Fdd's overnight brief

April 26, 2022

In The News


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a gathering of military leaders in Germany that Ukraine’s “resistance has brought inspiration to the free world and even greater resolve to NATO” — and that Russian President Vladimir Putin “never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely.” – Washington Post  

The Biden administration is compiling information about alleged war crimes in Ukraine that may be used to hold Russian leaders accountable, as federal prosecutors lay the groundwork for trials in European courts, or what could be the first trial for the senior officials of a major global power at the world criminal court.- Washington Post 

Ukraine war protesters in kayaks and a rubber dinghy have chained themselves to an oil tanker in Norway to prevent what they say is the delivery of nearly 100,000 metric tons of Russian oil, Greenpeace said Monday. – Washington Post

Alina Kabaeva, a famed Russian gymnast turned apparent romantic partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is a potential target for sanctions, the Biden administration said, after questions surrounding the lack of penalties against her were raised this week. – Washington Post  

Russia’s heavy use and loss of weapons in Ukraine, combined with severe Western sanctions, will crimp its military might and lucrative arms exports for years, hindering its ability to produce everything from new weapons systems to spare parts for existing armaments. – Wall Street Journal  

Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, global auditing and consulting firms promised to leave the country. For some, the departure is proving to be difficult and potentially embarrassing. – Wall Street Journal  

Explosions shook Transnistria, a Russia-aligned breakaway region of Moldova that borders Ukraine, and the local government said a security agency building in the region’s capital, Tiraspol, had possibly been attacked using grenade launchers. – New York Times  

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West on Monday not to underestimate the elevated risks of nuclear conflict over Ukraine and said he viewed NATO as being “in essence” engaged in a proxy war with Russia by supplying Kyiv with weaponry. – Reuters 

Moscow accused NATO of engaging in a proxy battle against Russia by arming Ukraine, saying this had created a serious and real risk of nuclear war. – Reuters  

Russia is probably attempting to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in the country’s east, the British military said in an update on Tuesday. – Reuters  

Russia’s top diplomat warned Ukraine against provoking World War III and said the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated” as his country unleashed attacks against rail and fuel installations far from the front lines of Moscow’s new eastern offensive. – Associated Press  

A new Russian intercontinental ballistic missile is capable of carrying several hypersonic weapons, a senior Russian military officer said Sunday- Associated Press 

Russia says it is expelling 40 German diplomats in retaliation for similar steps taken by Berlin against Moscow’s foreign envoys over the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Moscow said Monday it had arrested members of a “neo-Nazi terrorist” group in Russia who allegedly planned to assassinate pro-Kremlin TV anchor Vladimir Solovyov on orders from Ukraine. – Times of Israel 

The most recent raft of U.S. military aid to Ukraine contained weapons specifically designed for the new phase of the war with Russia in the Donbas region. – Washington Examiner  

Russia’s defense ministry isn’t providing information to parents who want to know what happened to their children who were aboard the Moskva after the Russian flagship sank earlier this month, according to Newsweek. – Washington Examiner  

A United Nations (UN) spokesperson said on Monday that there is no significance in U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres visiting Russia before Ukraine as the conflict between the two countries rages on. – The Hill  

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday accused the West of inciting attacks against Russian journalists, saying Russia’s spy agency had prevented the murder of a famous reporter.- The Hill  

Russian President Vladimir Putin alleged on Monday that Western intelligence agencies, specifically the CIA, had been advising Ukraine on how to assassinate Russian pro-Kremlin television presenter Vladimir Solovyov- Arutz Sheva 

An advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration said there were “hardly any” war crimes that Russia hadn’t committed during its two-month invasion of the Eastern European country. – Business Insider  

Russia’s military could be trying to hide the death toll of its troops in Ukraine by proposing to take over compensation payments for family, UK intelligence said on Monday. – Business Insider  

