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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.
INFLATION REDUCTION ACT
The Senate yesterday passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which, if enacted, would bring about the largest federal investment in history to counter global warming, as well as reduce prescription drug costs. The package pledges to contribute $370 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below their 2005 levels by the end of this decade. By allowing Medicare to negotiate the prices of medicines directly and capping the amount that recipients pay out of pocket for drugs each year at $2,000, the bill also achieves the long-term goal of lowering prescription drug costs. The bill is expected to generate enough revenue to cover the new spending through adjustments to the federal tax code, and Democrats say it will raise an additional $300 billion to reduce the annual deficit over the next decade. Tony Romm reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Ukraine and Russia traded blame over attacks on a nuclear power plant. Ukrainian officials accused the Russian army of firing rockets that landed on the grounds of a nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya on Aug. 6. Russia has controlled the region where the plant is located since March, and Ukraine accused the Russians of striking the plant in order to disrupt the flow of electricity to the rest of the country. In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that an attack on the nuclear facility posed an enormous risk to the entire continent. Matthew Mpoke Bigg reports for the New York Times.
Zelenskyy criticized Russian efforts to hold referendums in the occupied territory of Luhansk. In his nightly address, Zelenskyy said that so-called “pseudo-referendums” would represent a significant obstacle to a negotiated cessation of hostilities in the future. The Washington Post reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in South Africa yesterday, seeking to counter Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s recent trip to the continent. During Lavrov’s trip, he sought to shift blame for the food crisis in Africa away from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Blinken’s visit comes after two other senior American diplomats — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power — traveled to Africa to push back against Russia’s growing influence in the region. Ruth Maclean reports for the New York Times.
NATO concerns continue to mount over the security of a sliver of Polish territory between Belarus and Kaliningrad as Russian aggression grows. Suwalki, a Polish town near the Lithuanian border with a population of 70,000, lies along a 45 kilometer stretch of Polish land that divides Belarus — a staunch Russian ally — and Kaliningrad, a chunk of Russia disconnected from the mainland following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Western strategists have become increasingly concerned that Russia might resort to force to connect the two. Daniel Michaels reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said today that the risk of nuclear confrontation has returned after decades of stability. In a speech given in Tokyo after attending the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony over the weekend, he called on nuclear states to commit to no first use of nuclear weapons. He further criticized Russia for its shelling of the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, calling the action “suicidal.” Reuters reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The U.S. Secret Service has provided the House January 6th Select Committee a listing of agency-issued cell phone numbers from agents who were based in Washington, D.C., during the time period that the committee is investigating, allowing it to now determine which agents’ call records to review. The House committee can either directly request the agents’ call records or issue subpoenas to the agents’ cell phone providers. The Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security have faced serious criticism in recent weeks for wiping text messages belonging to agents on and around Jan. 6, 2021. ABC News contributor Don Mihalek, a retired senior Secret Service agent, suggested that the agency’s decision to provide personal device information to the Select Committee could prompt legal challenges. Josh Margolin reports for ABC News.
Doug Mastriano, the Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee, has threatened to withdraw from a scheduled interview with the Select Committee, unless Mastriano’s lawyer Tim Parlatore can record the session. Although Parlatore alleged that Mastriano’s move was to minimize the “risk of election interference,” the Select Committee is likely to reject this condition. Parlatore told POLITICO that he and the committee agreed for Mastriano to sit for a voluntary interview instead of a compelled deposition, but now the committee is demanding a compelled deposition. The Select Committee investigators have alleged Mastriano participated in efforts to recruit fake electors in Pennsylvania and was in the crowd outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 when the mob became violent. Betsy Woodruff Swan reports for POLITICO.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting chief of staff from January 2019 to March 2020, stated that his interview last week with the Select Committee focused on the day-to-day operations and his own communications surrounding the 2020 election and the Capitol riot. Mulvaney told CNN’s “New Day” morning show that the structure of the panel, consisting of seven Democrats and two Republicans who House Speaker Nancy Pelso had appointed, makes the structure “politically biased.” However, he stated that the obtained information from Republicans like himself has been “good and sound.” Mulvaney also interpreted the committee’s questions about the day-to-day operations of the White House as an attempt to probe the influence and access of outside advisers to Trump. Mohar Chatterjee reports for POLITICO.
Israeli and Palestinian militants in Gaza agreed to a cease-fire Sunday evening, ending a three-day conflict that killed more than 44 Palestinians, including militant commanders and 15 children, and injured many Israelis who ran for cover from Palestinian rockets and who got hurt by shrapnel. The conflict began on Friday afternoon when Israel launched what it said were preemptive airstrikes. Gaza’s second-largest militia, Islamic Jihad, spearheaded the latest fight against Israel and suffered significant damage with the death of two key leaders and the destruction of many military bases and weapons factories. Hamas, the militia that has control of Gaza since 2007, chose to stay on the sidelines of this skirmish. Islamic Jihad stated that Egyptian officials, who mediated negotiations, provided it with assurances that Egypt would lobby Israel to release two leading members of the group, Bassem Saadi and Khalil Awawdeh. Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner report for the New York Times.
China’s military announced on Monday more incoming military drills, a day after the scheduled end of its largest military exercises around Taiwan. China’s Eastern Theater Command stated it would conduct joint drills, focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations. Wu Qian, China’s defense ministry spokesperson, said in an online post, “The current tense situation in the Taiwan Strait is entirely provoked and created by the U.S. side on its own initiative, and the U.S. side must bear full responsibility and serious consequences for this.” Last Friday, Beijing halted formal talks on the theater-level commands, defense policy coordination, and military maritime coordination, a move that Washington described as an irresponsible overreaction. Sarah Wu reports for Reuters.
North Korea has been testing “nuclear trigger devices,” and its preparations for another nuclear test were at a final stage in June, according to a recent U.N. experts report seen by the Associated Press. The panel of experts stated that Pyongyang has cleared the way for additional nuclear tests with new preparations at its northeastern test sites, while continuing development of its capability to produce a key ingredient for nuclear weapons. This would be Pyongyang’s seventh nuclear test since 2006. The panel also reported that North Korea continues to violate U.N. sanctions with the illicit importation of oil and export of coal, and has conducted two major hacks that yielded cryptocurrency assets amounting to “hundreds of millions of dollars.” Edith M. Lederer reports for the Associated Press.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought to reassure U.S. allies in Asia after days of live-fire Chinese military exercises around Taiwan. In an Aug. 5 speech in Cambodia, Blinken told a group of his regional counterparts that Beijing had sought to intimidate not only Taiwan, but also its neighbors. He said the United States will “stick by our allies and partners, and work with and through regional organizations to enable friends in the region to make their own decisions free from coercion.” Edward Wong and Damien Cave report for the New York Times.
Iran and the United States have come close to completing negotiations on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, but whether Tehran will accept the final deal is unknown. The European Union’s Enrique Mora, the coordinator of the talks, stated that the final text could be closed within hours. An open question still to be resolved is whether Tehran will give up its recent demand that the U.N. atomic agency close its three-year probe into undeclared nuclear material found in the country . Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, stated that “the result depends whether the U.S. wants an agreement to take place and whether it will show necessary flexibility and realism in practice.” Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected more than 92.1 million people and has killed 1.03 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been more than 584.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.4 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine rollout 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 theWashington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.