Fdd's overnight brief

April 7, 2022

In The News


Ukraine urged civilians to leave the eastern Donetsk, Luhansk and parts of the Kharkiv regions as it braced for a major new Russian offensive following Moscow’s withdrawal from the north of the country. – Wall Street Journal 

Federal prosecutors have charged a Russian oligarch who supported separatists in Ukraine with sanctions violations for trying to secretly acquire and run pro-Kremlin media outlets across Europe, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday. – Washington Post 

Russian forces have fully withdrawn from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and the city of Chernihiv to its north, the Pentagon said Wednesday, as Moscow prepares to concentrate its invading forces in the eastern part of the country. – Washington Post 

The derivatives market is flashing signals that the tit-for-tat between the U.S. Treasury and the Kremlin is increasing the likelihood of a Russian government default after Russia’s Ministry of Finance announced Wednesday it will restrict the ability of some foreign investors to convert their payments into dollars. – Wall Street Journal 

The White House on Wednesday announced a new round of sanctions targeting two of Russia’s biggest banks and the adult children of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the Biden administration seeks to amplify the financial pressure on the Kremlin over the invasion of Ukraine. – Washington Post 

The name of this city is already synonymous with the month-long carnage that Russian soldiers perpetrated here. But the scale of the killings and the depravity with which they were committed is only just becoming apparent as police, local officials and regular citizens start the grim task of clearing Bucha of the hundreds of corpses decomposing on streets and in parks, apartment buildings and other locations. – The Washington Post 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters are among the targets of new sanctions the Biden administration rolled out Wednesday, with the U.S. response to potential war crimes in Ukraine casting a rare spotlight on the Kremlin leader’s family. – Washington Post 

With the Biden administration sending dozens of armed drones to Ukraine, the Pentagon is training Ukrainian soldiers in the United States to use the weapons to attack Russian tanks and other armored vehicles. – New York Times 

As Russian troops retreat from northern Ukraine and focus operations on the country’s east and south, the Kremlin is struggling to scrape together enough combat-ready reinforcements to conduct a new phase of the war, according to American and other Western military and intelligence officials. – New York Times 

Russia’s finance ministry said on Wednesday that it had used rubles to pay about $650 million in dollar-denominated debt obligations after the U.S. government blocked access to dollars held in American banks. The move pushed the country closer to a default. – New York Times 

The United Nations General Assembly will vote on Thursday on a U.S. push to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” by invading Russian troops in Ukraine. – Reuters 

As the world’s wealthy democratic powers roll out new sanctions against Russia in response to horrifying images of executed Ukrainians in the city of Bucha, it has become clear that the easiest options are now exhausted and stark differences have emerged among allies over next steps. – Reuters 

Russia wants to maintain diplomatic relations with Western countries despite a series of expulsions of its diplomats, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

China on Wednesday said images of civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha are “deeply disturbing” but that no blame should be apportioned until all facts are known. – Associated Press 

Mounting evidence of atrocities against Ukrainian civilians allegedly by Russian troops has stalled Turkey’s efforts to mediate a ceasefire and broader settlement between the two countries, a senior Turkish official has said. – Financial Times 

The House passed bipartisan legislation on Wednesday that would require the Biden administration to detail its efforts to collect evidence of war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. – The Hill 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin still wants to capture all of Ukraine, despite repositioning forces to the eastern Donbas region. – Business Insider 

A Ukrainian official has provided VOA with exclusive photos of the aftermath of Russia’s five-week occupation of Ukraine’s decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, showing what he says are Russian trenches dug into radioactive soil near a 1986 nuclear accident at the site. – VOA News 

Editorial: The Biden administration and its allies have done an admirable job of puncturing the Kremlin’s propaganda with accurate intelligence. An authoritative record of war crimes would serve the same purpose for the future. It would be good for the Biden administration to find a way to cooperate with the I.C.C. in collecting evidence, even if it is precluded by law from helping to finance the effort. – New York Times 