Chris Blattman writes: Getting this diagnosis right matters, because adversaries use different carrots and sticks with a calculating, unchecked leader than they do with a delusional ideologue. No one should want to risk misjudging Vladimir Putin the same way he misjudged Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal  

Anders Fogh Rasmussen writes: For the past 70 years, NATO has been the bedrock of security in Europe, creating an environment in which freedom and democracy can thrive. Mr. Putin may want to see NATO resigned to history but his actions in Ukraine show why the alliance is needed now more than ever. – New York Times 

Mason Clark, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Karolina Hird write: Russian forces conducted precision missile strikes against five Ukrainian railway stations in central and western Ukraine on April 25 in a likely effort to disrupt Ukrainian reinforcements to eastern Ukraine and Western aid shipments. – Institute for the Study of War 

Tom Rogan writes: The compromise of a SAS unit during the Gulf War shows that these operations are high-risk. But whether or not the Bryansk incident involved Ukrainian forces on the ground in Russia, it seems clear that other incidents behind Russian lines do involve Ukrainian ground forces. Havoc is certainly what we’re seeing in Russian border areas right now. Ukraine seems to be trying to cut off Russian forces from their logistics trains, while also bringing the war home for Russians who might otherwise be fooled by the fiction of Putin’s so-called “special operation.” – Washington Examiner  

Tom Rogan writes: Regardless, Putin’s rhetoric evinces his escalating frustration over the failed progress of Russian forces in Ukraine and the success of Western intelligence services in assisting in Ukraine’s defense. – Washington Examiner  


With Israel’s national security adviser in Washington to meet his counterpart, Israeli officials have reportedly said the chances of world powers signing a new nuclear deal with Iran are greatly diminished. – Agence France-Presse 

Iran’s state television said authorities have foiled massive cyberattacks that sought to target public services, both government and privately owned. – Associated Press 

A court in Iran has sentenced two students to 16-year prison terms each on charges of endangering national security, the judiciary’s spokesman said Tuesday. – Associated Press 

A court in Iran has sentenced two students to 16-year prison terms each on charges of endangering national security, the judiciary’s spokesman said Tuesday. – Associated Press

A former member of Iran’s parliament said in an interview with Iranian media on Sunday that Iran had always intended to build a nuclear bomb that would have been used as a “means of intimidation,” according to footage captured and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). – Times of Israel 

The U.S. and Israel will hold a new round of strategic talks this week focusing on Iran’s nuclear program and countering its activity in the region, Israeli and U.S. officials said. – Axios

Iran on Monday called for a new meeting “as soon as possible” in the talks that have been held in Vienna aimed at restoring its frayed 2015 nuclear deal with major powers. – Arutz Sheva 

The purpose of Iran’s nuclear program was always to build an atomic weapon, the former deputy speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly told Iran-based Iscanews on Sunday, contrasting the Islamic republic’s official position that its nuclear program is and always has been peaceful in nature. – Israel Hayom 

In recent U.S. inter-agency debate, the U.S. Department of Defense came out against removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from a State Department terror black list if Iran would not agree to a reciprocal non-nuclear concession, such as commit to not target each other’s officials, a senior U.S. official told me. – Diplomatic

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval commander Alireza Tangsiri gave a long interview to Iran’s Tasnim News this week in which he boasted about the IRGC navy’s growing capabilities. – Jerusalem Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The commander of the IRGC navy said that “the formation of a naval mobilization [of fishermen and coastal workers] means the formation of a second navy. Naval mobilization is a popular defense force, providing a platform for people to participate in collective security.” The IRGC navy also claims to help local villages and deal with disasters, such as flooding and it claims to combat things like illegal trawling. – Jerusalem Post  


Tensions are high as clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians around Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site continue. There has been near daily violence on the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. – Wall Street Journal  

Following two days of closure, the Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip will reopen Tuesday, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians announced Monday evening. – Times of Israel  

Israeli security forces foiled an attempt to smuggle dozens of grenades and two firearms into Israel from Lebanon on Monday night, in what police suspect was part of a terror plot. – Times of Israel 

