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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.
CHINA- U.S. RELATIONS
Just one day after a meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two countries have announced an agreement easing restrictions on foreign journalists operating in the U.S. and China. Initially reported by a newspaper controlled by the Chinese government and later confirmed by the State Department, the agreement addresses the diplomatic confrontation that occurred during former President Trump’s administration and which resulted in some American reporters being expelled from China. As a result of the agreement, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post will be permitted to send journalists back to China, though it remains unclear whether the specific correspondents expelled last year will be permitted to return to work there. Michael Shear reports for the New York Times.
Biden and Xi have agreed to explore talks on arms control, according to White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. During their virtual summit on Monday, “the two leaders agreed that we would look to begin to carry forward discussions on strategic stability,” Sullivan said, while making clear that the discussion was tentative. Alex Leary, Lingling Wei and Michael R. Gordon report for the Wall Street Journal.
Biden has said that the U.S. does not endorse Taiwan’s independence and has reiterated that the U.S. is not changing its “one China” policy. Biden clarified that the U.S. abides by the Taiwan Relations Act and its commitment to provide Taiwan with arms for its defense. “It’s independent. It makes its own decisions,” Biden added. “I said that they have to decide — ‘they’ — Taiwan. Not us. And we are not encouraging independence, we’re encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires,” Biden told reporters. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
The Biden administration is weighing how to approach the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games, including the possibility of a diplomatic boycott, but is yet to reach a conclusion. Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have advocated for a diplomatic boycott in protest of China’s human rights abuses and there have been reports that Biden is expected to approve a recommendation soon not to send American officials to the games. Kevin Liptak reports for CNN.
Russia has acknowledged that it conducted an anti-satellite missile test that forced astronauts on the International Space Station to take shelter in reentry capsules. Earlier yesterday, a Russian member of Parliament had denied the test. Andrew Kramer reports for the New York Times.
Russia, however, pushed back against U.S. claims that the anti-satellite missile test produced dangerous space debris. Moscow’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement that it had “successfully conducted a test” targeting a now-defunct Russian satellite that had been in orbit since 1982. “The U.S. knows for certain that the resulting fragments, in terms of test time and orbital parameters, did not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities,” the ministry said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said that Washington was guilty of “hypocrisy” with its claim Russia had posed a risk to peaceful activities in outer space. Chantal Da Silva reports for NBC News.
Estonia’s government has announced a snap military exercise that will include installing razor wire along its border with Russia. As the migrant crisis at the Poland-Belarus border intensifies, the government summoned 1,700 reserve soldiers for the exercise, which will include installing a razor wire barrier along 40 km of its border with Russia. The exercise was called to test rapid response of the national chain of command, according to the Estonian government. Reuters reports.
A former U.S. Marine serving a nine-year jail sentence in Russia for allegedly assaulting police officers has ended a hunger strike after nearly a week due to health complications. Reuters reports.
The defense ministers of Ukraine and the U.K. have said that they are not trying to encircle or undermine Russia but are committed to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, amid concerns about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders. “Our governments have no desire to be adversarial, or seek in any way to strategically encircle or undermine the Russian Federation,” a joint statement from the two ministers said. “We are concerned by Russia’s military build-up and activity around the borders of Ukraine,” the statement added. Reuters reports.
POLAND-BELARUS BORDER CRISIS
Hundreds of migrants stuck at the border between Poland and Belarus rushed a Polish frontier checkpoint yesterday and threw rocks and other debris at Polish security forces. Polish officers responded by firing water cannons and tear gas at the migrants, who claimed their actions were instigated by Belarusian officials. The incident marked the worst skirmish in an impasse that has lasted now for months. Andrew Higgins and Marc Santora report for the New York Times.
In light of the skirmishes, Poland’s defense minister has warned that the crisis at the Belarusian border could continue indefinitely. “We have to prepare for the fact that the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border will not be resolved quickly. We have to prepare for months. I hope not for years,” Mariusz Błaszczak told Poland’s Radio Jedynka. Agence France-Presse reports.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings in Uganda’s capital yesterday that killed three people and injured 33. Police blamed the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist insurgency group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency. Nicholas Bariyo and Benoit Faucon report for the Wall Street Journal.
A Nigerian government panel found that the Nigerian military shot and killed at least eleven peaceful protesters and wounded dozens of others during an Oct. 20, 2020 protest against police brutality in Lagos . The protest was aimed at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a “notoriously corrupt police unit.” Ben Ezeamalu reports for the New York Times.
