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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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. and NATO of using Ukraine as a “tool to hinder Russia” and ignoring Moscow’s security concerns. Putin said that the Kremlin was still reviewing the U.S.’s and NATO’s replies to Russia’s security demands, however “it is already clear that Russia’s fundamental concerns have been ignored,” he said. “NATO refers to the right of countries to choose freely, but you cannot strengthen someone’s security at the expense of others,” he added, referring to NATO’s open-door policy. Isabelle Khurshudyan, Missy Ryan, Rachel Pannett and William Booth report for the Washington Post.
Putin did signal that he was prepared to engage in more diplomacy with the West. “Putin said he hoped that ‘dialogue will be continued’ over Russia’s security demands, refraining from repeating his earlier threat to take unspecified ‘military-technical’ measures if the West did not comply,” Anton Troianovski and Michael Schwirtz report for the New York Times.
Spanish newspaper El País has released what it says are the confidential documents the U.S. and NATO sent to Russia last week. In the documents accessed by El País, Washington and NATO rejected closing the door to countries seeking to join NATO in the future, but did include offers of mutual trust-building measures and cutting back on nuclear weaponry, in exchange for reducing tensions. Hibai Arbide Aza and Miguel González report for El País.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday in an effort to defuse the crisis. “If Putin doesn’t intend war or regime change, this is the time to pull back,” Blinken told Lavrov, according to a senior state department official. The official said that the U.S. does “not know that Putin has made a decision about what he’s going to do. So until President Putin makes that decision, we need to continue to prepare for these different outcomes.” Andrew Roth and Julian Borger report for the Guardian.
During his call with Blinken, Lavrov gave no indication that Moscow will de-escalate from the border with Ukraine, a senior State Department official has said. “The official said the phone conversation between the two top diplomats lasted about 30 minutes and they described the tone as ‘professional and fairly candid,’” Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood and Jeremy Herb report for CNN.
The White House has dispatched a top cybersecurity official to NATO to prepare allies for potential Russian cyberattacks. Intelligence assessments have suggested that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would most likely be preceded by cyberattacks on Ukraine’s electric grid, its communications systems, and its government. David E. Sanger reports for the New York Times.
U.S. and Russian officials ratcheted up their rhetoric yesterday. Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov accused the White House of “demonizing” Russia and lying about the Kremlin’s history of aggression. Antonov’s comments followed the White House’s dismissal of Putin’s claim that Moscow would be forced into conflict with NATO if Ukraine joins the Western military alliance and attempts to seize back Crimea. “When the fox is screaming from the top of the henhouse that he’s scared of the chickens, which is essentially what they’re doing, that fear isn’t reported as a statement of fact,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. Steve Hendrix and Rachel Pannett report for the Washington Post.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Ibrahim Kalin, the chief adviser to the president of Turkey, yesterday about their mutual commitment to “deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” the White House has said. “Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said Kalin told Sullivan that Turkey would provide ‘all forms of support’ to resolving the Ukraine crisis and a Thursday visit there by Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan would ‘contribute to solving the issue with diplomacy,’” Reuters reports.
Moscow has said there was a “mix-up” concerning its reply to the U.S. on the Ukraine crisis. State Department officials on Monday said they had “received a written follow-up from Russia” to proposals the U.S. sent to the Kremlin last week. However, yesterday the Kremlin said that Russia’s correspondence “regarded a different matter” and that Russia had not yet sent its “main reply” to the U.S. Ivana Kottasová, Nathan Hodge, Anna Chernova and Jennifer Hansler report for CNN.
The president of Guinea-Bissau posted a message to Twitter yesterday saying that he was “fine” after mutinous soldiers tried to overthrow his government. Umaro Cissoko Embaló said the attackers tried to kill him and his entire cabinet at the government palace. Embaló said that an “isolated” segment of the military led the rebellion and that “many” people had been killed in the fighting. Danielle Paquette reports for the Washington Post.
At least six people were killed in the failed coup attempt, state radio has said today, as residents of the capital cautiously returned to daily life. Those killed included four assailants and two members of the presidential guard, state media said. Alberto Dabo reports for Reuters.
Gunfire erupted yesterday near government buildings in Guinea-Bissau’s capital, where the president was attending a cabinet meeting. Embaló said that the attackers were linked to drug trafficking in the country, and disputed initial reports that the cabinet had been captured by the attackers. BBC News reports.
