Fdd's overnight brief

April 1, 2022

In The News


European leaders on Thursday rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand that “unfriendly countries” pay for natural gas in rubles, an apparent bid to help stabilize the Russian currency amid sanctions over the war in Ukraine. – Washington Post 

Russian forces transferred control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant back to Ukrainian authorities, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom and plant workers—who said the departing troops also had taken more than 100 Ukrainian national guardsmen away in trucks as prisoners of war. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.S. on Thursday levied sanctions on nearly three dozen Russian companies and individuals that the Treasury Department said are helping Moscow evade the West’s economic pressure campaign and aiding the country’s defense and intelligence agencies. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia is running its military campaign against Ukraine out of Moscow, with no central war commander on the ground to call the shots, according to American officials who have studied the five-week-old war. – New York Times 

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a decree ordering 134,500 new conscripts into the army as part of Russia’s annual spring draft, but the defence ministry said the call-up had nothing to do with the war in Ukraine. – Reuters 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding foreign buyers pay for Russian gas in roubles from Friday or else have their supplies cut, a move European capitals rejected and which Germany said amounted to “blackmail”. – Reuters 

Russia said on Thursday it had greatly expanded the number of European Union officials, lawmakers, public figures and journalists barred from Russia for allegedly being responsible for sanctions and stoking anti-Russian feelings. – Reuters 

The United States and the United Kingdom have enacted new sanctions on Russia, this time against the country’s media and technology companies. – Newsweek 

Several hundred Russian soldiers were forced to hastily withdraw from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine after suffering “acute radiation sickness” from contaminated soil, according to Ukrainian officials. – The Daily Beast 

Editorial: Throughout this conflict, the Biden Administration has been slow and reluctant to give Ukraine the weapons and intelligence support it needs. Pressure from the public and Capitol Hill has forced its hand. Now, with Russia on the defensive, is the time to keep the pressure on to truly achieve a strategic victory for Ukraine and NATO. – Wall Street Journal 

Samuel Helfont writes: Regardless of what happens in Ukraine, it’s unlikely that sanctions will topple Putin’s regime. Over time, the coalition will likely fray, as the need for peace in Eastern Europe and access to Russian energy leads much of the world to come to terms with Putin. – Washington Post 

David Satter writes: Despite the regime’s attempts to isolate Russians, information is still getting through with the help of cellphones, Telegram, YouTube and word of mouth. That creates an opening for the West. Besides aid to Ukraine, we have to engage the Russian people. Despite the grimness of the present situation, opinion can shift dramatically in Russia, as it has in the past. – Wall Street Journal 

Fareed Zakaria writes: Viewed through this prism, Russia’s actions in Ukraine are perfectly predictable. After a period of weakness in the 1990s (when Russia still waged a bloody war to keep Chechnya), Moscow set itself the goal of retaking its most cherished former colonies. Putin describes Ukraine as inseparable from Russia in much the same way France described Algeria in the 1950s. – Washington Post 

Michael Gerson writes: Rallying their peoples to accept the temporary economic burdens required to confront Putin is now the main challenge for European leaders and the U.S. president. It will not be easy, but it will certainly be easier than following the Zelensky example. – Washington Post 

Serge Schmemann writes: None of it can justify or explain Mr. Putin’s galling decision to launch a scorched-earth invasion of Ukraine, and to condemn his own people to isolation, hardship and contempt. What Russians are enduring, of course, comes nowhere close to the suffering and destruction of Ukraine. But looking back to the promise of that sweet victory more than 30 years ago, it is heart-wrenching to witness what Mr. Putin has wrought on his own country. – New York Times   

Tom Rogan writes: Patrushev knows that the West knows he is lying. He just doesn’t care. What he cares about is the proud presentation of disdain for international democratic norms. He hates those norms and those who stand for them: the U.S. most of all. That disdain thus defines Patrushev’s strategy, advice to Putin, and related action. He is a determined and highly capable enemy of the West. Patrushev’s rise in power and influence portends an even more hawkish Russian foreign policy. – Washington Examiner  

Simon Henderson writes: President Biden faces a conundrum. Internationally, he wants to squeeze Russia. Domestically, he wants to squeeze the oil industry so that Democrats retain green support in the November midterm elections. As the Wall Street Journal reported: “Biden’s Global Quest for Oil Triggers Political Pushback.” The oil market will spend the day absorbing the OPEC+ and SPR developments but it would not be a rash prediction to say that prices will remain around $100 per barrel, with consequential painful experiences for consumers, who are also voters. The Ukraine crisis, at least in energy terms, looks like it will continue through polling day. – The Hill 

