Fdd's overnight brief

April 21, 2022

In The News


Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that it had successfully conducted the first test of a new intercontinental ballistic missile that President Vladimir Putin said “is capable of overcoming all missile defense systems” and would make those who “try to threaten our country think twice.” – Washington Post 

The RS-28 Sarmat, which NATO has dubbed “Satan 2,” is considered Russia’s most powerful ICBM: a super-heavy, thermonuclear-armed intercontinental-range ballistic missile. The missile that was introduced during a 2018 Russian state-of-the-nation address was the “next generation” of weaponry that could breach “any missile defense” system, Putin claimed at the time. – Washington Post 

Senior Ukrainian officials said they are ready and willing to go to the southeastern port city of Mariupol in an apparent last-ditch effort to negotiate for the evacuation of its remaining fighters and 1,000 civilians, all of whom are holed up in a steel plant surrounded by Russian troops. – Washington Post 

At least a half-dozen world leaders, including officials with the U.S. and Ukrainian governments, walked out of a Group of 20 meeting in Washington on Wednesday when Russian officials began to speak, several people familiar with the matter said. – Washington Post 

Russian forces Wednesday made incremental gains in their offensive in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, as Western nations rushed more weapons to the outgunned Ukrainian military. – Wall Street Journal 

When the United States wanted to purchase a fleet of helicopters for the Afghan government in the early 2010s, it chose the Mi-17 sold by a Russian state-owned arms exporter. – Washington Post 

More than eight decades later, once again trapped in a basement as Russian forces bombarded the city for weeks, Obiedkova lost her latest battle. She was 91. Before she died on April 4, she had asked her family: “Why is this happening?” according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. – Washington Post 

Ukraine estimates it needs $5 billion every month to cover essential government services and keep its economy functioning, raising urgent needs for nations to provide additional funding for the war-ravaged country, the head of the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia is inching closer to a default on its sovereign debts after an industry body overseeing the credit-default swaps market ruled Wednesday that the Kremlin failed to meet its obligations to foreign creditors when it paid them with rubles earlier this month. – Wall Street Journal 

The residents of Avdiivka, in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, have been living for years in the shadow of the fight against Russian-backed separatists. But the peril they are facing now, with the Russian military massing just outside of town in a new and potentially more lethal phase of the war, could be far more devastating. – New York Times 

Russia has amassed troops in an attempt to seize eastern Ukraine, now its main objective in the war. The Russian military seems intent on encircling Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region by advancing from several directions, including south from Izium and north from Donetsk. – New York Times 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces not to storm the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged city of Mariupol on Thursday but instead to block it “so that not even a fly comes through.” – Associated Press 

President Joe Biden will deliver an update on the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday as he works to complete a new arms package for its military. – Reuters 

A top ally of President Vladimir Putin said Russian forces will seize the last main stronghold of resistance in the besieged city of Mariupol on Thursday, after Ukraine proposed talks on evacuating troops and civilians there. – Reuters 

The U.S. rolled out new sanctions on Wednesday against more than 40 individuals and entities accused of evading the ongoing wave of penalties imposed on Russia as punishment for invading Ukraine. – Associated Press 

A growing number of senior Kremlin officials has been quietly questioning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine as military losses pile up and the Russian economy struggles to survive following multiple rounds of punishing sanctions. – Washington Examiner 

Russian troops tried to rebel against their military commanders in an occupied part of southeast Ukraine, but three of them were killed by Chechen fighters in response, according to Ukrainian intelligence. – The Daily Beast 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to meet counterpart Vladimir Putin in Russia, Bennett said in a televised interview given to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday evening. – Jerusalem Post 

Editorial: Mr. Putin is not afflicted by Western misgivings about nuclear weapons. He sees his arsenal as an advantage he can exploit to bully the West into backing down, and he’s willing to accept risks Western leaders would not. – Wall Street Journal  

