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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. has intelligence that the Chinese government is considering providing Russia with 100 drones and other lethal weapons for use in the war in Ukraine. Chinese drone manufacturer Xi’an Bingo has reportedly agreed to manufacture and test 100 ZT-180 drones before delivering them to the Russian Defense Ministry by April 2023. Senior U.S. officials, however, have said there is currently no evidence that China has made any weapons shipments to Russia. Courtney Weaver reports for the Financial Times.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan yesterday warned that China would face “real costs” if it went forward with providing lethal aid to Russia. He added that in diplomatic conversations with China, the U.S. is “not just making direct threats. We’re just laying out both the stakes and the consequences, how things would unfold. And we are doing that clearly and specifically behind closed doors.” Jasmine Wright and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.
The U.S. is not currently considering sending F-16 warplanes to Ukraine, Sullivan said yesterday. Expanding on similar comments made by President Biden on Friday, Sullivan said that the U.S. was focused on providing Ukraine with what its needs “for the immediate phase of the war that we’re in.” This includes “tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, artillery, tactical air defense systems,” Sullivan said, adding that “F-16s are a question for a later time.” Kelly Garrity reports for POLITICO.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday called on the international community not to let Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crimes “become our new normal.” In his remarks at the U.N. Security Council, on the anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine, Blinken stressed the need for members of the council, which includes Russian and China, to stand for “the basic principles” of international order. Durable peace requires that the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence be respected, he added. Jennifer Hanlser reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Belarusian anti-government organization B.Y.P.O.L. claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a Russian A-50 surveillance aircraft at an airfield near the Belarus capital of Minsk, yesterday. The attack which was not confirmed by either Russia or Belarus was reported in Polish media and on the organization’s Telegram channel. While Belarus has not formally taken part in the war in Ukraine, Russian troops are stationed in the territory and engage in joint training exercises. There have been several acts of sabotage by anti-government activists in Belarus, particularly targeting the rail network. Reuters reports.
The Group of 20 (G20) finance meeting in India on Saturday ended in discord after Russia and China refused to endorse a statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rejecting the use of nuclear weapons. Instead, a summary and outcome document backed by delegates from 17 of the group’s 20 members was issued by India, which has the G20 presidency. The summary deplored Russia’s war on Ukraine and demanded Russia’s “complete and unconditional” withdrawal from Ukrainian territory. Russia and China also refused to endorse this summary. Jonathan Wheatley reports for the Financial Times.
Canada will deliver more military hardware, including four more Leopard 2 battle tanks, to Ukraine said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday. Canada is also imposing new sanctions relating to Russia. The new sanctions target 129 individuals and 63 entities, including the Russian deputy prime minister, and will prohibit the export of chemicals used in Russian electronics manufacturing. Other G7 members also unveiled similar measures. Ismail Shakil and Steve Scherer report for Reuters.
Russia’s struggles to seize territory in Ukraine have likely fueled doubts by Chinese leader Xi Jinping that China’s military could successfully invade Taiwan. This is according to CIA director William Burns. In an interview yesterday Burns said that the U.S. continued to take the threat of a Chinese invasion seriously, adding that Xi wants to be ready to stage an invasion by 2027. Dustin Volz reports for the Wall Street Journal.
China accused the U.S. of “endangering” peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait after a U.S. military plane flew through the sensitive waterway earlier today. The Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said its forces closely monitored the aircraft. “Theater forces remain on high alert at all times and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said in a statement. Reuters reports.
Three men accused of being high-ranking leaders of the transnational criminal gang MS-13 were arrested in Mexico on Wednesday and will be sent to New York to face charges. Three were among 13 people named as suspected gang leaders in an indictment, unsealed in federal court on Thursday. They face charges including racketeering, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and narco-terrorism conspiracy. Karen Zraick reports for the New York Times.
JAN. 6 ATTACK AND 2020 ELECTION PROBES
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell on Friday unsealed four opinions related to the Justice Department’s bid to access more than 2,200 records from Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-PA) phone. These court records show that Perry was “persistent” in contacting executive branch officials around the 2020 presidential election. They also reveal that while Howell ultimately let Perry keep about 161 of his records from investigators she ordered that the 2,000 other records be handed over. Perry has appealed her ruling, and the DC Circuit Court of Appeal heard arguments in the case on Thursday. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
A group of media organizations has signed a letter calling on congressional leaders to grant access to security footage from inside the U.S. capitol during the Jan. 6 attack. The letter, signed by CNN, Advance Publications, ABC News, Axios, CBS News, Scripps, Gannett, the Los Angeles Times, Politico and ProPublica, comes after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave Fox News’ Tucker Carlson access to the material earlier this month. In the letter, the press coalition expresses concern that “without full public access to the complete historical record…an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarizing event will take hold in the public consciousness.” Aaron Pellish reports for CNN.