Nicholas Goldberg writes: World leaders can avert their gaze, and Israel can go about its business as if it were not carrying out an intolerable, indefensible military occupation just across the Green Line. It can build more walls and beat back rocket attacks. But until the roots of the conflict are addressed, the violence won’t fade and the headlines will just keep coming. – Los Angeles Times  

Alan Baker writes: The attempts to equate the immensity and lethality of the Russia-Ukraine war with the Palestinian issue are false, misguided and presumptuous. They misrepresent the nature, history and complexities of Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and ignore and undermine the ongoing Middle-East peace process sponsored and supported by the international community. –  Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

Osman Kavala, a Turkish philanthropist whose long imprisonment has been criticized by the United States and European countries, was sentenced Monday to life in prison on charges that included attempting to overthrow the government, in a case that human rights groups have dismissed as politically motivated. – Washington Post 

Jordan’s King Abdullah agreed with U.S. President Joe Biden on the need to prevent a repeat of recent confrontations in Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites that sparked concerns of wider conflict, state media said. – Reuters 

The Houthi movement that controls most of northern Yemen has released the crew of the United Arab Emirates cargo ship RWABEE that was seized on Jan. 3, the group’s spokesman said on Monday. – Reuters  

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to step up the country’s nuclear-weapons program as fast as possible, in a speech delivered at a military parade featuring the country’s largest known intercontinental ballistic missile. – Wall Street Journal  

Closer ties between the European Union and South Korea under President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol are imperative for managing China’s rising power and the increasing rivalry between Beijing and Washington, former ambassadors and officials said. – Reuters 

A delegation of foreign policy aides to South Korea’s president-elect met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday, officials said, as both of the U.S. allies aim to mend long-strained ties. – Reuters  


China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday there was no basis to speculation that Beijing could try to use leverage over electric car maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) in order to influence content on U.S. social media site Twitter Inc. (TWTR.N). – Reuters 

China is hunting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities through an expanding global dragnet that is increasingly relying on cooperation with governments in the Middle East and South and Central Asia. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 

Hong Kong’s historic Foreign Correspondents’ Club has suspended its annual human rights journalism awards over fears they could break the Chinese territory’s tough security law. – Financial Times 

Demetri Sevastopulo writes: A second US official, who says the White House hopes to finalise IPEF by mid-June, stresses that the administration is trying to find a pragmatic approach that will help both the US middle class — which has been one of the key mantras of the Biden administration — and countries in the region. – Financial Times 

Mike Rogers writes: Our immediate focus on Ukraine is absolutely smart, but we cannot take our eye off the ball when it comes to what China is doing and what lessons Beijing is learning from Russia’s performance in that war and the West’s response. We need to be active in the region, deploy our naval forces to reassure our allies and work with countries like the Solomon Islands to show why working with authoritarian China is not in their interest. Anything less will be ceding the region and the future to Beijing. – The Hill 

South Asia

Sri Lanka has begun discussions with China about refinancing its debt, a cabinet spokesman said on Tuesday, as Colombo struggles with its worst financial crisis in decades. – Reuters  

Sri Lanka must tighten monetary policy, raise tax and adopt flexible exchange rates to address its debt crisis, a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official said on Tuesday. – Reuters  

Abdul Basit writes: Khan is the first Pakistani prime minister to be removed by a no-confidence vote, but none has ever completed their full five-year term. Only three of the 23 prime ministers since Pakistan’s independence have lasted for four years, and most were deposed through unconstitutional means. However, Khan’s ouster has changed that dynamic: He was removed by a constitutional procedure like in other established democracies. – Foreign Policy  


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is struggling to close the gap with the main opposition ahead of an upcoming general election, a poll showed on Tuesday, amid criticism over his handling of a security pact between China and Solomon Islands. – Reuters  

