Blinken to warn Beijing over support for Russia in upcoming trip to China

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to issue a stern warning to Beijing, indicating that the U.S. and its allies strongly oppose China's support for Russia's war against Ukraine. This warning, according to Bloomberg's report on April 20, will be delivered during Blinken's upcoming trip to Beijing and Shanghai from April 24-26.

Since the beginning of Russia's war against Ukraine, Beijing has maintained close ties with Moscow, resulting in increased economic cooperation. This expanded trade has provided Russia with a critical economic lifeline, enabling it to sustain its economy and bolster its military industry despite Western sanctions and efforts to isolate it.

Blinken highlighted that China has become the "primary contributor" to Russia's military-industrial complex. He emphasized that China could not maintain positive relations with the West while simultaneously supporting Russia's war effort, adding, "China can't have it both ways." The U.S. has previously warned China against supplying lethal military aid to Russia and urged Beijing to use its influence over Moscow to help end the conflict.

During his trip to Beijing, Blinken plans to discuss the potential consequences for European security if China continues supporting Russia's war efforts. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had earlier noted that there would be "significant consequences" if Chinese companies were found to be aiding Russia's war.

Despite these warnings, China has insisted that its partnership with Russia is normal, emphasizing that it has not supported either side with weapons. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, responding to Western criticism, described the relationship between Beijing and Moscow as "normal cooperation."

Blinken's upcoming visit will be closely watched to see how China responds to the U.S. and its allies' concerns about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and Beijing's perceived role in supporting Russia.

Poland, Lithuania, other NATO allies begin military exercise around Suwalki Gap

NATO members, including Poland, Lithuania, and the United States, have begun military exercises in the Suwalki Gap area in Lithuania, highlighting the strategic significance of this region amid rising tensions following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Suwalki Gap is a narrow 65-kilometer (40 miles) stretch of land on the Polish-Lithuanian border, situated between Belarus and Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad. This area has historically been seen as a potential hotspot for military conflict between Russia and NATO, given its strategic location.

The joint military exercise, which started on April 21, was planned in 2022 by the Polish and Lithuanian militaries. It involves at least 1,500 troops and hundreds of pieces of military equipment, as reported by the Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT. The primary goal of the exercise is to test and enhance joint defenses in the Suwalki Gap area, though specific details remain classified.

This exercise runs concurrently with a similar U.S.-led military exercise in Lithuania, called Saber Strike, which commenced on April 19. These exercises are part of NATO's ongoing efforts to improve collective defense and preparedness in response to escalating tensions in the region.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns about potential spillover conflicts and the strategic stability of Eastern Europe. As a result, NATO has increased its military presence and conducted regular exercises to demonstrate its commitment to collective defense and to ensure readiness in case of any threat to member states.

Zelensky praises US House for passing Ukraine aid bill

President Volodymyr Zelensky commended the U.S. House of Representatives on April 20 for approving a significant $61 billion aid package for Ukraine.

This key foreign aid package, which encompasses support for Ukraine, Israel, and other allies, was passed by the U.S. House after months of political discord and a worsening situation on the battlefield.

The aid package will now move to the Senate for approval before being sent to President Biden for signing. Biden has indicated that he is ready to sign the bills once Congress has passed them.

During his evening address, Zelensky expressed gratitude to the House for passing the Ukraine aid bill, noting that it came over two months after the Senate approved a similar bill on foreign assistance.

"We value every show of support for our nation, our independence, our people, and our lives, which Russia seeks to destroy," Zelensky said. "We will undoubtedly use American support to fortify our nations and bring this war to a just conclusion—a war that Russian President Vladimir Putin must lose."

He also acknowledged the United States' leadership, pointing out that it has been present since the start of the war.

"This kind of American leadership is essential to maintaining an international order based on rules and a stable quality of life for all people," he remarked.

Zelensky mentioned earlier in the day that Kyiv might sign a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. soon, suggesting that this could occur once Congress passes the aid package for Ukraine.