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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 is moving to reinforce its stalled assault on Ukraine, supporting a new offensive in the eastern part of the country and reinforcing against a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south. Experts at the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., have suggested that these new volunteer battalions will not shift the military balance in Ukraine, despite their advanced modern weaponry. Matthew Luxmoore reports for the Wall Street Journal.
North Korea is considering sending workers to disputed regions in eastern Ukraine. Pyongyang wants to provide laborers in the Russia-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine—Donetsk and Luhansk—giving North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s regime a much-needed source of overseas income. Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to provide allies with advanced weapons and military equipment, just as North Korea is pursuing new assets like hypersonic missiles. The tightening Moscow-Pyongyang alliance extends to the highest levels. Earlier this month, the leaders of Russia and North Korea exchanged letters, according to state media in Pyongyang. The Wall Street Journal reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – ZAPORIZHZHIA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
A team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency heads to inspect the Zaporizhzhia facility after weeks of talks. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has dispatched a team to assess the plant after periodic shelling caused concerns of fire, hydrogen leaks, and sputtering of radioactive substances. Negotiations to access the site have dragged on for weeks, with Moscow reportedly insisting that inspectors travel through Russian territory to access the plant. Ukraine objected to that because it would have underscored Russian control over the facility, which provides 20 percent of Ukraine’s electricity. The U.N. team is expected to arrive at the plant later this week. The New York Times reports.
Russia and Ukraine continue to blame each other for shelling near the Zaporizhzhia Power Plant. Periodic shelling near the plant has led to concerns of fire, hydrogen leaks, and sputtering of radioactive substances. The U.N. atomic energy agency is trying to send a team to inspect and secure the plant. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has stated that it is essential for IAEA representatives to get to the plant as soon as possible and to help keep it “under permanent Ukrainian control.” The Associated Press reports.
Late Friday, Russia blocked agreement on the final document of a conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The NPT review occurs every five years but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The dynamics of the conference changed when Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022. Many countries expressed concern that Russia was undermining peace and security “by waging its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine.” The Associated Press reports.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – 2020 ELECTION PROBES
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is looking into whether a Trump ally breached voting equipment. Willis also announced on Thursday a petition seeking to have attorney Sidney Powell testify before a special grand jury. The Associated Press reports.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – MAR-A-LAGO SEARCH
On Friday, a redacted version of the 32-page affidavit laying out the FBI’s rationale for searching the Mar-a-Lago property was released. The affidavit argued it was necessary to search Mar-a-Lago due to the highly sensitive material found in the boxes. It also makes clear that the Justice Department previously had raised concerns to former President Donald Trump about the handling and storage of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. The Associated Press reports.
Judge Aileen Cannon has indicated that she will appoint a special master to review materials seized from Mar-a-Lago by federal agents. It is unclear who will fill this role and what the role will entail. Trump’s legal team had filed a request for the court to appoint a special master in a separate venue from Judge Bruce Reinhart, who authorized the search warrant. His lawyers argued the special master should sift through the seized material and separate out those documents shielded because of executive privilege. Government officials have been reviewing the documents for the last three weeks, making it unclear whether a special master will have substantial impact. The Washington Post reports.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Biden administration will nominate an ambassador-at-large for the Arctic in response to geopolitical developments. Russia’s reopening of hundreds of military sites in the region poses a challenge to NATO, said its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. China has also declared its intention to build a “Polar Silk Road” and acquire the Arctic’s mineral resources and shipping routes. Arshad Mohammed reports for Reuters.
Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, has urged residents to leave the city amidst warnings of dire floods. Authorities expect Missippi’s Pearl River to reach 36 feet and crest between late Sunday and Monday evening. The state’s governor, Tate Reeves, declared a state of emergency on Saturday. Nouran Salahieh and Paradise Afshar report for CNN.
NASA will launch its most powerful rocket ever on Monday morning. The unmanned mission, named Artemis I, consists of a Space Launch System rocket and a spacecraft that will complete an orbit around the moon. This test ultimately aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface. Micah Maidenberg reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A senior Iranian lawmaker indicated on Saturday that Iran and the parties to the Vienna talks were nearing a new nuclear deal but that a new round of meetings might be required. However, Fadahossein Maleki, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, warned that the United States must show more seriousness about nuclear talks. The Global Times reports.
The U.S. sailed two warships through the Taiwan Strait for the first time since House Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. China has conducted many military exercises in the strait since Pelosi’s visit. The White House National Security Council spokesman said that the transit sent the clear message that “the United States Navy, the United States military will sail, fly and operate wherever international law permits us to do so.” The Associated Press reports.
U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday. Senator Blackburn reaffirmed shared values between the new nations and “looked forward to continuing to support Taiwan as they push forward as an independent nation.” The Associated Press reports.
The U.S. will return $23 million in funds stolen by former Nigerian leader Sani Abacha. Abacha ruled Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998, during which time he took an estimated $5 billion of public money. U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard said the cash was in British accounts but was identified and frozen by U.S. officials. Including this latest deal, the United States had agreed to repatriate more than $334.7 million linked to Abacha. CNN reports.
More than 1,000 have died in Pakistan as the country faces monsoon floods. Certain provinces, including Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh, remain submerged. Pakistan has experienced precipitation levels more than 600 percent higher than average, destroying farmland and homes. “Now the monster monsoon of the decade is wreaking non-stop havoc throughout the country,” Pakistan’s top climate official, Sherry Rehman, said. Al Jazeera reports.
Militia fighting in the Libyan capital have killed more than 30 people, ending a stretch of relative calm. Fighting broke out between militias loyal to the Tripoli-based government and armed groups allied with a rival administration. The fighting took place in a densely populated city center and involved heavy artillery. The Associated Press reports.
An Ethiopian government airstrike hit a kindergarten, killing several children. The strike occurred two days after fighting broke out on the southeastern border of Tigray. The New York Times reports.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced on Saturday that EuroPride, an annual weeklong gay pride event, would be cancelled. President Vucic cited worries of anti-gay protesters disrupting the festival and tensions with Kosovo, among others concerns. Organizers have criticized the decision and have stated that they will go ahead with the event as planned. The New York Times reports.
Negotiations for a United Nations treaty to protect marine life on the high seas failed after the fifth round of talks ended in impasse. The proposed treaty would set rules for protecting biodiversity in the two-thirds of the world’s ocean outside national jurisdictions. Talks will resume next year unless a special emergency session is called. The Associated Press reports.
Ex-President for Angola Jose Eduardo dos Santos was mourned at a state funeral on Sunday. His death had sparked controversy when his daughter did not wish to have the funeral in Angola. His funeral comes amid tensions following a recent national election where the opposition party, Unita, rejected the preliminary results form the National Electoral Commission when it was expected the governing party, MPLA, would return to power. The BBC reports.
The U.S. will end its free at-home COVID-19 test program on Friday, September 2. The initiative, which provided American households with up to sixteen free tests, will conclude because of a lack of federal funding and an effort to prepare for future case surges. “We have had to make impossible choices about which tools and programs to invest in – and which ones we must downsize, pause, or end all together,” said a White House official in regards to the program. Nadia Kounang and Donald Judd report for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 94.2 million people and has now killed over 1.04 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 601.007 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.48 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 the Washington Post.