SitRep: China’s Aircraft Carrier Making Taiwan Nervous; Russia Hits Obama, Looks Forward to Trump

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Cruise control. Taiwan has been nervously watching as Beijing’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, cruised past Taiwan on its way to the South China Sea in recent days, though Chinese officials said the movement was a routine drill. Taiwan has emerged as a point of contention between President-elect Donald Trump and China after Trump’s phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and his statement suggesting that his administration might ignore with the decades-old One China policy.
“The threat of our enemies is growing day by day. We should always be maintaining our combat alertness,” Taiwan Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan said on Tuesday. China, of course, does not recognize the independence of Taiwan, which has purchased billions in U.S. weaponry over the decades. Last December, the government in Beijing confirmed that it was building a second aircraft carrier, and China likely has the ability to build multiple carriers over the next 15 years, the Pentagon said in a report earlier this year.
Beijing, Moscow have complains about that U.S. defense spending bill. Chinese officials aren’t happy over a provision contained in the $618.7 billion National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Barack Obama last week calling for more cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwanese militaries. In a statement, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said, “we urge the U.S. side to abide by its promises made to China on the Taiwan issue, stop U.S.-Taiwan military contacts and arms sales to Taiwan, to avoid damaging Sino-U.S. ties and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
Moscow and Syria. On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling Washington’s plans to drop some restrictions on supplying weapons to Syrian rebels a “hostile act” that threatened Russian warplanes operating in the country. “The passing of this law in the last days of team Obama is an indication the administration is planting a landmine for the future administration of Donald Trump, in an attempt to complicate affairs in the international arena,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Sanctions. Likewise, the decision to renew U.S. sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014 was an attempt to impose the Obama administration’s “vicious anti-Russian course” on the incoming Trump administration, she added. “We hope that those who succeed them will be wiser.” Still, U.S. officials tell the AP that talks between American and Russian military officials to ensure their aircraft don’t run into one another over Syria have been fruitful, and have at times progressed beyond merely tactical communications.
To the Baltics. In an open message to Donald Trump — who has celebrated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian tactics and questioned NATO’s relevance, unnerving the alliance’s Baltic members — Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham arrived in Estonia on Tuesday on a trip widely perceived as an attempt to reassure Baltic states concerned Trump may not be committed to their defense.
“I think this visit is being done to emphasize that, whatever happens after the inauguration, the U.S. Senate will be something the Baltic states can calmly rely upon,” Zygimantas Pavilionis, Lithuania’s former ambassador to Washington, told Reuters. McCain and Graham will next travel to Latvia and Lithuania on Thursday where they’ll meet heads of state and defense officials.
In recent days, Trump has Tweeted approvingly about Putin’s criticism of Hillary Clinton, his opponent for president, and showed off a congratulatory note the Russian leader sent him after the election.
Russian officials are saying they don’t believe that terrorism caused the crash of a Russian military plane that killed 92 people when it crashed into the Black Sea, according to the New York Times. The Tupolev 154 took off from Sochi on Sunday with 68 entertainers on board headed for a holiday concert in Latakia, Syria, where Russian forces in the country are based. Russian authorities are currently mounting search operations and say they’ve found the “black box.” Russian Interior Minister Maxim Sokolov says terrorism has been ruled out already and Russian Air Force has vouched for both the pilot and the aircraft involved.

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