made a strategic decision to continue to watch from the sidelines.
SINGAPORE — Last week, leaders and officials representing more than three dozen countries from across the world gathered in Beijing for the second ‘Belt and Road’ summit. The event marks the two-year anniversary since China first convened its flagship initiative to coordinate trillions of dollars of infrastructure across Eurasia and the Indian Ocean in a broad effort to recreate the old Silk Roads.
One nation that was missing from the summit: the U.S.
The fashionable position in Washington today is to dismiss the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative (BRI) as a power play that won’t last — an attempt at neocolonial debt trap diplomacy, in which China uses unpayable debts to control less powerful states, that is ultimately destined to collapse under the weight of financially spurious projects. On the other hand, there are also those who view BRI as a serious threat — a sign of China’s continued quest for global hegemony and the presence of a new “Cold War” between the U.S. and China.
Either way, the U.S. position so far has been to shrug at China’s new initiative. In this, Washington is making a grave mistake.
There is no doubt that China has first-mover advantage in building the new Silk Roads, but the reality is that China is far from alone in sharing in the benefits.
Membership in BRI is growing, whether the U.S. comes to the table or not, and this past week’s Beijing gathering indicates that China is willing to accommodate the concerns of its partners to maintain momentum. Though American critics tend to see it either as a doomed scheme or a strategic threat, what’s really happening with the Belt and Road plan is more complicated — and even offers the United States the chance of a payoff, regardless of China’s success. It is already opening new and expanding markets to American companies. And, diplomatically, it presents an opportunity to help steer countries clear of excessive dependence on China. Belt and Road, then, might well bring about the outcome least expected: a Eurasia that is more multipolar rather than less — if, that is, America engages rather than sitting on the sidelines.
The Belt and Road Initiative has already begun having effects across the region, and not always the ones China intended. It has catalyzed modernization drives from Pakistan to Myanmar, investments that can actually help countries diversify their economies and achieve investment grade status. At the same time, it has awakened countries to the dangers of taking on too much debt without delivering growth, and thus becoming ensnared in China’s political orbit. Importantly, this has given rise to a welcome “infrastructure arms race” in which Japan, India, Europe and even, belatedly, the U.S. are starting to actively compete with China to finance productive infrastructure and help BRI members to eventually resist Chinese dominance.
But much more needs to be done. If the United States and its Western allies want to encourage robust economic development in Eurasia, they should recognize that neither BRI’s collapse nor China’s hegemony is foreordained — and develop strategies to shape Belt and Road into a forum for fair competition. BRI is already changing Eurasia, but American diplomats and business executives — if they get involved — have power, along with their European allies, to demand that the initiative adheres to its stated principles of promoting free enterprise, and in the process reshaping geopolitics for the coming decades.
To understand how significant the Belt and Road Initiative is, one has to compare the trajectory of West and East since the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly thirty years ago. Western narratives of the post-Cold War era focus on crises and milestones, such as the Yugoslav wars, NATO expansion, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Arab Spring. From the Asian point of view, the past three decades look very different — they have been characterized predominately by an Eastern trade revolution that has connected the Eurasian and Indian Ocean spaces — what historians of the pre-colonial world call “Afroeurasia” — in unprecedented ways.
Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, China began advancing westward with pipelines to the oil-rich Caspian Sea. Meanwhile, Persian Gulf countries shifted the majority of their oil exports toward the fast-growing markets of the Indo-Pacific like India and China. All the while, enhanced trade agreements allowed Asians to capitalize on each other’s comparative advantages in energy, food, industrial goods, technology and more. By the time of the 2008 financial crisis, Asians were already trading more with each other than with the rest of the world, insulating them considerably from the demand shock.
In the decade since, China has taken the lead both diplomatically and commercially in promoting the cause of infrastructure as a global priority, and BRI is its latest effort to do so. And as vital as infrastructure is as a public good, China’s rapid success in building connectivity as far as Africa and Latin America has stoked fears that China is more determined to build an empire than improves quality of life in other countries. As U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton put it in 2018, “China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands.”
There is no doubt that China has first-mover advantage in building the new Silk Roads, but the reality is that China is far from alone in sharing in the benefits. According to World Bank and EU data, annual Afroeurasian trade today is more than $2 trillion (compared with $1.1 trillion in transatlantic trade) and growing steadily. In other words, Afroeurasia and its nearly 6 billion citizens is now the center of gravity of the world economy. As ports and pipelines, railways and fiber internet cables, trade and customs agreements, diplomatic gatherings and student exchanges all proliferate across the Afroeurasian realm, countries that once aspired to a future convergent with the West — Saudi Arabia, Russia and Turkey — have become significant and enthusiastic players in these new economic networks, seeing themselves as Eurasian or Indian Ocean powers and bridges. Russia, through which most trans-Eurasian rail cargo passes, is a Belt and Road enthusiast, viewing Chinese investment as a catalyst for a long-neglected overhaul of major Siberian provinces rich in natural resources and economic potential. Turkey is working with China to connect its freight railways all the way to China. And Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is following in King Salman’s footsteps with weighty state visits and investment agreements with India and China.