The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, yesterday asked the soldiers in a statement to “return to their barracks” and keep the president safe. Al Jazeera reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Leaked notes from a White House Situation Room meeting the day before Kabul fell last year have revealed how unprepared President Biden’s administration was to evacuate Afghan nationals who had helped the United States during the 20-year war in Afghanistan. The notes reveal that hours before the Taliban seized control of Kabul, senior Biden administration officials were still discussing and assigning basic actions involved in a mass civilian evacuation. According to the documents, staff were still determining which countries could serve as transit points for evacuees, and had only just decided they needed to notify local Afghan staff “to begin to register their interest in relocation to the United States.” Jonathan Swan and Hans Nichols report for Axios.
The U.S. is sending fighter jets to assist the United Arab Emirates following missile attacks against the country from the Houthi movement in Yemen. Reuters reports.
Chinese drone maker DJI, a leading supplier of drones to U.S. law enforcement, obscured its Chinese government funding while claiming that Beijing had not invested in the firm. According to a Washington Post review of company documents, as well as analysis by IPVM, a video surveillance research group, “four investment bodies owned or administered by Beijing have invested in the popular drone brand in recent years, including a state asset manager that has pledged to play a key role in promoting partnerships between private enterprises and the Chinese military,” Cate Cadell reports for the Washington Post.
The FBI is urging athletes to take burner phones rather than their personal phones to the Beijing Winter Olympics this month, citing the potential for “malicious cyber activities.” Paul LeBlanc and Katie Bo Lillis report for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Israel’s national police force has found evidence suggesting improper use of spyware by its own investigators to spy on Israeli citizens’ phones. The announcement is part of an investigation launched by Israeli’s attorney general and lawmakers, following reports last month by an Israeli newspaper that the police had used NSO Group’s Pegasus software to surveil protesters, politicians, and criminal suspects without authorization from a judge. “Last month, police said a preliminary internal investigation had found no evidence of misuse of the controversial spyware. But on Tuesday, the police said a secondary inspection ‘found additional evidence that changes certain aspects of the state of affairs.’ The statement made no mention of NSO,” the Guardian staff and agencies report.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned North Korea’s launch of a possible intermediate-range ballistic missile. “This is a breaking of the DPRK’s [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] announced moratorium in 2018 on launches of this nature, and a clear violation of Security Council resolutions,” Guterres said in a statement issued by his deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq. UN News Centre reports.
A fourth journalist has been killed in Mexico in the past month. Roberto Toledo, a 55-year-old lawyer who collaborated with the news outlet Monitor Michoacán, was gunned down by three men in a parking area near the law firm where he worked. Toledo’s death, along with those of three other journalists and media workers in the past month, have drawn condemnation from freedom-of-the-press groups. Maite Fernández Simon reports for the Washington Post.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is scrutinizing former President Trump’s involvement in proposals to seize voting machines after the 2020 elections. The committee is looking at efforts by Trump and his allies to create a legal basis for directing national security agencies to seize the machines, according to sources. It is not clear what evidence the committee is examining, but it recently received documents from the Trump White House including what court filings described as a “document containing presidential findings concerning the security of the 2020 election after it occurred and ordering various actions,” along with related notes. Luke Broadwater, Maggie Haberman, Alan Feuer and Michael S. Schmidt report for the New York Times.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The early release from prison of a Chicago police officer who was sentenced to seven years for the murder of a Black teenager in 2014 has sparked anger. Relatives, community organizers, and politicians are questioning the decision to shave three years off Jason Van Dyke’s sentence for “good behavior.” Gloria Oladipo reports for the Guardian.
The U.S. national debt has exceeded $30 trillion for the first time, reflecting increased federal borrowing during the coronavirus pandemic. Amara Omeokwe reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Lawyers for former President Trump and two of his adult children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., argued yesterday that the New York state attorney general’s office had targeted them unfairly in its civil-fraud investigation into the former president and his company, and subpoenaed information that could be improperly used in a separate criminal probe. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Tonga has gone into lockdown after recording its first community transmission of COVID-19, weeks after a powerful volcano and subsequent tsunami battered the island. “Two workers who were helping to distribute aid shipments at the Tongan wharf tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, prompting Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni to announce a lockdown that night. Three more positive cases were recorded on Wednesday among relatives of the workers, who are asymptomatic and in quarantine, local news media reported,” Yan Zhuang reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 75.35 million people and has now killed over 890,700 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 381.72 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.68 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.