Early Edition: March 19, 2021

A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours.

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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news

U.S. DEVELOPMENTS

The House yesterday passed two bills aimed at creating a pathway for millions of undocumented immigrants, although the likelihood of them passing through the Senate is slim. “The American Dream and Promise Act, which previously passed in the House in 2019, would create a process for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — otherwise known as “DREAMers” — to earn permanent resident status and eventual citizenship. It also includes a path to citizenship for people with temporary protected status and beneficiaries of deferred enforced departure. It passed by a vote of 228-197 … The House also approved the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would establish a system for agricultural workers to earn temporary status with an eventual option to become a permanent resident. The act would also amend the existing H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program,” report Barbara Sprunt and Claudia Grisales for NPR.

The Senate yesterday confirmed unanimously William J. Burns as the next director of the CIA. Shane Harris reports for the Washington Post.

FBI Director Christopher Wray says “we’re going to keep digging” for signs of a national conspiracy between insurrectionist who attacked the Capitol Jan. 6, speaking during an interview with NPR. “[T]here have already been conspiracy charges — small, I would call them — sort of small cells of individuals working together, coordinating their travel, etc. I don’t think we’ve seen some national conspiracy.” Carrie Johnson reports for NPR.

The recent Atlanta spa shootings that killed eight people, mainly women of Asian descent, have sparked a debate over what should be labelled a hate crime, as authorities say it’s currently too early to declare the attack as such. “In an incident report filed by the Atlanta Police Department, officers checked “no” under whether the attacks were a suspected hate crime. But police said Thursday they are still investigating the attacker’s motive,” report Bill Chappell and Dustin Jones for NPR.

MYANMAR

Nine protesters have been shot dead by security forces in Myanmar, and Indonesia calls for an end to the violence that has ensued following the Feb. 1 military coup. Reuters reporting.

Myanmar magnate Maung Waik, who is linked to the country’s military junta, claimed he gave deposed leader Aung San Suu Ky half a million dollars in bribes, adding fuel to an already fiery campaign by the military to hold Ky accountable for alleged corruption, after a military spokesperson said that a now-detained chief minister said that over $600,000 and more than 10 kilograms of gold bars had been given to Ky. Myanmar’s ousted “Aung San Suu Kyi committed corruption and [authorities] are preparing to charge her according to anti-corruption law,” an announcer said during the broadcast. Al Jazeera reporting.

U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS

Responding to comments by President Biden that he is a “killer,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday: “When I was a child, when we argued in the courtyard, we said the following: ‘If you call someone names, that’s really your name,’” adding, “When we characterize other people, or even when we characterize other states, other people, it is always as though we are looking in the mirror.”White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president did not regret describing Putin as a killer. “Psaki repeated warnings that sanctions and other actions against Russia are coming “in weeks, not months.” Still, she acknowledged that sanctions have had a limited impact: Some imposed on Russia after its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 remain in effect, but after seven years they have not succeeded in forcing it to return the territory,” reports Anton Troianovski for the New York Times.

The Biden administration is considering additional sanctions to block the construction of the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany, including the parent company to the project, Nord Stream 2 AG, according to three people familiar with the plan. “The sanctions would come in the form of an interim report that may also single out an insurance company that has been working with the vessels laying the pipeline in the Baltic Sea as well as other companies providing support vessels and materials to the project, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the deliberations,” report Daniel Flatley and Nick Wadhams for Bloomberg.

U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS

The U.S. and China exchanged an “undiplomatic war of words” during the first meeting of their top diplomatic officials in Alaska: the U.S. accused China’s actions as potentially leading to a “far more violent” global world, while China’s top diplomat accused the U.S. of being a hypocritic, with Black people in the country being “slaughtered.” “Reporters were about to be initially ushered out, the American side waved them to stay, and U.S. officials delivered additional remarks. The Chinese officials then insisted they get a second round of comments as well, according to photos and accounts from the scene,” Nahal Toosi reports for POLITICO.

