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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.
The U.S. has condemned a Russian anti-satellite missile test yesterday which caused crew members on the International Space Station to seek shelter in their spacecraft. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the anti-satellite test had created more than 1,500 pieces of sizable debris that could create long-term dangers for satellites involved in phone service, weather forecasting and banking. Kyle Atwood, Jim Sciutto, Kristin Fisher and Nicole Gaouette report for CNN.
The test marked the first time that Russia demonstrated an ability to strike down a satellite using a missile launched from Earth. Price also said that Russia’s test “clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weaponization of space are disingenuous.” Paul Sonne, Missy Ryan and Christian Davenport report for the Washington Post.
E.U. member states’ foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions on the Russian mercenary company Wagner Group. The mercenary group has been accused by the U.S. and some E.U. countries of being a proxy force for Russia’s Defense Ministry, and for seeking to profit from conflicts in Africa, Ukraine and the Middle East. The preliminary agreement to target Wagner officials and entities linked to the company with sanctions, comes after France has repeatedly said that Mali’s government appears close to inviting Wagner into the country. Laurence Norman and James Marson report for the Wall Street Journal.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on Russia “to reduce tensions and to prevent any escalation,” in the wake of the build up of Russian forces near Ukraine’s border. Stoltenberg, following talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, said that the military alliance was closely monitoring the “significant, large Russian military build-up” and “unusual concentration of troops.” The foreign ministers from Germany and France have also met with Kuleba and pledged their countries’ “unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” according to a joint statement. John Follain and Daryna Krasnolutska report for Bloomberg Quint.
POLAND-BELARUS BORDER CRISIS
The E.U. has agreed to impose new sanctions against the authoritarian government in Belarus, in response to the migrant crisis at the Poland-Belarus border. Belarusian state airline Belavia also announced yesterday that it would cut off the last major air route from the Middle East to Minsk. Perry Stein, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Loveday Morris report for the Washington Post.
Ambassador Daniel Fried has written for Just Security on “Escalating Risks on Europe’s Eastern Frontier: Belarus-Poland, Russia-Ukraine, and How the US Can Work With Its Allies”
Two explosions have gone off in Uganda’s capital city Kampala within minutes of each other this morning. One blast went off near the Central Police Station and another near Parliament. The cause of the blasts was not immediately clear. Samson Ntale reports for CNN.
At least three people have been killed and more than 33 people injured, including five critically, in the blasts in Kampala, a spokesperson for Uganda’s police has said. Three attackers on motorbikes blew themselves up near parliament and the city’s police headquarters. Officials have blamed the attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces, an armed group based in the DR Congo. BBC News reports.
Reporting on the developing story is also provided by Al Jazeera.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has departed for a five-day trip to Africa where he will voice support for democratic principles and attempt to prevent the conflict in Ethiopia from worsening. The trip is beginning in Kenya, which borders Ethiopia and has been a key diplomatic player in attempts to peacefully resolve the vicious conflict between the Ethiopian government and rebels in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. Michael Crowley reports for the New York Times.
Sudanese authorities have released the bureau chief of Al Jazeera, El Musalmi El Kabbashi, two days after he was arrested in the midst of nationwide protests against the military coup in Sudan. Al Jazeera reports.
The U.N. Security Council has condemned the supply of weapons and ammunition to al-Shabab and other groups in Somalia in violation of a U.N. arms embargo and voted yesterday to extend the ban for a year. The U.N. said that the al-Qaida affiliate’s terrorist activities continue to destabilize Somalia and expressed concern at “continued reports of corruption and diversion of public resources in Somalia.” The Council also “urged Somalia’s federal government to keep working with financial authorities, private sector financial institutions and the international community to crack down on al-Shabab’s ability ‘to generate revenue and launder, store and transfer resources’ for use in terrorist and other activities,” Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
A key Libyan military commander, Khalifa Hifter, has filed as a candidate in the country’s presidential elections next month. Sam Magdy reports for AP.
A military attachment in Burkina Faso’s Sahel’s Soum province was attacked on Sunday by an unidentified armed group, with the death toll having now risen to 28 officers and four civilians, the Burkina Faso’s government has said. The provisional death toll is the larged recorded loss on Burkina Faso’s security forces during a single attack since Jihadi violence started in the country more than five years ago. Sam Mednick reports for AP.
