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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 – CHINESE RESPONSE
The U.S. is consulting with allies about the possibility of imposing new sanctions on China if it provides lethal aid to Russia, four U.S. officials and other sources indicated yesterday. The consultations, which are still in a preliminary stage, are particularly aimed at gaining support from the Group of 7. Trevor Hunnicutt and Michael Martina report for Reuters.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a speech to parliament today asked China not to supply lethal aid to Russia. Scholz said “my message to Beijing is clear: use your influence in Moscow to push for the withdrawal of Russian troops.” “And do not supply weapons to the aggressor Russia.” Scholz expressed disappointment that China had refused to condemn Russia for invading Ukraine, but he welcomed Chinese efforts to de-escalate the conflict. Deutsche Welle reports.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko expressed “extreme interest” in a peaceful resolution of the war in Ukraine after meeting in Beijing. Both leaders are key allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Lukashenko said his country “fully supports” the Chinese peace plan. Tessa Wong & George Wright report for the BBC.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week released a statement on the country’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that there is “zero evidence” that Russia is prepared to engage in serious peace talks. His comments come ahead of an expected push for peace talks by China, Russia’s strongest strategic partner. U.S. officials view China’s move as a smoke screen to allow Russia to cast itself as the reasonable party in its war with Ukraine. Edward Wong reports for the New York Times.
U.S. public support for Ukraine is wavering, according to polls. While the bipartisan coalition supporting Ukraine in Congress remained strong throughout the first year of fighting, signs of taxpayer fatigue are showing. Public support for aid to Ukraine has fallen from 60 percent in May 2022 to 48 percent now, according to surveys by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.26 percent of Americans now think the U.S. has given too much to Ukraine, up from 7 percent last year, according to the Pew Research Center. Peter Baker reports from the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The Finnish Parliament yesterday passed all the legislation necessary for joining NATO. Both Turkey and Hungary, which have slowed NATO’s latest expansion, are expected to ratify Finland’s membership, though Hungary has expressed some concern that this would heighten tensions with Russia. While Finland intended to join the alliance with Sweden, Turkey has stalled Sweden’s application arguing that it must first adopt a tougher stance on terrorism and Kurdish separatists. Steven Erlanger and Andrew Higgins report for the New York Times.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today urged the Group of 20 (G20) member states to overcome their differences in a meeting dominated by the Russian war in Ukraine. India, which has been reticent to criticize Russia, is trying to focus today’s G20 meeting on other global matters. Modi has warned that “after years of progress, we are at risk today of moving back on the sustainable development goals. Many developing countries are struggling with unsustainable debts while trying to ensure food and energy security.” Vikas Pandey reports for the BBC.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian forces are today battling a group of Ukrainian saboteurs that infiltrated the Bryansk border region and took several people hostage, the Russian FSB security service said in a statement to Russian news agencies today. British military intelligence yesterday said that Russia was launching drone attacks against Ukraine from the Bryansk region. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week tasked the FSB with stepping up its guard against terrorist threats emanating from Ukraine and the West. Reuters reports.
The situation in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut remains “critical” today as Ukrainian forces struggle to repel the constant attack from Russian troops. Russia’s control of the city would be the first major victory in more than six months and would open a way to control the rest of the strategic Donbas industrial region. Reuters reports.
India is close to approving a deal to purchase U.S. high-altitude armed drones. The drones would help India counter a more-assertive Chinese stance in the Indian Ocean and along the contested Himalayan border. While the agreement between the U.S. and India could still take months, the deal would boost a security relationship that has grown from close to zero in 2008 to $20 billion by 2020, according to the U.S. State Department. Rajesh Roy the Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration has approved an estimated $619 million potential arms sale to Taiwan, including hundreds of missiles for F-16 fighter jets. While a State Department official said the potential sale is “consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and our longstanding One-China policy,” the move will likely further inflame already heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing. Michael Callahan, Brad Lendon and Eric Cheung report for CNN.
“Havana syndrome” did not result from the actions of a foreign adversary, a new intelligence report has concluded. The new intelligence assessment caps a years-long effort by the CIA and several other intelligence agencies to explain why U.S. personnel serving in U.S. missions around the world experienced what they described as strange and painful acoustic sensations. The report rebuts the claim that the afflicted persons were the victims of a deliberate attack. Shane Harris and John Hudson report for the Washington Post.
