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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.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has said that he has ordered security forces to “fire without warning” and “open fire with lethal force,” amid a violent crackdown on anti-government protests sparked by fuel price rises. In a televised address today, Tokayev also blamed “so-called free media outlets” for helping fan unrest. Shaun Walker reports for the Guardian.
Tokayev has said that “20,000 bandits” attacked Kazakhstan’s main city of Almaty, blaming foreign-trained “terrorists.” In his televised address, Tokayev dismissed calls to hold talks with protesters, saying: “what kind of talks can we hold with criminals and murderers?… We had to deal with armed and well-prepared bandits, local as well as foreign. More precisely, with terrorists. So we have to destroy them, this will be done soon.” The interior ministry has said that 26 “armed criminals” and 18 security officers have been killed so far in the unrest, while opposition groups have rejected the authorities’ accusations of terrorism. BBC News reports.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi yesterday, and called for a “peaceful, rights-respecting resolution” to the deadly protests. Blinken reiterated U.S. support for Kazakhstan’s “constitutional institutions and media freedom,” the State Department said in a statement. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
The U.S. is closely monitoring reports that the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has dispatched forces to Kazakhstan, including whether the request was legitimate or not, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news briefing yesterday. Psaki added that Washington would be watching for any violations of human rights and “any actions that may lay the predicate for the seizure of Kazakh institutions.” Reuters reports.
The protests have led the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan to increase security measures and consider an evacuation, according to emails obtained by POLITICO. Quint Forgey, Erin Banco and Nahal Toosi report for POLITICO.
The U.N. is following the situation in Kazakhstan “very closely,” and is appealing for Kazakhstan to exercise restraint, refrain from violence and promote dialogue to address the situation, the spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General has said. UN News Centre reports.
The global computing power of the Bitcoin network dropped sharply following a shutdown of Kazakhstan’s internet on Wednesday, which has hit the country’s fast-growing crypto currency mining industry. Reuters reports.
The CSTO’s operation in Kazakhstan, which was likely authorized by Moscow, comes with potential benefits but also risks for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The fact that the CSTO move is seen as a Russian intervention has caused dismay for many in Kazakhstan, which has proudly pursued a “multi-vector” foreign policy for years. Shaun Walker reports for the Guardian.
Analysis of Russia’s intervention in Kazakhstan and how it may transform ties between the two countries is provided by Yaroslav Trofimov reporting for the Wall Street Journal.
Analysis of the protests in Kazakhstan and why unrest is so widespread is provided by Yuliya Talmazan reporting for NBC News.
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
Talks between U.S. and Russian diplomats on Russian troop deployment near the Ukrainian border are to begin in Geneva on Monday, with both sides sending veteran diplomats to the talks. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, before the talks then move to Brussels for a NATO-Russia meeting on Wednesday and a meeting hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Thursday. Simon Lewis and Mark Trevelyan report for Reuters.
France has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to bypass the E.U. by talking directly with the U.S. on Ukraine. “Putin wants to bypass the European Union… he wants to put dents in the E.U. cohesion, which is solidifying,” France’s Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told BFM TV and RMC Radio. “You can’t envisage E.U. security without the Europeans,” Le Drian added. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S. and Japan have vowed to increase their defense cooperation, amid concerns about the threat posed by China. The joint statement from the two countries followed a virtual meeting of their foreign and defence ministers. During the meeting, the ministers expressed concerns that China’s efforts “to undermine the rules-based order” presents “political, economic, military and technological challenges to the region and the world,” and the ministers “resolved to work together to deter and, if necessary, respond to destabilizing activities in the region,” the statement said. Ju-min Park and David Brunnstrom report for Reuters.
A Chinese national has pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal a trade secret on behalf of China from American agribusiness company Monsanto, the Justice Department has said. Xiang Haitao was employed by Monnsanto and its subsidiary, The Climate Corporation, from 2008 to 2017. “According to the Justice Department, Xiang stole proprietary software developed by Monsanto to help farmers improve crop yields,” Agence France-Presse reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
An airstrike has killed three Eritrean refugees, two of them children, in a refugee camp in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the U.N. refugee agency has said. A statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi did not say who carried out the airstrike. Four other refugees were injured in the strike, the statement said. AP reports.
In his statement, Grandi called for all parties to the conflict to “respect the rights of all civilians, including refugees,” adding that the UNHCR is continuing to gather and corroborate details of the airstrike. UN News Centre reports.
South Korean military officials have cast doubts on the capabilities of what North Korea has called a “hypersonic missile” test fired this week. The officials said that while the test missile warhead appeared to reach hypersonic speeds, that capability is shared by other ballistic missiles and North Korea’s test did not appear to demonstrate the range and maneuverability claimed in state media reports. Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin report for Reuters.
A Russian submarine collided with a U.K. Royal Navy warship’s sonar on patrol in the North Atlantic in late 2020, the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) has confirmed. The HMS Northumberland had been tracking the Russian submarine when the submarine hit the ship’s sonar equipment which was being trailed hundreds of meters behind it. The incident had been captured by a television crew filming for a documentary, causing the MoD to comment on the incident. BBC News reports.