Australia’s opposition party promised Tuesday to establish a Pacific defense school to train neighboring armies in response to China’s potential military presence on the Solomon Islands. – Associated Press 

Myanmar ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was in court on Monday accused of funnelling charity money into a real estate investment, a source familiar with her trial said, one of nearly a dozen graft cases against her carrying lengthy jail terms. – Reuters  

Taiwan will incorporate lessons learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into upcoming military exercises aimed at practising fighting off a Chinese attack, the island’s defence ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters  

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare told a visiting Japanese delegation on Tuesday that he had no intention of allowing China to build military bases in his country, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said. – Reuters

The United States wants to expand security cooperation with the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday, amid concerns in Washington about China’s motives for striking a security pact with the nearby Solomon Islands. – Reuters 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned China and the Solomon Islands against allowing a Chinese naval base on the islands, saying it was a “red line.” – Washington Examiner  


There were sighs of relief throughout the European Union after President Emmanuel Macron beat back a serious challenge in France from the populist far-right champion Marine Le Pen. – New York Times  

Finland and Sweden will together express their wish to join NATO in May, tabloid newspapers Iltalehti in Finland and Expressen in Sweden reported on Monday, citing sources close to the matter. – Reuters  

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday announced the indictment of two Europeans for allegedly conspiring with a recently sentenced American cryptocurrency researcher to help North Korea evade U.S. sanctions. – Reuters 

A purported attack on a building used by security services in the Russian-occupied separatist region of Transnistria is a part of an effort to increase tensions in the region, Moldovan authorities said Monday. – Business Insider  

EU member states are looking at whether to impose a ceiling on what they would pay for Russian oil as a way to hit Kremlin revenues, as they shy away from agreeing an immediate blockade on Moscow’s crude exports. – Financial Times

President Maia Sandu has convened Moldova’s Supreme Security Council after authorities in separatist Transdniester alleged that two radio relays were damaged by blasts on April 26 — the second such incident in the Moscow-backed territory in two days amid rising tensions in the region bordering war-torn Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 

A group of environmental activists who chained themselves to a Russian oil tanker to prevent its cargo from being unloaded in Norway to protest against the war in Ukraine have been arrested, Norwegian police said. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Editorial: No matter the reason, these delays are an embarrassment for a chancellor who promised more support for Ukraine and whose voters expect it. Mr. Scholz is undermining his credibility with NATO allies. Heavy-weapons shipments would send a strong deterrent signal to Mr. Putin that Germany’s strategic transformation regarding Russia and his recommitment to NATO are serious. Mr. Scholz’s new foreign policy starts with tanks for Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal  

Rokhaya Diallo writes: The Islamophobic rhetoric used by several government members, as well as the president — who said the Muslim veil made people “insecure” because “it is not in keeping with the civility that there is in our country” — is now firmly anchored in France’s political landscape. Winning an election after fueling public opinion with hateful discourse and changing laws to restrict civil liberties is not a victory. The far right has succeeded in normalizing its ideology — and that should worry us all. – Washington Post  

Gideon Rachman writes: Macron has a great opportunity to “build Europe” over the next five years. But success may require more than brilliance and energy. It will also require qualities that the French president is less noted for — patience and empathy. – Financial Times 

Michael Barone writes: The powers that be may heave a sigh of relief over Macron’s reelection, but a look at the numbers suggests that they should feel a sense of discomfort. With Angela Merkel’s longstanding centrist government in Germany utterly repudiated, and the weakness of the underpinnings of Macron’s version of centrism in France becoming apparent, centrists have no cause for complacency. – Washington Examiner  


The public notification from Shell, the oil giant, was clear: In one month it would send a ship to conduct a seismic survey, using deafeningly loud sound waves to map more than 2,300 square miles of geology beneath the deep waters off this stretch of South Africa’s coast. – Washington Post  

Guinea’s ruling junta on Monday signalled it might break a deadline to set out its plans to return to civilian rule, opening up the prospect of more sanctions from West Africa’s political and economic bloc. – Reuters  

