World: Isolation complication? US finds it's hard to shun Russia

Pentagon chief says Russia's 'relentless shelling' of Ukraine 'harkens back to the horrors of WWI'

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration likes to say Russia has become isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet Moscow's top officials have hardly been cloistered in the Kremlin. And now, even the U.S. wants to talk.

FILE - In this handout photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting, in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk.(Turkish Presidency via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this handout photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting, in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk.(Turkish Presidency via AP, File)

President Vladimir Putin has been meeting with world leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is a NATO member. Meanwhile, his top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, is jetting around the world, smiling, shaking hands and posing for photos with foreign leaders — including some friends of the U.S.

CIA Director William Burns dispels rumors that Putin is unwell saying 'as far as we can tell, he's entirely too healthy'

  CIA Director William Burns dispels rumors that Putin is unwell saying 'as far as we can tell, he's entirely too healthy' "He believes it's his entitlement, it's Russia's entitlement, to dominate Ukraine," CIA Director William Burns said in Aspen.From the introduction of Russian currency to the complete shuttering of Ukrainian broadcasting, the Kremlin is taking extreme measures to make Ukrainian towns look, feel, and operate like Russia.

And on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he wants to end months of top-level U.S. diplomatic estrangement with Lavrov to discuss the release of American detainees as well as issues related to Ukraine. The call has not been scheduled but is expected in coming days.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, center, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo prior to their talks at the Saadabad palace, in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk. (Sergei Savostyanov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, center, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo prior to their talks at the Saadabad palace, in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk. (Sergei Savostyanov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

The handshakes and phone calls cast doubt on a core part of the U.S. strategy aimed at ending the Ukraine war: that diplomatic and economic isolation, along with battlefield setbacks, would ultimately force Russia to send its troops home.

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Even as he announced plans for the call, Blinken continued to insist Russia is indeed isolated. He argued the travel of its top officials is purely damage control and a reaction to international criticism Moscow is facing for the Ukraine war.

U.S. officials say Russia is trying to shore up the few alliances it has left has left — some of which are American adversaries like Iran. But countries that are ostensibly U.S. partners, like Egypt and Uganda, are also warmly welcoming top Russians.

FILE - In this photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, listens to Secretary General of the Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit during their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, July 24, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk.(Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, listens to Secretary General of the Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit during their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, July 24, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk.(Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

And after making the case since February that there's no point in talking to Russia because Russia is not serious about diplomacy and cannot be trusted, the U.S. has conceded it needs to engage with Moscow as well.

Should We Worry About Putin's Hypersonic Missiles?

  Should We Worry About Putin's Hypersonic Missiles? Russia says it has finished testing the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile but experts doubt that it could make a difference in the war in Ukraine.Russian military sources told state-run news agency TASS that the Zircon tests "have been completed" and that the missile would be adopted by the Navy within the next five months.

The public outreach to Lavrov combined with the announcement of a “substantial proposal” to Russia to win the release of detained Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner took many by surprise.

A Blinken-Lavrov conversation would be the highest-level contact between the U.S. and Russia since Feb. 15, before the Russian invasion, and could set the stage for possible in-person discussions, although administration officials say there are no plans for that.

The Kremlin presumably reveled in the news that the U.S. is now seeking engagement and will likely delay the process of arranging a call to gain maximum advantage.

FILE - In this photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, delivers Russian President Vladimir Putin's message to Republic of Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi during their meeting in Brazzaville, Congo, July 25, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, delivers Russian President Vladimir Putin's message to Republic of Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi during their meeting in Brazzaville, Congo, July 25, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

“They are going to drag this out and try to humiliate us as much as they can,” said Ian Kelly, a retired career diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Georgia in the Obama and Trump administrations. “I don’t think it goes along with (the administration’s) overall policy.”

Moldova says it fears a Russian invasion as more neighbors ring alarm over Ukraine war

  Moldova says it fears a Russian invasion as more neighbors ring alarm over Ukraine war Moldova, which neighbors Ukraine, has a breakaway region backed by Russian forces. The Moldovan prime minister said a Russian invasion is "a risk."Throughout the buildup to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO countries, including the US, insisted they would not send troops to the region amid concern that the presence of their personnel on the ground would lead to a dangerous escalation of the conflict.

FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrovi speaks during a news conference with Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, in Entebbe, Uganda, July 26, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk.(AP Photo/Hajarah Nalwadda) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrovi speaks during a news conference with Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, in Entebbe, Uganda, July 26, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk.(AP Photo/Hajarah Nalwadda)

Kelly said the request for a call is "counterproductive to our broader effort to isolate Russia.”

"Other countries will look at this and say, ’Why shouldn’t we deal with Lavrov or the Russians more broadly?'” he said.

Already, Western appeals to convince Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations to shun Russia appear to have been ignored as Lavrov travels around the world.

Still, Blinken played down the importance of Lavrov's globetrotting. He said it was a response to the cold reception Russia has gotten to Ukraine-related wheat and grain shortages now plaguing large portions of the developing world, particularly as a United Nations-backed agreement to free up those supplies has yet to be implemented.

FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, speaks with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, left, as they visit the compound of the Russian Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 27, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk.(AP Photo) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, speaks with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, left, as they visit the compound of the Russian Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 27, 2022. The Biden administration likes to say that Russia is now isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet its top officials are hardly sitting lonely and isolated in the Kremlin and now the U.S. wants to talk.(AP Photo)

“What I see is a desperate game of defense to try somehow to justify to the world the actions that Russia has taken,” Blinken said. “Somehow trying to justify what’s unjustifiable.”

Two of Putin's top Russian pilots were killed by US-supplied HIMARS, report says

  Two of Putin's top Russian pilots were killed by US-supplied HIMARS, report says One of the Russian pilots' fathers revealed that he believed his son's death was caused by HIMARS, a long-range weapons system from the US.Throughout the buildup to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO countries, including the US, insisted they would not send troops to the region amid concern that the presence of their personnel on the ground would lead to a dangerous escalation of the conflict.

U.S. and European officials point out that Russia has come under heavy criticism for the Ukraine invasion and the food and energy security shortages that have resulted.

Biden administration officials, including Blinken, have noted with satisfaction that Lavrov chose to leave a recent meeting of G-20 foreign ministers in Indonesia after listening to a litany of complaints from counterparts about the global impact of the war.

Despite that, there is no sign Russia will be excluded from major international events such as the ASEAN Regional Forum next week, the United Nations General Assembly in September, or a trio of leaders' summits in Asia to be held in November.

Russia continues to maintain close ties with China, India and numerous developing countries throughout Asia and Africa. Many depend on Russia for energy and other exports, though they also rely on Ukraine for grain.

India hasn't shunned Russia despite its membership in the so-called “Quad" with the U.S., Australia and Japan. With a longstanding close relationship with Russia, India has boosted energy imports from Russia despite pressure from the U.S. and Europe, which is moving away from Russian gas and oil.

India, for example, has used nearly 60 million barrels of Russian oil in 2022 so far, compared with only 12 million barrels in all of 2021, according to commodity data firm Kpler.

On the other side of the coin, the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, this week scrapped a deal to purchase 16 Russian military transport helicopters due to fears of possible U.S. sanctions.

The Russian foreign ministry has gleefully countered the assertions of Russia's isolation by tweeting photographs of Lavrov in various world capitals.

Among the photos: Lavrov at the the G-20 meeting in Bali with the Chinese, Indian and Indonesian foreign ministers; in Uganda with President Yoweri Museveni, a longtime U.S. partner; and in Egypt with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, also a U.S. partner, whose country every year receives billions in dollars in American aid.

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Ashok Sharma in New Delhi and Jim Gomez in Manila contributed.

In Hong Kong, one of the last tile engravers of Mah-Jong .
© Yan Zhao The craftsman Cheung Shun-King Big of Chinese characters on Mah-Jong tiles in his shop in the Yau Tsim Mong district , on July 6, 2022 in Hong Kong concentrated, the frowning eyebrows, Cheung Shun-King, 70, serious with application of Chinese images and characters on Mah-Jong tiles. He is one of the last craftsmen of this type in Hong Kong. Handering tiles for the popular Chinese game was once a source of income for a large number of people.

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