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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.
A coalition of right-wing parties appears to have a narrow lead in Sweden’s election, as vote counting continues. If confirmed, Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson is expected to become prime minister while the anti-immigration, far-right Sweden Democrats would be the biggest right-wing group and gain direct influence on policy for the first time. Reuters reports.
A gun violence epidemic looms large over Sweden’s election, with the Sweden Democrats using the violence to further a longstanding anti-immigrant agenda. The tightly fought election has raised deeper questions about Swedish identity, a diversifying country and a failure to integrate immigrants, especially those who arrived in Sweden during Europe’s migration crisis in 2015. Other European countries like Germany with similar levels of immigration have not experienced the same rise in gun violence, however, fear of losing more voters has led the governing center-left Social Democrats to capitulate to public concerns by adopting tougher policies on crime. Isabella Kwai and Amela Mahovic provide analysis for the New York Times.
European media could be subject to new rules that aim to protect journalism from state influence and snooping, according to a draft E.U. law. The European Media Freedom Act, which is scheduled to be released this week, could give Brussels new tools to strengthen safeguards against state control of public and commercial media through political nominations on oversight boards and covert funding through advertisement. Under the planned new rules, media organizations would have to declare who owns them, either directly or indirectly, and state who their shareholders are. Such clarity is “crucial” for readers and viewers to identify and understand potential conflicts of interest so they can come to well-informed opinions, officials said in the draft. This is a prerequisite “to actively participate in a democracy.” The bill is the European Commission’s response to growing threats to media freedom across Europe, including in Hungary, Poland and Greece. Clothilde Goujard reports for POLITICO.
Canada’s Conservative Party has picked Pierre Poilievre, a politician who backed the protests earlier this year against pandemic restrictions and vaccine mandates, as its leader. Poilievre was declared the winner Saturday, winning 68% from party members voting on the first ballot. Former Conservative Party officials and political analysts say Poilievre’s success lies in his ability to attract people who traditionally aren’t politically engaged, are distrustful of institutions and believe they are falling behind economically. Conservatives are banking that his appeal to financially struggling blue-collar Canadians can return the party to power in the next election. Paul Vieira reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Authorities in Pakistan are scrambling to protect a vital power station supplying electricity to millions of people against a growing threat of flooding, officials said on Monday. Floods from record monsoon rains and glacial melt in the mountainous north have affected 33 million people and killed almost 1,400. Both the government and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have blamed climate change for the extreme weather that led to the flooding, which submerged nearly a third of the nation of 220 million. Syed Raza Hassan reports for Reuters.
Just Security has published a piece by Michael Kugelman titled ‘Long-Term International Climate Assistance to Pakistan is a Hard Sell, but Necessary. Here’s Why.’
An estimated 50 million people worldwide are believed to be victims of forced marriage and forced labor according to a new report by the International Labour Organization, Walk Free and the International Organisation for Migration. This is an increase of 25% from the last estimate in 2016, with the “unprecedented disruption” to employment and education caused by Covid-19, armed conflicts and the climate crisis cited as a key contributing factor. Rhea Mogul reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Ukraine has claimed to have recaptured more than 1,000 square miles in the northeastern Kharkiv region over recent days, handing Moscow one of its biggest setbacks since the invasion began. Ukraine’s military said yesterday that it was recapturing villages in the area around Kupyansk and Izyum, two cities that Russian forces fled Saturday as Ukrainian troops advanced on them. A battlefield map released by Russia’s Defense Ministry yesterday appeared to indicate that Russian forces had vacated all northern parts of the Kharkiv region where Ukraine is continuing to press its counteroffensive and hasn’t claimed to have recaptured. North of Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces also appeared to be pushing toward the border with Russia. Daniel Michaels and James Marson report for the Wall Street Journal.
Russian attacks on critical infrastructure knocked out power in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday night. Officials condemned the attacks as an apparent act of revenge for Kyiv’s recent gains in the region, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling the strikes “deliberate and cynical.” Water and electricity were mostly restored by Monday morning, Ukraine’s Ukrinform news agency reported. Carly Olson reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukraine has begun turning off the last working reactor at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The step, which has been urged for weeks by the U.S. and the International Atomic Energy Agency, was made after Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, Energoatom, concluded that keeping it running could result in a nuclear meltdown. The plant, at full operation, provided about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity supply. And there is a fear that once shut down, Russia might seek to find ways to connect it to Russia’s grid, instead of Ukraine’s. Marc Santora and David E. Sanger report for the New York Times.
According to Russia, a senior Chinese official told a group of Russian lawmakers on Friday that China “understands and supports Russia” particularly “on the situation in Ukraine.” “We fully understand the necessity of all the measures taken by Russia aimed at protecting its key interests; we are providing our assistance,” Li Zhanshu, the third-ranking member of the Communist Party of China, was reported as saying, offering China’s strongest endorsement of Russian leadership. Li addressed the lawmakers in Moscow, after attending an economic forum in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Austin Ramzy reports for the New York Times.
