American and European security services wipe out Russian spies from the EU, while the UN General Assembly is drafting a new resolution urging Moscow to stop the war. The 59th Munich Security Conference has started in Germany, and in the U.S., Trump supporters demand that aid to Kyiv end because of "Ukraine fatigue". On the contrary, the Labor leader, Keir Starmer, pledged support to Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit to Kyiv.
offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the February 13–17 business week.
How the U.S. and Europe are sweeping Russian spies from the continent
Over the past year, along with military aid to Ukraine and economic sanctions against Moscow, U.S. and European security services have been waging war against Russian spy networks, The Washington Post reports.
It culminated in Munich on January 21 with the arrest of the Russian agent Arthur Eller, whose activities had been investigated by German authorities jointly with the FBI.
A month before, German authorities had also arrested Eller’s accomplice, Carsten Linke, an employee of the BND (Germany’s foreign intelligence service), who was accused of passing classified documents to Russian intelligence agencies.
These arrests followed a mass expulsion of more than 400 suspected Russian intelligence officers from Moscow’s embassies across the continent.
U.S. and European security officials say that Russia’s spy agencies have sustained greater damage over the past year than at any time since the end of the Cold War. The magnitude of the campaign appears to have caught Russia off-guard.
"The world is quite different for the Russian services now," Antti Pelttari, director of Finland’s foreign intelligence service, asserted.
According to him, because of the expulsions, subsequent arrests, and a more hostile environment in Europe, he said, "their capability has been degraded considerably."
To make up for the losses, Russia resorts to cyberespionage and sends in new agents, taking advantage of refugee flows. However, these newcomers, unlike those who were declared persona non grata, lack diplomatic protection, experience, and skills.
In desperation, Moscow even attempted to send spies who were expelled from one European capital back to another. However, according to a senior Western security official, none of the attempts he was aware of were successful.
Seeking to take advantage of Moscow’s vulnerability, the CIA and FBI have stepped up flows of intelligence to services in Germany, Sweden, Norway, and other countries, helping reveal GRU agents. One of the results was the lack of efforts made by Russian services to disrupt Finland’s and Sweden’s applications to join NATO.
The new vote at the UN: Zelenskyy’s Peace Plan not included
Marking one year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the UN General Assembly will vote on a draft resolution stressing "the need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace," according to Reuters.
The resolution calls on Moscow to withdraw its troops and put a halt to hostilities. The voting is likely to be held on February 23.
Ukraine and its supporters hope to deepen Russia's diplomatic isolation by seeking yes votes from at least as many countries as supported similar resolutions in 2022.
Back then, 141 states voted on March 2 to demand Moscow withdraw its troops, while on October 12, 143 countries backed the resolution condemning Russia's "attempted illegal annexation" of four partially occupied regions in Ukraine.
The General Assembly has been the focus for UN action on Ukraine because the Security Council has been paralyzed by Russia abusing its veto power. General Assembly resolutions are not legally-binding but carry political weight.
Ukraine had wanted the General Assembly draft resolution to enshrine a 10-point peace plan proposed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, but diplomats said the draft was simplified in a bid to garner as much support as possible.
Munich 2023: Russia wasn’t invited, and China will be watched closely
The Ukrainian president, Volodymr Zelenskiy, gave the opening speech at the Munich security conference (MSC) as the west faces urgent calls to speed up ammunition production and supplies to Kyiv, The Guardian reports.
The conference attended by more than 100 world leaders is expected to be a test of the West’s resolve to fight out a grinding, prolonged, expensive war.
The MSC has had a tradition of inviting senior leaders from states hostile, or ambivalent, towards the West, but this year has taken the unusual decision to exclude any representatives from Iran or Russia, the Guardian points out.
Still, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, will be speaking at the conference and his speech will be watched closely. He is expected to meet the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, whose trip to Beijing was canceled over the Chinese spy balloon controversy.
Britain in recent years sent no one of note apart from the then cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill, but in 2023, Prime Minister Boris Johnson showed up at the conference at the last minute to send a warning about the imminent invasion of Ukraine.
This year, the U.K.’s delegation includes the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, and the defense secretary, Ben Wallace.
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz strived to assure his audience that the German Zeitenwende (turning point) was a long-term change in German defense thinking. For his part, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, spoke about the conditions for peace in Ukraine, the reformation of the UN security council, and the reasons why Russia won’t be mended by a regime change.
Apart from the set-piece speeches, world leaders at Munich will go through a lightning round of bilaterals, including a meeting between Rishi Sunak and the U.S. vice-president, Kamala Harris.
It is expected G7 foreign ministers will also meet to discuss next steps in Ukraine and how to address the future of the Iran nuclear deal.
"Ukraine fatigue": Trump supporters urge for depriving Kyiv of American aid
Two weeks before the first anniversary of the full-scale invasion on February 24, a group of Donald Trump-supporting Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives led by Matt Gaetz introduced a "Ukraine fatigue" resolution, The Guardian reports .
Its authors believe that the United States must end its military and financial aid to Ukraine and urge "all combatants to reach a peace agreement".
"President Joe Biden must have forgotten his prediction from March 2022, suggesting that arming Ukraine with military equipment will escalate the conflict to ‘World War III’," Gaetz said. "America is in a state of managed decline, and it will exacerbate if we continue to hemorrhage taxpayer dollars toward a foreign war."
The resolution sponsored by 11 Republican members of Congress from the far-right Freedom Caucus faction is unlikely to pass. But the influence of this faction is heightened by the fact that the Republicans have a slim nine-seat majority in the House, and the new speaker, Kevin McCarthy, only scraped into the job after 15 rounds of voting among Republican members, during which he made promises to listen to the concerns of hard-right holdouts like Gaetz.
"I think there’s going to be tremendous pressure on Speaker McCarthy to abandon Ukraine … and it’s possible he could wilt under the pressure," Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said.
European diplomats have been lobbying Republicans, underscoring the importance of maintaining western solidarity in the face of Russian aggression.
Murphy believes that if McCarthy decides to compromise and support funding for hard military infrastructure but not support economic and humanitarian aid, it’s a recipe for the slow death of Ukraine.
A recent opinion poll by the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center has shown support softening for the continued arming of Ukraine. In the survey, 48% of those questioned said they were in favor of providing weapons, with 29% opposed. Last May, 60% of Americans surveyed supported arming Ukraine.
Keir Starmer visited Kyiv: What he promised Zelenskyy
During his surprise visit to Kyiv on Thursday, February 16, Labour leader Keir Starmer vowed that Ukraine will always have his party’s "unwavering support", according to Politico.
The U.K. opposition boss, who polls suggest is on track to become Britain’s next prime minister, met with Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Before his meeting with the Ukrainian president, Starmer traveled to Bucha and Irpin and met with experts in human rights and reconstruction.
"It’s incredible to see the evidence of atrocities that I’ve seen this morning. Photographs of civilians in the outskirts of Kyiv blindfolded, with their arms tied behind their back," he told U.K. broadcaster ITV. "There has to be justice in The Hague and there has to be proper reparation in the rebuilding of Ukraine."
Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Starmer reiterated that Ukraine has his own party’s "full support" in its fight against Russian forces.