Nigeria’s opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said on Monday it will choose a presidential candidate at the end of May to contest elections set for February next year as it seeks to return to power after losing office seven years ago. – Reuters  

Rebellious Tigrayan forces are completely withdrawing from the neighbouring region of Afar in Ethiopia, a spokesperson for the Tigrayan forces told Reuters on Monday, saying he hoped it meant that desperately needed food aid could finally pour into famine-hit Tigray. – Reuters  

Islamic extremist rebels in Mali linked to al-Qaida said they have captured mercenary fighters from Russia’s Wagner Group in fighting earlier this month. – Associated Press 

The Americas

Peru’s prime minister said on Monday the government will call for a referendum to propose redrafting the constitution, renewing a campaign proposal aimed at boosting the role of the state in the country’s economy. – Reuters  

U.S. State Department officials held their first high-level talks with the Brazilian government since 2019 on Monday, reinforcing ties between the Western Hemisphere’s two largest democracies despite their differences over the Ukraine war. – Reuters  

Don Ritter writes: Finally, an America that lived up to its energy potential would strengthen its challenged geostrategic standing in the world and make it a safer place, given that global power is based on three pillars […]Dangerously, under the present administration’s policies, America’s third pillar is being willfully dismantled. I’m with Jamie Diamond, Elon Musk, and the many members of Congress who support a Marshall Plan for U.S. energy and rescuing Europe, again, but this time, from Russia. Once, “America, the arsenal of democracy” now, “America, the fueling station for freedom.” – The National Interest 


Twitter Inc. accepted Elon Musk’s bid to take over the company and go private, a deal that would give the world’s richest person control over the social-media network where he is also among its most influential users. – Wall Street Journal  

Behind the headline-grabbing kinetic war, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has put a new focus on the importance of cybersecurity and satellite communications. – Defense News  

Jacquelyn G. Schneider writes: Critics argue that current cyber authorities gave the Pentagon free rein to conduct whatever offensive cyber operations it deems useful. But given how little evidence we’ve seen of U.S. offensive cyber operations in the general public, this is likely an exaggeration. Instead of taking away these authorities, the White House should clearly communicate what the Defense Department can do in cyberspace before a declared war or conflict and, as important, what it will not do. Finally, we should be wary of turning cyber authorities into a partisan debate. – Wall Street Journal  

Aaron Crimmins writes: Russian state hackers have attempted to retaliate to these setbacks, with middling success. Groups such as Gamaredon (a.k.a. Armageddon or Shuckworm) have concocted and deployed new malware variants in Ukraine. […]While the Russian military threat to Ukraine and Europe remains very real, and the Five Eyes continue to warn of potential critical Russian attacks, it seems the Russian bear’s claws are not as sharp as they once were. – The National Interest  

Hamdi Malik and Crispin Smith write: At present, it appears that the actor does not have the ability to launch attacks other than DDoS attacks on websites – though muqawama propaganda surrounding the recent incidents indicates an interest in launching more sophisticated attacks on critical infrastructure. Drawing on either or both Russian assistance and the active commercial market for hacking services, the muqawama may be able to quickly raise its available capabilities. – Washington Institute  


President Biden is doubling down on U.S. commitments to Ukraine while digging in for a long-term fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin. – The Hill  

More than a dozen European allies will get nearly $400 million in new U.S. grants to buy American military hardware to backfill weapons they’ve donated to Ukraine from their own stockpiles, the State Department announced Monday. – Defense News 

The U.S. commander responsible for North America said he’s open to new ways to counter cruise missile attacks on the homeland, including electronic warfare and other non-kinetic means. – Defense News  

The costs of major upgrades to the F-35 fighter are continuing to rise, and repeated delays on critical simulation tests and on a full-rate production decision are increasing the risk the Defense Department buys faulty jets that need to be fixed, a new Government Accountability Office report said. – Defense News