Editorial: The benefit of Biden’s arrival in Ukraine, however, would be clear. It would draw a striking contrast between the American president and his Russian counterpart. Whereas the former stands with freedom fighters and innocent civilians, the latter hides in palaces as his young conscripts die in an unjust war. America stands for something. By visiting Ukraine, Biden can prove that its stand is physical as well as philosophical. – Washington Examiner  

Editorial: Capturing Mariupol would be a major boon for Russia: The port city connects territory held by pro-Russian separatists in the east with the Crimea region Moscow annexed in 2014. And so, with the Russians closing in, the Ukrainian soldiers holed up under constant fire are doing all they can: never giving in, never, never, never. Ready, in the words of the Mariupol police chief, “for fierce resistance.” – New York Post 

Daniel Henninger writes: Western Europe’s unexpectedly quick commitment to aiding Ukraine in the war’s first phase created a cascade of global nonprofits’ support for Ukraine’s refugees and fighters. They haven’t done this to settle for a frozen conflict. The animating force could not be more clear: freedom versus tyranny. If Mr. Putin wins now, the global demoralization will be incalculable. – Wall Street Journal 

David Ignatius writes: The Russians have every advantage in this fight but one: It’s not their land. Ukrainians have shown that they can mount a courageous and disciplined defense against a numerically stronger Russian force, as they did in repelling Russian attacks against the capital of Kyiv last month. – Washington Post 

Andreas Kluth writes: The Kremlin peddles the fiction that it must attack Ukraine to “denazify” it. This claim is absurd — Ukraine is a pro-Western democracy with a president of Jewish descent. But to Russian ears, the narrative might superficially match some of the Ukrainian defenders in the steel factory, who include the Azov Battalion, a nationalist regiment with alleged neo-Nazi ties. – Bloomberg 

Marc Polymeropoulous writes: There’s another point to note, namely that if Putin does order a tactical nuclear attack, the odds of a revolt inside the Russian national security establishment, i.e., a coup — yes, let’s say that — increase considerably. I do really wonder if the Russian military and intelligence services, despite their incompetence and corruption, could support this move. The use of a tactical nuke will forever damn to hell anyone involved in making or carrying out such a decision.  – Washington Examiner  

Robert A. Manning writes: The U.S. and its allies may get lucky, and Ukraine may totally defeat Putin or he may be deposed. But luck is not a policy. Apart from the threat of nuclear weapons used against Ukraine, depending on the results on the battlefield, Ukrainian President Zelensky and his U.S. and NATO allies may be obliged to negotiate with Putin. As former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said of recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization, “You don’t make peace with  friends, you make it with very unsavory enemies.” – The Hill  

James Jay Carafano writes: For starters, the West will have to ensure that Ukraine has a future. In the short term, that probably means making sure that Ukraine has the means necessary to defend itself against another invasion. No piece of paper signed by any power can substitute for a substantially well-armed people. The U.S. must partner in helping build a sustained Ukrainian military, a resilient logistical base and dependable domestic production capacity for the long term. Lend lease might be lending for a long time. – Fox News   

Conrad Black writes: The excellent training and weapons that the West has provided has contributed importantly to a splendid Ukrainian victory in the first phase of this war. But we should be under no illusions that this could still become a crushing defeat for the West if we do not bolster Ukraine’s ability to respond in kind to the Russian ability to terrorize Ukraine with missiles, including hypersonic missiles against which the United States does not have an adequate defense. – New York Sun 

Mark F. Cancian writes: The size of the package and its closeness to the previous package indicate that military aid has become routine. The United States has provided $2.6 billion since the beginning of the conflict on February 24, which comes out to $52 million a day. Spending at that rate implies that the $800 million package will last about two weeks, so the announcement of another aid package is expected around April 27. There is much pressure to do even more as the war settles into a long grind. The next step might involve extensive training of Ukrainian troops and the deployment of Western support personnel, perhaps contractors, to Ukraine to provide technical skills. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Diana Darke writes: As reports mount of chemical weapon use by Russian forces in Ukraine, expect more lessons learned in Syria. Russian media claimed the numerous horrific photos of dead gassed Syrians, uploaded by witnesses at the scene, were fakes, using “actors.” When teams from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) tried to reach sites to collect evidence, they were barred for “security reasons” and told that soldiers were making the area “safe.” – Middle East Institute 