Even China’s rivals in Asia—including America’s key allies—see the potential of Eurasian integration. South Korea is fully on board with Belt and Road as a vehicle to boost its heavy industries; major South Korean companies Daewoo and Hyundai have gained big contracts from Saudi Arabia to Uzbekistan. Japan has yet to join BRI, but Nissin Corporation launched its first trial of railbound cargo transshipment to Europe with China’s Sinotrans in October. India boycotted the first BRI summit in 2017, yet it is the second-largest shareholder and largest recipient of loans from the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral body that translates BRI visions into project finance. Clearly, whether or not countries have signed a memorandum of understanding with China to join the BRI is all but irrelevant to their engagement with it.
An important exact study by the RAND corporation of the impact of new transportation routes on multiple pairs of Eurasian countries literally echoes Xi Jinping in concluding that Belt and Road has been “win-win.” Even more significantly, another American institution, Citigroup, just published an analysis titled “China’s Belt & Road at Five” that documents how Belt and Road is graduating from a Sino-centric “one-to-many” model to a more multidirectional and inclusive “many-to-many” pattern. India is working with Iran, the Caucasus countries and Russia on a north-south Silk Road axis, while the former Soviet republics of Central Asia have launched new power and rail projects among themselves and declared a “Silk visa” for free mobility among them, to name just a few of the new Silk Road vectors that are non Sino-centric.
The greatest fallacy permeating geopolitical discourse today is the notion that the 21st century world must choose between American or Chinese leadership.
Even in Belt and Road countries where China is most active, there is no linear or assured pathway to their becoming Chinese dominions. China is much more connected to its Asian neighbors than the Soviet Union was during the Cold War, and Chinese infrastructure finance brings far more benefits than Soviet military hegemony. For example, a change in government and fresh infrastructure investment from China are helping landlocked Uzbekistan expand trade in all directions. But as these countries attain sovereign credit ratings and higher investment grade status — as Uzbekistan did in February — they actually gain the confidence to resist Chinese dominance. Already Malaysia and Pakistan have substantially reduced their exposure to China in order to manage debt levels. From Nigeria to Kazakhstan to Mongolia, key resource hubs have pushed back to prevent any foreign country from owning controlling stakes in their utilities and industries. In Africa, while Chinese industrial parks and railways have helped Ethiopia raise textile exports to sustain its double-digit growth boom, numerous factories have been handed over to Indian firms due to dissatisfaction with Chinese management.
These examples are just early hints at how Eurasia is not inevitably falling under China’s sway like falling dominoes. Rather, as for most of recorded history, Asia is returning to its natural state of multipolarity among greater and lesser powers with none able to truly dominate. Indeed, while China’s forays claim the headlines, they have also unleashed an acute case of geostrategic “fear of missing out,” sparking an infrastructure arms race that will challenge China’s blitzkrieg diplomacy. Japan and India have launched their own “Connectivity Corridors” to finance and build strategic infrastructure in developing countries, and the European Union has established its own “Asia Connectivity Initiative” to capitalize on growth on the other side of Eurasia. Whether these compete with or counter China’s initiatives, they indicate that the continent’s future is far from set in stone.
Europe’s growing confidence in dealing with China is a case in point. The EU has just toughened its stance on Chinese trade policy and IP theft, even calling China a “systemic rival.” But it would be a mistake to believe that Europe has fallen into line with Washington’s trade war. European countries trade well over $500 billion more per year with Asia than they do with the U.S., and thus have more at stake in trans-Eurasian integration. Neither Germany, France or the UK has joined BRI, but all three joined the multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015 over the Obama administration’s objections. Germany’s Trade and Investment Association and chambers of commerce have formulated strategies to compete for more BRI business, with Siemens signing dozens of agreements for projects with Chinese partners. The UK-China “Infrastructure Alliance” aims to put British business front and center as vendors in third-world countries where Chinese investment is growing, while UK Export Finance is subsidizing more than $25 billion worth of British industry projects along its trade routes to the east. Beyond Europe’s major powers, more than a dozen mostly Southern European countries have joined BRI, including most recently Italy.
