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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.
President Biden is “fine” after tripping and falling over at a graduation ceremony for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado yesterday, White House officials say. Recent polls suggest most voters are concerned about Biden’s advanced age. If he wins the next election, Biden would be 82 at the start of a second term. Sam Cabral reports for BBC News.
Two more Oath Keepers were handed prison sentences yesterday for seditious conspiracy and other crimes arising from the Jan. 6 attack. Roberto Minuta was sentenced to four and a half years in prison and Edward Vallejo to three years in prison following their convictions by a jury in January. Sarah N. Lynch reports for Reuters.
The Senate passed the bipartisan debt ceiling deal, named the Fiscal Responsibility Act, in a 63-36 vote yesterday. The deal suspends the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling while cutting federal spending and imposing a 3% cap on increases for military spending in fiscal 2024. Siobhan Hughes, Lindsay Wise, and David Harrison report for the Wall Street Journal.
Robert Birchum, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who pleaded guilty earlier this year to unlawfully possessing and retaining classified documents, was sentenced to three years in federal prison yesterday, the Department of Justice announced. Birchum admitted to having stored hundreds of files that contained information with top secret, secret, or confidential classification markings in unauthorized locations. Kaanita Iyer and Holmes Lybrand reports for CNN.
Former Republican candidate for the New Mexico House of Representatives, Solomon Peña, was charged with federal offenses in connection with drive-by shootings at the homes of Democratic officials, the Justice Department said Wednesday. Peña allegedly directed the shootings at the homes of four Democratic officials in the weeks after he lost an election in November 2022. Peña also faces several state charges, including attempted aggravated battery and shooting at an occupied building. The federal charges against him include several firearms offenses and interference with federally protected activities. Mike Ives reports for the New York Times.
U.S. RELATIONS – CHINA
U.S. military planners are shifting away from big military bases in the Asia-Pacific region in a bid to disperse their assets that could be vulnerable to China’s growing missile arsenal. Tabletop simulations conducted by U.S. security analysts, including of a hypothetical war over Taiwan, generally assumed Beijing would try to destroy key U.S. installations early in the conflict. China now has over 1,300 ballistic missiles that could target the region, including over 250 that could reach as far as major U.S. military bases in Guam. Alastair Gale reports for the Wall Street Journal.
China’s intelligence agencies are investing in open-source intelligence to learn more about the capabilities of the U.S. military, according to an analysis by the threat intelligence company Recorded Future. China’s government and companies are collecting publicly available data from the Pentagon, think tanks, and private firms to help Beijing’s military plan for a potential conflict with the United States. Julian E. Barnes reports for the New York Times.
U.S. RELATIONS – IRAN
Iran is planning attacks against U.S. troops in Syria and is working with Russia on a strategy to drive Americans from the region, intelligence officials and leaked classified documents say. Such attacks would escalate Iran’s long-running campaign of using proxy militias to launch rocket and drone strikes on U.S. forces in Syria, risking a wider military confrontation with Iran. Iran is developing more sophisticated weaponry and teaching its proxies to use them against U.S. personnel. Joby Warrick and Evan Hill report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. Treasury Department yesterday imposed sanctions on members and affiliates of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard and its external operations arm. Washington has accused the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of participating in terrorist plots targeting former U.S. government officials, dual U.S. and Iranian nationals, and Iranian dissidents. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The White House announced yesterday that it would impose sanctions against key defense companies and people who “perpetuate violence” in Sudan. “These measures are intended to hold accountable those responsible for undermining the peace, security, and stability of Sudan,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, as the warring factions failed to abide by a ceasefire agreement. Jack Jeffery and Aamer Madhani report for AP News.
The Biden administration announced yesterday that it is revoking the visas of Russian nuclear inspectors, denying pending applications for new monitors, and canceling standard clearances for Russian aircraft to enter U.S. airspace. The move is in retaliation to Russia’s suspension of the New START nuclear treaty. Matthew Lee reports for AP News.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – GLOBAL RESPONSE
In order to deter Russia beyond the war in Ukraine, NATO members must grow their military spending, Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said, outlining his ambitions for NATO’s future as it considers its next leader. Wallace has said that the same complacency that NATO members had vis-a-vis Russia before the invasion of Ukraine persists concerning the threats posed by China and destabilizing activity in Africa. Wallace’s comments come as speculation intensifies about who will replace NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following his expected departure this year. Missy Ryan reports for the Washington Post.
The United States is seeking to secure supplies of explosives in Japan, as Washington sends weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, two people familiar with the matter said. While export rules ban Japanese companies from selling lethal items overseas, Japan will allow the sale of industrial TNT because the explosive is not a military-use-only product. Tim Kelly, Nobuhiro Kubo, Yukiko Toyoda, and Kaori Kaneko report for Reuters.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Several Russian governors reported attacks on their regions today as the war spills over from Ukraine’s borders into Russian territory. There were no reports of any injuries. Reuters reports.
Two people were injured by falling debris after Ukraine’s air defenses repelled a Russian aerial attack on Kyiv earlier today. Jessie Yeung reports for CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Kyiv officials of negligence after civilians were killed when they were locked out of a shelter Wednesday night. Zelenskyy warned that the situation “should never happen again” and said it was the duty of local authorities to ensure shelters are available and accessible. Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said investigations into the incident are underway. Andrew Jeong and Ellen Francis report for the Washington Post.
A growing feud between the paramilitary organization Wagner group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Russia’s two most powerful warlords, exposes the rifts in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war machine. The replacement of Wagner’s troops holding Bakhmut with Kadyrov’s troops could be a ploy by the Kremlin to escalate the rivalry between the two warlords, who joined forces last year to criticize the Russian defense ministry. Thomas Grove reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A meeting of foreign ministers of the BRICS group of nations in South Africa has called for rebalancing the global order away from Western nations. Allegations of Russian war crimes in Ukraine have clouded the talks, as has the International Criminal Court’s warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrest. As a court member, South Africa would be obliged to arrest Putin if he attends a BRICS summit scheduled for Johannesburg in August. BRICS is an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Oliver Slow reports for BBC News.
Clashes erupted between protesters and security forces after a court in Senegal sentenced the country’s leading opposition figure, Ousmane Sonko, to two years in prison yesterday after finding him guilty of “corrupting youth.” The ruling bars Sonko from running in future elections. The conviction relates to an accusation that Sonko had a sexual relationship with a massage parlor worker under the age of 21. Elian Peltier reports for the New York Times.
The eruption of violence in Kosovo this week, which left dozens of people wounded, has raised fears in Western capitals that the possibility of conflict could create an opening for Russia to reignite one of Europe’s unresolved flashpoints. The violence was caused when Kosovo attempted to forcibly install ethnic Albanian mayors in ethnic Serb areas following elections that international observers dismissed as unrepresentative. NATO, which provides troops to keep the peace in Kosovo, dispatched an additional 700 troops following the unrest. Bojan Pancevski reports for the Wall Street Journal.