Maria Repnikova writes: This media crackdown is significant not only because of its practical implications—most Russians cannot now access independent news and analysis of a war being waged in their name—but for a deeper reason. It symbolizes Russia’s further estrangement from the West on a more subtle, ideological level: Putin’s regime has now dropped even the appearance of democracy and, by extension, its treatment of the West as a marker of political legitimacy. – The Atlantic 


Iranian intelligence officers arrested three people belonging to a group linked to Israel’s Mossad agency and charged with involvement in releasing classified information, state TV reported Thursday. – Associated Press 

Iran said it needs tens of billions of dollars of investment in its natural gas sector, underscoring how it would struggle to ramp up production even if the U.S. lifts sanctions. – Bloomberg  

An Iranian karate athlete and Olympic gold medalist has criticized his home country for barring its athletes from competing against Israeli opponents, the London-based Iran International reported. – Algemeiner  

Biden administration officials have notified their European counterparts that Washington does not plan on delisting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as part of the nuclear talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a senior Israeli diplomatic official claims. – Times of Israel 

Michael Rubin writes: The Obama administration spun the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iran nuclear accord as the most stringent nonproliferation deal ever. It was not. The Biden administration, too, says that maximum pressure and President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal enabled Iran to accelerate its program. […]One of the biggest problems with the deal was how it enabled the Revolutionary Guards to divert the fruits of sanctions’ relief and new investment to its war chest. While the Obama and Biden administrations said that they would counter Iran’s sanctions-busting, Malley’s efforts to lift the IRGC’s foreign terrorist organization designation effectively facilitate Iranian money-laundering. – Washington Examiner  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The overall context is that Iran has a continued interest in the outcome of political changes in Afghanistan. It also sees this as part of a wider struggle in Central Asia. […]However, Iran must balance all this with its relations with Pakistan and Turkey, as well as its ties to Qatar. Pakistan, Turkey and Qatar are all countries with ties to extremist groups. Turkey backs extremists in Syria, Pakistan backs them in Afghanistan, and both Qatar and Turkey support the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups. – Jerusalem Post 

The Iranian government is pressing the Biden administration to stop calling its terrorist-supporting military wing a “foreign terrorist organization,” as part of the ongoing nuclear negotiations. The families of U.S. service members who died because of Iranian-sponsored terrorism are urging President Biden to reject that request — and they are right. – Algemeiner  


After the bombings, mourners and other residents of Dasht-i-Barchi expressed a mixture of suspicion, frustration and vague conspiracy theories. Some said the Islamic State group, known here as Daesh, had taken a break during the transition of power and wanted to display its strength again. Some suggested the Taliban was secretly behind the attacks, seeking to suppress an ambitious rival group. Others were circumspect, blaming unknown “enemies” of Afghanistan. – Washington Post 

ByteDance Ltd’s TikTok will be banned in Afghanistan as part of a moral policing drive by the ruling Taliban, a spokesman for the group said. – Bloomberg 

Lynne O’Donnell writes: Violence is intensifying in Afghanistan eight months after the United States’ retreat allowed the Taliban to return to power, fueling concerns that the country may again become a hub of instability and terrorism across South and Central Asia and beyond. – Foreign Policy 


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing his toughest reelection challenge yet, and his main opponent is a bespectacled former accountant who is long on policy pronouncements and short on charisma. – Wall Street Journal 

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he will visit Israel on May 24 amid increasing efforts between the regional rivals to mend ties, four years after they expelled ambassadors. – Reuters 

Last week, The Jerusalem Post had the opportunity to visit Turkey for three days, including on- and off-record briefings with Turkey’s foreign minister, deputy energy minister, multiple top foreign investment and business officials and a range of others. After all of those meetings, the current state of the Israel-Turkey renaissance in relations can be summarized as the early stages of flirting to decide whether or not to make a commitment. – Jerusalem Post 

