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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 – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORT
The U.K. has the largest contingent of special forces in Ukraine (50), followed by fellow NATO states Latvia (17), France (15), the U.S. (14), and the Netherlands (1), according to leaked documents. The information in the leak is likely to be seized upon by Moscow, which has recently argued that it is not just confronting Ukraine, but NATO. In response to the leak, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence tweeted yesterday that the leak had demonstrated a “serious level of inaccuracy.” Paul Adams and George Wright report for BBC News.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that they had spoken to their Ukrainian counterparts in a bid to project calm following leaks on the state of the Ukrainian military. Blinken also said he had spoken to unnamed U.S. allies to “reassure them about our own commitment to safeguarding intelligence.” Michael Crowley report for the New York Times.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Canada yesterday agreed to send more military aid to Ukraine and impose new sanctions over Russia’s invasion after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Toronto. Canada will send 21,000 assault rifles, 38 machine guns, and 2.4 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine and impose new sanctions targeting 14 Russian individuals and 34 entities. During the meeting, Trudeau’s official website was shut down, and the Canadian spy service acknowledged “some” other government pages had also been offline. Trudeau said the incident was an “unsurprising” act by Russian hackers. Ismail Shakil and Steve Scherer report for Reuters.
Russia’s lower house of parliament yesterday tightened conscription laws, making it almost impossible for Russians to dodge conscription in the future. The upper house is expected to adopt the measure today and send it to President Vladimir Putin for approval. The law provides for electronic military summonses with bans on draftees leaving the country, making it possible to recruit thousands more men to fight — even as the Kremlin denies plans for a controversial new mobilization. Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva flew to China yesterday to strengthen ties with Brazil’s biggest trade partner and win support for his push for peace in Ukraine. Lula wants Brazil, China, and other nations to help mediate the war, but his proposals to end the conflict have irked Ukraine and some in the West; last week, he suggested Ukraine cede Crimea to forge peace. According to the Brazilian government, China and Brazil are expected to sign at least 20 bilateral agreements during Lula’s two-day stay. Eléonore Hughes and Carla Bridi report for AP News.
South Korea has agreed to lend the United States 500,000 artillery shells that could give Washington greater flexibility to supply Ukraine with ammunition, an unidentified South Korean government source is reported to have said today. South Korea decided to lend the ammunition instead of selling it to minimize the possibility of using South Korean shells in the Ukraine conflict. South Korean law forbids supplying weapons to countries engaged in conflict. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
U.S. RELATIONS – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORT
Opposition lawmakers in South Korea criticized the leaked Pentagon documents as “a super-scale security breach” and possible evidence of U.S. spying. The opposition has also accused the United States of “violating the sovereignty” of a key ally. The South Korean government has insisted that the scandal would not and should not damage their alliance with the United States. So far, the reaction to the leak in South Korea is the strongest by an ally. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban named NATO ally the United States as one of the top three adversaries for his Fidesz Party, according to a leaked CIA assessment. The revelations come as the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said he had reached a new energy deal with Russia yesterday, allowing Budapest to import Russian gas at volumes exceeding previous agreements. Hungary is also nurturing closer ties with China. Thomas Grove reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The United States agreed yesterday to complete a road map in the coming months to deliver U.S. defense assistance to the Philippines over the next five to 10 years. China’s foreign ministry today said it was “seriously concerned and strongly dissatisfied” by the agreement. Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom report for Reuters.
Lawyers have revealed that Rupert Murdoch is an “executive chair” at Fox News, despite earlier assertions that Murdoch had no official role at Fox News. The earlier assertions were intended to insulate the Murdoch family from testifying in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation case. The revelation angered Superior Court Judge Eric Davis when it came up during yesterday’s hearing. Davis suggested that if he had known of Murdoch’s role at Fox News, he might have reached different conclusions in a summary judgment ruling last month. In that ruling, Davis held that while there was no dispute that the statements aired by Fox were false, it was for a jury to decide whether Fox News acted with actual malice and whether its parent company, Fox Corp., directly participated in airing the statements. It is unclear whether Davis will take any action in response to this late disclosure. POLITICO reports.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg yesterday filed a lawsuit against the House Judiciary Committee and its chair, Jim Jordan (R-OH), alleging Republican lawmakers were illegitimately interfering with his prosecution of former President Trump. Bragg, a Democrat, is asking a federal judge to block a subpoena that the House committee served on Mark Pomerantz, a former prosecutor who worked on the Trump investigation. The subpoena, which calls for Pomerantz’s testimony at an Apr. 20 deposition, seeks sensitive and confidential information that belongs to the district attorney’s office, the lawsuit alleges. Bragg is also asking the judge to block the enforcement of any future subpoenas served on himself and his current or former staff. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil scheduled a hearing for Apr. 19. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Tennessee Governor Republican Bill Lee yesterday attempted to strengthen the state’s background checks for gun purchases by signing an executive order.