Europe is showing how to engage with China while competing with it at the same time. It is precisely because Europeans have so much to gain from BRI that they successfully wrested concessions from China on cutting industrial subsidies and forced technology transfer before signing the final communique at the April 9 EU-China Summit in Brussels with Chinese premier Li Keqiang. And as Europe pursues free-trade agreements with Japan, ASEAN and India, BRI will deliver European countries better access to Asia’s other wealthy markets as well. Each year, eastbound trains to Asia are catching up to westbound trains from China in volume. The more connected Europe becomes to Asia, the more it can compete commercially and diplomatically to dilute Chinese influence across the region.
The U.S. needs a similar approach to Belt and Road, and to China in general. Simply declaring that there is a “new Cold War” between the U.S. and China — as everyone from prominent foreign policy pundits to the Washington Post’s editorial board have — fails to denote any genuine American strategy and hasn’t inspired any allies to join its side. And, as the fallout from the trade war suggests, it will also risk hurting the U.S. economy by weakening U.S. exports to China.
After all, BRI serves American business objectives. The primary user of the main freight rail line from Chongqing to Duisberg, Germany, is Hewlett-Packard. For American companies, BRI member countries collectively represent the next wave of global growth that they cannot afford to miss. Take engineering contractors, who face anemic U.S. infrastructure spending — and a project pipeline that increasingly points to Asia. General Electric, Honeywell International and Caterpillar all have decades of traction in Asia and are actively seeking roles as subcontractors to major Chinese firms involved in BRI-related contracts. American industry needs to promote its competitive advantages in logistics, energy services and other sectors across Asian markets — especially in South and Southeast Asia, where populations are younger and growth is accelerating.
This won’t happen on its own. The only way American firms can be induced to compete in these risky markets is if projects offer lucrative scale and risk insurance — precisely what the growing number of official entities linking up with BRI, such as the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment guarantee Agency, provide — as well as fair commercial arbitration, which Singapore will provide in BRI courts. But naturally, such services will favor and benefit countries within BRI rather than non-members. By not joining TPP, the U.S. now has less leverage in shaping market regulations in Asia, while members such as Canada and Japan enjoy preferential access across the region. In the same way, America’s failure to engage with BRI will mean BRI member nations will dominate the lucrative contracts, while American companies will be left out.
U.S. involvement in Belt and Road will have political dividends as well as economic ones. If the U.S. is serious both about wanting to limit Chinese influence and promote multipolarity in Asia, it needs to do more than take potshots at China from outside the tent. Though at the moment BRI is merely a loose network of countries coordinating with China, it is becoming more formalized with the creation of a ministerial “Leading Group” housed within China’s State Council to liaise with other members’ foreign ministers. This presents an opportunity to weaken China’s unilateral grip on the BRI agenda. As BRI diplomacy becomes more structured, the U.S. can work behind the scenes with allies South Korea and the UAE, both active BRI members, to shape its priorities. America continues to have more influence over these and numerous other BRI states than China does — for now.
Consider how Russia successfully lobbied for India to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2017, diluting China’s influence in a strategic body it itself founded. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently been in India lobbying for it to reconsider its opposition to BRI on similar grounds. America has been on the receiving end of this shrewd tactic at the World Bank and IMF, U.S.-founded bodies from the post-war era where developing countries now have a strong voice. Now it should work with emerging powers involved in BRI to apply the same principle to China.
Importantly, influencing BRI from within does not preclude the U.S. from continuing to compete from outside as well. Last year in Papua New Guinea, for instance, the U.S., Australia, Japan, and New Zealand teamed up to win a $1.7 billion contract to build the country’s electricity grid over Chinese competitors — even though Papua New Guinea had just joined the BRI. Such a mature coalition can help structure bankable projects in basket case economies that heretofore only China has paid attention to, and is evidence of just how important the role of Western know-how is in promoting good governance in nations such as Laos, Tajikistan or Djibouti, whose debts to China have mounted since joining BRI but who have little ability to stand up to China. However, to repeat the Papua New Guinea example across dozens of fragile states requires working with well-governed BRI members such as Singapore, where capital allotments from Chinese banks enable $100 billion in lending to companies that can implement high-standard projects on commercial terms. Such coalitions will be necessary to deliver the many weak states in the Afroeurasian realm the confidence they need to maintain sovereignty amid China’s advances.
