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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 demonstrations in Ottawa have continued to reverberate beyond Canada, with copycat convoys spreading to New Zealand and Australia. A convoy in New Zealand departed for Wellington, the nation’s capital, on Sunday morning, and a similar “Convoy to Canberra” has occurred in Australia. Natasha Frost reports for the New York Times.
In the U.S., plans for a demonstration by truckers similar to the one in Ottawa appear to be gaining momentum, aided by online supporters. According to messages posted on social media, the route may start in Sacramento, Calif., and end in Washington, D.C., though it is unclear how large any such convoy might be. Sheera Frenkel and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
In Canada a new road blockade temporarily cut off Canada’s busiest border crossing at the Ambassador Bridge, as the protest spread beyond Ottawa. Protesters started blocking the Ambassador Bridge, which links the cities of Detroit and Windsor, late on Monday and on Tuesday entry to Canada remained blocked, while U.S.-bound traffic slowed to a crawl. Tracey Lindeman reports for the Guardian.
The protests at the Ambassador Bridge have threatened to further disrupt new car and truck production that already has been hampered by a prolonged shortage of computer chips. “Each day, $300 million worth of car and truck parts, agricultural products, steel and other raw materials flows across the bridge, according to Flavio Volpe, president of the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association in Toronto. U.S. manufacturers rely on daily or near-daily shipments to and from their Canadian partners. Just one or two more days of interrupted deliveries could lead to temporary layoffs or plant closures, Volpe said,” David J. Lynch reports for the Washington Post.
Nearly 80 criminal investigations have been opened in relation to the protests in Canada, including for alleged hate crimes and property damage, with about two dozen people having been arrested. Speaking to reporters, Ottawa’s Deputy Police Chief Steve Bell said: “our message to the demonstrators remains the same: Don’t come. If you do, there will be consequences.” Jessica Murphy & Bernd Debusmann Jr report for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
The Kremlin has refuted the suggestion that French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin made meaningful progress toward defusing the Ukraine crisis in their talks on Monday. The Kremlin spokesperson has suggested that it is the U.S., and not France, who has the standing to negotiate any agreement to de-escalate and took issue with news reports quoting French officials saying that Macron had obtained commitments from Putin that Russia would not conduct any new military maneuvers near Ukraine and would leave Belarus after the completion of planned military exercises. Michael Schwirtz and Ivan Nechepurenko report for the New York Times.
Speaking after talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, Macron said that Putin had made clear that he would not be the one to escalate tensions. Zelenskiy was more skeptical about Putin’s apparent commitment to peace, saying: “I do not really trust words. I believe that every politician can be transparent by taking concrete steps.” Luke Harding, Shaun Walker, Andrew Roth, Angelique Chrisafis, Julian Borger and Kate Connolly report for the Guardian.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said that his government would not cross “red lines” that infringe on Ukraine’s sovereignty in negotiations on a settlement with Russia. Putin on Monday had suggested that Moscow would insist Kyiv accept its terms on a cease-fire agreement for the war in eastern Ukraine, which would give the Kremlin a way to influence Ukraine’s foreign policy decisions. Andrew E. Kramer reports for the New York Times.
Macron’s statements, which hinted at shifts in NATO’s outlook and talks of new security guarantees, will likely alarm NATO hardliners who say the alliance should never concede to military intimidation. Patrick Wintour provides analysis of Macron’s remarks, reporting for the Guardian.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russia and Ukraine are launching parallel military drills tomorrow. Ukrainian troops are preparing for military drills using unmanned aircraft and antitank missiles supplied by Kyiv’s western partners, while the Kremlin positions large numbers of troops and weapons for exercises in Belarus and Russian warships and submarines head to the Black Sea. Robyn Dixon and Rachel Pannett report for the Washington Post.
E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said the arrival of six Russian warships and a submarine, which passed through the Dardanelles strait heading towards the Black Sea from the Mediterranean, showed that “the visit of president Macron was important, but it has not produced a miracle.” Luke Harding, Shaun Walker, Andrew Roth, Angelique Chrisafis, Julian Borger and Kate Connolly report for the Guardian.
European regulators have told banks to prepare for the threat of a Russian-sponsored cyber attack as tensions with Ukraine mount. The European Central Bank is on alert for the threat of cyber attacks on banks launched from Russia, sources have said, and banks have been conducting cyber war games to test their ability to fend off an attack. John O’Donnell and Huw Jones report for Reuters.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
A CNN investigation has raised questions over the Pentagon’s claims that all those confirmed dead following a bomb at Kabul airport on Aug. 26, 2021 were killed by the blast and no one was shot dead. A U.S. military investigation concluded that while U.S. Marines opened fire twice after the blast, none of the bullets hit anyone, according to a media briefing by the investigating team on Feb. 4. CNN’s investigation–which involved speaking to more than 70 witnesses and families of the dead, reviewing medical records and analyzing video, photos and audio of the scene–has raised questions about what actually happened and how more than 180 people died. Nick Paton Walsh, Sandi Sidhu, Julia Hollingsworth, Masoud Popalzai, Sitara Zamani, Abdul Basir Bina, Katie Polglase and Gianluca Mezzofiore report for CNN.
