Lifting Sanctions on Venezuela | Seabed Mining & China | Nuclear Weapons and Putin’s ‘Holy War’, and more

Nuclear Weapons and Putin’s ‘Holy War’  (Krystyna Marcinkek, The Hill)
The notion that Russia, a nuclear superpower, could use its nuclear weapons in a war of choice against Ukraine – a country a fraction of Russia’s size, population and military and economic strength – seems absurd. And yet, while Russian propagandists regularly call for nuclear strikes, the Western predictions about whether Russia will use nuclear weapons range from “unlikely” to a near certainty that the United States and Russia will enter a direct nuclear exchange.
Russia has never used nuclear weapons in war before so there is no good benchmark, nothing to reliably measure the current risk against. Most arguments show that using nukes would not help Russia achieve its objectives at an acceptable cost. However, these arguments are implicitly predicated on the assumption that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decisions are motivated by a basic cost-benefit analysis, where the costs are adequately assessed, and the benefits are security, stability and development.

Governance in Space: Mining the Moon and Beyond  (Jan Osburg and Mary Lee, The Hill)
The successful launch on Wednesday of NASA’s “Artemis I” mission represents a first step toward establishing a permanent human presence on the moon and toward the exploitation of what may be vast deposits of extremely valuable resources there and elsewhere in space. But before the mining begins, spacefaring nations could establish more-detailed rules about who will get to benefit from this bounty, and how.
After all, the United States is not alone in recognizing the natural resource potential of the moon and other celestial bodies. In recent years the moon has been visited by spacecraft from China, India, and Israel, and a South Korean orbiter is planned. This 21st-century space race could reward the winner(s) with untold quantities of highly valuable materials.

Canada to Boost Defense, Cybersecurity in Indo-Pacific Policy  (Reuters / VOA News)
Canada launched its long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy Sunday, outlining $1.7 billion in spending to boost military and cybersecurity in the region and vowed to deal with a “disruptive” China while working with it on climate change and trade issues.
The plan detailed in a 26-page document said Canada will tighten foreign investment rules to protect intellectual property and prevent Chinese state-owned enterprises from snapping up critical mineral supplies.
Canada is seeking to deepen ties with a fast-growing Indo-Pacific region of 40 countries accounting for almost $37.3 trillion in economic activity. But the focus is on China, which is mentioned more than 50 times, at a moment when bilateral ties are frosty.

Trudeau Testifies on Emergency Powers Use Against Canada Trucker Protests  (Agence France-Presse / VOA News)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau testified at a public inquiry on Friday to defend his use of emergency powers to dislodge noisy trucker-led protestors that jammed the capital earlier this year.
His testimony at the Public Order Emergency Commission wraps up six weeks of hearings on the rarely used powers, which were invoked in February after weeks of protests that brought Ottawa to a standstill and disrupted trade.
Trudeau began by saying he’d taken note of “a level of frustration and dissatisfaction with government policies” in relation to COVID rules in the months before the protest.
The self-styled “Freedom Convoy” of truckers rolled into the capital on January 29 from across Canada to express anger at COVID vaccine mandates.
As solidarity rallies popped up – blocking trade corridors including a bridge to Detroit that is the busiest international crossing in North America – their demands expanded to a broader rejection of pandemic restrictions and an anti-establishment agenda.

Understanding the Turkistan Islamic Party: From Global Jihad to Local Anti-Chinese Resistance  (Uran Botobekov, HSToday)
Uyghur jihadism has evolved and transformed based on the ideology of ethno-nationalism using the Taliban and HTS as guides.

Unrest Breaks Out Across China, as Frustration at Lockdowns Grows  (Economist)
From Urumqi in the north-west to Shanghai in the east, demonstrations and protests have rocked China in recent days. They have varied in size, tenor and composition, but all have been united by one theme: demands for an end to the harsh lockdowns and arbitrary controls of the country’s “zero-covid” campaign. Taken together, they represent a broad-based and diverse bellow of frustration of a sort very rarely heard in China. Though not all protests are explicitly political, they are an unmistakable rebuke for President Xi Jinping, hailed by state media as “commander in chief of the people’s war against covid.”

President Joe Biden Starts to Lift Sanctions on Venezuela  (Economist)
At the end of 2022, Venezuela is very different from how it was in 2019. Back then Juan Guaidó, a little-known opposition leader, was supported by Donald Trump’s American administration and much of the Western world. He looked, for a moment, as if he might be able to oust from power the deeply unpopular left-wing dictator Nicolás Maduro, who had rigged an election the previous year. But Mr Guaidó and his backers misjudged the loyalty Mr Maduro and Hugo Chávez, his predecessor from 1999 to 2013, had bought from the military top brass. They underestimated the regime’s ruthlessness. And they have been wrongfooted by the war in Ukraine, which has created an environment in which the United States is rethinking its relationship with oil producers.