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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
POLAND AND BELARUS
E.U. officials are expressing support for Poland in the current border crisis with Belarus. Unlike in 2015, when a border crisis in the European Union divided members, this standoff has united many countries. The E.U. and Poland are saying that the crisis has been “manufactured” by Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko as a response to sanctions imposed by the European Union. On Wednesday, both the German Foreign Minister and the President of the European Commission said that Belarus could not be allowed to succeed, and that this was an attack, not a migration crisis. Steven Erlanger reports for the New York Times.
The E.U. and U.S. are likely to announce new sanctions against Belarus as early as next week. The president of the European Commission made the announcement following talks in Washington that included President Biden. U.S. sanctions are being prepared and will likely be implemented in early December. The measures may also target airlines that are flying migrants to Belarus. Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.
The new U.S. sanctions being prepared are designed to hold leaders in Belarus accountable for “ongoing attacks on democracy, human rights and international norms,” a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council has said. The new sanctions will be imposed in “close coordination with the E.U. and other partners and allies,” the spokesperson added. Kevin Liptak reports for CNN.
Russia deployed strategic bombers to Belarus’s airspace yesterday, amid escalating tensions between Belarus and Poland at their border. “Russia’s Defense Ministry reported that two long-range Tu-22M3 bombers carried out patrols in the area and an inspection of the air-defense system of the Union State, an alliance that binds Russia and Belarus together in various areas ranging from the economy to defense,” Ann M. Simmons reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Two Russian Tu-160 planes have rehearsed bombing runs in a training exercise over Belarus; the second day running that Russia has sent strategic bomber planes to overfly its ally Belarus. In response, Lukashenko has said that he needed Russian nuclear-capable bombers to help him navigate the migrant crisis at the Poland-Belarus border. “We have to constantly monitor the situation at the border. Let them squeak, let them shout. Yes, these are bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. But we have no other option. We must see what they are doing there beyond the borders,” Lukashenko said. “In comments published by Belarus state media, Lukashenko also said, without providing evidence, that attempts were being made to transfer weapons to the migrants, in what he described as a provocation. It was not clear who he was accusing of doing this,” Reuters reports.
Migrants trapped on the border between Poland and Belarus have made hundreds of attempts to breach the border, but were repelled by 15,000 Polish soldiers deployed to stop them, Polish authorities have said. “The Polish border guard said it had recorded 468 crossing attempts by migrants Wednesday, and nearly 600 the day before, including some ‘large-scale’ efforts with groups of more than 100 people trying to breach the fence. Polish authorities have detained small numbers of people and immediately sent others back to Belarus,” Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Antonia Mortensen and Magda Chodownik report for CNN.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused Belarus of committing “terrorism” over Belarus’s role in the escalating border row. “It’s clear that what we are confronted with here is a demonstration of state terrorism,” Morawiecki told a news conference in Warsaw with E.U. Council President Charles Michel. Morawiecki said he believed the crisis was a result of Lukashenko’s “quiet revenge” for Poland’s support of the Belarusian opposition. BBC News reports.
The E.U. Commission has accused Belarus of acting like “a gangster regime” and has criticized Lukashenko of making “false promises” that have tricked migrants into believing they will gain “easy entry into the E.U.” Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Mayumi Maruyama, Antonia Mortensen, Katharina Krebs and Magda Chodownik report for CNN.
Countries bordering Belarus have expressed concern that the migrant crisis at Belarus’s borders could escalate into a military confrontation. In a joint statement the defense ministers from Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia condemned “the deliberate escalation of the ongoing hybrid attack by the Belarusian regime, which is posing serious threats to European security.” “This increases the possibility of provocations and serious incidents that could also spill over into [the] military domain,” the statement said. Joanna Plucinska and Andrius Sytas report for Reuters.
Russian flag carrier Aeroflot has denied any involvement in organising mass transportation of migrants to Belarus, responding to a Bloomberg report that it could face E.U. sanctions over the crisis on the Belarus-Poland border. Reuters reports.
A Kremlin spokesperson has said that Russia had nothing to do with the migrant crisis on the Belarus-Poland border and has rejected as “crazy” the suggestion that Russian flag carrier Aeroflot could be targeted with retaliatory sanctions. “Russia — like other countries — is trying to get involved in resolving the situation,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. DW News reports.