North Korea has said that it will not attend next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics, citing the Covid-19 pandemic and actions by “hostile forces.” The statement is largely redundant since North Korea has already been banned from the Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), after North Korea refused to send a team to the Tokyo Summer Games, citing the pandemic. At the time the IOC had said that individual athletes from North Korea who qualify to compete in Beijing could still be accepted. AP reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – ANNIVERSARY
President Biden has condemned former President Trump and a mob of his supporters for the Jan. 6 attack. Biden used the first anniversary of the attack to accuse his predecessor and to rebuke Trump’s attempts to undermine the 2020 election results, accusing him of spreading a “web of lies about the 2020 election” and waging an “undemocratic” and “un-American” campaign against the legitimacy of the election system. Ken Thomas and Siobhan Hughes report for the Wall Street Journal.
Biden denounced Trump and his allies for holding “a dagger at the throat of America” by promoting lies and violence, while crediting law-enforcement officers for saving the rule of law. “Trump’s bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost,” Biden added. Peter Baker reports for the New York Times.
An annotated version of Biden’s speech is provided by Katie Rogers reporting for the New York Times.
While Democrats spent yesterday remembering the Jan. 6 attack in Congress, Republicans, with a few exceptions, avoided the proceedings. “Only a few Republican lawmakers issued condemnations of the year-old attack, while fringe members of the GOP tried to fill the void by staging a news conference to elevate unsubstantiated theories that federal agents may have secretly played a role in fomenting the rioters,” Michael Scherer reports for the Washington Post.
Biden’s speech represents a departure from the first year of his presidency, when Biden and his aides largely refused to talk about Trump or react to him. However, the president’s allies and aides have said that his remarks do not mark a permanent shift in strategy about how to handle Trump, but rather Biden felt he had no choice but to directly address Trump’s culpability in the Jan. 6 attack and the threat he poses to democracy. Analysis of Biden’s decision to forcefully denounce Trump for the Jan. 6 attack is provided by Tyler Pager and Annie Linskey reporting for the Washington Post. Further analysis of Biden’s speech and his decision to confront Trump’s culpability is also provided by Jeff Zeleny, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak reporting for CNN, and by Zolan Kanno-Youngs reporting for the New York Times.
There has been an increase in online extremist content over the past two days, including threats to lawmakers and Biden, according to a Department for Homeland Security (DHS) memo. Officials are concerned that the content, which does not provide any indication of a specific and credible plot, could inspire violence, particularly by lone offenders. The DHS memo was sent to federal, state and local law enforcement yesterday afternoon and noted that the threat of violence could extend beyond the Washington, D.C., area. Geneva Sands reports for CNN.
Just Security has published a piece by Grant Tudor and Justin Florence on ‘Taking Stock: Accountability for January 6th and the Risks of Recurrence’.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was inside Democratic National Committee headquarters on Jan. 6, 2021, when a pipe bomb was discovered outside the building. According to a Capitol Police timeline of events, the police began investigating the pipe bomb at 1:07 pm and Capitol Police and the Secret Service evacuated an unnamed “protectee” approximately seven minutes later. Four people familiar with Harris’s movements that day have confirmed that Harris was the Secret Service protectee identified in the timeline. Betsy Woodruff Swan, Christopher Cadelago and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.
Former President Trump did not want to tweet the words “stay peaceful” during the Jan. 6 attack, a key former aide has said. Trump tweeted at 2:38 p.m. ET on Jan. 6, 2021: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” However, the former official has said that Trump did not want to include the words “stay peaceful” and was “very reluctant to put out anything when it was unfolding.” Jim Acosta reports for CNN.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has tasked a team to examine FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence and security shortcomings prior to Jan. 6. The team, dubbed the “blue team”, is focusing on understanding why the government failed to anticipate and stop the Jan. 6 attack, including why the FBI did not do more to act on threats. Meanwhile a “green team” is “following the money” and investigating the people who funded the rallies that preceded the riot, and a “gold team” is examining Trump’s efforts to try to overturn the election, committee aides have said. Ken Dilanian reports for NBC News.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A U.S. District Court judge has granted a request by federal prosecutors to claim the funds in an account held by convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Prosecutors said that Tsarnaev “received tens of thousands of dollars — including a Covid-19 relief payment — but has paid only a fraction toward court-issued fines, while spending the money in other ways,” Omar Abdel-Baqui reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has said that more than a dozen of her former Trump administration colleagues plan to meet next week to try and stop former President Trump as he continues to “manipulate people and divide our country.” Veronica Stracqualursi, Betsy Klein and Gabby Orr report for CNN.
The Navy has ousted the first group of sailors for refusing the Covid-19 vaccine, the service has announced. Twenty sailors were separated within their first 180 days of active-duty service during their initial training period, in what is known as entry-level separation. No other separations have yet been issued. Caitlin Doornbos reports for Stripes.
Six former health advisers to President Biden’s transition team have said that the U.S. must shift away from “perpetual state of emergency” and adopt a strategy of living with Covid-19 by suppressing its peaks. The advisors have released a series of journal articles calling for a “new normal” in the U.S. approach to Covid-19 and other viral threats. The articles lay out “dozens of recommendations, sometimes explicitly and often implicitly criticizing the federal response,” Dan Diamond reports for the Washington Post.
Japan has criticized the U.S.’s response following a surge in Covid-19 infections in and around U.S. military bases in Japan. A loophole in entry rules for U.S. soldiers into Japan, who were not subject to the same strict Covid-19 foreign traveller restrictions, resulted in an increased spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant. Alistair Gale reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The coronavirus has infected over 58.48 million people and has now killed close to 834,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 300.36 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.47 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.