Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 7 April – Sunday 14 April:

On Sunday, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao held a roundtable meeting in Paris, beginning his trade tour in Europe. The China Chamber of Commerce to the EU (CCCEU) and Chinese companies Geely, SAIC, BYD, and CATL attended the roundtable. These companies are auto and battery manufacturers. During the meeting, Wang Wentao reiterated Beijing’s stance that Chinese EV firms do not rely on subsidies to gain a competitive advantage and said accusations by the U.S. and Europe of “overcapacity” were groundless. “China’s electric vehicle companies rely on continuous technological innovation, perfect production and supply chain system and full market competition for rapid development, not relying on subsidies to gain competitive advantage,” Wang said. He also told them the Chinese government would actively support firms to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests. 

On Monday, Canada unveiled a new defence policy called Our North, Strong and Free which, while addressing the threats Canada faces, does not commit much to addressing them. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also confirmed that Canada is seeking to join the AUKUS alliance as part of Pillar Two, which may be unlikely considering Canada is of little use to the alliance. Underfunding and a long-running recruitment crisis perhaps due to identity-driven policies and rhetoric which alienate the military’s biggest pool of recruits – young white men. Trudeau says Canada will consider whether it needs to purchase nuclear-powered submarines to better ensure it can defend Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, something which would require decades of funding to sustain – and is therefore unlikely. The plan also includes the purchase of long-range missiles and early-warning aircraft, which will instead boost military spending to 1.76 percent by 2030, below the 2 percent of GDP that NATO determined should be the minimum. The Trudeau government is largely uninterested in defence spending and this defence policy commits little immediate funding.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in China on an official two-day visit to shore up the strategic partnership between the two countries and pave the way for a state visit to China by Russian President Vladimir Putin in May. Lavrov met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, who emphasised that China will continue the deepen its economic relationship with Moscow. Wang told Lavrov that China “will support Russia’s stable development under the leadership of Putin,”according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. This will certainly frustrate American attempts to isolate Russia. The two countries will also deepen their security cooperation in Asia and Europe to counter American influence. Lavrov additionally denounced the “unlawful sanctions” imposed by the West against Russia and other countries and warned that the sanctions policy “is starting to be actively applied towards (China) as well”. On Tuesday, Lavrov met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Lavrov’s visit coincides with the end of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s four days of talks in Beijing. Yellen said she had “difficult conversations” with the officials about national security, including U.S. concerns that Chinese companies have been supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday, North America witnessed the first total solar eclipse in seven years as the day was plunged into darkness. For more than four hours, the silhouette of the moon ate into the yellow orb of the sun, obscuring all but the silvery glow of the corona. The next opportunity to see a total solar eclipse in the 48 contiguous U.S. states and Canada isn’t until 2044. To see a total eclipse before then, you’ll need to travel abroad the next event will be in August 2026 and will cross through a number of European countries including Iceland and Spain.

On Monday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron met with former president Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. He is said to have asked Trump to use his influence to support American military aid to Ukraine. Cameron said he delivered the same message he gives to other American leaders: “The best thing we can do this year is to keep the Ukrainians in this fight.” Trump has not commented on the dinner, which included Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Karen Pierce. His campaign issued a statement saying they discussed “the need for NATO countries to meet their defense spending requirements and ending the killing in Ukraine.” They also shared their “mutual admiration for the late Queen Elizabeth II.”

On Wednesday, Britain attempted to throw Ukraine a lifeline by signing a cooperation agreement in the defence and arms production sector. The document was signed at a military industry conference in Kiev that was attended by about 30 British defense companies who visited to discuss potential joint ventures with Ukrainian weapons and defense producers. Greg Hands, UK Minister for Trade Policy, said he hoped the agreement would bring gains for Ukraine on the battlefield and that it would also benefit its battered economy in the longer term. British defense company BAE Systems, one of the first Western producers to set up a local entity in Ukraine, signed an agreement with Britain’s Defence Ministry to conduct maintenance, repair and overhaul of light guns on the ground in Ukraine. Officials also said they hoped for more projects this year in the drone production sector. Many of the companies attending the conference were drone producers. Ukraine aims to produce about 1 million first-person view (FPV) drones this year and is increasing its production of longer-range attack drones to conduct strikes deep inside Russia.