Iran has resumed production of equipment for advanced centrifuges at a site the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been unable to monitor or gain access to for months, according to diplomats. Advanced centrifuges are used to enrich uranium to higher levels either for civilian use or military purposes, potentially putting Iran closer to reaching the 90% threshold for weapons-grade uranium. The resumption of production at the site is presenting new challenges for President Biden’s administration as it prepares for renewed nuclear talks with Iran. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Pentagon has accused Iran of “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct after an Iranian helicopter approached the USS Essex in the Gulf of Oman last week. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters that the Iranian helicopter flew approximately 25 yards off the port side of USS Essex and circled the ship three times. “There was no impact ultimately to the Essex transit or their operations. But that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t an unsafe and unprofessional act…we’re going to act in accordance with international law, we’re going to fly, sail, and operate where international law permits. And we’re going to continue to look after our national security interests in the region.” Kirby told reporters. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
President Biden has banned Nicaraguan government officials from entering the U.S., following Nicaragua’s election this month which Biden has called a “sham.” In the proclamation, Biden suspended entry for all “members” of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government and other elected officials, including mayors, along with the spouses and children of those banned. “The repressive and abusive acts of the Ortega government and those who support it compel the United States to act,” said the statement announcing the proclamation. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
The U.S. is moving forward with the $23 billion sale of 50 F-35 stealth fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mira Resnick has said. Resnick also told reporters that even though the U.S. intends to proceed with the deal, there has to be a clear understanding of “Emirati obligations,” without elaborating on the nature of those obligations. Reuters reports.
The U.S. has criticized the Cuban government after it prevented a civil liberties protest from occurring. “The United States is committed to supporting the agency of the Cuban people as they seek to promote democratic change as an inclusive and broad-based social movement…The Cuban regime should take this opportunity to listen to their people: to hear their frustrations and look for ways to work together to better serve the needs and ambitions of all Cubans,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on the day of the planned protest. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Frank McKenzie met with Qatar Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (Pilot) Salem Bin Hamad Al-Nabit yesterday. The two leaders met in Tampa, Florida and “exchanged views on a range of topics, to include maintaining the momentum of defense cooperation between the two nations, resolving the conflict in Yemen and Qatar’s ongoing preparations to host the FIFA Arab Cup,” the U.S. Central Command statement said.
Bruce Bagley, a retired University of Miami professor, has been sentenced to six months in prison in a money laundering case connected to Venezuela. Bagely was the go-to academic expert on drug trafficking in Latin America, however a Manhattan federal judge yesterday sentenced Bagley “for his role in secretly laundering millions of dollars on behalf of some of the same bad guys he dedicated his life to studying,” Joshua Goodman reports for AP.
Cyber hackers thought to be behind attacks on governmental agencies in recent months have been linked to the Belarusian government. Researchers for the cybersecurity company Mandiant assessed with “high confidence” in a new report that the “Ghostwriter” information operations campaign was “aligned with Belarusian government interests.” Mandiant also linked another group of hackers – who have conducted cyber espionage against government and private sector entities in Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine and Germany – to the Belarusian government. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
A staff memo from the House Oversight and Reform Committee has concluded that series of “small lapses” in cybersecurity contributed to the recent ransomware attacks against Colonial Pipeline, meat producer JBS USA, and insurance group CNA Financial Corporation.“Ransomware attackers took advantage of relatively minor security lapses, such as a single user account controlled by a weak password, to launch enormously costly attacks,” the memo reads. “Even large organizations with seemingly robust security systems fell victim to simple initial attacks, highlighting the need to increase security education and take other security measures prior to an attack,” the memo added. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Facebook has announced that in August, amid the collapse of the Afghan government, it took steps to disrupt a group of hackers based in Pakistan that had been targeting members of the former Afghan government and others based in Afghanistan. In a blog post, Facebook officials noted that the company had disabled accounts and blocked domains linked to a Pakistani hacking group known as “SideCopy.” The attackers posed as fake young women online in an attempt to trick targets into clicking on malicious links or downloads. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
The Biden administration has expressed concern regarding new cybersecurity legislation that would require companies to report cyberattacks to the Department of Homeland Security, not the FBI. Betsy Woodruff Swan and Eric Geller report for POLITICO.
The Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law has filed a petition to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the former strongman of the country, from the Philippines presidential race due to his past convictions for tax evasion. Al Jazeera reports.
Former Filipino boxing champion turned senator Manny Pacquiao has said that he will seek corruption charges against some of his former political allies within President Rodrigo Duterte’s government if he wins the Philippine presidential election next year. “All those corrupt officials should be jailed,..That’s the only way that we can have economic growth in our country, because that’s the cancer of this country, the hindrance of development,” Pacquiao told CNN in an interview. Rebecca Wright, Ivan Watson and Jinky Jorgio report for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A number of Armenian troops were killed during a clash between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces at the border yesterday. Later in the day, the two sides agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Russia. Armenia has asked Russia, an ally with historical ties to the former Soviet republic, for help in defending its territory. BBC News reports.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that a 2018 Hungarian law violated E.U. laws by criminalizing the act of helping migrants and refugees apply for asylum. The law, which the Hungarian government calls the “Stop Soros” act, remains in effect, but the E.U.’s highest court could impose financial penalties if far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his government do not amend the law. Miriam Berger reports for the Washington Post.
Two people linked to France’s ultra-right movement have been arrested as part of an anti-terrorism probe, a judicial source has said. Reuters reports.
In the wake of the COP26 climate summit, Island nations are seeking legal avenues to compel large greenhouse gas emitters to pay for the destruction caused by rising sea levels. Their legal options are limited, but they could seek assistance at the International Court of Justice or more likely, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg. Although neither of these tribunals would issue legally binding decisions, an advisory opinion from either could translate into leverage in climate negotiations or spark legal challenges in domestic or international courts. Anthony Faiola reports for the Washington Post.