Army Lt. Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, President Biden’s nominee to command U.S. troops across the Middle East, has said that he sees Iran’s regional influence and weapons programs as “vexing,” and that he believes the U.S. has a “moral obligation” to evacuate more Afghans who helped the United States. Kurilla told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if confirmed as the next commanding general of U.S. Central Command, he would assess what military options could assist the State Department in helping Afghan allies who were left behind in Afghanistan. Dan Lamothe reports for the Washington Post.
Feuding investors in Icon Aircraft Inc, a California plane startup, have been making allegations against each other while the company is in the midst of a U.S. national security review. “A group of American shareholders fell out with Chinese investors who hold a dominant stake in Icon, alleging they are improperly transferring the company’s technology to China. The Chinese investors have said in legal filings that they are pursuing a normal technology licensing agreement,” Kate O’Keeffe reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korea “can shake the world by firing a missile with the U.S. mainland in its range,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday. A statement said that a series of missile tests since the New Year has represented “remarkable achievements” that strengthened North Korea’s “war deterrence.” Josh Smith reports for Reuters.
North Korea’s military has been building an underground, regiment-size military base for housing North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles just 15 miles from the border with China. According to a report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, the location was chosen to deter pre-emptive strikes from the U.S. against North Korea’s most important weapons. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
Ethiopia has been accused of committing a wide range of human rights violations in its war against Tigrayan rebel forces, including mass killings, sexual violence, and military targeting of civilians. In a legal complaint submitted to the African Union’s human rights commission, lawyers have said that the violations “could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, but further investigation would be required.” Lizzy Davies reports for the Guardian.
Three Iranian refugees are facing deportation from Turkey after taking part in a demonstration against Ankara’s withdrawal from the Istanbul convention on violence against women. Ruth Michaelson and Deniz Barış Narlı report for the Guardian.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has pushed back against the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) censure of Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and its characterization of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack as “legitimate political discourse.” Speaking to reporters, McConnell described the Jan. 6 attack as a “violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next.” Jonathan Weisman and Annie Karni report for the New York Times.
McConnell has said that the RNC should not have signaled Cheney and Kinzinger out for holding different views. “Traditionally the view of the national party committee is that we support all members of our party regardless of their positions on some issues,” McConnell said. Lindsay Wise reports for the Wall Street Journal.
House Minority Leader Keven McCarthy (R-CA) has appeared to defend the RNC’s use of the words “legitimate political discourse,” saying that it was linked to six members of the RNC who had been subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. The actual RNC resolution that censured Cheney and Kinzinger however did not mention that RNC members had been subpoenaed. “Everybody knows anybody who broke in and caused damage, that was not called for. And those people, we’ve said from the very beginning, should be in jail,” McCarthy told CNN. Jordain Carney reports for The Hill.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel has defended the RNC’s censure of Kinzinger and Cheney, blaming the media for what she called “patently false coverage.” In an op-ed for the news site Townhall, McDaniel stressed that she has decried the violence that happened on Jan. 6, but said that “the awful events of that day do not justify Cheney or Kinzinger enabling a partisan committee whose real purpose seems to be helping Democrats’ electoral prospects at the cost of potentially ruining innocent people’s lives.” Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
Prosecutors have revealed an inventory of the extensive evidence they intend to introduce in the first trial stemming from the Jan. 6 attack. The evidence against Guy Wesley Reffitt, who is accused of storming the Capitol with a pistol at his waist, includes surveillance videos, police communications, text messages, geolocation data and testimony from a Secret Service agent and the defendant’s own children. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Justice Department has seized over $3.6 billion worth of stolen Bitcoin and arrested a married couple accused of laundering the cryptocurrency that hackers had stolen in 2016 from Hong Kong-based Bitfinex, one of the world’s largest virtual currency exchanges. Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
Officials have said Ilya Lichtenstein and his wife Heather Morgan were charged with conspiring to launder money. The couple are accused of trying to launder 119,754 bitcoin that was stolen from Bitfinex by hackers, and prosecutors have said that the bitcoin was sent to a digital wallet controlled by Lichtenstein. “The case marks the largest single seizure of funds in the Justice Department history, officials said, and is the most high-profile prosecution to emerge from the agency’s newly-announced effort to investigate crimes involving cryptocurrency,” Devlin Barrett reports for the Washington Post.
The House has passed legislation to keep the government funded through to mid-March. The legislation provides a temporary fix to give negotiators time to reach a global agreement on fiscal 2022 spending after weeks of negotiations failed to yield a deal. Siobhan Hughes reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger has pushed back against allegations made by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) that his office was illegally probed by Capitol Police last November. On Tuesday, Nehls alleged on Twitter that Capitol Police had “illegally” investigated his office, and had “photographed confidential legislative products.” “Manger rejected the claim later Tuesday, saying that no investigation had ever been conducted into Nehls or his staff and that an officer was responding to an ‘open and unsecured’ office,” Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
The Air Force has said that it has granted nine service members religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. In its weekly COVID-19 update, the Air Force said that it is still processing 2,556 pending requests for exemptions and 732 pending appeals. So far, it has turned down over 3,200 requests for exemptions and just over 440 appeals. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 77.05 million people and has now killed over 909,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 401.15 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.76 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.