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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 authorities appear to have detained Sergei Surovikin, a top general, under suspicion that he was involved in planning the armed action, U.S. officials, citing early intelligence reports, said. U.S. officials cautioned that the reports were inconclusive and that the circumstances surrounding Surovikin remain unclear. Helene Cooper, Julian E. Barnes, and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
The Biden administration asked Ukraine not to conduct covert attacks inside Russia during the paramilitary organization Wagner group’s armed action, according to U.S. officials. Ukraine was advised not to do anything that would influence the outcome of events or take advantage of the chaos. The United States’ efforts to be seen as uninvolved appear to have succeeded, as Russian officials recently began to signal that they did not believe the West was behind the armed action. Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt, and Anton Troianovski report for the New York Times.
The Ukrainian counter-offensive has focused on long-distance strikes rather than advancing troops and Western tanks, as Ukraine faces stiff Russian resistance. Ukrainian forces are using long-range Western weapons to hit Russian supply lines deep in occupied territory, as well as cheaper weaponry to soften the front line. Ian Lovett reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Ukrainian forces scattered thousands of antipersonnel mines last year, violating the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which Ukraine has signed, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Russia, which has not signed the treaty, has used antipersonnel mines extensively. Human Rights Watch reports.
A satellite communications system used by the Russian military was offline following a cyberattack late Wednesday and remained mostly offline yesterday. At least two groups claimed responsibility for the attack, one is a “hacktivist” organization, and the other said it is part of the paramilitary organization Wagner group. Joseph Menn reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – WESTERN RESPONSE
The Biden administration is actively considering sending cluster munitions to Ukraine, two U.S. officials and a person familiar with the debate said. While the United States is not a signatory state of the 2010 Convention on Cluster Munitions which bans their use, Congress has restricted Washington’s ability to transfer cluster munitions, citing the risk to civilians. Alexander Ward reports for POLITICO.
E.U. leaders yesterday declared that they “stand ready” to contribute to commitments that would help Ukraine defend itself in the long term. It is not clear what form these commitments will take. Josep Borrell, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, suggested they could expand the European Peace Facility fund that has financed billions of euros in arms for Ukraine and a training mission for Ukrainian troops. Andrew Gray and Julia Payne report for Reuters.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – FRANCE PROTESTS
At least 667 people have been arrested following a third night of protests and riots in France after the shooting of a 17-year-old driver who refused to stop for a traffic check in Paris on Tuesday, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said. Paris was severely affected by last night’s looting and rioting, and public transport remains disrupted today. Almost 250 police officers and gendarmes were injured. BBC News reports.
Forty thousand officers have been deployed across France, and cities announced curfews, the Interior Ministry said. Annabelle Timsit, Niha Masih, and Ruby Mellen report for the Washington Post.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – OTHER EUROPEAN ISSUES
The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that the U.K.’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful. The plan to send people who arrive in the U.K. illegally to Rwanda was first unveiled in April 2022 to deter crossings of the English Channel on small boats. The government said it would appeal. James Gregory and Sean Seddon report for BBC News.
Far-right parties are resurgent in Europe. Giorgia Meloni, head of a party with neo-fascist roots, leads Italy. Far-right nationalists in Finland recently joined the coalition government. Sweden’s anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalism Sweden Democrats are the second largest party in parliament. In Greece last Sunday, three far-right parties won enough seats to enter parliament, while in Spain, the nationalist Vox Party outperformed all expectations in recent regional elections. In Poland and Hungary, ultra-conservative and authoritarian-leaning parties are in government. In Germany, polls now put the far-right AfD party ahead of Chancellor Scholz’s Social Democrats. Katya Adler reports for BBC News.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Sweden over the burning of a Koran in Stockholm yesterday. Erdogan said Turkey would show the strongest reaction to what he called the vile protest. A series of protests in Sweden against Islam and for Kurdish rights have heightened tensions with Turkey, whose backing Sweden needs to gain entry to NATO. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Eleven Chinese aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait today, an unofficial barrier between the two sides, Taiwan’s defense ministry said. A total of 24 Chinese warplanes, including fighters and bombers, were spotted near Taiwan this morning. Five Chinese battleships also joined the “joint war readiness patrol.” Reuters reports.