The Chilean Senate has voted against removing Chilean President Sebastian Pinera over allegations of corruption, falling 29 votes short of the two-thirds supermajority required. Pinera is set to leave office in March 2022 and is not a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. Al Jazeera reports.
JAN 6. ATTACK
Former President Trump has asked a federal appeals court to prevent the National Archives from providing Congress with White House records pertaining to the Jan. 6 attack, arguing that litigation over whether executive privilege should prevent their disclosure should be resolved first. A lawyer for Trump warned that a decision to uphold the subpoena from Congress would have ramifications for future relations between the executive and legislative branches. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
In a brief filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump’s legal team asked the court to overturn the ruling from District Judge Tanya Chutkan, arguing that Chutkan’s ruling is essentially a “rubber stamp” for the Jan. 6 select committee and would upend the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branch. “A decision upholding the Committees’ request to NARA would have enormous consequences, forever changing the dynamics between the political branches,” the filing reads. Harper Neidig reports for The Hill.
Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, has told reporters that he will sign a letter today to send to former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows outlining everything the committee wishes to learn from him. The “letter would be key to marking the trail of communication between Meadows and the committee, and crucial to building out an eventual criminal contempt referral report, if the committee chooses to go that route,” Annie Grayer and Ryan Nobles report for CNN.
A whistleblower is worried that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is going too easy on the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP). The whistleblower was at the USCP’s command center during the Jan. 6 attack and has since left the force. The whistleblower told POLITICO that he participated in a 90-minute interview with committee investigators last week, and that more USCP personnel are scheduled to speak with the panel next week. However, the whistleblower said that he was concerned that the investigators’ tactics both before and during the interview suggested the panel was too close to the USCP to conduct an impartial review. Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman report for POLITICO.
REP. PAUL GOSAR
The House of Representatives plans to formally censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) for posting an anime video on Twitter that depicted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) being struck on the neck with a sword. BBC News reports.
If passed by the House today, the resolution would remove Gosar’s seats on the Oversight and Reform panel, where he serves alongside Ocasio-Cortez, and the House Natural Resources Committee, where he serves as the top Republican on its oversight subcommittee. “Republicans warned that the move would lead the House down a slippery slope where they might remove Democrats from committees in the future if they take over the majority. But Democrats said that any depiction or apparent endorsement of violence should not be tolerated,” Christina Marcos reports for The Hill.
The resolution to censure Gosar can be read on CNN.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has said that he called Gosar last week after Gosar posted the anime video on Twitter. However, McCarthy, speaking to CNN, did not directly condemn Gosar’s behavior, only noting Gosar had deleted the tweet after their conversation. Melanie Zanona reports for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Allies of former President Trump tried to push the Department of Defense to chase down voter fraud conspiracy theories in the hopes of overturning the result of the 2020 election, a new book by ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl states. The book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” is scheduled to be released today. In the book Karl reports that former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell tried to enlist senior Trump intelligence official Ezra Cohen, a Pentagon official, to help overturn the election. Will Steakin reports for ABC News.
U.S. army recruiters are using TikTok as a tool to convince young Americans to join the military in direct violation of an order banning all official uses of the China-based social media platform. With some estimating that more than half of Generation Z use TikTok, some of these recruiters argue that they have to be “savvy” with respect to reaching these young people. Elizabeth Howe reports for Defense One.
The FBI has set up a process to track threats against school-board members and teachers. In an Oct. 20 memo, the heads of the FBI’s criminal and counterterrorism divisions instructed agents to flag all assessments and investigations into potentially criminal threats, harassment and intimidation of educators with a “threat tag.” The process moves to implement a Justice Department directive, however some law-enforcement officials and Republican lawmakers are saying that the move could improperly target parents protesting local education policies. Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to authorize Pfizer boosters for all adults as early as tomorrow. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convening a committee meeting of vaccine experts on Friday, it is possible that tens of millions of Americans will become eligible for booster shots barely one week after Pfizer requested authorization of such boosters for all individuals eighteen years of age and older. Notably, some states and local officials have acted in advance of FDA action, citing “the eagerness of many Americans to seek additional protection ahead of holiday gatherings.” Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere report for the New York Times.
The Sixth Circuit was assigned to handle more than thirty lawsuits filed around the country challenging the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate. The mandate requires large employers to ensure their workers are vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to weekly testing. Notably, this action removes the matter from the Fifth Circuit, which recently blocked President Biden’s administration from proceeding with the mandate. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
The Biden administration is seeking to purchase Pfizer antiviral pills for ten million people, believing that this treatment, along with another created by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, could prove to be a game-changer in the pandemic. Pfizer has agreed to a license-sharing deal that could result in the pill being sold at lower prices in poor countries. Tyler Pager, Laurie McGinley, Carolyn Johnson, Adam Taylor and Claire Parker report for the Washington Post.
Covid-19 has infected over 47.31 million people and has now killed over 765,900 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 254.49 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.11 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.