The U.S. and China have announced a joint agreement to “enhance ambition” on climate change. The two countries said they would work together to cut emissions, and China committed to reducing methane for the first time. The announcement was a surprise to attendees of the U.N. COP26 climate summit being held in Glasgow. The agreement did not include any specifics about a timetable for cutting emissions, a ceiling for carbon dioxide use, or the time period for “phasing down” coal usage. Brad Plumer and Lisa Friedman report for the New York Times.
Although the joint pledge between China and the U.S. has injected further impetus into the COP26 talks, the two countries did not endorse a proposal by the U.K. floated earlier in the day for countries to update their emissions-cutting plans by the end of next year. “‘Every step matters right now, and we have a long journey ahead of us,’ said U.S. climate envoy John Kerry. The release of a joint declaration ‘shows that cooperation is the only choice between China and the United States,’ said Xie Zhenhua, China’s special climate envoy,” Matthew Dalton, Sha Hua and Sarah McFarlane report for the Wall Street Journal.
Global leaders and climate experts welcomed the climate agreement between the U.S. and China, with U.N. secretary general António Guterres calling the move “an important step in the right direction.” E.U. climate policy chief Frans Timmermans agreed that the pact gave room for hope, saying “it shows … that the U.S. and China know this subject transcends other issues. And it certainly helps us here at COP26 to come to an agreement.” However, some experts have noted the declaration was short on commitments that would significantly reduce heat-trapping gases. The Guardian reports.
Live reporting on the COP26 summit, including the reactions to the U.S.-China pledge is provided by BBC News.
A virtual summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 15. The White House is managing expectations for the outcome of the summit. At a press conference, a deputy press secretary said, “this is part of our ongoing efforts to responsibly manage the competition between our countries, not only … about seeking specific deliverables.” Probable topics include visa restrictions, nuclear weapons, and a framework to ease trade frictions. Phelim Kine and Nahal Toosi report for POLITICO.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned against a return to cold war-era tensions in the Asia-Pacific, urging greater cooperation on joint challenges, such as recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. “Attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds are bound to fail,” he told a virtual business conference on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. “The Asia-Pacific region cannot and should not relapse into the confrontation and division of the cold war era,” Xi added. The Guardian reports.
The “stiff competition” between the U.S. and China in the Indo-Pacific does not have to turn into a new Cold War, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said. In a speech delivered remotely to Australia’s Lowy Institute, Sullivan described the U.S. as “doubling down” on its presence in the Indo-Pacific region. “We are going to compete vigorously across multiple dimensions, including economics and technology, where we are going to stand up for our values, but we also recognise China is going to be a factor in the international system for the foreseeable future,” Sullivan said. Kirsty Needham reports for Reuters.
Two Cambodian officials have been blacklisted by the U.S. for their involvement in a corruption scheme at one of Cambodia’s naval bases. The Treasury Department placed sanctions on a Cambodian naval commander, and director-general of the Defense Ministry’s Material and Technical Services Department. The State, Treasury, and Commerce Departments have also jointly issued an advisory that firms doing business in Cambodia should beware of corrupt practices, criminal activity, and human rights abuses. Daphne Psaledakis and David Lawder report for Reuters.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Russia’s intentions behind its latest military buildup along Ukraine’s eastern border were unclear, but that Moscow would be making a “serious mistake” by committing new aggression against its neighbor. “Any escalatory or aggressive actions would be of great concern to the United States,” Blinken said at a joint news conference at the State Department with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Michael Crowley reports for the New York Times.
Vice President Harris has announced new initiatives with France on space and cybersecurity, following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. “The White House said that Harris and Macron agreed to launch a ‘comprehensive’ bilateral dialogue on space through which U.S. and French officials will work together to address issues like climate change, expand space exploration, and expand access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education,” Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez has accused the U.S. of coordinating a civil liberties protest that is set to take place on Nov. 15 in Cuba with the help of U.S.-based social media platform Facebook. Dissidents in Cuba, organized under a Facebook group called Archipielago, in September requested permission to conduct the rallies. Cuban authorities denied their request, alleging protesters were working with the United States to overthrow the government. Rodriguez reiterated those allegations before a meeting of foreign diplomats in Havana, saying that the United States had helped to underwrite and organise the protests in a bid to destabilise the government, and specifically calling out the role of Facebook. Dave Sherwood and Nelson Acosta report for Reuters.
Blinken has said that he is hopeful that diplomacy will work to end the war in Ethiopia. Blinken said that he had been in contact with the African Union’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, as well as the U.S. regional envoy for the region, Jeffrey Feltman. “We are hopeful that… there is still a window to pull back and to move this to a better place,” Blinken said yesterday. “Blinken also said he had spoken to Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen and emphasised the need to ‘seriously engage in negotiations on a cessation of hostilities without preconditions,’” BBC News reports.