Mark F. Cancian writes: Commentators suspect that Putin is not getting objective advice about the war and thus may not fully appreciate the difficulty his forces are in. […]Likely a group of generals will agree among themselves that Putin must be made aware of battlefield circumstances before the army breaks from continuing casualties, physical exhaustion, dwindling supplies and munitions, and sinking morale. Bringing that message forward may be the push that convinces Putin to get serious about negotiations. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


The Biden administration appears to be nearing an agreement to restore the nuclear deal with Iran that was abandoned by the Trump administration. Given the controversy surrounding the deal negotiated by the Obama administration, Republicans are sharpening their criticism of the emerging pact. – Washington Post 

The U.S. State Department on Thursday said a small number of outstanding issues remain in nuclear talks with Iran, adding that the onus is on Tehran to make those decisions. – Reuters 

The report starts off by saying that in Iran, “thousands of people were interrogated, unfairly prosecuted and/or arbitrarily detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights,” with many people remaining imprisoned unjustly. Rights to freedom of expression and assembly were also reportedly suppressed. – Jerusalem Post 

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said on Thursday Israel won’t be faced with any American restrictions if it wishes to act against Iran, whether or not a nuclear deal is signed between Tehran and world powers. – Times of Israel  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: All of this presents a very real threat that is constantly shifting. Iran often tries to use local incidents to stoke a “cycle” of violence that then gives it an excuse to use groups such as Hamas. In the past, Iran has also sent Hezbollah cells with drones to areas near the Golan to target Israel. – Jerusalem Post 


Outraged by a new Taliban decree banning girls from school beyond the sixth grade, and focused on the increasingly costly crisis in Ukraine, the international community faces a sharp dilemma: Should it continue the massive funding that has kept Afghans barely alive since last summer, or should it risk the starvation of a significant portion of the population to punish the militant government? – Washington Post 

A total of 41 donor countries pledged more than $2.44 billion towards the United Nations $4.4 billion appeal for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, the world body said on Thursday, as international concerns grew over the Taliban denying girls a secondary education. – Reuters 

The Taliban raised a giant white flag of their movement on a hill overlooking the Afghan capital Thursday in a ceremony held nearly eight months after they returned to power. Several hundred Taliban, many armed, attended the ceremony presided over by Abdul Salam Hanafi, a deputy prime minister, on the hill in Wazir Akbar Khan, near the mostly deserted diplomatic enclave in Kabul. – Agence France-Presse 

By refusing to reopen girls’ secondary schools, banning women from travelling alone on planes and forcing officials to grow beards, hardline Taliban clerics are demonstrating their tightening grip on Afghanistan’s government. – Financial Times 

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in an address on Thursday that people in Afghanistan are “selling their children and their body parts” to provide for their families amid the country’s near economic collapse. – The Hill 


Hundreds of Syrian fighters are en route to join Russian forces in Ukraine, effectively returning the favor to Moscow for helping President Bashar al-Assad crush rebels in an 11-year civil war, according to two people monitoring the flow of mercenaries. – New York Times 

For Syrians, the accounts of life in the southeastern Ukrainian city, besieged by Russian forces, sound eerily familiar. Rights groups, officials and observers have drawn comparisons to the brutal tactics Russia deployed to turn the tide of the Syrian civil war in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. – Washington Post 

Despite “considerable efforts to protect civilian life” during the 2017 battle against the Islamic State group for Raqqa, Syria, U.S. and coalition forces made harmful errors, according to a new report from the RAND Corporation. – Washington Examiner 


A Turkish prosecutor called on Thursday for the trial in Istanbul of Saudi suspects over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to be halted and transferred to Saudi authorities, a move which comes as Turkey seeks to mend ties with Riyadh. – Reuters 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy by phone on Thursday that Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in Istanbul this week had given “meaningful impetus” to efforts to end the war in Ukraine, Erdogan’s office said. – Reuters 

Eric R. Mandel writes: Turkish alignment with Russia is not a natural partnership. Turkey fears Russia and now needs NATO and the US. Turkey and Russia are already on opposite sides in the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in Syria and in Libya. There will be no better time for Turkey to rid itself of the S-400 system, especially with Russia in the world’s PR dumpster. How reliable will a NATO ally ever be if they cannot distance themselves from Russia now? – Jerusalem Post 