U.S. intelligence agencies have begun providing leaders of the House and Senate access to some of the classified documents found in possession of former President Trump and President Biden, according to U.S. officials. It will likely be several weeks before lawmakers are given full access to the documents they seek. The Justice Department previously resisted sharing copies of the documents with Congress, citing concerns raised by the special counsels overseeing investigations into how such materials ended up among Trump and Biden’s personal effects. Karoun Demirjian and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.
Robert Sanford, a former firefighter who threw a fire extinguisher at police officers during the Jan. 6 Attack, has been sentenced to more than four years in prison, federal officials said yesterday. Sanford pleaded guilty in September to assaulting law enforcement officers with a dangerous weapon. Other charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement. Livia Albeck-Ripka reports for the New York Times.
Tina Peters, a former clerk in Mesa County, Colorado, on Monday, was given four months of house arrest and 120 hours of community service in connection with her February 2022 arrest on a misdemeanor obstruction charge. Peters was barred from overseeing elections after her indictment on separate charges related to tampering with voting equipment. Neil Vigdor reports for the New York Times.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – CHINA
French President Emmanuel Macron is “severely out of step with the feeling across Europe’s legislatures” after his three-day trip to China. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which draws on the membership of dozens of lawmakers worldwide, primarily from Europe, issued a statement that addressed Macron directly “You do not speak for Europe.” Analysts and commentators argued that Macron effectively played into China’s hands and allowed himself to become a wedge between the U.S. and Europe. Various Republican lawmakers slammed Macron for his “betrayal” of Taiwan and cast his stance as more evidence of European fecklessness. Ishaan Tharoor reports for the Washington Post.
China plans to close the airspace north of Taiwan from Apr. 16 to 18, four sources with knowledge of the matter said. One senior official with direct knowledge of the matter said the flight ban would affect 60%-70% of flights going between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia and flights between Taiwan and South Korea, Japan, and North America. Reuters reports.
China’s recent military drills and simulated blockade of Taiwan suggest China is getting “ready to launch a war,” Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told CNN yesterday. Jim Sciutto reports for CNN.
China today said that Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was pushing Taiwan into “stormy seas” after Beijing held military exercises in response to Tsai’s recent meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Liz Lee and Ben Blanchard report for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
China and Russia are in advanced secret talks with Iran to replenish Iran’s supply of a chemical compound used in ballistic missiles, diplomats familiar with the matter say. The move could help Russia replenish its depleted stock of rockets. Under U.N. resolution 2231, passed in 2015, countries are prohibited from supplying Iran with the chemical without approval from the U.N. Security Council. Matthew Karnitschnig reports for POLITICO.
Iran has used earthquake relief flights to bring weapons and military equipment into its strategic ally Syria, according to Syrian, Iranian, Israeli, and Western sources. The supplies included advanced communications equipment, radar batteries, and spare parts to upgrade Syria’s Iran-provided air defense system. These deliveries aimed to buttress Iran’s defenses against Israel in Syria and strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Suleiman Al-Khalidi, James Mackenzie And Parisa Hafezi report for Reuters.
A fully-equipped army division that the German military had promised to NATO will not be fully battle-ready, according to a leaked “leadership message” from Alfons Mais, the army’s inspector general, to the armed forces’ inspector general. The division was promised in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine as early as 2025, two years earlier than planned. The operational readiness of a second division, which the army plans to provide from 2027, is also considered “unrealistic,” according to the leak. Gabriel Rinaldi reports for POLITICO.
Airstrikes by Myanmar’s military yesterday killed as many as 100 people, including many children attending a ceremony held by opponents of army rule, according to several sources. The military government’s spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, acknowledging the attack, accused anti-government forces in the area of carrying out a violent campaign of terror. Analysts for the U.N. and non-governmental organizations have gathered credible evidence of large-scale human rights abuses by the army, including the burning of entire villages and displacement of more than a million people, triggering a humanitarian crisis. Grant Peck Reports for AP News.
The previously unknown spyware Reign, comparable to NSO Group’s Pegasus, made by an Israeli company called QuaDream, has been used by clients to target journalists, political opposition figures, and an NGO employee, according to a Citizen Lab report.
Italy’s government declared a six-month state of emergency yesterday to help it cope with a surge in migrants arriving on its southern shores. Since the start of this year, 31,000 migrants have disembarked in Italy, nearly four times the roughly 8,000 for the same period in the two previous years. Frances D’Emilio reports for AP News.