Iran will ratify the Paris climate agreement only if sanctions against Iran are lifted, the head of Iran’s Department of Environment, Ali Salajegheh, has said. Salajegheh said sanctions were impeding Iran, who is the world’s eighth largest CO2 emitter, in areas like renewable energy. While Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has chosen not to go to the COP26 summit, the Iranian team attended to plead for relief from the economic blockade. On the issue of the Paris climate agreement, Salajegheh said the pact had to be a “two-way street.” “If the sanctions are removed, then we have a commitment towards the international community, it is at that time that they can transfer modern technology and finance to us especially in the area of renewable energy so we can modernise our deteriorating infrastructure,” he told the BBC. Matt McGrath reports for BBC News.
A top Iranian commander has said that Israel can start a war, however Iran will be the one to end it. “Any mistake by Israel in dealing with Tehran will accelerate its destruction,” Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander of Aerospace Force Amir Ali Hajizadeh was reported as saying by semi-official media Tasnim. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A high-level meeting of the Chinese Communist Party today has declared Chinese President Xi Jinping’s undisputed rule of “decisive significance” for China’s history, helping clear the way for Xi to obtain a near-inevitable third term that would extend his rule until at least 2027. “Establishing comrade Xi Jinping’s position as the core of the Central Committee and the core of the whole party … was of decisive significance in advancing toward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” a meeting of top officials said at the end of a four-day meeting in Beijing that passed a new ruling on official party history. Christian Shepherd reports for the Washington Post.
The U.N. Security Council has called for an end to violence in Myanmar. A rare statement by the council expressed concern over increased violence, and called for an immediate end to fighting and for the military to exercise restraint after reports suggested that there has been a buildup of weapons and troops in the Chin state in Myanmar. The council also called for humanitarian and medical access for all people in need of safety and security. Michelle Nichols for Reuters reports.
The U.N. Security Council also expressed “deep concern” over clashes between junta troops and fighters from a major militant group in the Rakhine state in Myanmar. The clashes, reported by a rebel spokesperson, broke a ceasefire that had kept the peace in the western region since a military coup in February. The Council also warned that “recent developments pose particular serious challenges for the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees and internally displaced persons.” Agence France-Presse reports.
Global casualties from anti-personnel landmines were “exceptionally high” last year, with Syrians and Afghans worst-hit, a recently released U.N.-backed civil society report has said. According to the Landmine Monitor 2021 report, the number of victims rose by 20% in 2020 compared with the previous 12 months, the result of “increased armed conflict and contamination” of land with improvised mines. UN News Centre reports.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has sacked the country’s national defense minister, Jaime Augusto Neto, a day after Nyusi fired the interior minister, Amade Miquidade. “The president has not explained why he has fired the country’s top defense and security leaders. It’s believed that the decision has to do with the increased cases of kidnapping, murder, terrorism and corruption, as well as a rising number of road accidents,” Jose Tembe reports for BBC News.
Mali’s Foreign Minister has said, during a trip to Moscow, that Mali may ask Russia for “help” given Mali’s current security situation. “We are now in such a difficult situation that we may turn to our friend (Russia) for help,” minister Abdoulaye Diop told a news conference. “The very existence of the Malian state is under threat,” he added. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Newly released call logs from the White House on Jan. 6 show a “flurry” of calls between the former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Vice President Mike Pence. The call logs were released in response to a public records request by American Oversight. Rosen’s records include calls from redacted numbers between 3:10 pm and 3:30 pm on Jan. 6 as rioters were marching through the Capitol. Rosen also had multiple calls with White House Counsel Pat Cipplione and the acting U.S. Attorney with the District of Columbia. The first call directly from the White House came after 4:30 pm. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan has rejected former President Trump’s effort to block access to his White House records for the third time in two days. Chutkan refused to stay, pending an appeal, her own decision issued on Tuesday denying Trump’s request for an injunction blocking the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack from accessing his White House papers held at the National Archives. In her latest ruling, Chutkan said “this court will not effectively ignore its own reasoning in denying injunctive relief in the first place to grant injunctive relief now.” Trump’s lawyers have appealed the ruling on the preliminary injunction. Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein report for POLITICO.
Chutkan’s decision implies that Trump’s lawyers will need to scramble to obtain an emergency stay from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for the National Archives to hand over the Trump administration’s documents. Harper Neidig reports for The Hill.