Louis Dugit-Gros, Pierre Morcos, and Soner Cagaptay write: Paris and Ankara’s willingness to put aside past grievances and emphasize NATO unity is a product of the tectonic shift between Russia and the alliance. France in particular sees Turkey as critical to stability in the Black Sea and has applauded Ankara’s decision to enforce the Montreux Convention. Paris also supports Turkish mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine. For its part, Ankara values the robust French commitment to NATO’s military posture (including in the Black Sea) and its mobilization of humanitarian support to Ukraine. – Washington Institute 


Israel carried out a wave of airstrikes in Gaza in response to a rocket fired from the Palestinian territory, the second exchange of fire this week, raising fears of a widening conflict amid heightened tensions over access to holy sites in the contested city of Jerusalem. – Wall Street Journal  

Israeli forces and Palestinian rioters clashed at the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount yet again on Thursday morning, Israel Police reported. – Jerusalem Post 

One of the top diplomatic priorities of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in over 10 months in office has been to improve Israel’s relations in the Middle East. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel will maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday, pushing back against “fake news” spreading in the Arab world. – Jerusalem Post 

Unhappy with Israel taking Ukraine’s side in the war, Russia sharply criticized Israel for its actions on the Temple Mount, a senior Israeli diplomatic source said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in radio interviews on Wednesday that he had no choice but to prevent Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir from marching near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate for security reasons. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel Police arrest seven Palestinians from East Jerusalem for allegedly hurling firebombs from inside al-Aqsa mosque yesterday during clashes with police. – Times of Israel 

Foreign Minister Lapid spoke with his Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan about increasing tensions on the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa complex, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesperson. – Times of Israel 

Israel’s defence minister on Wednesday authorised the supply of helmets and vests to Ukrainian rescue services after speaking with his Ukrainian counterpart, an official Israeli statement said, signalling a shift in Israel’s position on providing such equipment. – Reuters  

With tensions high in Jerusalem and the West Bank, IDF paramedics are on high alert to treat wounded patients, be they Israeli or Palestinian. – Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

As the Russians get increasingly involved in Ukraine, Syria is one of many other global spots where alliances could shift quickly. Syria is worth watching intently — not only by Israelis, but by Americans. – New York Sun  

A senior Israeli diplomatic official on Wednesday accused Jordan of playing a “double game” with its responses to the recent unrest in Jerusalem — haranguing Israel in public while speaking more reasonably behind closed doors. – Times of Israel 

Tovah Lazaroff writes: Violence on the Temple Mount has a direct ability to destabilize the monarchy, whose moderate rule is believed to be the heart of the relationship with Israel, and which helps guarantee Jordan’s role as one of Israel’s key security partners. Israel’s longest and most stable border is with Jordan. – Jerusalem Post 

Dore Gold writes: The Houthis have also successfully fired armed drones at the heart of Riyadh and at Abu Dhabi. Unquestionably, Bahrain and Kuwait are next in line having faced active insurgencies in the last few years. There is a collective interest among Israel and the Gulf states to deny Iranian allies the ability to hit their most sensitive infrastructures. The Abraham Accords have created new regional possibilities for marrying up Israeli technology with the financial power of the Arab Gulf states. This is the real game-changer that is emerging now. – Jerusalem Post 

Korean Peninsula

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to visit South Korea next month for a summit with the country’s incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol, a person familiar with the matter said. – Reuters 

The coordinator for the U.N. body monitoring enforcement of sanctions on North Korea said on Wednesday a stepped up focus was needed on cybercrime, which had become fundamental to Pyongyang’s ability to finance its banned weapons programs. – Reuters 

China’s exports to North Korea surged in January-March with sales of edible oil, wheat flour and pharmaceutical compounds to its reclusive neighbour sky-rocketing after a COVID-induced pause, Chinese customs data showed on Wednesday. – Reuters 


