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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.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
President Biden has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call that invading Ukraine would result in “swift and severe” costs to Russia, diminish Russia’s standing and cause “widespread human suffering,” the White House has said. “After the call, one official said that the situation remained as urgent as it was on Friday when the administration said Russia could invade at any moment and Jake Sullivan, the president’s National Security Advisor, warned Americans to leave the country in the coming days. White House officials said that Biden discussed a range of diplomatic options with Putin, but that it was unclear if Putin was persuaded to take that route,” Andrew E. Kramer, Anton Troianovski, Katie Rogers and Lara Jakes report for the New York Times.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleb has called for a meeting with Russia and other members of a key European security group, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Kuleb said that Russia had ignored formal requests to explain the build-up of troops and the next step was requesting a meeting within the next 48 hours for transparency about Russia’s plans. BBC News reports.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has maintained an optimistic tone, trying to avert panic as the Ukraine crisis escalates. During a phone call on Sunday with Biden, Zelensky invited Biden to visit Kyiv so that Biden could “contribute to de-escalation” with his presence in Kyiv, adding that the Ukrainian capital was “safe and under reliable protection.” Andrew E. Kramer reports for the New York Times.
During their call, Zelensky asked Biden for concrete guarantees of Ukraine’s security, saying European security is impossible without the security of Ukraine, according to a statement from Zelensky’s office. Alex Leary and Laurence Norman report for the Wall Street Journal.
Biden told Zelensky during their call yesterday that the U.S. would respond “swiftly and decisively together with its Allies and partners, to any further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” according to a White House readout of the call. Natasha Bertrand, Jasmine Wright, Donald Judd and Matthew Chance report for CNN.
Sullivan said yesterday that U.S. officials still believe that Putin could invade Ukraine at any time, but hope that diplomacy can prevail. During an interview Sullivan said that Russian forces are positioned so that an invasion could take place before the end of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which end on Feb. 20. Donald Judd reports for CNN.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ahead of Biden’s call with Putin “to discuss acute and shared concerns that Russia may be considering launching further military aggression against Ukraine in the coming days,” according to a State Department readout of the conversation. The statement added that Blinken “made clear that a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis remained open, but it would require Moscow to de-escalate and engage in good-faith discussions.” Susan Kroll and Rhoda Kwan report for NBC News.
European leaders are joining the U.S. in the race to defuse the Ukraine crisis amid warnings of an imminent Russian invasion. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Kyiv on Monday and Moscow on Tuesday. “Vice President Harris will also hold a series of in-person meetings with U.S. allies and partners at the Munich Security Conference later this week…The Kremlin has said it won’t send any officials to the conference,” Rachel Pannett reports for the Washington Post.
Russia will not take part in a meeting of the OSCE scheduled for later today, the RIA news agency has cited Russian diplomat Konstantin Gavrilov as saying. The OSCE meeting was requested by the Baltic states concerning “unusual military activity” in Belarus. Reuters reports.
Just Security has published an essay by Ambassador Daniel Fried providing analysis on ‘In 11th-Hour Diplomacy, US and Europe Try to Stop Putin From Escalating War on Ukraine’.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The U.S. is evacuating most of its embassy staff in Kyiv amid fears that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent. The State Department in a travel advisory early Saturday said that it had “ordered the departure of most U.S. direct hire employees from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action.” Susan Kroll and Rhoda Kwan report for NBC News.
By today all diplomatic personnel will have left the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, according to State Department officials, leaving only security personnel in Kyiv. A “core staff” of diplomatic and consular officials have set up operations in the city of Lviv, which is considered safer because it lies farther west. Alex Leary and Laurence Norman report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered the 160 U.S. troops in Ukraine to leave the country and reposition elsewhere. In November last year, 160 members of the Florida National Guard, assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, were deployed to Ukraine to train with local forces. Amanda Macias reports for CNBC.
U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey also said that British troops in Ukraine would leave over the weekend, saying that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine “at no notice.” Dan Sabbagh and Clea Skopeliti report for the Guardian.
The threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is shaking up a fragile global oil market, pushing prices closer to $100 a barrel. “Demand for oil has outpaced production growth as economies slowly rebound from the worst of the pandemic, leaving the market with a small buffer to mitigate an oil-supply shock. Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer, and if a conflict in Ukraine leads to a substantial decrease in the flow of Russian barrels to market, it would be perilous for the tight balance between supply and demand,” Christopher M. Matthews and Collin Eaton report for the Wall Street Journal.
Ukraine has insisted that its airspace is open, despite warnings from the U.S. that a Russian invasion could happen at any time and the suspension of some commercial flights to the country. “Information about the closure of Ukraine’s airspace is not true,” the Ukrainian ministry of infrastructure said in a statement on Sunday, “Closure of airspace is a sovereign right of Ukraine, no decision has been made.” Emma Bubola reports for the New York Times.
