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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.
WAGNER ARMED ACTION
Russian President Vladimir Putin fueled speculation about a broader crackdown on supporters of Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the paramilitary organization Wagner group, this week. Several unverified reports by pro-war Russian blogs suggested that the authorities were investigating military service members with ties to Prigozhin. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, a senior military official, is said to have known about, and possibly supported, the armed action in advance. Anton Troianovski reports for the New York Times.
Satellite imagery shows that Belarus is rapidly building what appear to be temporary structures at an abandoned military base, revealing a possible location for the paramilitary organization Wagner group troops who chose to relocate to Belarus after the failed armed action in Russia. Christoph Koettl, Riley Mellen, and Dmitriy Khavin report for the New York Times.
WAGNER ARMED ACTION – INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
President Biden used a diplomatic backchannel to Moscow to reassure Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States had nothing to do with the armed action, which the White House views as an internal Russian matter. In the wake of the armed action, Biden sought an agreement with other NATO leaders that the West would be best served by remaining mostly silent. Eli Stokols, Jonathan Lemire, and Lauren Egan report for POLITICO.
Leaders of NATO members Estonia and Poland yesterday warned of the dangers of the paramilitary organization Wagner group’s potential relocation to Belarus. “Belarus is unpredictable and dangerous, and this has not changed,” Kaja Kallas, Estonia’s prime minister, said. Polish President Andrzej Duda said the Wagner presence in Belarus threatened NATO’s eastern-flank allies. Cora Engelbrecht and Steven Erlanger report for the New York Times.
Russia has assured the paramilitary organization Wagner group’s client states that its services would continue without interruption as Russia tries to take control of its operations. Wagner operates in numerous nations in Africa and the Middle East. Around 6,000 Wagner personnel work outside Russia and Ukraine, from defending mines, oil wells, and politicians to combat operations. Benoit Faucon, Joe Parkinson, and Drew Hinshaw report for the Wall Street Journal.
A majority of Americans support giving Ukraine weapons in their fight against Russia, a Reuters/Ipsos survey has found. The survey also shows that Americans agree that the United States giving aid to Ukraine shows U.S. competitors that it is willing and capable of protecting its interests. Americans are also more likely to say that Russia is losing the war. Chris Jackson and Annaleise Azevedo Lohr report for Ipsos.
An alleged Russian agent involved in the attack on Kramatorsk, in which 11 people were killed on Tuesday, will be charged with treason, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. Ukrainian security services said the man sent video footage of a restaurant to the Russian military hours before it was destroyed. He may face life imprisonment. Malu Cursino reports for BBC News.
U.S. RELATIONS – EUROPE
The German defense minister, Boris Pistorius, said Germany would increase its arms deliveries and assume a more active role in the Indo-Pacific and military leadership in Europe. His comments were made before his first official visit to Washington yesterday to meet with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. Erika Solomon reports for the New York Times.
The State Department has approved a possible $15 billion sale of Patriot and missile defense systems to Poland as it upgrades its air defenses, the Pentagon said yesterday. It is uncertain whether a contract was signed or negotiations had concluded. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The debris retrieved from the Chinese spy balloon has been analyzed by several defense and intelligence agencies, along with the FBI, who found that it was loaded with commercially available U.S.-made equipment that helped it collect photos, videos, and other information, U.S. officials said. More specialized Chinese equipment was also mounted to the balloon. These findings support the conclusion that the balloon was intended for spying, not weather monitoring, as Beijing has claimed. Nancy A. Youssef reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The United States expects a more significant partnership with India in the South China Sea, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia said yesterday. The comments come after the United States and India declared themselves “among the closest partners in the world” last week. China has been at the center of numerous territorial disputes with regional countries in the South China Sea. Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom report for Reuters.
A U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia went into lockdown as two people were killed in a shooting outside the building, U.S. and Saudi officials said yesterday. Saudi police said security forces opened fire on a man who exited his car near the consulate “carrying a firearm in his hand.” No Americans were harmed in the incident. An investigation has been launched. Rebecca Falconer reports for Axios.
The FBI is investigating over 100 suspicious letters containing seemingly harmless white powder sent to public officials in at least seven states in recent weeks. Some letters had the return addresses of dead transgender people, law-enforcement officials said. The intended recipients of the letters included Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Republican state lawmakers in Montana and Kansas. Gurman and C. Ryan Barber report for the Wall Street Journal.
Susie Wiles, a top adviser to former President Trump’s 2024 campaign, is identified but not named by special counsel Jack Smith in his indictment against Trump for allegedly mishandling classified documents, sources familiar with the matter have said. Sources said that Wiles is identified as the “PAC Representative” to whom Trump allegedly showed a classified map in August or September 2021. Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, and Alexander Mallin report for ABC News.
An increasing number of Americans now view gun violence as a significant problem, and a majority expect it to get worse over the next five years, according to a new poll by Pew Research Center released yesterday. The number of Democrats and Republicans who said gun violence is a “very big” problem has increased by 11 percent. However, twice as many Democrats (81%) said gun violence is a “very big” problem in the nation compared to Republicans (38%). Mariana Alfaro reports for the Washington Post.
President Biden has started using a CPAP machine to deal with sleep apnea, a common disorder in which one’s breathing is interrupted during sleep, White House officials said yesterday. Michael D. Shear reports for the New York Times.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – NATO
A man tore up and burned a Koran outside Stockholm’s central mosque yesterday, a protest that risks angering Turkey amid Sweden’s bid to join NATO. The Swedish police granted permission for the protest to take place. Police later charged the man with agitation against an ethnic or national group. Marie Mannes and Louise Rasmussen report for Reuters.
NATO allies have been actively engaging with Turkey and advocating for Sweden’s NATO application to be approved before the Vilnius summit in July. However, it is unclear whether this will succeed. Steve Holland reports for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least 150 people have been arrested in France amid escalating protests against the killing of a seventeen-year-old boy who was killed by an officer during a traffic check in Nanterre on Tuesday. French President Emmanuel Macron has called a crisis meeting with some of his ministers following the unrest overnight. French government spokesperson Olivier Veran described the violent protest as an attack on the republic. BBC News reports.
Over 238,000 people died in global conflict last year, indicating a 96 percent increase in deaths related to conflicts over the previous year, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s annual Global Peace Index published on Tuesday.
European diplomats have told Iran they plan to maintain E.U. ballistic missile sanctions set to expire in October, four sources said. Iran’s delivery of drones to Russia and the possibility of transferring ballistic missiles to Russia were cited as reasons for keeping the sanctions. Sources also said it deprives Iran of the benefits of the now-defunct 2015 Iran nuclear deal after Tehran violated it. The move could provoke Iranian retaliation. John Irish, Arshad Mohammed, and Parisa Hafezi report for Reuters.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing ahead with the judicial reform legislation but without the provision that would have given the national legislature the power to overturn rulings by the Supreme Court. The dropped measure previously sparked huge protests in Israel. Dov Lieber and Michael Amon report for the Wall Street Journal.