On Wednesday, an Israeli airstrike killed three sons of one of the most senior leaders of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh, living in Qatar, serves as the current chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, said “The enemy is delusional if it thinks that by killing my children, we will change our positions. We shall not give in, no matter the sacrifices.” 

Going into the weekend, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken engaged in a diplomatic blitz, attempting to convince Turkey and Saudi Arabia that they should “urge Iran not to escalate” after Israeli jets bombed the Iranian embassy in Damascus. American and Israeli defence officials had been warning for days that an Iranian strike was imminent. 

Early on Saturday morning local time, Iranian IRGC paramilitary forces seized the MSC Aries in the Strait of Hormuz. The ship is owned by Zodiac Maritime, but is chartered by the Swiss company Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC). Zodiac Maritime is owned by Israeli billionaire shipping magnate Eyal Ofer. MSC said in a statement “We regret to confirm that MSC Aries owned by Zodiac Maritime and chartered to MSC has been boarded by Iranian authorities via helicopter as she passed the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 0243 UTC this morning. Her position when the event occurred was approximately 25 deg 41.5’N: 056 deg 41.9′ E and she has since been diverted from her itinerary towards Iran. She has 25 crew onboard, and we are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel.”

On Saturday, Ukraine’s military chief General. Oleksandr Syrskyy warned that the battlefield situation in the east had “significantly worsened in recent days” with warmer weather allowing Russian forces to launch fresh attacks. In an update on the Telegram messaging app, Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyy said that Moscow had “significantly” ramped up its assaults since last month. According to Syrskyy, Russian forces have been “actively attacking” Ukrainian positions in three areas of the eastern Donetsk region, near the cities of Lyman, Bakhmut and Pokrovsk, and beginning to launch tank assaults as drier, warmer spring weather has made it easier for heavy vehicles to move across previously muddy terrain.

On Saturday, Iran launched its anticipated attack on Israel in retaliation for the Israeli bombing of its Damascus embassy on April 1. Iran reportedly launched at least 300 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles towards Israel which took hours to reach the country. They were not all fired from Iranian territory – some were launched by Iranian proxy forces in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. American and British forces stationed in the region shot down a number of the drones and missiles before they reached Israeli territory, while the majority of the drones and missiles were downed by Israel’s Iron Dome and Arrow 3. The Jordanian military also shot down aircraft and missiles that entered its airspace. The Arrow 3 is designed to intercept ballistic missiles armed with nuclear and other nonconventional warheads outside the earth’s atmosphere. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, Israel’s chief military spokesman, said on Sunday that the Arrow 3 had “proved itself against a significant number of ballistic missiles” fired by Iran. Some ballistic missiles did make it through Israel’s dense matrix of air defence, impacting at the Nevatim air force base in the Negev desert in southern Israel. The base suffered only light damage from the attack and satellite footage shows the runway is still operational. Iran’s mission to the United Nations said that following the launch of the drones toward Israel, Tehran now considered its retaliation for an attack on its diplomatic compound in Damascus to be ended. “The matter can be deemed concluded,” it said. “However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!”U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity said that President Biden and his team, hoping to avoid further escalation, are advising Israel that its defence against the Iranian attack was a major victory that might not require another round of retaliation. But Israel’s government will be under pressure to respond to the attack and Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, said that its confrontation with Iran was “not over yet.”

On Sunday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in China. His first destination was the industrial hub of Chongqing, where he and his delegation of ministers and business leaders visited a partially German-funded company and other sites in the vast city, which is a production base for China’s auto and other industries. Scholz is also scheduled to visit the financial hub of Shanghai during his three-day visit, before travelling to the capital, Beijing, to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang. German companies such as BMW and Volkswagen are highly reliant on the Chinese market, but ties between the two countries have frayed amid increasing competition from Chinese companies, tightened regulations and political interference – which has led to a sharp drop in Chinese foreign investment into Germany.