Google’s YouTube blocked the campaign account of Hong Kong’s only leadership candidate, citing U.S. sanctions, in a move that ratchets up tensions between big tech companies and the city’s government. – Wall Street Journal 

Lai, 53, is a taxi driver out of necessity rather than choice. He is one of about 700 journalists and editorial staff who lost their jobs after politically motivated crackdowns shuttered three major news organizations in the past 10 months. A photojournalist for more than three decades, Lai now weaves through Hong Kong’s streets the same way he once rushed to document burglaries, accidents and protests, but without his camera and with passengers in tow instead. – Washington Post 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday spoke with his Chinese counterpart for the first time since becoming Pentagon chief more than a year ago, breaking a communications impasse that American officials saw as increasingly dangerous amid concern that Beijing might provide military support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. – Associated Press 

Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s opposition to unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction” in a speech on Thursday, without directly mentioning the West’s punitive actions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters   

Keith B. Richburg writes: Lee may not be who Hong Kongers want. But conversely — with dissent stifled, the population cowed, politics curtailed and Beijing’s leaders throwing their full weight behind him — he may actually find more success than his predecessors at addressing everyday problems. From China’s perspective, just having Lee finish two full terms would amount to a victory. – Washington Post  

David Rosenberg writes: I remain optimistic that Xi won’t kill the goose that laid China’s golden egg; Beijing has much more to lose from the collapse of globalization than Russia ever had. But then again Putin has no monopoly on world-leader stupidity. – Haaretz 

South Asia

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to set aside his political troubles and focus on economic ties and the war in Ukraine during a long-delayed official trip to India. – Associated Press 

The UN has asked Sri Lanka to introduce a temporary basic income and negotiate “debt-for-nature” swaps tied to environmental conservation as part of measures to mitigate the country’s economic meltdown, as Colombo begins talks with the IMF. – Financial Times 

Rahul Roy-Chaudhury writes: A trade deal and maximising defence co-operation would be transformative for UK-India relations in their 75th year, but the window is rapidly narrowing. Within a year, India will begin preparing for its next general election. Britain will not be far behind. If Johnson does not act now, the momentum will be lost. – Financial Times 

Aleksandra Gadzala Tirziu writes: Sri Lanka has now agreed to talk with the International Monetary Fund over restructuring its debt, which, given the IMF’s ideology, is likely to compound the problem. […]The next national election is due in 2024, should the government last that long. Yet if Washington and its allies aim to have an Indo-Pacific strategy that amounts to anything, they have yet to make it clear. China’s ostensible retrenchment from foreign lending might here provide an opening. The entanglement of great power politics and debts is not an attractive strategy.  Where is an American leader with the alternative? – New York Sun 

Husain Haqqani writes: Describing the Taliban as people who had “broken the shackles of slavery,” Khan went out of his way to criticize the West, without regard for Pakistan’s external economic relations. The U.S. remains Pakistan’s largest export market, while Europe and the United Kingdom are significant investors and trading partners. Khan even managed to annoy Pakistan’s traditional friends and economic benefactors China, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. – The Hill  


Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday sent a ritual offering to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead and several top ruling party leaders visited, prompting South Korea to express “deep disappointment and regret.” – Reuters 

China’s security agreement with the Solomon Islands may affect security for the region and is a probable topic for discussions between the leaders of Japan and New Zealand on Thursday, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said. – Reuters 

A security pact between the Solomon Islands and China will not undermine peace, the prime minister of the Pacific island nation told parliament on Wednesday in a bid to ease the worries of the United States and its allies about China’s growing influence. – Reuters 

Taiwan is a part of China and no one can change that, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said on Wednesday during a rare phone call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, according to a statement from Beijing. – Reuters 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in Japan on Thursday as part of her first trip abroad in more than two years, as her government seeks to promote the country’s reopening for business and tourism following a pandemic-related border closure, while Japan wants to focus on mutual security concerns, including China’s new alliance with the Solomon Islands. – Associated Press 

