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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 State Department has told the families of U.S. diplomats in Ukraine to leave and has authorized some embassy staff to also depart. The State Department announcement yesterday came as U.S. officials warned that an attack from Russia could occur at any time. The State Department also is recommending that all U.S. citizens in Ukraine consider leaving. The U.S. Embassy will not be in a position to help Americans depart the country if a Russian attack is underway, senior State Department officials said. Michael R. Gordan reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.K. has followed the U.S. and has begun to withdraw staff from the British embassy in Ukraine, with about half of the staff working in Kyiv to return to the U.K., however, E.U. staff are to stay in place. U.K. officials have said that there have been no specific threats to British diplomats. BBC News reports.
President Biden has been briefed by his top military officials on options for bolstering U.S. troops in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, according to administration officials. During the briefing, which Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley attended virtually, Biden was presented with several options that would shift American military assets much closer to Russia. The options include sending 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries, with the potential to increase the number tenfold if the situation deteriorates. Biden is expected to make a decision on whether to deploy troops as early as this week, the officials said. Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Geneva on Friday for further high-stakes talks. Expectations were low, and there was no breakthrough, however the diplomats agreed to keep talking. “We don’t expect to resolve our differences here today. But I do hope and expect that we can test whether the path of diplomacy or dialogue remains open,” Blinken told Lavrov during the meeting. Matthew Lee and Jamey Keaten report for AP.
In a press conference after the meeting, Blinken said that the U.S. had agreed to give Russia written responses to Moscow’s requests from the U.S. and NATO next week. Blinken suggested he and Lavrov would likely meet again to discuss the U.S.’s written proposal. Blinken said a meeting between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is also on the table if needed. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
Ukraine has received a second shipment of weapons from the U.S. as part of $200 million in defensive aid. “The second bird in Kyiv! More than 80 tons of weapons to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities from our friends in the USA! And this is not the end,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a tweet yesterday. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
Germany’s dependence on Russia for gas is leaving Europe short of options to sanction Russia if it were to invade Ukraine, as well as leaving Europe vulnerable to Russia stopping gas exports to the West. Bojan Pancevski and Georgi Kantchev provide analysis for the Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration is putting together a “global” strategy to increase production of liquefied natural gas to Europe in the event that a Russian invasion of Ukraine leads to gas shortages, officials have said. The State Department in the last six to eight weeks has been putting together the strategy and has been in regular discussions with a number of countries and companies in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. Natasha Bertrand reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.K. ACCUSATIONS
The U.K. has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of plotting to install a pro-Moscow puppet figure to lead Ukraine’s government. The U.K. Foreign Office took the unusual step over the weekend of naming former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev as a potential Kremlin candidate. In a statement, U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “the information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking.” In response, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted that the U.K. Foreign Office was “circulating disinformation” and urged it to “cease these provocative activities” and “stop spreading nonsense.” BBC News reports.
Ukraine is taking “seriously” the U.K.’s allegations that Moscow has plans to invade Ukraine and install a puppet government, a senior Ukrainian government adviser has said. The official added that Kyiv is resisting Russian efforts to destabilize its government and economy. Andrew Roth, Dan Sabbagh and Lisa O’Carroll report for the Guardian.
The U.K.’s Foreign Office claims were thrown into doubt by the fact that four of the five men named by the U.K. as having links with the Russian intelligence services live in exile in Moscow. Further, the Ukrainian Member of Parliament Yevhen Murayev named by the U.K. as a “potential candidate” for Moscow’s presidential pick told the Observer that he would make an unlikely candidate to head a puppet government for Moscow, since he is banned from Russia and all his money from his father’s firm in Russia has been confiscated. Emma Graham-Harrison, Luke Harding and Andrew Roth report for the Guardian.