President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held virtual talks yesterday in an attempt to reduce tensions between the two countries. Throughout the virtual meeting the two leaders engaged in “healthy debate,” but there were no breakthroughs, according to a senior administration official. Officials also dismissed the notion that the summit was intended to ease the increasingly tense relationship between China and the U.S. on issues including trade, military aggression towards Taiwan and human rights. Analysis of what was discussed at the virtual meeting is provided by Kevin Liptak reporting for CNN.
While pledging to improve cooperation, both Biden and Xi also emphasized their differences in separate statements following the talks. Biden raised concerns about human rights abuses and China’s “unfair trade and economic policies,” according to the White House. Xi, for his part, said that American support for Taiwan was “playing with fire,” and warned that dividing the international system into alliances or political blocs would “inevitably bring disaster to the world.” Steven Lee Myers and David E. Sanger report for the New York Times.
The White House said the U.S. and Chinese presidents also discussed Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran. Gordon Lubold, Alex Leary and Lingling Wei report for the Wall Street Journal.
Chinese diplomats have warned a group of Republican lawmakers to cancel an upcoming visit to Taiwan, suggesting that it would threaten the “One China” status quo. Chinese government-affiliated media outlets such as Global Times have accused the Republican delegation of planning a secret visit despite Chinese warnings to cancel the trip. Jack Detsch reports for Foreign Policy.
The U.K. has raised the country’s nationwide terrorist threat level to severe after an explosive device was detonated in the back of a taxi outside a hospital in Liverpool on Sunday. U.K. police have said that they assumed the assailant made the improvised explosive device himself, which was then set off in the taxi. The police have said that they are unclear of the motive for the attack and are trying to determine whether the attack was meant to coincide with a moment of silence observed across the country at that hour to remember Britain’s war dead. Max Colchester reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.K. police have released four men arrested under terrorism laws in connection with the homemade bomb explosion in Liverpool. The U.K. police have named the bomber as 32-year old Eman Al Swealmeen who came to the U.K. as an asylum seeker several years ago and had converted to Christianity in 2017. AP reports.
ISRAEL AND PALESTINE
The chair of a group of more than 300 former generals and top security officials in Israel has expressed his support for the U.S. reopening a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem. The officials wrote in a letter that the reopening was in “Israel’s national security interest.” The previous consulate was closed by former President Trump’s administration in 2019, and Israel’s prime minister and others in Israel’s government have expressed opposition to President Biden’s intent to reopen the consulate. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
A Palestinian man was shot and killed today by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian health officials. The Israeli military stated that troops came under fire overnight while attempting to arrest two people in the area, and that troops shot at a passing vehicle after an explosive device was thrown at them. AP reports.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court today for a high-profile corruption case against him. A one-time confidant of Netanyahu was meant to take the stand against Netanyahu, however the testimony was delayed until next week after a legal challenge from Netanyahu’s lawyers. Ilan Ben Zion reports for AP.
Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are calling for dozens of officials in President Biden’s administration to testify on the withdrawal from Afghanistan. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent yesterday, the Republican lawmakers were critical of answers and statements so far provided by Biden administration officials in hearings and briefings with Congress, and requested at least 34 officials sit for transcribed interviews to address “unanswered questions about the planning — or lack thereof — that preceded the drawdown and evacuation.” Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
The passport office in Kabul has suspended operations after equipment used for issuing biometric documents broke down under the pressure of processing thousands of applications a day. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The E.U. is considering developing a joint military force of up to 5,000 troops by 2025, which would be able to intervene in a range of crises without relying on the U.S., according to a draft plan. The draft strategy by the E.U.’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is the most concrete effort to create a standalone military force that does not rely on U.S. assets. E.U. foriegn and defense ministers debated the plan yesterday evening and are to continue the debate today. Robin Emmott reports for Reuters.
Turkish authorities have placed a man considered a suspect in the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in prison, Turkey’s state-run news agency has reported. The suspect, businessman Samir Handal, who was wanted on an Interpol notice, was detained at Istanbul Airport early on Monday. Handal had been transiting from the U.S. to Jordan. His arrest was announced by authorities in Haiti later on Monday. No indication has been given yet as to whether Haiti will seek Handa’s extradition. AP reports.
Cuban security forces yesterday arrested dissidents and trapped others inside their home to prevent pro-democracy protests from spontaneously emerging as they did last summer. The planned protest route in Old Havana was almost empty except for police and military vehicles. Mary Beth Sheridan and Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul report for the Washington Post.
