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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.
U.S., RUSSIA DRONE INCIDENT
Russia said yesterday that it would try to retrieve the remnants of the U.S. drone that crashed into the Black Sea. Russian security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev said on state television, “I don’t know whether we’ll be able to retrieve it or not, but it has to be done,” adding that the drone’s presence in the Black Sea was “confirmation” that the U.S. was directly involved in the war in Ukraine. National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby said that if the U.S. failed to find the drone before Russia, “their ability to exploit useful intelligence will be highly minimized.” Antoinette Radford and Jonathan Beale report for BBC News.
Defense ministers and military chiefs from the U.S. and Russia held rare telephone conversations yesterday following the downing of a U.S. drone over the Black Sea. Moscow’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that U.S. drone flights along Crimea’s coast “were provocative in nature” and could lead to “an escalation … in the Black Sea zone.” Austin later restated that the U.S. intended to continue flying where international law allowed and demanded that Russian military aircraft operate safely and professionally. Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Olena Harmash report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Hackers with ties to the Russian government are preparing new cyberattacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and government offices, Microsoft said in a report published yesterday. The report also said Russia appears to be stepping up influence operations outside Ukraine in a bid to weaken U.S. and European support for the country. Russia’s influence operations will shift focus to the U.S. once the presidential election debates begin, said Clint Watts, the head of Microsoft’s Digital Threat Analysis Center. Julian E. Barnes, David E. Sanger, and Marc Santora report for the New York Times.
The U.S. yesterday promised to “fully and quickly” give Ukraine weapons for a spring counteroffensive against Russia amid a global shortage of ammunition partly caused by the conflict. During a meeting with officials from over 50 countries supporting Kyiv, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “[we] must provide Ukraine with the full capabilities for the fight ahead.” As both Russia and Ukraine deplete their ammunition stockpiles, military analysts believe that the side that wins the race to rearm in the coming months will have an advantage on the battlefield in the next phases of the war. Marc Santora, Eric Schmitt, Valerie Hopkins, and Ivan Nechepurenko report for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
A Chinese-made drone that was retrofitted and weaponized was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers in eastern Ukraine over the weekend. The commercial drone was made by Chinese manufacturer Mugin, which previously said it “condemns” the use of its platforms in military operations. The “crude, unsophisticated” technology adds more evidence to the theory that Russia is not the military superpower that the world expected, said Chris Lincoln-Jones, a retired British Army officer and specialist in drone warfare. Rebecca Wright, Ivan Watson, Olha Konovalova, and Tom Booth report for CNN.
A group of foreign citizens has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia, two Polish government officials told the BBC. Six people were detained on suspicion of having installed dozens of secret cameras beside railway junctions and essential transport routes to film the delivery of aid to Ukraine. Some cameras were found close to the regional Rzeszów-Jasionka airport, which has been converted into an international logistics hub delivering military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Adam Easton reports for BBC News.
Russian oil revenue dropped by nearly half in February compared to last year after an E.U. embargo and price caps went into effect, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. However, it is unclear whether the price caps will significantly undermine Russia’s ability to finance its war in Ukraine, the report adds. Russia has continued to ship similar amounts of oil to the world market, indicating the punitive measures had not succeeded in disrupting global supply. Mary Ilyushina and Robyn Dixon report for the Washington Post.
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA DEVELOPMENTS
Two and a half tons of uranium have gone missing from Libya, the International Atomic Energy Agency said after its inspectors visited an undisclosed site earlier this week. It is unclear when the uranium went missing or who could have taken it. The material “in its current form cannot be made into a nuclear weapon,” said Scott Roecker from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a global security organization. He added, there “are very little radiation concerns with the material as it is today.” BBC News reports.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said today that he would welcome any Russian proposals to set up new military bases and boost troop numbers in Syria. Russian intervention, alongside Iran, has been crucial for Assad to retain power since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Assad, who met President Vladimir Putin in Moscow yesterday, also expressed his support for Russia’s war in Ukraine and recognized the territories claimed by Russia in Ukraine. Guy Faulconbridge and Caleb Davis report for Reuters.