China is adding to Xi Jinping’s vast powers with a new law that threatens to punish entities that act in ways “detrimental” to China’s interests. State media outlet The Global Times called the law a “key step to enrich the legal toolbox against Western hegemony.” Kelly Ng reports for BBC News.
Jens Stoltenberg is set to stay on as NATO’s secretary general for another year, four people familiar with the decision have said. A U.S. official said the extension is “a done deal” that “will be formalized next week.” Lili Bayer and Alexander Ward report for POLITICO.
The U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of ammunition and logistics support to Taiwan in two separate deals valued at up to $440 million, the Pentagon said yesterday. Taiwan’s defense ministry today said the sales would boost its resilience against China’s “expanding threats of military and grey zone tactics,” which it said has posed “severe threats” to Taiwan. Reuters reports.
An amended Chinese law to combat espionage gives the government greater access to and control over companies’ data, potentially turning what would be considered regular business activities into criminal acts, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center have warned in a bulletin being issued today. Kate O’Keeffe reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, has been on leave for several weeks after his security clearance was suspended amid a State Department diplomatic security investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information. Malley was a central figure in the Biden administration’s bid to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and in formulating the administration’s Iran policy. Kylie Atwood, Alex Marquardt, Jeremy Herb, and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS
A grand jury has issued more subpoenas to people involved in the case concerning former President Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents, according to people familiar with the matter. Post-indictment investigations can result in additional charges against people who have already been accused of crimes. The investigation could also lead to charges against new defendants. Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
Mike Roman, an ex-campaign official to former President Trump, is cooperating with prosecutors in the ongoing criminal investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, two sources familiar with the matter said. One source said that Roman might not have to appear before the grand jury but could speak to prosecutors in a more informal setting under the proffer agreement. Under such an agreement, prosecutors typically agree not to use any statements made against the person giving evidence in criminal proceedings. Zachary Cohen and Kaitlan Collins report for CNN.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan found no merit in former president Trump’s arguments that he deserved absolute presidential immunity, which he made in a bid to dismiss the first of E. Jean Carroll’s two lawsuits accusing Trump of defamation for denying he raped her. Kaplan also rejected Trump’s claim that Carroll “consented” to his statements by purposely waiting decades to go public until he left office, leaving him “no choice” but to defend himself. Jonathan Stempel reports for Reuters.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that race can no longer be considered a factor in university admissions. The landmark ruling upends decades-old U.S. policies on affirmative action, also known as positive discrimination. President Biden said he “strongly” disagreed with the ruling, saying, “We cannot let this decision be the last word … Discrimination still exists in America.” “This is not a normal court,” Biden added, referring to the nine justices ideologically split between six conservatives and three liberals. Bernd Debusmann Jr reports for BBC News.
Read the Supreme Court Decision on affirmative action, as reported by the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Taylor Taranto, 37, who was sued over his alleged role in the Jan. 6 attack, was arrested yesterday with firearms in his van near the residence of former President Obama, according to a law enforcement official. His motivations remain unclear. Emily Davies reports for the Washington Post.
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, top House Republicans sought a closed-door interview with David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, investigating Hunter Biden. C. Ryan Barber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Chinese spy balloon that flew across the United States in February did not collect any information, the Pentagon says. The United States “took steps to mitigate” what intelligence the spy balloon could collect, officials said yesterday. U.S. intelligence agencies are analyzing debris collected from the balloon after being shot down. Chloe Kim reports for BBC News.
The U.S. military’s primary source of recruits – military families – is drying up as families discourage their children from enlisting. Successive scandals and a lack of decisive victories, combined with a tight labor market, mean fewer recruits are enlisting. U.S. recruiting shortfalls could compel the military to reduce its force size at a time when its competition with China and Russia is heating up. Ben Kesling reports for the Wall Street Journal.