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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 DEVELOPMENTS
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) today said it had detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, in the eastern city of Yekaterinburg for what it described as espionage. The FSB said that Gershkovich, “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.” Daniel Michaels reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia and Ukraine are ramping up their military forces near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant amid signs that the fighting may soon escalate, said Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, yesterday. The nearby city of Melitopol may be the site of the anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive. “It is obvious that military activity is increasing in this whole region, so every possible measure and precaution should be taken so that the plant is not attacked and can be protected,” Grossi said during an inspection of the power plant. Matthew Mpoke Bigg reports for the New York Times.
Russian senior security adviser Nikolai Patrushev met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday and “discussed matters of bilateral cooperation,” according to a statement from Russia’s Security Council. Neither side gave details of the talks. The discussion happened during a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Dehli and comes at a time when Moscow is seeking to separate India and China from the West. Sameer Yasir, Ivan Nechepurenko and James C. McKinley Jr. report for the New York Times.
Russia’s security and intelligence services have achieved greater success in Ukraine than its army, according to a report by the Royal United Services Institute, a leading U.K. security think tank. Russian spy agencies began preparing for the invasion of Ukraine as far back as June 2021. “It is evident,” says the report, “that the Russian special services managed to recruit a large agent network in Ukraine prior to the invasion and that much of the support apparatus has remained viable after the invasion, providing a steady stream of human intelligence to Russian forces.” Frank Gardner reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – CHINESE RESPONSE
China said its military was willing to work together with the Russian military to strengthen strategic communication and coordination, the Chinese defense ministry said today. The two countries would work together to implement global security initiatives, said Tan Kefei, a spokesperson at the Chinese defense ministry. Tan added that China and Russia would organize more joint maritime and air patrols and joint exercises. Reuters reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday urged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to meet with him as China maneuvers itself as a potential peacemaker. Zelenskyy’s invitation tests China’s push to expand its influence on the global stage while maintaining Beijing’s claim of neutrality in the Ukraine war. Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week in a visit that reaffirmed the countries’ economic and political partnership. While Xi had been expected to call Zelenskyy following this visit, there has been no recent contact between the leaders. Jared Malsin and Austin Ramzy report for the Wall Street Journal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded defiantly yesterday to sharp public criticism from President Biden over his government’s judicial overhaul plan, declaring that Israel was “a sovereign country.” Netanyahu’s statement was made after Biden told reporters that he was “very concerned” about the events in Israel. Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times.
President Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a strong private message to halt the judicial overhaul just before Netanyahu announced its suspension, according to two U.S. sources. The private message reflects the tensions between the two allies. It reveals how concerned Biden was and how engaged he became in trying to convince Netanyahu to stop the legislation. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York yesterday for her first visit to the U.S. in three years, despite threats from Beijing that U.S. politicians who engage with Tsai could trigger unspecified retaliation. Tsai will not meet with senior members of the Biden administration, U.S. officials said. Tsai’s expected meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy next week in Los Angeles will likely prove the most consequential aspect of the visit. James T. Areddy and Charles Hutzler report for the Wall Street Journal.
Nuclear submarine cooperation between Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. may spark an arms race, said Tan Kefei, a spokesperson at the Chinese defense ministry today. Tan added that the cooperation was building an “Asia-Pacific version of NATO” and seriously affected peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Reuters reports.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS
The Manhattan grand jury examining former President Trump’s alleged role in a hush money payment to an adult actor is set to break for a month mainly due to a previously scheduled hiatus, according to a person familiar with the proceedings. The break would push any indictment of the former president into late April, although it is possible that the grand jury’s schedule could change. Erica Orden reports for POLITICO.
Former President Trump is appealing a court ruling that would compel former aides to appear before a grand jury as part of the criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. The mid-March ruling hampered Trump’s efforts to use executive privilege to block the testimony of former aides and allies. The docket of Trump’s new appeal provides few details and does not identify the parties or the specifics of the case. Sara Murray, Zachary Cohen, and Tierney Sneed report for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Efforts to repeal Congress’ 1991 and 2002 authorizations for military action in Iraq passed in the Senate by 66-30 votes yesterday. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) succeeded in their 4-year-long effort despite most of the Senate Republican leadership team opposing the repeal. The repeal effort now comes to the House, where Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) wants to repeal and replace both authorizations with a “counterterrorism-focused [authorization] without geographical boundaries.” Anthony Adragna reports for POLITICO.
Senior Democratic lawmakers are set to introduce the Safeguard Act, which seeks to codify into law a new Conventional Arms Transfer policy to ensure that U.S. weapons sales to foreign customers do not end up contributing to or facilitating human rights abuses. Patricia Zengerle reports for Reuters.
As many as nine people are believed to have been killed after two U.S. Army helicopters crashed near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, yesterday night. Two HH60 Blackhawk helicopters crashed during “a routine training mission,” a Fort Campbell spokesperson said in a statement to the BBC. BBC News reports.
Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) yesterday blocked a bid to fast-track a ban of the popular Chinese-owned app TikTok citing concerns about free speech and uneven treatment of social media companies. “If Republicans want to continuously lose elections for a generation, they should pass [the RESTRICT Act] to ban TikTok – a social media app used by 150 million people, primarily young Americans,” Paul said on the Senate floor. Last week, three Democrats in the House of Representatives opposed a TikTok ban, as do free speech groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. David Shepardson reports for Reuters.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today outlined her vision for future E.U.-China relations, stressing the idea of “de-risking rather than de-coupling” from China. The Biden administration’s efforts to persuade the E.U. and its members to work together to confront China have only been partly successful. Many E.U. countries are hesitant to pull away from the profitable Chinese market. Deutsche Welle reports.
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro left the U.S. yesterday night on a flight to Brazil, facing an array of investigations that could ultimately end his political career and even imprison him. Bolsonaro’s return could again galvanize the far right at a particularly vulnerable moment for a country still reeling from the most divisive election in its history and the shocking scenes of violence it unleashed. Bolsonaro has announced his intentions to lead the opposition to the Lula administration despite being the target of 20 investigations, six of them criminal. Terrence McCoy and Moriah Balingit report for the Washington Post.