A New Jersey man has been sentenced to 41 months in prison for assaulting a police officer at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The punishment is the most severe yet imposed on one of the Jan. 6 defendants. The man was captured in videos screaming in support of the attack, climbing scaffolding, and finally pushing an officer and punching the officer’s face shield. In the days after the riots, the New Jersey man posted and deleted photos and videos of himself at the Capitol on social media. The federal judge imposing the sentence said his actions were “an affront to society and the law.” Tom Jackman reports for the Washington Post.
The Jan. 6 House select committee is interested in gathering information from at least five members of former Vice President Mike Pence’s inner circle, according to sources familiar with the investigation. Among the individuals is Pence’s former National Security Advisor, Keith Kellogg, who was subpoenaed by the committee earlier this week and was with Trump most of the day on Jan. 6. According to the sources familiar with the discussions, some individuals close to Pence may be more willing to provide critical information on efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. Jamie Gangel, Zachary Cohen and Michael Warren report for CNN.
A running list of the individuals who have received a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 select committee is provided by Annie Grayer reporting for CNN.
The Justice Department is asking for a sentence of more than four years for a man who wore a headdress and posed shirtless on the Senate floor during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The prosecution described Jacob Chansley, the so-called “Qanon Shaman,” as “quite literally, [the] flagbearer” of the Jan. 6 mob and requested the longest sentencing of any of the defendants so far. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a new terror threat bulletin warning of potential violence motivated by Covid-19 public health measures and the arrival of Afghan evacuees. “The bulletin continues themes from the last National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin issued in August pinning domestic violent extremists as the greatest terror risk to the country, a group that includes anti-government extremists and racially or ethnically motivated extremists,” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Although DHS is not aware of an imminent and credible threat, its latest bulletin points out that upcoming religious holidays and associated mass gatherings have previously served as potential targets for acts of violence. The bulletin also notes that stressors related to the Covid-19 pandemic have contributed to increased societal strains and tensions, driving several plots by domestic violent extremists, which “may contribute to more violence this and next year.” Geneva Sands reports for CNN.
The Justice Department has announced that a federal grand jury has indicted three men for operating two fraudulent political action committees (PACs) during the 2016 election and collecting approximately $3.5 million from unwitting contributors. Federal prosecutors allege that the men “solicited contributions to two PACs — one progressive called Progressive Priorities PAC and one conservative called Liberty Action Group — by using robocalls and written solicitations meant to imply they were supporting 2016 presidential candidates. The PACs’ operators then used the funds to enrich themselves and pay for more robocalls and advertisements, according to the Department of Justice,” Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck report for CNN.
More than 35,000 Air Force personnel have said that they experienced some form of physical or psychological violence in the past two years, according to the results of a new study by the service’s Interpersonal Violence Task Force. 54% of the 68,000 airmen, Space Force guardians, and Air Force civilians that responded to the survey reported experiencing some form of “psychological or physical harm that detracts from a culture of dignity and respect.” However, few personnel reported specific instances of harm due to the perception that their concerns would not be addressed or because they feared retribution. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
The 13 Republican lawmakers who broke with the Republican party to support a $1 trillion bipartisan public works bill have faced vicious backlash from their constituents, and even from some of their own colleagues, who regard their votes as a betrayal. “One caller instructed Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois to slit his wrists and ‘rot in hell.’ Another hoped Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska would slip and fall down a staircase. The office of Representative Nicole Malliotakis of New York has been inundated with angry messages tagging her as a “traitor,’” Catie Edmondson reports for the New York Times.
The coronavirus has infected over 46.79 million people and has now killed over 759,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 251.48 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.07 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel has ruled that a Texan ban on mask mandates in state schools, ordered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), violates a federal law protecting disabled students’ access to public education. Under Yeakel’s ruling, Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton will be prohibited from imposing fines, withholding educational funding, or suing school districts that require students to wear masks as a safety measure. Paxton had already sued 15 school districts to overturn local mask mandates those districts had imposed. Dave Mistich reports for NPR.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for U.N. Member States to establish a high-level working group tasked with vaccinating 40% of the world’s population against Covid-19 by the end of the year. The call was made at a meeting with foreign ministers hosted by the United States. “Nearly 80 countries, half of them in Africa, will not reach our 40% vaccination target without your help. To reach that target, we need an additional 550 million doses,” Tedros told the country representatives at the meeting. UN News Centre reports.
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.