President Biden has drawn a distinction between his and former President Trump’s handling of classified materials, saying that there are “degrees of irresponsibility.” When asked about the material found at locations he used, and the documents taken from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, Biden played down his situation, highlighting that he had not intended to keep any documents at his private office and Delaware home. “The way in which the boxes were packed up from my office—apparently not everything was gone through as meticulously as it should have. But there was no intention,” he said. Annie Linskey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Lawmakers in Iowa, Ohio, Georgia, and other Republican led states are considering legislation to ban law enforcement from enforcing federal gun laws. Supporters of the bill cite as a concern a January rule that limits the use of pistol braces designed to stabilize pistols while firing. Under the proposed bills police departments could face minimum fines of $50,000 if they knowingly employ an officer who helps enforce federal gun laws. Shannon Majmabadi reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Supreme Court will this week consider sharp curbs to the power of the executive branch, as the case over the Biden administration’s student-loan plan begins. The case over the plan to forgive federal student debt for tens of millions of borrowers gives the justices an opportunity to set strict limits on the President’s ability to implement policies without explicit authorization from Congress. Andrew Restuccia and Jess Bravin report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are on the cusp of a new post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland. The new deal is expected to address how goods cross the Northern Ireland border, the role of E.U. law and the European Court of Justice in settling trade disputes, as well as the protection of the Good Friday Agreement, which ensures peace in the region. Lauren Turner reports for the BBC.
At least 59 migrants, including 12 children, have died after their boat sank off southern Italy yesterday. Dozens of migrants, mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Iran, are still missing. 80 people have been found alive according to the Italian coastguard. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who ran on a campaign pledge to stem the flow of migrants into Italy, expressed “deep sorrow” and blamed the deaths on traffickers. Meloni’s right-wing government pushed through a tough new law tightening the rules on rescues last week. Kathryn Armstrong and Oliver Slow report for the BBC.
Huge crowds gathered in Mexico yesterday to condemn President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s efforts to shrink the electoral authority, a move critics view as a threat to democracy. Last week, Mexico’s Congress approved a major overhaul of the National Electoral Institute (I.N.E.), an independent body which Lopez Obrador has attacked as corrupt and inefficient, slashing the I.N.E.’s budget and staff as well as paring back its responsibilities. Critics have vowed to take the legislation to the Supreme Court. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols tweeted yesterday that the electoral reforms were “testing the independence of electoral and judicial institutions.” Dave Graham reports for Reuters.
160,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday night against the Israeli government’s plans to weaken the country’s judicial system according to crowd expert Ofer Grinboim Liron. An additional 130,000 protested in other parts of the country according to protest organizers. This is the eighth week of Saturday night protests against the legislation. Among other reforms, the legislation proposes to give Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, the power to overrule Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority and give the government power to nominate judges directly. Amir Tal and Hadas Gold report for CNN.
Two Israeli settlers were fatally shot in the occupied West Bank yesterday. The shooting sparked revenge attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, causing at least one death and numerous injuries. The shooting of the settlers happened following an Israeli military raid in search of wanted militants that left 11 Palestinians dead. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged against revenge attacks as tensions continue to rise. Amir Tal, Abeer Salman and Hadas Gold report for CNN.
The Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group is the “most influential Russian actor operating in Africa today” according to the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. The group has diversified into businesses dealing in rare woods, gold, sugar and alcohol. This may be how Moscow secured 15 abstentions from African countries in the most recent United Nations resolution against its war of aggression in Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron will outline France’s new strategy for Africa today to restrengthen Western ties in the region. David Ehl reports for Deutsche Welle.
The U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak. While the Department’s confidence in this conclusion is “low,” the FBI came to a similar conclusion with “moderate confidence” in 2021. Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided. By Michael R. Gordon and Warren P. Strobel report for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 103.374 million people and has now killed over 1.12 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 675.053 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.87 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.