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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 – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. is warming to the idea of providing Kyiv with the weapons it needs to target Crimea, according to several U.S. officials. Whilst the U.S. has always held that Crimea is still part of Ukraine, the Biden administration has refused to assist Kyiv in striking the Russian sanctuary for fear of escalating the conflict. However, the administration has now come to believe that if the Ukrainian military can show Russia that its control of Crimea can be threatened, that would strengthen Kyiv’s position in future negotiations. Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.
The U.S. is set to finalize a huge military package for Ukraine totaling approximately $2.5 billion worth of weaponry. The package will include, for the first time, Stryker combat vehicles, two sources said. The inclusion of Strykers combined with more armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles is a significant escalation in the armored vehicles the U.S. has committed to Ukraine. Alex Marquardt and Oren Liebermann report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Poland would supply Ukraine with German-made Leopard tanks without Germany’s consent, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said yesterday. Poland has offered 14 Leopard tanks but wants to donate them in concert with other countries willing to hand over some of theirs, such as Finland. However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is unwilling to provide the permission needed to send these tanks, unless the U.S. agrees to send American-made Abrams battle tanks. Drew Hinshaw reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet today with the German defense minister before convening a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group tomorrow to discuss aid for Ukraine. Austin plans to press Germany to allow their Leopard tanks to be transferred to Ukraine, a senior defense official said. “We are very optimistic that we will make progress on this requirement by the end of the week,” the official added. Michael Callahan reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The head of Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group has claimed that its fighters have captured the village of Klishchiivka, southwest of the key city of Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces had deemed the village crucial to the defense of Bakhmut because it lies on high ground directly east of roads into the city. The loss of the village could endanger Ukraine’s ability to hold on to Bukhmut by severing supply lines to the city. Ivan Nechepurenko and Thomas Gibbons-Neff report for the New York Times.
Dozens of current and former Russian officials signed an open letter yesterday denouncing the treatment of detained Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. The letter, which was addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was signed by Russian deputies and local lawmakers representing cities and regions across the country, who said that despite the federal government’s clampdown on free speech, support and concern for Navalny, whose health has deteriorated in prison, remained. Anushka Patil and Ivan Nechepurenko report for the New York Times.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Putin, warned NATO that the defeat of Russia in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear war. “The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war,” Medvedev said in a post on Telegram. “Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends,” he added. Guy Faulconbridge and Felix Light report for Reuters.
Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal has urged the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog to impose sanctions on Russia’s state nuclear firms. The call from Shymyhal comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency stations experts at Ukraine’s nuclear power plants to provide stability in the face of Russian attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure. Matthew Mpoke Bigg reports for the New York Times.
A Russian citizen who ran a cryptocurrency exchange allegedly used by criminals has been arrested in Miami and charged with evading U.S. money laundering safeguards. Anatoly Legkodymov oversaw the Hong Kong-based exchange which knowingly enabled criminals “to profit from their wrongdoing, including ransomware and drug trafficking,” federal prosecutors said. Glenn Thrush reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. Coast Guard says it is tracking a suspected Russian spy ship off the coast of Hawaii in international waters. According to a news release, while the situation is not unusual, the Coast Guard is tracking the ship closely and “continues to coordinate with Department of Defense partners, providing updates to foreign vessel movements and activities and to appropriately meet presence with presence to encourage international maritime norms.” Mary Kay Mallonee and Michael Callahan report for CNN.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has issued a warning over the publication of ex-prosecutor Mark Pomerantz’s book “People vs. Donald Trump.” In a letter to the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, the district attorney’s office said that the publication of the book could compromise its continuing investigation of former President Trump. The letter also said that Pomerantz, who resigned last February after District Attorney Alvin Bragg declined to bring charges against the former president, has neither sought nor received permission from the office to make disclosures related to ongoing matters. Corinne Ramey and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg report for the Wall Street Journal.
In mid-November, following the discovery of classified documents in President Biden’s former office, Biden’s personal attorney Bob Bauer was contacted by a senior official in the Justice Department’s national security division. In the letter, which has not previously been reported, the official specifically asks that Biden’s legal team secure the materials from the office at the Penn Biden Center and refrain from further reviewing them or other relevant documents that might be stored at different locations. The official also requests that Bauer give the Justice Department formal consent to review the materials and provide a list of other locations where relevant material may be stored. The letter, with its implications that the Justice Department would take a lead in the inquiry, paved the way for Biden’s team to adopt “a strategy of caution and deference,” Matt Viser, Tyler Pager, Carol D. Leonnig and Yasmeen Abutaleb report for the Washington Post.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden yesterday announced that she no longer has “enough in the tank” to lead and would be stepping down from the post no later than early February. The shock announcement comes as polling indicates a difficult path to re-election for the ruling Labour Party in next October’s elections. The party will vote to find a replacement leader on Sunday. Tiffanie Turnbull reports for BBC News.
Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday ruled that Aryeh Deri, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was not fit to serve as a senior minister. Ten of the 11 judges on the panel ruled against the appointment of Deri, the leader of an ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party, on the grounds of “extreme unreasonability,” primarily due to his recent conviction for tax fraud. Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times.
Guatemalan authorities have issued several recent arrest warrants and brought criminal charges against more former anti-corruption judges and prosecutors. They are also investigating possible criminal offenses by former U.N. corruption investigator Iván Velásquez, who is now serving as Colombia’s defense minister. These moves have fueled concerns among the U.S. government and rights groups about democratic backsliding in the country – more than 30 Guatemalan anti-corruption officials have left the country under threat of arrest over the past two years. Santiago Pérez and Juan Carlos Rivera report for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 101.858 million people and has now killed over 1.10 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 668.046 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.73 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
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.