A senior Russian military official has said that Russia is ready to open fire on foreign ships and submarines that illegally enter its territorial waters, the Interfax news agency reported. Stanislav Gadzhimagomedov, the deputy head of the main operational department of the General Staff, added that any such decision would, however, be taken only at the “highest level.” Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan on Saturday presented a unified front against North Korea’s recent missile tests. “I think it is clear to all of us that the D.P.R.K. [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is in a phase of provocation,” Blinken said at a news conference in Honolulu after an afternoon of meetings, adding that the three countries would “continue to hold the D.P.R.K. accountable.” Edward Wong reports for the New York Times.
Blinken sought to make clear that the U.S. sees a “long-term future in the Indo-Pacific” during the first U.S. Secretary of State visit to Fiji in 36 years. Blinken said that the U.S. would soon open an embassy in the Solomon Islands, and pledged more U.S. help on climate change, COVID-19 vaccines and illegal fishing. Edward Wong and Damien Cave report for the New York Times.
Declassified U.S. military analyses of the exit from Afghanistan have detailed repeated instances of friction between U.S. troops and diplomats before and during the evacuation from Kabul. The analyses in two “after action” reports conclude that indecisiveness among officials in President Biden’s administration and initial reluctance to shutter the embassy in Kabul caused chaos and put the overall mission at “increased risk.” “The assessments appear to affirm separate accounts of senior U.S. commanders frustrated by what they characterized as sloppy, misguided management of the withdrawal,” Dan Lamothe reports for the Washington Post.
Afghan diplomats in the U.S. are grappling with loss of pay and the possibility of being deported. Several dozen diplomats assigned to Afghanistan’s embassies in the U.S. have not been paid since October, officials said, when American banks froze accounts to prevent the Taliban from gaining access to the embassy’s funds. However, the envoys are keeping the embassy open — continuing diplomatic work but also preserving the diplomatic status that allows them to remain in the United States. Lara Jakes and Carlotta Gall report for the New York Times.
Canadian law enforcement have reopened the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit to Windsor that protesters had been blockading for nearly a week. However, in Ottawa hundreds of truckers have entered their third week of occupation in the area around Parliament Hill. Jim Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, has revealed that back-channel negotiations are underway with the truckers’ leadership to remove their convoy from residential neighborhoods, and for the protesters to be less disruptive, among other measures. Sarah Maslin Nir reports for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The chief justice of Nepal’s Supreme Court has been suspended after lawmakers voted to impeach him on accusations that he removed Nepal’s former prime minister and reinstated Parliament in exchange for political jobs for relatives. Nepal’s “government has struggled to function for more than a year, with the previous prime minister, K.P. Sharma Oli, twice dissolving Parliament, citing a dispute over his coalition’s power-sharing agreement,” Bhadra Sharma reports for the New York Times.
The U.K.’s ownership of the Chagos archipelago has been formally challenged after the Mauritian ambassador to the U.N., Jagdish Koonjul, raised his country’s flag above the atoll of Peros Banhos. The visit to Peros Banhos was part of the first visit unsupervised by the U.K. to the archipelago as part of a Mauritian expedition to survey reefs. Koonjul said: “We are performing the symbolic act of raising the flag as the British have done so many times to establish colonies. We, however, are reclaiming what has always been our own.” A metal plaque secured beneath the flagpole said: “visit of the Mauritius delegation to Peros Banhos archipelago, Republic of Mauritius, in the context of the scientific survey of Blenheim Reef.” Owen Bowcott and Bruno Rinvolucri report for the Guardian.
Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria is manipulating aid and controlling its distribution, a U.S. think tank has said. Based on interviews with U.N. officials and humanitarian workers in Syria, the Rescuing Aid in Syria report has been released by the Centre for Strategic & International Studies. The report says that the Assad regime has such a tight grip on aid groups’ access to Syria that it has become normalized for relatives of senior regime officials to have jobs within U.N. bodies, and gives the example of one militia group having a contract to rebuild the city it destroyed. Tessa Fox reports for the Guardian.
Police in Paris have killed a man who attacked them with a knife at Gare du Nord station. “The person who attacked them died on the spot,” Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told RMC radio. “The police used their firearms, thus eliminating all danger, both for themselves and for travelers,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote in a tweet. Al Jazeera reports.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Rudy Giuliani has been engaging through his lawyer with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the scope of the committee’s subpoena and whether Giuliani may be able to comply with some requests. Giuliani was among four witnesses scheduled to appear before the committee last Tuesday who had their depositions rescheduled. “Giuliani’s appearance was rescheduled at his request. He remains under subpoena and the Select Committee expects him to cooperate fully,” a committee aide said. Sarah Fortinsky, Paula Reid and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Opening arguments are expected today in the hate-crimes prosecution of three White men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery. The landmark federal case is focused on whether the defendants were motivated to chase and threaten Arbery because he was Black. Two of the three defendants have already been convicted of murder in Georgia state court and sentenced to life in prison. David Nakamura and Hannah Knowles report for the Washington Post.
An American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., made a rapid emergency landing in Kansas City, Mo., yesterday afternoon after a passenger tried to break into the cockpit and then attempted to open an exit door. The FBI said in a statement that the passenger was taken into custody after “interfering with the flight crew.” Christine Chung and Alyssa Lukpat report for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 77.74 million people and has now killed over 919,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 411.97 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.81 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.