Details on the Ukrainians that the U.K. has alleged are working to “subvert” Ukraine’s government are provided by David L. Stern reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – SANCTION THREATS
The U.S. has threatened sweeping export controls against Russia’s strategic industries if Moscow invades Ukraine, officials in President Biden’s administration have said. The export control known as the foreign direct product rule, which was used to nearly cripple the Chinese tech giant Huawei, would allow the U.S. to prevent exports of certain goods made with U.S. software or tools to Russia. Ellen Nakashima and Jeanne Whalen report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. and its allies will deliver a “swift, severe and united response” if Russia invades Ukraine, Blinken warned on Sunday. Putin must choose between the “preferred path of diplomacy and dialogue” or “Russian aggression and massive consequences,” Blinken said. Richard Luscombe reports for the Guardian.
The E.U. is ready to impose “never-seen-before” economic sanctions on Russia if it attacks Ukraine, Denmark’s Foreign Minister has said. Robin Emmott and Sabine Siebold report for Reuters.
Syrian fighters backed by U.S. airstrikes struggled to retake control of a prison attacked by Islamic State (IS or ISIS) fighters in northeastern Syria yesterday. The attack on the prison by IS started last week and involved sleeper cells, suicide bombers and an insurrection inside the prison said the U.S. backed Kurdish-led militia the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The attack appeared to be an attempt to boost the morale of IS followers and replenish IS’s ranks with freed prisoners. Jared Malsin and Nazih Osseiran report for the Wall Street Journal.
The SDF warned that IS were using more than 600 boys detained in the prison complex as “human shields.” The U.S. dispatched attack helicopters and carried out airstrikes to help the SDF reassert control in the prison. Some of the prisoners were killed in the strikes, U.S. officials have said. “The coalition has taken great measures to ensure the humane treatment of detainees, but when ISIS detainees took up arms, they became an active threat, and were subsequently engaged and killed by the SDF and coalition airstrikes,” said Maj. Gen. John W. Brennan Jr., commander of the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria. Jane Arraf reports for the New York Times.
Syrian and Russian military jets jointly patrolled the airspace along Syria’s borders today and plan to make such flights regular, the Interfax news agency has quoted Russia’s defense ministry as saying. Reuters reports.
CHINA AND THE INDO-PACIFIC
The State Department on Friday announced sanctions against Chinese companies accused of “missile technology proliferation activities.” The sanctions mean that the entities cannot contract with the U.S. government and that their technology cannot be imported into the U.S. The companies are also not allowed to obtain any U.S. technology. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
In response to the sanctions, China has accused the U.S. of hypocrisy. “This is a typical hegemonic action. China strongly deplores and firmly opposes it,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian. “China urges the United States to immediately correct its mistakes, revoke the relevant sanctions and stop suppressing Chinese enterprises and smearing China.” AP reports.
Taiwan yesterday reported the largest incursion from China’s air force into its air defense zone since last October. The island’s defense ministry said that Taiwanese fighters scrambled to warn away 39 aircrafts from China, while missile systems were deployed to monitor them. Reuters reports.
Two U.S. aircraft carriers have entered the South China Sea for training the Department of Defense has said. A senior commander said that the training was aimed to reassure allies and demonstrate the U.S.’s resolve to “counter malign influence in the area. Reuters reports.
The U.S. and Japanese navies put on a show of force in the Philippine Sea yesterday in a military exercise. A U.S. Navy statement said the mass of warships conducted “training to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” Eric Cheung and Brad Lendon report for CNN.
Beijing has accused the U.S. and Japan of attacking China “baselessly” at a virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Reuters reports.