Russians began voting on Friday in the first nationwide elections since the invasion of Ukraine. The vote for local and regional governments across the country includes the first municipal-level elections in the capital of Moscow since 2017, when the opposition won a sizable minority of seats despite the Kremlin’s dominance of the political system and accusations of fraud. But the ranks of the opposition have since been depleted even further. Many anti-government politicians have fled the country while others have been arrested or blocked from running by the election commissions. “Real competition this year is at one of the lowest rates in a decade,” according to an assessment by a Russian independent elections watchdog, Golos. Valarie Hopkins, Anton Troianovski and Alina Lobzina report for the New York Times.
Retired Gen. Frank McKenzie yesterday warned of reduced intelligence capability in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of ground troops last year. “I think that we have a very, very limited ability to see into Afghanistan right now,” McKenzie said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I’ve said I think we’ve got certainly less than 2 or 3 per cent of the intelligence capability that we had before we withdrew,” he added. McKenzie, who led U.S. Central Command and retired from active duty in April, said he had advised President Biden to maintain 2,500 troops in the country. Zach Schonfeld reports for The Hill.
The Justice Department and lawyers for former President Trump have failed to agree on who could be appointed as a special master to sift through documents seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month. In an eight-page joint filing that listed far more points of disagreement than of consensus, the two sides also exhibited sharply divergent visions for what the arbiter would do. Trump’s lawyers argued that the arbiter should look at all the documents seized in the search and filter out anything potentially subject to attorney-client or executive privilege. By contrast, the government argued that the master should look only at unclassified documents and should not adjudicate whether anything was subject to executive privilege. Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who ordered the parties to produce a list of qualified candidates by midnight Friday, will ultimately decide who will be tapped for the job. She will also set the parameters of the review. Charlie Savage, Alan Feuer, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
A congressional briefing to get a damage assessment of the classified documents seized during the Mar-a-Lago raid is on hold after Judge Cannon granted Trump’s request last week to appoint a special master. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) told CBS “Face the Nation” moderate Margaret Brennan that “there is some question because of the special master appointment by the judge in Florida whether they can brief at this point.” “We need clarification on that from that judge as quickly as possible because it is essential that the intelligence community, leadership at least, get a briefing of the damage assessment,” he said. Rema Rehman reports for The Hill.
Judge Cannon’s decision to grant Trump’s request for a special master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago, has placed her under increased scrutiny, raising questions about the appointment of judges with limited experience. Former senator Russ Feingold — who leads the liberal American Constitution Society, which closely tracks judicial nominations — said Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate sought out judicial nominees like Cannon, showing an “overwhelming preference” for individuals often lacking the experience “previously considered necessary to sit on the bench.” “We’re now seeing the impact of this, with an alarming disregard of the rule of law by some,” he said in a statement. Ann E. Marimow provides analysis for the Washington Post.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has returned to work to plan the new round of televised hearings expected later this month. One focus of the hearings is likely to be the concerns among cabinet officials about then-President Trump’s actions during and after the attack, including any discussions about possibly using the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to try to remove him from power. The House panel, which has seven Democrats and two Republicans, hasn’t said when the Jan. 6 hearings will restart or how many there will be. The committee is expected to put out an interim report on its investigation soon, with a final report due before the end of the year. There could be additional hearings later in the year, committee members have said. Scott Patterson reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Just Security has published a Citizens Guide to January 6th Hearings by Ryan Goodman and Sang-Min Kim. The guide offers a comprehensive account of the committee’s findings to date and other publicly available information.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Yesterday marked the 21st anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2022, with commemoration ceremonies taking place in lower Manhattan, Shanksville, PA, and the Pentagon. President Biden attended the memorial service at the Pentagon which was struck at 9:37 a.m. by a hijacked American Airlines flight in 2001. Addressing the service Biden said: “to all the families and loved ones who still feel the ache, that missing piece of your soul, I’m honored to be here with you once more to share this solemn rite of remembrance and reflect on all that was lost in the fire and ash on that terrible September morning, and all that we found in ourselves to respond.” First lady Jill Biden attended the service in Shanksville, PA, while Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband attended the service in New York. Ginger Adams Otis and Alex Leary report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Washington Post reports on ex-professor, David Clements, who is traveling the country trying to persuade local leaders to withhold certification of election results. Clements, who has no formal training or background in election systems, has spent months crisscrossing the back roads in his home state of New Mexico, telling audiences of breached voting machines, voter roll manipulation and ballot stuffing that he falsely claims cost former-President Trump victory in 2020. Moreover, his words are having an impact: In June, officials in three New Mexico counties where he made his case either delayed or voted against certification of this year’s primary results, even though there was no credible evidence of problems with the vote. Now, Clements has taken his message nationwide, traveling to small towns in more than a dozen states, with a focus, he said, on places that are “forgotten and abandoned and overlooked.” Reporting by Annie Gowen.
COVID-19 has infected over 95.25 million people and has now killed over 1.05 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 608.662million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.51 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.