Cuban police officers also flooded the streets in Havana and other cities early yesterday, preventing protesters from marching. Dissidents have said that the overwhelming force deployed by the Cuban government betrayed its nervousness over growing discontent in the country, and the tensions were palatable in the empty streets of Cuba’s cities and towns. José de Córdoba and Santiago Pérez report for the Wall Street Journal.
Hindu extremists in India have attacked the home of a Muslim ex-foreign minister who recently published a book in which he compared Hindu nationalists under Prime Minister Narendra Modi to terrorist groups such as the Islamic State. Al Jazeera reports.
Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to face new electoral fraud and abuse of power charges, state media has announced. Suu Kyi, who was arrested during the February military coup, is currently facing 11 criminal cases with maximum sentences that total more than a century in jail. Reuters reports.
The U.N. Security Council has condemned attempts to discredit Iraq’s recent election and has criticized the use of violence to settle grievances from the election results. In a statement the Council also reiterated its condemnation of the Nov. 7 assasination attempt on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and “the persistent threats of violence” against the U.N. mission, the electoral commission and others. Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
A knife attack on a train in Germany on Nov. 6 which left several people injured is being invesitgated as possible terrorism, German prosecutors have said. “An initial evaluation of social media accounts of the suspect, who was arrested at the time, showed that an Islamist motive for the crime could not be excluded, said the prosecutors, adding they were looking at all possibilities,” Reuters reports.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised that his country’s coal industry would exist for years to come, rejecting comments from the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the agreement reached at the COP26 climate summit sounded “the death knell for coal power.” Maite Fernández Simon reports for the Washington Post.
JAN 6. ATTACK
Stephen Bannon surrendered to federal authorities and appeared in federal court yesterday morning, three days after his indictment on two counts of contempt for Congress based on his refusal to provide information to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Calling it a political prosecution, Bannon promised to fight the charges aggressively. Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
The Jan. 6 select committee is planning to meet this morning to discuss how to achieve the participation of Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff under former President Trump. Some committee members have indicated that they are willing to use any tools necessary to convince Meadows to comply, including criminal contempt of Congress. Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer report for CNN.
Meadows has said that Trump’s battle to block cooperation with the Jan. 6 select committee has put him “between a rock and a hard space,” as he risks potential criminal charges for defying the committee’s subpoena. Meadows made the comments to Trump’s economic guru and current Fox Business host Larry Kudlow. “[Trump’s] exerted, and rightfully so, his executive privilege. And it’s not up to me to waive it,” Meadows said. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law yesterday afternoon with billions of dollars devoted to roads, ports, and power lines. Biden claimed that the legislation constituted evidence of the benefits of bipartisanship and further argued that it demonstrated the potential of democratic governments to work on behalf of their citizens. Jim Tankersley reports for the New York Times.
The prosecution and defense have offered dueling narratives in the closing arguments of Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial. The jury will today begin deliberating on the fate of Rittenhouse, who is accused of first-degree intentional homicide and four other felonies in the shootings of three men in the aftermath of protests in 2020. Julie Bosman, Dan Hinkel and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs report for the New York Times.
The judge in Rittenhouse’s homicide trial yesterday dismissed the misdemeanor gun possession charge. Defense lawyers argued that Rittenhouse did not violate the state statute in question because of his age and the length of the barrel of his semiautomatic rifle. Dan Hinkel reports for the New York Times.
Prosecutors are demanding that Facebook hand over data relating to a New Mexico militia group but the social media company is saying that the records no longer exist because they were deleted after it banned the organization in August 2020. Prosecutors are seeking a civil injunction to bar the group known as the New Mexico Civil Guard from acting as a paramilitary organization at future public demonstrations. Will Oremus and Craig Timberg report for the Washington Post.
The Pentagon has failed its fourth comprehensive audit. The failure reflects ongoing problems in systems and accounting, however the department is making “steady progress” towards a passing grade, the Department of Defense’s chief financial officer has said. Mike Stone reports for Reuters.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “has the authorities he needs to require this vaccine across the force, including the National Guard,” press secretary John Kirby has told reporters. The comments were made after the commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, stated that members of the Oklahoma National Guard were not required to be vaccinated. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Many countries in Europe are imposing stricter restrictions for unvaccinated individuals as Covid-19 infections spike across the continent. In particular, Austria has limited the movement of all unvaccinated individuals over the age of twelve, restricting them to traveling for work and school, buying groceries, and medical care. Jason Horowitz reports for the New York Times.
Covid-19 has infected over 47.22 million people and has now killed over 764,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 253.91 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.10 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
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.