Henry Olsen writes: Like it or not, the unipolar world that the collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in is over. Our adversaries can fight back, and they are increasingly using every means at their disposal to push back against American influence. Lose too many places such as the Solomon Islands, and the threat from China will start to get uncomfortably close to home. Better to spend big and push outward now rather than to be boxed into a corner later. – Washington Post 

Damien Cave writes: But with a mix of secrecy and vague assurance, Mr. Sogavare has shaken his own democracy and the stability of the entire Asia-Pacific region. Having already suggested that he wants to delay next year’s election by rewriting the constitution, the prime minister now has China to lean on if protests break out. At the same time, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and his army now have a foothold in an island chain that played a decisive role in World War II and could be used to block vital shipping lanes. – New York Times 


French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen clashed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, trading blows over which candidate was closer to Moscow and better equipped to navigate the economic fallout from the war. – Wall Street Journal 

A London court on Wednesday said WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the U.S. to face spying charges could proceed once the government approves it, but the prospect that he could appeal means the long-running legal saga could still be many months from resolution. – Wall Street Journal  

For years, European intelligence agencies have sounded the alarm over the clandestine activities of Russian spies, while regarding with suspicion those who cheerlead for Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin. Moscow routinely dismissed this as paranoid “Russophobia,” its catchall response to nearly all foreign criticism. – New York Times 

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stepped abruptly into France’s tight presidential campaign Wednesday, urging voters to back incumbent Emmanuel Macron and alleging that far-right challenger Marine Le Pen is too closely linked to Russia. – Associated Press 

Peace talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine are doomed, said Boris Johnson, and it is vital the west continues to supply Kyiv with the weapons it needs to rebuff Moscow’s offensive. – Financial Times 

Russia’s neighbor Finland appears closer to joining NATO Wednesday after parliamentary groups reportedly showed support for becoming part of a military alliance in response to Moscow’s bloody invasion of Ukraine. – Fox News 

A senior Kyiv official on Wednesday accused the International Committee of the Red Cross of working “in concert” with Russia in Ukraine, a charge the organisation denied. – Agence France-Presse 

The US Defense Department on Wednesday retracted its claim Ukraine had been supplied with more aircraft, saying only parts had been delivered to enable Kyiv to put more jets into the fight against Russia. – Agence France-Presse 

Karen Attiah writes: States trading migrants for political gain and development aid is little better than smugglers moving people for petty cash. There is nothing compassionate about Britain stripping people of their international right to seek asylum. And there is nothing noble about countries such as Rwanda essentially offering themselves up as penal colonies for people whom other countries deem illegal. – Washington Post  

Adam O’Neal writes: Mr. Macron’s outreach to Moscow preceded the invasion and had annoyed some European allies for years. But during the crisis he effectively played the role of statesman for a domestic audience by speaking with Mr. Putin and other global leaders regularly. The Polish prime minister recently criticized Mr. Macron for his frequent calls with the Russian pariah. The French president responded by calling the Polish leader, who has spoken about having Jewish family members, “an extreme-right anti-Semite who bans LGBT people.” – Wall Street Journal 

Jérémie Gallon writes: Humility has never been France’s greatest strength. Nor does it necessarily come naturally to the country’s leaders. […]Success will depend on whether he can find the confidence — and be given a sufficiently strong mandate — to build a new French approach that combines the country’s traditional diplomatic creativity and flair with a determined commitment to partnerships that would be entirely new. – Financial Times 

Richard Milne writes: Ultimately, military and security considerations are likely to push both Finland and Sweden towards Nato. Both countries have seen the unfortunate fate of non-Nato Ukraine and are drawing their own conclusions. But in the background, Finnish and Swedish companies have their part to play in convincing politicians of the need to join — and could draw some benefits later on for their quiet advocacy. – Financial Times


Pro-Russian content has surged here in recent months, according to groups tracking disinformation in Africa, as Putin aims to expand his country’s global influence and counter reputational damage during the war in Ukraine. Researchers have identified and reported dozens of accounts in Burkina Faso and its neighbors pumping out coordinated blitzes of Russian government talking points: NATO is the aggressor. Moscow is on a humanitarian mission in Ukraine. – Washington Post 