Daniel Henninger writes: It’s a terrible thing to say, but one suspects that for some in Washington, Berlin and Paris, the world’s roaring moral outrage at these atrocities lets them kick the harder decisions about raising the military costs for Mr. Putin into another week. If the media is writing about Bucha, genocide and war crimes, the argument fades for sending Ukraine high-altitude missile defenses, counter-artillery radar and other “escalatory” military equipment. Eventually, Putin wins. Don’t let him. – Wall Street Journal 

Amy Knight writes: Although Putin seems to have his bases covered, the fates of Beria and Khrushchev have shown that loyalties can shift when the Kremlin is in crisis. Bortnikov could conceivably become another Semichastny and switch camps to save his own skin. Even Shoigu and Zolotov, faced with a coalition of Putin’s opponents, might consider jumping ship, just as Beria’s lieutenants did. But one thing seems certain: Any coup attempt against Putin would probably be the most perilous, high-risk operation in Kremlin history. – Washington Post 

Charles M. Blow writes: Putin doesn’t just want to win a war or take a region, he wants to make a point, he wants to be the wings on which Russia rises again. His ego feeds his aggression, and that is why it is hard to imagine him accepting a loss in Ukraine. Any form of victory for him will only add to his appetite. Why would he stop with Ukraine, or a portion of Ukraine? – New York Times 


Iran has moved all its machines that make centrifuge parts from its mothballed workshop at Karaj to its sprawling Natanz site just six weeks after it set up another site at Isfahan to make the same parts, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul told reporters that lawmakers are planning to file a discharge petition to force a resolution of disapproval of the Biden administration’s plan to revive the Iran nuclear deal. – Washington Examiner  

Secretary of State Blinken, in the face of at least 15 House Democrats making public their opposition to the renewal of the Iran deal, is moving to lower expectations for a successful completion of an agreement with the ayatollahs. – New York Sun 

Democratic lawmakers expressed reservations Wednesday over US President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, exposing cracks within the party as Washington attempts to finalize an elusive agreement with Tehran.- Times of Israel 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told Jewish Insider in a brief interview on Wednesday that he is likely to oppose any new nuclear deal the Biden administration reaches with Iran. – Jewish Insider 

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday that “plan B must be activated” should Iran and Western powers fail to strike a nuclear deal. – Haaretz 

Jason Rezaian writes: The Biden administration and U.S. allies should condemn the Iranian regime’s ongoing human rights abuses and target the worst abusers, making it impossible for them and their family members to freely move and conduct business around the world. They should also finally make credible efforts to support a democratic movement in Iran, led by Iranians. – Washington Post 

Douglas Bloomfield writes: Biden can’t turn the clock back to 2015. Any new agreement must deal not only with nuclear development but also ballistic missiles, terrorism and regional destabilization. – Jerusalem Post 


A court in Turkey transferred the trial in the murder of the Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, a move almost certain to end the last case that held out hope of serving some measure of justice for a heinous crime that drew global outrage. – New York Times 

The Biden administration believes a potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would be in line with U.S. national security interests and would also serve NATO’s long-term unity, the State Department said in a letter to Congress that fell short of explicitly supporting the deal. – Reuters 

Turkish military diving teams safely detonated a floating naval mine in the Black Sea, the defence ministry said on Wednesday, the third such mine found in its waters since the Ukraine war. – Reuters 

A Turkish court ruled on Thursday to halt the trial of Saudi suspects over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and transfer it to Saudi Arabia, a decision that drew condemnation from rights groups and comes as Ankara mends ties with Riyadh. – Reuters 

Erol Onderoglu writes: Khashoggi’s brutal murder shocked the world and triggered widespread outrage. But after three years, and a weak international response to hold Saudi Arabia accountable, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — ranked 153rd and 170th respectively on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index — appear content to let the case fade from memory, with each regime further emboldened to act with impunity against the free press. – Washington Post 


Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government faces a crisis after a lawmaker quit the ruling coalition, leaving it without a majority in parliament less than a year since coming to power. – Wall Street Journal 

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine pressuring western countries to curtail their dependence on Moscow’s gas and oil, Israel is looking to build bridges for regional energy cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the hopes of offering alternative supplies. – Algemeiner 

