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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend. Here’s today’s news.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – CLUSTER MUNITIONS
President Biden on Friday made the “difficult decision” to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions because the “Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.” Biden said the cluster munitions would fill a supply gap as the United States manufactures shells. Jeremy Herb reports for CNN.
Democrats appeared to be torn on whether to support the Biden administration’s plans to send cluster munitions to Ukraine. Arguments against the decision primarily focused on the risk to civilian lives and the 2008 treaty, signed by 123 countries, that banned cluster bombs in war. The U.S., Russia, and Ukraine are not signatories to the treaty. Some Democrats supported the decision because Ukraine needs shells if the counteroffensive is to continue. Lauren Sforza reports for The Hill.
The decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine has drawn some criticism from U.S. allies. U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not directly criticize the decision, but he did reiterate that the U.K. has signed the 2008 treaty banning their use. Yesterday, New Zealand said the munitions could cause “huge damage to innocent people.” Canada and Spain also voiced concerns. Germany said it would not send cluster munitions but understood the United States’ position. Kathryn Armstrong and James FitzGerald report for BBC News.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Verified Twitter users are causing false and misleading posts about the Ukraine conflict to go viral. These ‘blue tick’ users pay for their content to be promoted on the platform. Some of the misinformation can be traced back to pro-Kremlin social media channels. Shayan Sardarizadeh reports for BBC News.
President Biden said that Ukraine is not ready for NATO membership, saying that Russia’s war in Ukraine needs to end first. Biden added, “… there’s other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization … ” Jeremy Herb reports for CNN.
The Freedom of Russia Legion, an anti-Kremlin military group, said its fighters plan another cross-border raid into Russia. “There will be a further surprise in the next month or so,” a spokesperson for the group said, adding, “It will be our third operation. After that, there will be a fourth and fifth. We have ambitious plans. We want to free all our territory.” Luke Harding reports for the Guardian.
WAGNER ARMED ACTION
Belarusian officials on Friday gave foreign journalists a guided tour of the empty military base that was seemingly renovated to house Russian paramilitary organization Wagner group fighters who chose to leave Russia. “We have nothing to hide,” said Maj. Gen. Leonid V. Kasinsky, an assistant to the Belarus Minister of Defense responsible for ideology, “[n]o one from Wagner has come here.” General Kasinsky said the base would be used for a military training exercise in September. The tour has raised further questions about the status of the deal between Yevgeny Progozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Valerie Hopkins reports for the New York Times.
The Kremlin’s push to take control of the paramilitary organization Wagner group is causing security fears in parts of the Middle East and Africa, even though Russia has assured the group’s services would continue. Local concerns about attacks mount as Wagner fighters leave their posts in the Central African Republic and Syria. Benoit Faucon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a member of the elite Horatio Alger Association, has benefitted from the association’s wealthy members’ gifts, including from major donors to conservative causes who have an interest in Supreme Court decisions, even if they were not directly involved in the cases. Abbie VanSickle and Steve Eder report for the New York Times.
John F. Kelly, who served as former President Trump’s White House chief of staff, said in a sworn statement that Trump had discussed having the I.R.S. investigate two FBI officials involved in the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. The revelations demonstrate the extent of Trump’s interest in using the federal government’s law enforcement and investigative powers to target his perceived enemies. Michael S. Schmidt reports for the New York Times.
The injunction that limits the government’s communications with tech companies undermines efforts to fortify social media companies against election interference. The injunction comes as social media companies cut their content moderation staff, research into disinformation wanes, and artificial intelligence exacerbates the threat of bad actors. Cat Zakrzewski, Naomi Nix, and Joseph Menn report for the Washington Post.
U.S. SOUTHERN BORDER
The number of migrants trying to enter the United States has plummeted following the introduction of post-Title 42 measures by the Biden administration and Mexican steps to discourage migrants from massing along the border, including transporting them to places deep in Mexico’s interior. Simon Romero, Miriam Jordan, and Emiliano Rodríguez Mega report for the New York Times.
Advertisements posted to TikTok, YouTube, and WhatsApp drive demand for the illegal smuggling industry that has taken advantage of confusion over changes in U.S. immigration policies. U.S. officials say that since Title 42 expired, migrant detentions have fallen by 70 percent as more people come to the country legally. However, profits for smugglers soar as they post videos on social media suggesting that crossing the border without being detained has become more complicated, allowing smugglers to raise their prices. Bernd Debusmann Jr reports for BBC News.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen’s talks with Beijing last week softened the language around the rising tensions between the United States and China. However, the two side’s policy positions have not changed, raising the prospect of further conflicts over trade, investment, and technology. Keith Bradsher reports for the New York Times.
North Korea accused the United States today of violating its airspace by conducting surveillance flights and warned that such flights may be shot down. Jack Kim reports for Reuters.
U.S. Central Command conducted a strike in Syria that resulted in the death of Usamah al-Muhajir, a leader of the self-styled ISIS militant group in eastern Syria. U.S. Central Command reports.
Record immigration to affluent countries is sparking bigger backlashes worldwide, boosting populist parties and putting pressure on governments to tighten immigration policies. Around five million more people moved to affluent countries last year than left them as COVID-19-era travel restrictions eased, labor shortages intensified, and economic problems in the developing world deteriorated. Polls across affluent countries show a jump in opposition to immigration. Tom Fairless reports for the Wall Street Journal.
At least 300 people traveling on three migrant boats from Senegal to Spain’s Canary Islands have disappeared, a migrant aid group said yesterday. The Canary Islands have become the main destination for migrants trying to reach Spain. Summer is the busiest period for all attempted crossings. Reuters reports.
Germany will send troops to Australia, for the first time, as part of military exercises, underlining Berlin’s increased focus on the Indo-Pacific amid rising tensions with China. Army Chief Alfons Mais said up to 240 German soldiers will participate in the Talisman Sabre exercise from July 22 to August 4, the most extensive military exercise between Australia and the U.S., held bi-annually. Sabine Siebold reports for Reuters.
Sudan is on the brink of a “full-scale civil war,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. Health Minister Haitham Mohammed Ibrahim gave a conservative estimate that last month’s clashes killed over 3,000 people and wounded over 6,000 others. According to U.N. figures, over 2.9 million people have fled their homes to safer areas inside Sudan or crossed into neighboring countries. Samy Magdy reports for AP News.