Israeli forces raided a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, setting off a gunbattle in which two Palestinians were killed and 15 were wounded, as Israel targeted what it said were militant networks after a series of deadly attacks. – Associated Press 

The rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians are reminiscent of the days that preceded the large-scale IDF operation in the West Bank 20 years ago, Shami al-Shami, a senior member of the ruling Fatah faction in the Jenin area, said Thursday. – Jerusalem Post 

Security forces braced for increased violence prior to Ramadan beginning Saturday night, as the unrest moved to the West Bank on Thursday, with a terrorist attack on a Gush Etzion settlement and an IDF-Palestinian firefight in Jenin. – Jerusalem Post 

Controversy erupted in Israel on Thursday after the municipality of the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm extended condolences to the families of the terrorists killed after murdering two Border Police officers in the city of Hadera last week. – Algemeiner 

Israeli forces were on the highest alert ahead of Friday prayers at the flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the start of the holy month of Ramadan, and amid a wave of terror attacks. – Times of Israel  

Bobby Ghosh writes: Might he enrage them into doing so? There is a double bank-shot of a chance that could happen. If Biden does bring the U.S. back into the nuclear deal and allow Iran to acquire more military means with which to menace its Arab neighbors, some of them might just make common cause with Israel. Sowing discord is hardly the most auspicious way to promote the accords. But the Israelis would probably take it. – Bloomberg 

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has responded positively to a ceasefire proposal for Yemen presented by United Nations special envoy Hans Grundberg, a Saudi official said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Saudi Arabia added 25 people and entities from different nationalities to its terrorism list, saying they are involved in financing Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, Saudi state media reported on Thursday. – Reuters 

An invitation for Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis to join Yemeni talks in Saudi Arabia remains on the table, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) assistant secretary-general Abdulaziz Al-Aweisheq said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Karen Elliott House writes: Saudi Arabia has been a key U.S. ally for nearly 80 years. If Mr. Biden wants to mend the relationship, doing so sooner rather than later is wise. His pride may take a short-term hit, but the price to U.S. interests of simply standing aloof as Saudi Arabia moves ever deeper into China’s orbit is far higher. – Wall Street Journal 

Yasmine Farouk and Andrew Leber write: The present standoff over oil production offers U.S. policymakers an opportunity to rethink the future course of the bilateral relationship. […]Instead of just increasing weapon supplies to the kingdom, the Biden administration can chart a new path for the relationship by finding ways to leverage the kingdom’s status anxieties to secure policy concessions and determining mutually agreeable compensation for any economic and strategic losses to the kingdom if it agrees to increase production. Or they can continue on their present path, with the United States’ agency to reshape the bilateral relationship declining by the month. – Foreign Affairs 

Gulf States

A powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric said Thursday that he was stepping back for the next 40 days and giving his Iran-backed rivals the chance to form the country’s next government. The surprising move by Muqtada al-Sadr comes against the backdrop of a persisting political deadlock in Iraq, five months after general elections. – Associated Press 

An Abu Dhabi state-owned investment company has been an investor in Israeli cyberweapon maker NSO Group since 2019, during which time NSO’s Pegasus spyware has been traced to the phones of journalists, human rights activists and the estranged wife of Dubai’s ruler. – Financial Times 

In response to the recent wave of terror attacks in Israeli cities, in Beersheba, Hadera and Bnei Brak, in which 11 people have so far been killed, media figures and other public figures in Qatar posted messages on their personal Twitter accounts in which they praised the attacks and their perpetrators, including the Hadera shooting, which has been claimed by ISIS. The tweets described the attackers as martyrs who will be rewarded with Paradise, whereas the Israeli victims were uniformly described as soldiers or settlers. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

In a dramatic about-face, a Turkish prosecutor requested Thursday to move the trial of suspects linked to the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, which sent the operatives who carried out the deadly assault, according to local media and a person who attended the hearing. – Washington Post 

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) on Thursday opened a consulate in Western Sahara, joining African and Arab countries that have established diplomatic missions there in a sign of support for Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory. – Reuters 

Libya’s Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister by the eastern-based parliament this month, expects to take over government in Tripoli in the coming days without using force, he told Reuters, amid a weeks-long standoff between rival factions. – Reuters 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses a “grave” threat to the Arab world and threatens its food security, particularly due to surging wheat prices, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on a visit to Algeria Wednesday. – Newsweek 