Hamas operated an extensive fake profile network on Facebook, using photos of women to lure in and target Israeli security establishment officials, N12 reported on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Israeli leaders reacted with shock and anger last week when it emerged that a Palestinian man who gunned down five people in Bnei Brak had entered Israel via a hole in the West Bank security barrier big enough to drive a car through. But for years, Israeli officials have seemingly turned a blind eye to gaps in the barrier, used daily by thousands of Palestinian laborers who enter Israel illegally. – Times of Israel 

Amid the current escalation of terror attacks in Israel, and as the month of Ramadan begins, officials in Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) threaten a large-scale and imminent explosion of violence. This  explosion, they say, will  take place on all the fronts – in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and in the “1948 territories” – and will be “more powerful and painful” for Israel. The officials also reiterated numerous times that Ramadan is the month of jihad, martyrdom and great conquests in Islam. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated that MK Idit Silman had been threatened by supporters of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Religious Zionist head Betzalel Smotrich until she “broke” and left the coalition on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Zev Chafets writes: The Bennett government made some small steps toward introducing a more secular, centrist and calmer political climate. It also showed that there is life after Bibi. But 10 months in office (or even a few months more, if there is an election) have been too short for fundamental change to how the government functions, plans for the future or speaks to the public and the rest of the world. That is a shame. Israel, after more than a decade under Bibi, needed a change. This one, it appears, will be brief. – Bloomberg 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has used missiles to strike at Erbil and has empowered the Houthis to attack the Gulf, and these moves prove the breadth and daring of Iran’s power and impunity. Russia’s war has also opened a Pandora’s box of impunity for new wars. It is possible Iran will want to test Israel during Ramadan, and now that a political crisis is afoot, Iran could see this as a green light. – Jerusalem Post 

Arabian Peninsula

Yemen’s president dismissed his controversial deputy on Thursday and delegated his own powers to a presidential council in a move backed by Saudi Arabia, removing some obstacles to U.N.-led efforts to revive negotiations to end the seven-year war. – Reuters 

Saudi Arabia on Thursday welcomed the Yemeni president’s decision to transfer his powers to a new presidential council, urged the body to start negotiations with the Houthi group and said it would arrange $3 billion of support to the war-torn country’s economy, state news agency SPA said. – Reuters 

The U.N. envoy for Yemen expressed concerns on Wednesday about violations of a cease-fire in the war-wrecked country, urging the warring sides to uphold the first nationwide truce in six years. – Associated Press 

Wayne Ackerman writes: Considering the internal corporate challenges and robust financial results, the most credible and direct entry into the global gas, LNG, hydrogen, and CCS markets may be via targeted acquisitions of assets or companies or the development of strategic partnerships operating in the space. […]Pursuing both options would demonstrate commitment, lend credibility to the recent Aramco executive statements, and yield tangible results within a shorter timeline than greenfield project execution, thereby avoiding the internal challenges of long-term consistent commodity-cycle-insulated investment. – Middle East Insitute 

Middle East & North Africa

When Federico Motka got on the witness stand to testify last week in the trial of Islamic State member El Shafee Elsheikh, he shared vivid memories about three prison guards who spoke with east London accents and dominated his 14 months as a hostage when the terrorist group controlled much of Syria. – Wall Street Journal 

Three missiles fell near an oil refinery in Iraq’s northern city of Erbil on Wednesday without causing any casualties or damage, Kurdistan anti-terrorism authorities said in a statement. – Reuters 

A rare video has appeared of al-Qaida’s chief praising an Indian Muslim woman who in February defied a ban on wearing the traditional headscarf, or hijab. The footage is the first proof in months that the man who was once Osama bin Laden’s No. 2 is still alive. – Associated Press 

Neville Teller writes: It is against this background that Lebanon’s political dilemma is being played out. Iran-backed Hezbollah is so entrenched in the country’s institutions that it would require close to a revolution to dislodge it. Moreover, the nation’s ruling cliques have been infiltrated by Hezbollah and its allies. – Jerusalem Post 

Eddy Acevedo writes: The best way to guarantee that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon is to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure. Delaying their nuclear ambitions, even for just a few years, does not decrease the threat to our allies, especially the existential threat it poses to our ally Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

