Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 4 February – Sunday 11 February:

On Sunday, President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador declared himself the winner of the national elections, winning more than 80 percent of the vote. Bukele declared the result a “record in the entire democratic history of the world.” Thousands of Bukele’s supporters clad in cyan blue and waving flags thronged San Salvador’s central square to celebrate his re-election, which the 42-year-old leader termed a “referendum” on his government. Standing on the balcony of the National Palace on Sunday evening, Bukele said El Salvador had made history. “Salvadorans have given the example to the entire world that any problem can be solved if there is the will to do it,” he said.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the unusual creation of a separate military branch dedicated solely to drone warfare. In his address, Zelensky revealed that he had instructed the Cabinet and the General Staff to work out the details of establishing the force within the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “I have just signed a decree which will launch the creation of a separate branch within our armed forces – a drone systems force,” he announced. Zelensky said he came up with the decision after seeing the combat success of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on land, in the skies, and at sea. He credited drones for their significant contributions on the battlefield, effectively repelling Russian assaults and shifting the balance of power in the Black Sea. “The large-scale destruction of enemy troops and their equipment is also due to drones,” said the president. Under the decree, the Cabinet and the General Staff of Ukraine will submit a written result of their study to the policy-making National Security and Defence Council.

On Wednesday, Swedish prosecutors announced they would be dropping their investigation into the Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions in September 2022. Responsibility for the explosions has still not been conclusively announced and the Swedish prosecutors have closed their investigation saying their intention was “to establish whether Swedish citizens were involved in the act and whether Swedish territory was used to carry out the act, and thereby risked damaging Swedish interests or Sweden’s security.” Since Sweden and Swedish interests were not targeted, Sweden has no jurisdiction and will hand over evidence to Denmark and Germany, which are continuing their investigations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the closing of the Swedish probe as “a remarkable decision.” “Of course, now we need to see how Germany itself reacts to this, as a country that has lost a lot in relation to this terrorist attack,” he said.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy removed his top general Valery Zaluzhny in favour of General Oleksandr Syrsky. General Syrsky was schooled in an elite military academy in Moscow before the collapse of the Soviet Union — and has spent much of his career fighting the Russians. He is intimately familiar with the tactics of his country’s enemy. He began his career in the Soviet military in 1986; after joining the army of the newly independent Ukraine in 1991, he gradually climbed into the ranks of command. Between 2007 and 2014, he occupied several high-profile positions in the General Staff, and after Russia annexed Crimea and fomented war in eastern Ukraine a decade ago, he was appointed as deputy commander of the Anti-Terrorist Operation, placing him in direct combat with Russian forces. In 2019, he became head of Ukraine’s ground forces, the post he held until his promotion on Thursday. Syrsky led two successful counteroffensives in the war against Russia before his troops became bogged down in Bakhmut. The nickname “the Butcher” for General Syrsky is now widespread in Ukraine’s Army. General Zaluzhny’s high standing with the Ukrainian public led to speculation that he could be a prospective challenger to Mr. Zelensky in future elections, prompting some in the country to regard them as political rivals. Mr. Zelensky sought to deflect that criticism on Thursday, framing his decision as part of a sweeping overhaul of a system in need of rethinking and not a personal dispute. “This is not about surnames,” he said. “And certainly not about politics. This is about the system of our army, about management in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and about attracting the experience of battlefield commanders of this war.”

On Thursday, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson released his two-hour interview with Vladimir Putin, which was recorded on Tuesday. The interview was Putin’s first with a Western media outlet since the start of his full-scale war in Ukraine and his first with an American one since 2021. While Mr. Putin regularly gave interviews to mainstream American media in his first two decades in power, his spokesman said the Kremlin chose Mr. Carlson this time because those traditional outlets take “an exclusively one-sided position” with regard to Russia. Indeed, Mr. Putin repeatedly predicted in the interview, which was first posted on Mr. Carlson’s website then released on X, that the war would end through diplomacy, but that the United States first had to stop sending military aid to Ukraine and to convince Ukraine’s leaders to negotiate. “You should tell the current Ukrainian leadership to stop and come to a negotiating table,” Putin said. “This endless mobilization in Ukraine, the hysteria, the domestic problems — sooner or later, it will result in an agreement.”

On Saturday, former President Donald J. Trump said that, while president, he told the leaders of NATO countries that he would “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to countries that had not paid the money they owed to the military alliance.

On Sunday, Trump doubled down, saying “No money in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway,” he wrote on social media in all capital letters. “We should never give money anymore,” he added, “without the hope of a payback, or without ‘strings’ attached.”

In the week ahead:

It’s Valentine’s Day on Wednesday. Don’t forget to buy that special someone flowers.