The Arab League is set to send a delegation of foreign ministers from six Arab states to Moscow in order to promote a resolution to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, Husam Zaki, assistant to the Arab League secretary-general, told Russia’s TASS news agency Friday. – Jerusalem Post 

The Qatar World Cup’s top organiser, Hassan Al Thawadi, has accused the Norway FA President Lise Klaveness of failing to educate herself on the country’s human rights record after she delivered a damning address at Thursday’s FIFA Congress in Doha. – ESPN 

Liat Collins writes: Amid the new configurations and ties, it will be pertinent to keep eyes also on the role of Bashar Assad in Syria, who survived the Arab Spring with Russian help, and on Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey who is also showing signs of wanting to repair relations with Israel – out of strategic needs rather than a sudden newfound love, of course. – Jerusalem Post 

Amos Gilad and Michael Milstein write: On the other hand, Israel must understand the importance of maintaining the Palestinian Authority’s stability in the West Bank, while searching for openings to political dialogue. This would not only serve to ease international pressure on Israel, especially from the U.S. administration, it would also clear the path toward regional normalization and steer Israel away from going down the slippery slope of a one-state solution. – YNet 

Malak Altaeb writes: Tunisia will need to adopt a collective approach to waste management, whereby both municipalities and civil society ensure the implementation of a broader national strategy. It should make room for and incentivize community-level entrepreneurial projects to work on this issue through local recycling companies and initiatives. This could help foster social contributions and create jobs without the need for international aid. In addition, such an approach could also give rise to opportunities for companies in Europe or neighboring states, such as Libya and Algeria, to pursue mutually beneficial cooperation in North Africa. – Middle East Institute 

Korean Peninsula

In a report to the National Assembly on Tuesday, the South Korean Defense Ministry endorsed what some analysts had already suspected: North Korea actually fired its older Hwasong-15 ICBM — which was tested in 2017 — and exaggerated Mr. Kim’s weapons achievements by falsely claiming a successful Hwasong-17 launch. – New York Times 

There are increasing signs that North Korea could soon test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017 in a bid to improve its arsenal and increase political pressure, U.S. and South Korean officials and analysts said. – Reuters 

Joint South Korean and U.S. military drills set to kick off next month could for the first time in years include more weaponry and troops, and more aggressive messaging as tensions with North Korea rise. – Reuters 


Political freedoms and the rule of law have continued to deteriorate in Hong Kong over the past year, threatening American interests and Hong Kong’s autonomy, a U.S. State Department report on the city’s status to Congress said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal 

The closed-door trial in Beijing of an Australian journalist detained on suspicion of disclosing state secrets overseas ended without a verdict on Thursday, in a case that has deepened a rift between two countries that have clashed over trade, political interference and military provocation. – Wall Street Journal 

Before the war, the E.U. was slowly and somewhat reluctantly adopting a tougher stance toward China. The events of the past month — and Beijing’s tacit backing of Moscow — have accelerated that shift, aligning the E.U. more closely with the U.S. position on China as a strategic adversary. – Washington Post 

Amid a regional backlash, the Solomon Islands said it would not allow a Chinese military base in the Pacific islands nation despite its plans to sign a security pact with Beijing. – Reuters 

Hong Kong’s government said on Friday it rejected “unfounded and ridiculous” allegations made in policy reports from Britain and the United States of a deteriorating political and legal situation due to the city’s sweeping national security law. – Reuters 

China’s securities regulator said on Thursday both China and the United States have a willingness to solve their audit disputes, and the outcome depends on the wisdom of both parties. – Reuters 

China has decided to restrict the visas for U.S. officials, in response to the U.S. visa restrictions on some China officials, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday. – Reuters 

EU and Chinese leaders meet for a first summit in two years on Friday with Brussels keen for assurances from Beijing that it will neither supply Russia with arms nor help Moscow circumvent Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters 

European Union officials plan to press China diplomats if Beijing offers military aid to Russia for the war in Ukraine. Senior European Union (EU) officials will meet for a virtual summit with China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday, mostly for discussions of the war, which is now in its second month. – Newsweek 

Editorial: But it is in Europe’s interest not to make itself vulnerable to Chinese economic extortion on supply chains, critical minerals and business investment. […]Diversifying sources for medical supplies and rare-earth minerals, along with other strategically important goods, is sound policy. If China invades Taiwan, does Europe really want to be in an even vulnerable than it now is with Russia? – Wall Street Journal 