Israeli security forces said yesterday that they shot and killed a man they accused of planting a bomb in northern Israel after he had probably infiltrated the country from southern Lebanon. The man being investigated for links to the Islamist militia Hezbollah was responsible for a roadside bomb on Monday that seriously wounded an Israeli civilian. Patrick Kingsley, Ronen Bergman, and Isabel Kershner report for the New York Times.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s proposed compromises over judicial reform to stave off the risk of “civil war” has been rejected by the government. “Anyone who thinks that a genuine civil war, with human lives, is a line that we could never reach — has no idea what he is talking about,” Herzog said about the tension surrounding government reforms, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets and saw reservists threaten to stop training. James Shotter reports for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
China, Iran, and Russia are conducting joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman from March 15-19, the Chinese and Russian defense ministries said yesterday. The drills are part of the ongoing “Marine Security Belt” exercises intended to help “deepen practical cooperation among the navies of participating countries,” China’s defense ministry said. Reuters reports.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo today, the first visit of its kind in 12 years prompted by threats from North Korea and shared concerns about China. The summit between the two leaders is crucial to mend frayed ties after decades of disputes and mistrust dogged the two key U.S. allies in Asia. Closer alignment among the U.S., Japan, and South Korea is an alarming development for China, which has accused the U.S. of leading a campaign to contain and suppress its development. Nectar Gan, Gawon Bae, and Junko Ogura report for CNN.
North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile today just before the leaders of South Korea and Japan were due to meet for landmark talks. It is Pyongyang’s fourth missile launch in a week, as the U.S. and South Korea hold joint navy drills. Laura Gozzi and Kelly Ng report for BBC News.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday appointed former governor general David Johnston as a special rapporteur to investigate alleged election interference by China. Trudeau and top security officials have acknowledged China’s interference attempts but insist that election outcomes were unaltered. Reuters reports.
The U.S. military conducted its first maritime drills with West African forces last week to bolster skills in the fight against piracy. Around 350 troops from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria on the Gulf of Guinea participated in the drills. The area has become a global piracy hotspot in recent years although cases have fallen since 2021, according to the U.N. Security Council. Cooper Inveen reports for Reuters.
The Biden administration has demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stakes in the app or face a possible U.S. ban, TikTok told Reuters yesterday. This is the latest attempt to address security concerns over the app, which is used by over 100 million Americans. TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew will appear before Congress next week. It is unclear whether the Chinese government would approve any divestiture. Echo Wang and David Shepardson report for Reuters.
More than 1,000 additional people could still face charges in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. This is according to a previously unreported letter sent by the U.S. attorney in Washington to the D.C. federal court. The Oct. 28 letter also offered details on what Attorney general Merrick Garland has called “one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history.” Zoe Tilman reports for Bloomberg News.
MAGA Inc, a super PAC supporting former President Trump, has accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of violating Florida laws by operating a shadow presidential campaign. The complaint against Trump’s chief potential rival for the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination was filed with Florida officials yesterday. In the complaint, the super PAC cites a number of reasons why DeSantis should be considered a presidential candidate, including the fact that he has met with donors and raised money for a political committee. “Governor DeSantis’s failure to declare his candidacy is no mere oversight,” the MAGA Inc. complaint adds, “it is a coordinated effort specifically designed for him to accept, as unethical gifts, illegal campaign contributions and certain personal benefits.” Michael C. Bender reports for the New York Times.
Adult actor Stormy Daniels met yesterday with Manhattan prosecutors investigating whether Trump illegally concealed a payment used to buy her silence before the 2016 election. According to Daniels’ attorney, “Stormy responded to questions and has agreed to make herself available as a witness, or for further inquiry if needed.” The meeting with Daniels came as Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, appeared before the grand jury weighing evidence in the probe for the second time. The continued testimony of Cohen, alongside the meeting with Daniels, signals that prosecutors are likely nearing a presentation of potential charges to the grand jury. Corinne Ramey and Joe Palazzolo report for the Wall Street Journal.
A Michigan man who allegedly threatened on social media to kill state Attorney General Dana Nessel and other Jewish members of Michigan’s government pleaded not guilty yesterday to making threatening interstate communications. Jack Eugene Carpenter III was indicted last week by a federal grand jury, which also made a special finding of a hate crime motivation. Making interstate threats to injure another person carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. According to a Department of Justice news release, Carpenter is subject to a hate crime motivation penalty enhancement if convicted. Lauren del Valle reports for CNN.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz yesterday said that the U.S. does not have “operational control” of the southern border. Ortiz’s comments, made during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, contradict the stance taken by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Mayorkas has previously maintained in testimony before lawmakers that the department has operational control of the border, though he’s been more ambiguous in interviews, citing the statutory definition and saying he’s trying to “achieve it.” Mayorkas has often served as the focus of Republicans’ criticism of the Biden administration’s handling of border security. Priscilla Alvarez reports for CNN.