More on National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Alaska is provided Humeyra Pamuk, Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom for Reuters.

OTHER U.S. RELATIONS

The Afghan government and top Taliban officials agree to try to “accelerate” the peace process during an international conference between world powers, including the U.S., in Moscow, said Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation. Reuters reporting.

Secretary of State Blinken will visit Brussels next week to meet with NATO foreign ministers and E.U. officials, the State Department confirmed. “At the NATO meeting, Blinken will join other foreign ministers to discuss proposed changes to the transatlantic organization as well as concerns over China and Russia, climate change, cyber and energy security and other issues, the department said … Blinken will also meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery, and efforts to strengthen democracy, it said,” reports Reuters.

Biden has sent his ally Sen. Chris Coons to Ethiopia to meet with the country’s president over the escalating conflict in the Tigray region that has killed thousands and forces hundreds of thousands to flee. Robbie Gramer reports for Foreign Policy

What to expect from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s three-day visit to India is explained by Michael Kugelman for the Foreign Policy. “Austin’s visit will include discussions on China, Afghanistan, and the Indo-Pacific region. But Pentagon messaging suggests it is also intended to kick-start a new phase of the U.S.-India security partnership—one that aims to operationalize the gains made through years of arms sales, technology transfers, defense agreements, and Washington’s 2016 designation of India as a “major defense partner.””

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 29.66 million and now killed over 539,700 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 121.88 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.69 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

The Biden administration plans to send millions of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccines to Mexico and Canada, 2.5 million and 1.5 million, respectively, Jen Psaki, White House press secretary said. The plan is “not finalized yet, but that is our aim,” added Psaki. Natalie Kitroeff, Maria Abi-Habib, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Jim Tankersley report for the New York Times.

The E.U.’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), has concluded that the AstraZeneca vaccine is “safe and effective” to use and “is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events, or blood clots.” Rob Picheta reports for CNN.

French government locks down Paris and parts of northern France amid a delayed vaccine rollout and during the grip of a third wave of the virus. Reuters reporting.

A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian.

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

China is increasing is strengthening is abilities to strike and blockade Taiwan, deploying “grey zone” warfare tactics in an effort to wear down the Chinese-claimed island, the Taiwanese defense ministry said in review. Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard report for Reuters.

Two Canadian men will stand trial in China on Monday after being detained for more than two years on alleged espionage charges. “The prosecution of the two men is widely seen as retribution for Canada’s decision in 2018 to arrest Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, at the request of the United States.  The start of Mr. Spavor’s trial, on Friday, coincides with the first meeting of senior American and Chinese officials since President Biden took office in January, amid tensions over technology, defense and other issues,” writes Javier C. Hernández for the New York Times, providing an explainer on what can be expected.

North Korea warns it would cut diplomatic ties with Malaysia after it extradited a North Korean citizen to the U.S. to face charges for money-laundering. Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith report for Reuters.

The U.A.E. has suspended a planned Abu Dhabi summit with Israel and other Arab states over its anger about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “electioneering.” “The Israeli newspaper reported that Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, known as MBZ, is “outraged” at what he regards as Netanyahu “exploiting the normalisation deal with Israel as a part of his election campaign” … According to Israeli channel Kan, the UAE does not want to be part of Netanyahu’s election campaign, and has asked him to postpone his visit – which was planned to take place tomorrow – until after the Israeli elections,” Al Jazeera reports.

Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are surging, prompting fear that the situation could escalate out of control. Al Jazeera reporting.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has died of a “heart condition,” sparking a mixed reaction among those that loved, hated and feared him. Sammy Awami reports for Al Jazeera.

Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva suggests that he has not ruled out running for president again in 2020, speaking in an interview, where he criticized world powers for their inadequate handling of the novel coronavirus. Henry Hullah reports for CNN. 

About the Author(s)

Siven Watt

Associate News Editor at Just Security and Legal Fellow at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter (@SivenWatt)