South Asia

Facing the near certain prospect of being removed from office in a no-confidence vote in a matter of days, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan refused to resign in a defiant speech on Thursday, doubling down on his allegations of a foreign conspiracy against him and deepening a political crisis that has embroiled the country for weeks. – New York Times 

The U.S. denied claims from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that the Biden administration is seeking to oust his government, which lost its majority in parliament ahead of a no-confidence vote on Sunday. – Bloomberg 

Police in Sri Lanka’s capital lifted a curfew on Friday after protests in which dozens of people were arrested and several policemen were hurt near the home of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over his handling of an economic crisis. – Reuters 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob witnessed on Friday the signing of an agreement to improve protection for migrant workers following a meeting between the leaders in Jakarta. – Reuters 

The United States will not set any “red line” for India on its energy imports from Russia but does not want to see a “rapid acceleration” in purchases, a top U.S. official said on Thursday during a visit to New Delhi. – Reuters 

Mark Regev writes: Today’s robust Indo-Israeli ties are yet another manifestation of the larger transformation in Israel’s international standing. Unlike Ben-Gurion, Bennett’s challenge isn’t an Indian boycott, but to build on Netanyahu’s work and upgrade the relationship still further. When Jerusalem and New Delhi finalize new dates for Bennett’s visit, there will be an opportunity to do exactly that. – Jerusalem Post 


Russia’s war in Ukraine has rattled Europe, revived the NATO military alliance and helped rekindle conflicts from the post-Soviet era, including in places such as Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory at the center of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. – Washington Post 

The military junta that seized power in Myanmar 14 months ago is now detaining 10,000 political prisoners, a rights organization that monitors detentions said on Thursday. Many of the prisoners have been tortured and are being held in deplorable conditions, according to the group. – New York Times 

Japan said on Friday it was freezing the assets of four Russian organisations, three Russian individuals and six North Korean individuals for involvement in North Korea’s weapons projects, according to a statement from the foreign ministry. – Reuters 

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Thursday declined to say if Taiwan would be invited to join the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific economic plan, spurring Senate criticism that excluding the island would be a missed opportunity. – Reuters 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Thursday he will meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels next week to lay the groundwork for peace talks to end the decades-long conflict over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. – Associated Press 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that Australia will send armored Bushmaster vehicles to Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy specifically asked for them while appealing to Australian lawmakers for more help in Ukraine’s war against Russia. – Associated Press 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is meeting his counterparts in China and India this week — two countries under pressure to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine as the death toll from the unprovoked conflict rises. – CNN 


Russian and Ukrainian officials agreed to a temporary cease-fire in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, with evacuations planned for Friday, even as the Pentagon reported devastating airstrikes there and in Kyiv, the capital, over the previous 24 hours. – Washington Post 

Scrutiny of the French government’s spending on private consultants during the vaccine rollout has thrown President Emmanuel Macron on the defensive as his bid for re-election approaches its final week. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia may be repositioning some of its forces around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to send them to the eastern Donbas region, where Ukrainian forces have been putting up fierce resistance, the Pentagon said Thursday. – Agence France-Presse  

Ukraine will soon be able to better protect its skies and cities from Russian attacks because it expects “super modern” military equipment from the United States and Britain, Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan, Sergiy Korsunsky, said on Friday. – Reuters 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that Russia cannot be a constructive partner in the G20, a group composed of most of the world’s largest economies, because of its invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters 

Two Ukrainian military helicopters struck a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod on Friday, a Russian official said, making the first accusation of a Ukrainian air strike on Russian soil since Moscow invaded its neighbour in late February. – Reuters 

Western intelligence agencies are waging a psychological war over Ukraine directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an expert at the genre, who is now effectively taking a dose of his own medicine. – CNN 

The Ukrainians have made use of guerrilla-style counter-attacks to retake territory and deliver a series of body blows to an enemy that can call on superior forces. – Financial Times 

Russia’s Arctic envoy has told Newsweek that international tensions over the war in Ukraine should not spill into the northern region that also borders the United States. But recent diplomatic and military moves by Washington and its allies show the usually serene frontier has already become a frontline in the crisis. – Newsweek 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Thursday that two of his country’s top security officials had been dismissed from their roles as generals for being “traitors.” – The Hill 


Burkina Faso’s military junta on Thursday resisted pressure from West African regional union ECOWAS to relinquish power in less than three years, saying its priority was to restore security in the country. – Reuters 