Korean Peninsula

Now, as Russia pounds Ukrainian cities while being accused of committing atrocities against civilians, many in South Korea say there is no more room for debate. Since the conflict began, South Koreans have flooded online chat rooms with discussions about their country’s need to have nuclear weapons to prevent an invasion from North Korea, their own nuclear-armed neighbor. – New York Times 

Pyongyang is ignoring US overtures for talks and could be planning its first nuclear weapon test in nearly five years for its April 15 holiday, the State Department’s top North Korea envoy said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse 

Bruce Klingner writes: North Korea has often used any U.S. or South Korea reaction to its provocations to justify additional extreme measures. With both Washington and the incoming conservative administration in South Korea determined to strengthen allied deterrence measures in response to Pyongyang’s transgressions, there is likely to be an escalating cycle of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula in the months ahead. – Heritage Foundation 


A former policeman and government security chief is poised to become Hong Kong’s next top official after declaring his intention to run for the job, a succession that would signal Beijing plans no letup in its national security crackdown in the city. – Wall Street Journal 

Sanctions imposed on Russia over its war in Ukraine should give China a “good understanding” of the consequences it could face if it provides material support to Moscow, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

A security alliance between China and the Solomon Islands has sent shudders throughout the South Pacific, with many worried it could set off a large-scale military buildup or that Western animosity to the deal could play into China’s hands. – Associated Press 

China warned on Thursday it would take strong measures if U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan and said such a visit would severely impact Chinese-U.S. relations, following media reports she would go next week. – Reuters 

South Asia

An explosion rocked a mosque in central Kabul during prayer time on Wednesday, injuring at least six people, officials said. – Reuters 

India and Australia’s trade ministers say a shared security partnership with the United States and Japan has helped them strike a trade deal that Australia hopes will reduce its dependence on exports to China. – Associated Press 

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party is on the verge of losing control of Pakistan’s biggest province, raising the stakes ahead of the Supreme Court’s verdict on his disputed call for national elections. – Bloomberg 

India on Thursday said it would ramp up its production of military equipment, including helicopters, tank engines, missiles and airborne early warning systems, to offset any potential shortfall from its main supplier Russia. – Associated Press 


Armenia and Azerbaijan on Wednesday agreed to peace talks to address tensions over the long-disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which borders both nations, the office of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said. – Reuters 

An Indonesian court on Wednesday sentenced a senior member of an outlawed hardline Islamist group to three years in prison for “consciously aiding terrorism actors”. – Reuters 

Taiwan’s government said on Wednesday it was tightening export curbs to Russia as part of sanctions on the country for its invasion of Ukraine, detailing rules to prevent technology and chips from being using for military purposes. – Reuters 

Australia’s involvement in the development of hypersonic missiles with treaty partners the United States and Britain was part of an effort to achieve peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

New legislation in the House that would sanction China for threatening Taiwan follows a similar initiative in the Senate as lawmakers seek to discourage any moves similar to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – The Hill 

Seth Cropsey writes: Americans shouldn’t feel encouraged by Russian missteps in Ukraine. But Moscow’s mistakes should cause the U.S. to consider its own difficulties in defending its interests and values in the Pacific. – Wall Street Journal 

Michael Rubin writes: Demography in the South Caucasus is complex. Recent history—and Joseph Stalin’s gerrymandering of borders—has not helped. There is an irony that many who acknowledge the need for defensible borders and the potential for genocide in the Middle East refuse to apply the same standards and principles to the Caucasus. To suggest a simple formula is naïve and to say that efforts to prevent genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh are pro-Russian is Orwellian. Artsakh is not Donetsk or Luhansk. If anything, Azerbaijan’s actions and intentions suggest it is much more like Kosovo. – 19FortyFive 

Emil Avdaliani writes: As the Russian invasion of Ukraine reverberates across the world, the South Caucasus region is especially susceptible to the dark geopolitical mood music. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are balancing between potential Russian reprisals and the need, near necessity, to stand together with Ukraine.  – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Derek Grossman writes: Only six staunch U.S. allies and partners there—Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan—have joined Western sanctions or initiated their own. The rest of the region has refused to join the West thus far. That’s in large part because most of these countries are already struggling to position themselves in the intensifying competition between the United States and China—and the emergence of an additional superpower conflict between the United States and Russia increases the perceived risks of aligning with the West, especially when Moscow and Beijing are working so closely together. – Foreign Policy 