Weaning countries off Chinese loans requires more than just denouncing debt-trap diplomacy. The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation will launch later this year, cobbling together existing U.S. aid and investment programs. But the capital it can actually deploy—at most $60 billion—will be a fraction of what developing countries need, especially compared with the lending offered by Chinese state-backed banks and funds. The recently approved Asia Reassurance Act is similarly more talk than action. Vice President Mike Pence recently said that the U.S. offers “a better way” than dealing with China, but billions of people in Asia need hard infrastructure, not soft promises.
The greatest fallacy permeating geopolitical discourse today is the notion that the 21st century world must choose between American or Chinese leadership. The world has already voted, and the winner is neither. America’s share of the global economy and trade is shrinking, its military is over-stretched, and its credibility is in tatters due to a combination of the Iraq war, financial crisis, and President Trump.
But that doesn’t mean China is taking over. In 1945, when the U.S. emerged from World War II as the world’s sole superpower, it represented fully 50 percent of the world economy. Today China represents barely 15 percent of global GDP and its economy is decelerating and its population plateauing. India is already growing more quickly than China and its younger population will soon be larger than China’s. Simply put: China is rising into a world that is already multipolar; it doesn’t displace incumbent powers such as America and Europe — whose economies are still equal or larger than China’s — and cannot prevent the rise of India nor easily subdue Japan, South Korea or Australia.
These simple geographic, historical, and economic facts are precisely why Belt and Road is a foremost national priority for China, so much so that it is now enshrined in the constitution. China existentially feels the need to diversify its trade routes to Europe, the Middle East and Africa in order to survive. Rather that perpetually vilify China, therefore, we should make sense of its fears and interests and use those to shape its future behavior. BRI is a good place to start. Its mission is perfectly laudable: To promote commerce and people-to-people exchange among almost 100 post-colonial and post-Soviet republics. The West should strongly support this mission, for if executed correctly, it would result in greater prosperity across the developing world, enhanced Western commercial opportunities in fast-growing markets, and bring about a more multipolar Asia. If the world — and the U.S. — can steer BRI correctly, the project should actually help diffuse power, not concentrate it in China’s hands.
This is entirely consistent with a smart U.S. grand strategy of seeking a world order in which it does not have to intervene everywhere but rather balances itself, while providing greater opportunities for America to benefit from global economic growth on the other side of the planet. Remember that China did not dominate the ancient Silk Roads and will not dictate their future even as it has taken a lead role in rebuilding them. Beijing is building roads, but all roads won’t lead to Beijing.
Parag Khanna is author of “The Future Is Asian: Commerce, Conflict, and Culture in the 21st Century,” released in February from Simon & Schuster.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that he's open to a call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss a possible prisoner swap involving American basketball star Brittney Griner.
Blinken said Wednesday that Washington had offered Russia a deal that would bring home Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan. A person familiar with the matter said the U.S. government proposed trading convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Whelan and Griner.
Speaking on a visit to Uzbekistan, Lavrov said his ministry had received an official U.S. request for a call after Blinken made the statement. Russia's top diplomat said he would be ready once he returns to Moscow and that the timing of the call was being worked out.
Lavrov said he was open to discussing the prisoner exchange, even though the Foreign Ministry hasn't been involved in previous discussions on the issue.
“I will listen to what he has to say,” Lavrov added.
Asked Thursday about the U.S. offer, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied that prisoner swaps were typically negotiated discreetly behind the scenes.
“We know that such issues are discussed without any such release of information,” Peskov told reporters during a conference call. “Normally, the public learns about it when the agreements are already implemented.”
Blinken’s comments marked the first time the U.S. government publicly revealed any concrete action it has taken to secure Griner’s release. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and player for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury was arrested at a Moscow airport in mid-February when inspectors found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Griner’s arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington ahead of Russia sending troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24. Griner’s five months of detention have raised strong criticism among teammates and supporters in the United States.
Her trial on drug charges started in a court outside Moscow this month, and she testified Wednesday that she didn’t know how the cartridges ended up in her bag but that she had a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis to treat career-related pain.
The 31-year-old has pleaded guilty but said she had no criminal intent in bringing the cartridges to Russia and packed in haste for her return to play in a Russian basketball league during the WNBA’s offseason. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs.
The Biden administration has faced political pressure to free Griner and other Americans whom the U.S. has declared to be “wrongfully detained” — a designation sharply rejected by Russian officials.
Whelan, a corporate security executive from Michigan, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges in 2020. He and his family have vigorously asserted his innocence. The U.S. government has denounced the charges as false.
Russia has for years expressed interest in the release of Bout, a Russian arms dealer once labeled the “Merchant of Death.” He was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 on charges that he schemed to illegally sell millions of dollars in weapons.
Matthew Lee and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow AP's coverage of Griner's case at https://apnews.com/hub/brittney-griner
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