Gunmen suspected to be from Ethiopia’s Amhara region killed 26 people and injured 15 in an ambush on a vehicle carrying militia in neighbouring Oromiya, local officials said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The French medical charity Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, says that five of its employees have been released in Nigeria after being kidnapped last month in neighboring Cameroon. – Associated Press 

Sudan’s army-led government fired dozens of professors, civil servants and administrators in what pro-democracy activists said was a bid to tighten control over an education sector that’s a bastion of dissent to October’s coup. – Bloomberg 

And the status of the Chagos islands, long contested between the UK and Mauritius, is in flux like never before. Mauritius is now making assertions of sovereignty and even demanding that Google change its maps and mark the islands as Mauritian. – Financial Times 

The Americas

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said on Thursday during a visit to Venezuelan capital Caracas that the court will open an office there, amid a preliminary investigation into alleged human rights violations by officials. – Reuters 

Venezuela’s state-run energy firm PDVSA is in talks to buy and lease several oil tankers amid a possible expansion in exports, according to three sources and a document seen by Reuters, a sign the country expects U.S. sanctions on its petroleum sector to be eased. – Reuters 

The International Monetary Fund and Argentine government have been “clear-eyed” about the exceptionally high risks facing the Argentine economy and a new $44 billion IMF program approved Friday, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said on Thursday. – Reuters 

United States

Some Democratic senators criticized the Biden administration’s stance on an emerging Asia-Pacific economic agreement as lacking measures to help U.S. exporters, exposing a widening rift among Democrats over the country’s trade policy. – Wall Street Journal 

President Joe Biden announced Thursday a record release from US strategic oil reserves to “ease the pain” of soaring domestic fuel prices, saying the “wartime” measure will defuse Russia’s leverage as an energy power. – Agence France-Presse 

Jason Willick writes: Nuclear deterrence can be debated endlessly because there’s mercifully little empirical evidence against which to test theories of how it works (or doesn’t). But China’s nuclear rise and the simultaneous return of war in Europe have shattered, at least for the foreseeable future, any claim that unreciprocated American nuclear disarmament is a realistic path to peace. – Washington Post  


The U.S. government began privately warning some American companies the day after Russia invaded Ukraine that Moscow could manipulate software designed by Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky to cause harm, according to a senior U.S. official and two people familiar with the matter. – Reuters 

As lawmakers scramble in the United States to regulate homegrown technology giants such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook, Europe is moving fast on rules that may shape the future of innovation here and around the world. – Washington Examiner 

Russia is threatening to take action against the online nonprofit encyclopedia website Wikipedia over the presence of “illegal information” regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, The Kyiv Independent reported, citing Russia’s federal communications agency Roskomnadzor’s announcement on its official Telegram channel. – Jerusalem Post 

The Biden administration is reviewing whether and how to change a Trump-era policy which gave unprecedented authority to the Department of Defense and U.S. Cyber Command to authorize cyber-operations without White House approval, two sources briefed on the discussions said. – CyberScoop 

Benjamin R. Young writes: The intelligence community needs to continue to keep a close eye on the emerging linkages between the cybercriminal underworld and North Korean state-affiliated hackers. Looking forward, we are likely to see a proliferation of North Korean cyber espionage that aligns with the regime’s nuclear provocations. – The National Interest 


The U.S. Navy will end its work with Raytheon Technologies developing a sonar for littoral combat ships and frigates and will instead buy a sonar already in use by several navies around the globe. – Defense News 

The U.S. Air Force’s new combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W Jolly Green II, has moved into its operational test phase at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. – Defense News 

The U.S. military could have done more to protect civilians trapped in Raqqa, Syria, as it pummeled the city to rubble during a climactic battle with the Islamic State group in 2017, the Rand Corp. found in a Pentagon-ordered review released Thursday. – Military.com 

Long War

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi has warned that the current wave of terror attacks in Israel could spread to Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, Channel 13 reported Thursday. – Times of Israel  

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to endorse the African Union’s new transitional mission in Somalia and authorized it to take action against al-Qaida and Islamic State extremist groups and conduct a phased handover of security responsibilities to Somalia’s government. – Associated Press 

The Hamas terror group threatened on Thursday to escalate violence against Israel, after Israeli forces launched a large-scale anti-terror operation in the West Bank in response to a string of attacks in the last two weeks that have left 11 Israelis dead. – Times of Israel