Six weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, the European Union is taking its first steps to reduce Russian energy imports, depriving Moscow of some of the revenue that covers much of its budget and helps fund its military campaign. – Wall Street Journal 

Volodymyr Zelensky has pleaded with the international community to supply Ukraine with more weapons and impose tighter sanctions on Russia as the country’s military warned that Moscow was preparing an offensive in the eastern Donbas region. – Financial Times 

Poland has arrested two citizens of Belarus on charges of spying for Minsk, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence if they are found guilty, a regional prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

German investigators on Wednesday arrested a Syrian man accused of war crimes for allegedly torturing captives while he was with the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014. – Associated Press 

Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister has broken ranks with the European Union, saying that he will pay for Russian gas in rubles amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war with Ukraine. – Business Insider 

The German Air Force is looking to the Israeli Arrow-3 system to quickly field a defensive weapon against Russian Iskander and other missiles, according to a service spokesman. – Defense News 


For decades, Blaise Compaoré, the president of Burkina Faso, preferred to avoid the subject of Thomas Sankara, his predecessor and one-time friend who was brutally killed in 1987 by soldiers who gunned him down outside his office. On Wednesday, a military tribunal confirmed longstanding, widespread suspicions that Mr. Compaoré, now in living in exile, was in fact behind the killing. – New York Times  

Somalia’s prime minister on Thursday expelled the African Union representative because of acts incompatible with his status though Somalia’s president rejected the order, signalling a new rift between the Somali leaders. – Reuters 

Two leading human rights groups on Wednesday accused armed forces from Ethiopia’s Amhara region of waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against ethnic Tigrayans during a war that has killed thousands of civilians and displaced more than a million. – Reuters 

Latin America

Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice on Wednesday approved the extradition to the United States of accused drug kingpin and Clan del Golfo crime gang leader Dairo Antonio Usaga, known as Otoniel. – Reuters 

An attorney for a businessman enriched by Venezuela’s government argued in federal court Wednesday that his client’s continued detention on corruption charges sets a dangerous precedent that could endanger the free movement of U.S. officials around the world. – Associated Press 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday said he would be unable to attend an event in support of Ukrainian victims of the conflict with Russia, but would send a video condemning Moscow’s invasion. – Reuters 

El Salvador’s congress has authorised prison sentences of 10 to 15 years for news media that reproduce or disseminate messages from gangs, prompting accusations of censorship from press freedom groups. – The Guardian 


Apple has resumed allowing Russians to download an app run by supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after criticism that it was acceding to unreasonable government demands for censorship. – Washington Post 

The United States said on Wednesday that it had secretly removed malware from computer networks around the world in recent weeks, a step to pre-empt Russian cyberattacks and send a message to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. – New York Times 

Suspected state-sponsored Chinese hackers have targeted the power sector in India in recent months as part of an apparent cyber-espionage campaign, the threat intelligence firm Recorded Future Inc. said in a report published Wednesday. – Bloomberg 

Private sector companies are increasingly asking the federal government for cyber threat intelligence as they seek to shore up their defenses against growing online threats, a White House cyber official told lawmakers on Wednesday. – The Hill 

The U.S. government disrupted a botnet built by the Sandworm hacking group of Russia’s GRU intelligence agency before it could be used for malicious purposes, officials said Wednesday at a news conference. – CyberScoop 


The first U.S. hypersonic weapon will be delayed for as long as a year under a new schedule, even as lawmakers protest that the Pentagon is lagging behind in a new technology that Russia has already used in Ukraine and China has demonstrated in a space launch. – Bloomberg 

The invasion could prove to be a boon for U.S. defense spending and weapons exports to foreign countries after falling by more than 20% to $138 billion in fiscal year 2021. – FOX News 

The U.S. has approved another $100 million in Javelin anti-tank weapons and training for Ukraine from U.S. military stocks, for a total of $1.7 billion in U.S. aid committed since Russia’s invasion. – Defense News 

US-based Teal Drones has received an order for 15 Golden Eagle small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) from a NATO member country that wants to give them to Ukraine, according to Teal parent company Red Cat Holdings – Janes