Two U.S. Air Force commanders and four of their subordinates at a key nuclear base in North Dakota have been relieved of duty after their units failed a nuclear safety inspection. The exact circumstances surrounding the failed nuclear safety inspection at Minot Air Force Base remain unclear, however there is no indication that the failed inspection was related to the handling of a nuclear weapon itself. Zachary Cohen, Oren Liebermann and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.
A 40-year-old man was arrested this week on federal charges after he checked in a suitcase containing an explosive at a Pennsylvania airport. The suitcase, which was checked for a flight to Orlando, Florida, was flagged by an alarm during a Transportation Security Administration screening, the FBI said in a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The suspect Marc Muffley remains in custody pending a court hearing today. April Rubin reports for the New York Times.
The Biden administration is set to pursue laws to establish liability for software companies that sell technology that lacks cybersecurity protections. According to a national cybersecurity strategy published today, free markets and a reliance on voluntary security frameworks have imposed “inadequate costs” on companies that offer insecure products or services. “We must begin to shift the liability onto those entities that fail to take reasonable precautions to secure their software while recognizing that even the most advanced software security programs cannot prevent all vulnerabilities,” says the 35-page strategy. Dustin Volz reports for the Wall Street Journal.
House Republicans are moving to provide defendants in cases related to the Jan. 6 attack access to thousands of hours of internal Capitol security footage. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) who chairs the House Administration Committee’s oversight panel, defended the move saying that “everyone accused of a crime in this country deserves due process, which includes access to evidence which may be used to prove their guilt or innocence.” Access for defendants would be granted on a “case by case basis,” he added. Kyle Cheney, Olivia Beavers and Sarah Ferris report for POLITICO.
In the run-up to the August search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, prosecutors and FBI agents disagreed over how best to conduct the search. Prosecutors argued that new evidence suggested Trump was knowingly concealing secret documents and urged the FBI to conduct a surprise raid of his residence. However, two senior FBI officials resisted the plan as too combative and proposed instead to seek Trump’s permission to search his property, according to the four people familiar with the matter. Prosecutors ultimately prevailed in that dispute, one of several previously unreported clashes in a tense tug-of-war over how aggressively to pursue a criminal investigation of a former president. Carol D. Leonnig, Devlin Barrett, Perry Stein and Aaron C. Davis report for the Washington Post.
Two men who discussed blowing up the Democratic headquarters in Sacramento in the wake of the 2020 election were sentenced to prison yesterday. Ian Rogers of Napa, California, was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty in 2022 to a conspiracy charge and additional weapons violations, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Jarrod Copeland of Vallejo, California, meanwhile, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge and an additional count of destruction of records. Taylor Romine reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The British Royal Navy seized Iranian weapons from a smuggler vessel in international waters in the Gulf of Oman last month, the U.K. Defense Secretary said today. The shipment is suspected to have been bound for Yemen. A U.N. resolution bans weapons transfers to Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran denies arming the rebels, despite physical evidence, numerous seizures, and experts tying the weapons back to Iran. France24 reports.
Over 800 Iranian female students have been made ill due to suspected poisoning. The deputy health minister Younes Panahi said the motive may be to prevent girls from attending schools, which has raised the alarm about the possible infiltration of Islamic extremist groups. Rights activists said the illness could be caused by the government as punishment for the recent protests led mostly by young women. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
The confrontation between the far-right Israeli government, which plans to curb the powers of the judiciary, and the protestors who oppose the reforms escalated yesterday. Israeli police deployed water canons and stun grenades against protestors who blocked the main road in Tel-Aviv, in a rare use of force against Israeli citizens. The protestors fear the proposed judicial reforms will strip the courts of their independence and undermine Israel’s democratic institutions. Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times.
Protests erupted in Greece yesterday in response to the rail crash that killed 43 people. Rail workers are striking today, angered by what they say is official neglect of the railways. The government said an independent investigation will deliver justice. Nick Beake in Larissa & Alys Davies report for the BBC.
The Vietnamese National Assembly today elected Vo Van Thuong as president in a reshuffle of the country’s top leadership amid a crackdown on corruption. Thuong is regarded as being close to General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s most powerful figure and the primary architect of the party’s anti-corruption campaign. Le Hong Hiep, a senior fellow and Vietnam expert at Singapore’s ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute has said that “there will be no major changes to Vietnam’s foreign policy following Thuong’s election.” Reuters reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 103.510 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 675.552 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.