The United Nations is “extremely concerned” that Mali has prevented its investigators from visiting a town where local troops and suspected Russian fighters allegedly killed hundreds of civilians, the world body said on Wednesday. – Reuters  

An explosion has rocked a marketplace in Nigeria’s northeast killing six people, police and emergency response services told The Associated Press on Wednesday. – Associated Press 

The Americas

Massacres and the killings of human rights defenders have soared since 2016, according to the United Nations. And displacement remains startlingly high, with 147,000 people forced to flee their homes last year alone, according to government data. – New York Times 

Washington and Brazil have discussed the South American nation’s role in keeping a lid on global crude prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Brazilian Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. – Reuters  

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) plane is scheduled to land in Honduras on Thursday to extradite former President Juan Orlando Hernandez to the United States, a presidential adviser to the Central American nation said Wednesday. – Reuters 

Nicaragua’s parliament on Wednesday banned 25 NGOs critical of the government, including a human rights commission that documented state repression of a mass 2018 demonstration. – Agence France-Presse 

Sebastian Mallaby writes: For most of the post-World War II era, the World Bank-IMF spring meetings were an opportunity for the United States to show global economic leadership. If the Biden administration is serious about geopolitics in the wake of Ukraine, it needs to persuade Congress to fund priorities from debt relief to special drawing rights. The long struggle of containment will require as broad a coalition as is possible. The West is not enough. – Washington Post 


The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday added several industrial and cybersecurity firms to a program aimed at thwarting hacks amid fresh warnings of Russian attempts to disrupt critical infrastructure. – Wall Street Journal 

Western governments jointly warned on Wednesday about a potential threat of increased malicious cyber activity by Russia against critical infrastructure as a response to sanctions imposed as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters 

A pro-Iranian group from Iraq, known as al-Tahera, claimed that it had targeted the website of the Israel Airports Authority with a cyberattack on Wednesday evening. – Jerusalem Post 

The US is adding a cryptocurrency-mining company to its list of sanctions against Russia in an attempt to block avenues of funding for its invasion of Ukraine. – Business Insider 

U.S and international authorities on Wednesday issued a joint alert warning state-backed Russian hackers and criminal groups remain a top threat to critical infrastructure worldwide. – The Record 


The United States has begun training more than 50 Ukrainian military service members on the howitzers Washington is providing, according to a senior American defense official.- Washington Examiner 

A senior adviser to the Department of Defense’s chief data officer said the department is moving toward greater data sharing and away from the stockpiling of information, as the U.S. military focuses on greater communication between networks and forces. – Defense News 

As Congress pushes the Space Force to develop a responsive launch capability that can reconstitute assets quickly, the service is looking more broadly at how it can make its entire architecture more responsive. – C4SIRNET 

Russia’s halting efforts to conduct electromagnetic warfare in Ukraine show how important it is to quickly respond, and immediately shut down, such attacks, Pentagon experts said Wednesday. – Defense News 

The Defense Department has awarded the first contract of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative’s $300 million budget for this year, a $19.7 million deal with AeroVironment for a small, hand-launched surveillance drone called the RQ-20 Puma AE. – Defense News 

The Pentagon needs a realistic experimentation program built in to evaluate emerging technologies like Joint All Domain Command and Control [JADC2] and hypersonic or directed energy weapons, a top Navy scientist said Wednesday. – USNI News 

Some Nimitz-class aircraft carriers could remain in the fleet longer than previously anticipated, two Navy officials said on Wednesday. – USNI News 

The multibillion-dollar data brokerage industry is virtually unregulated and poses a grave national security threat by advertising and selling information it has culled on military personnel, cybersecurity experts and a U.S. senator say. – CyberScoop  

The US Air Force (USAF) cut its FY 2023 F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter procurement in exchange for other funding priorities, as the Block 4 updates remains delayed, according to the service’s top official. – Janes