The former Australian prime minister Paul Keating, who served from 1991 to 1996, has accused the U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss of making “demented” comments about Chinese military aggression. Daniel Hurst reports for the Guardian.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S. Navy has detained a stateless vessel in the Gulf of Oman that had previously been caught smuggling weapons near Somalia last year. According to a statement released by the Navy yesterday, the ship was carrying 40 tons of urea fertilizer, which can be used as an explosive precursor, and was using a route commonly used to traffic weapons to Houthi fighters in Yemen. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
The U.S. military has sent the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier strike group to participate in a NATO naval exercise in the Mediterranean. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters that the exercises, which will run through to Feb. 4, will “demonstrate NATO’s ability to integrate the high-end maritime strike capabilities of an aircraft carrier strike group to support the deterrence and defense of the alliance.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Soldiers have detained the President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, following fighting at military bases across the West African nation, according to a Western official in the country and local media reports. Authorities initially denied that Kaboré had been forced into military custody. The mutineers, however, eventually reached the presidential palace late yesterday and Kaboré was physically removed from office less than 24 hours after the uprising began. Danielle Paquette reports for the Washington Post.
Gunfire was heard overnight near the presidential palace in Burkina Faso and at barracks in the capital, Ouagadougou. Video from the capital appeared to show armored vehicles – reportedly used by the presidency – peppered with bullet holes and abandoned in the street. The capital is reportedly quiet again, although soldiers have surrounded the state television headquarters. BBC News reports.
Members of the Taliban are meeting Western officials in Norway for the first talks in Europe since the group took control of Afghanistan last year. The talks are set to last three days and will cover human rights and the humanitarian crisis in the country. The Taliban is expected to request access to billions of dollars that are frozen in U.S. banks when its representatives meet Western officials today. BBC News reports.
Israeli soldiers dragged an elderly American Palestinian man out of his car, blindfolded and handcuffed him and never sought medical aid for the man who subsequently was found dead, a leaked summary of an Israeli investigation into the man’s death reveals. The summary suggests that no soldiers are likely to be prosecuted for the incident. Five soldiers, including a company commander and a platoon commander, told investigators that they thought the man had simply fallen asleep and that he had demonstrated no signs of being ill. Steve Hendrix reports for the Washington Post.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said it intercepted two ballistic missiles from the Houthi group targeting its capital, Abu Dhabi, early today. The attack, which follows a deadly drone attack on Abu Dhabi last week did not result in any casualties, the UAE Ministry of Defense said. Becky Anderson, Sarah El Sirgany and Helen Regan report for CNN.
The Greek government made “conscious” policy choices that fomented a hunger crisis in refugee camps, humanitarian groups have said. Helena Smith reports for the Guardian.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has spoken to former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, the chair of the committee Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) has said. Appearing on CBS, in response to a question on whether the panel intended to speak with Barr regarding a draft of an executive order by former President Trump that would have deployed the National Guard to seize voting machines, Thompson said: “well, yes, we do. To be honest with you, we’ve had conversations with the former attorney general already.” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A former associate of Rudy Giuliana has been sentenced by a federal judge to a year and a day in prison on a campaign-finance charge. “Florida businessman Igor Fruman pleaded guilty in September in a New York federal court to soliciting a political contribution from a foreign national. Federal prosecutors accused him and others of conspiring to funnel money from a wealthy Russian businessman to influence American politics,” James Fanelli reports for the Wall Street Journal.
More than 3,000 of Guiliani’s communications have been turned over to the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office investigating Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine while he was representing former President Trump. The documents were turned over following a review by a retired federal judge of the privilege claims made by Giuliani over the contents of 18 electronic devices. The judge withheld from the attorney’s office about half of what Giuliani previously had argued should be held back as privileged. Shayna Jacobs reports for the Washington Post.
In the final moments of a 10-hour stand off with a gunman at a Texas Synagogue, the remaining hostages managed to escape the synagogue just as the FBI tactical team moved in and fatally shot the gunman, officials have said. At a news conference, Matt DeSarno, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Dallas, clarified that the FBI regards the incident as an act of terrorism agaist the Jewish community that “intentionally targeted” a house of worship. Jake Bleiberg and Jamie Stengle report for AP.
Protesters marched in Washington, D.C. yesterday against government Covid-19 vaccine mandates. Protesters marched along the National Mall and gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The organizers said they would be protesting mandates, not vaccines themselves. Alexa Corse reports for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 70.70 million people and has now killed over 866,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 351.80 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.59 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.