Fdd's overnight brief

August 11, 2023

In The News


Iran on Thursday moved four Americans out of the country’s notorious Evin Prison and put them under house arrest in the first step of a major but tenuous deal between the two longtime adversaries, according to people familiar with the negotiations. – Washington Post 

The announcement of a prisoner exchange deal between the United States and Iran could increase the prospects for further diplomatic cooperation, including the Biden administration’s longstanding goal of containing Iran’s nuclear program, according to officials and analysts. – New York Times

Russia has begun making copies of attack drones it acquired from Iran last year and is using them in combat against Ukrainian forces despite sanctions imposed to cripple the country’s weapons production, according to a report issued Thursday by a weapons research group. – New York Times

A Panama-flagged tanker called White Pearl has caught fire near Assaluyeh on Iran’s Gulf coast, Iranian state media reported on Thursday, adding that all crew members were safe. – Reuters

Iran asked South Africa’s government to support its “accelerated membership” of BRICS, as the five-nation bloc prepares to hold a summit later this month. – Bloomberg

Iran will not receive any sanctions relief as part of a deal to secure the release of five American hostages, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, despite Tehran’s impending recovery of $6 billion. – Washington Examiner 

Former US national security adviser John Bolton said on Thursday that, when Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dies (he is 84 years old), the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) would be vulnerable and a democratic transition more plausible. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran’s judiciary has announced the release on bail of Shaker Buri more than a week after the Instagram satirist and humorist went missing after visiting an intelligence office of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the southwestern city of Abadan. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Germany’s domestic intelligence service published a cyber espionage warning on Thursday that Iranian dissident organizations and individuals in the country were being targeted by a suspected state-sponsored threat group. – The Record

James Stavridis writes: Yet the alternative — continuing to sanction the Iranians, scold them diplomatically and hope their behavior improves — won’t work. Almost 30% of the world’s oil comes through the Strait of Hormuz, and allowing Iran to control the Gulf and that vital chokepoint is unacceptable. Putting US Marines “on deck” of vulnerable civilian merchant ships makes sense, and shows Iran we are deadly serious about freedom of the seas. – Bloomberg

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: If in fact, Tehran gained this capability, it would be even more threatening to face a nuclear supersonic cruise missile than a nuclear subsonic cruise missile (not that either threat would be taken lightly.) This means that Israel needs to keep an eye on this latest development and may need to work toward addressing the issue long-term, but that the sky is not falling anytime soon. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

A first group of six Ukrainian pilots is not expected to complete training on the U.S.-made F-16 before next summer, senior Ukrainian government and military officials said, following a series of delays by Western partners in implementing an instruction program for the sophisticated fighter jet. – Washington Post 

The United States has committed more than $60 billion in aid to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion. That includes more than $43 billion in military aid. That’s more than the United States distributes in aid to any other country. – Washington Post 

President Biden on Thursday asked Congress to approve $20.6 billion in additional funding for Ukraine, as that country’s military struggles to achieve a decisive victory in its counteroffensive against Russia. – Washington Post 

Ukraine has altered the military balance of power in the Black Sea in recent months, using sea drones to strike back at Russia’s more powerful navy and threaten Russian military supply lines and shipping lanes. – Wall Street Journal

Russia’s plans to launch its first lunar lander in nearly 50 years on Friday and become the first country to reach the south pole of the moon is a symbolic moment for a country anxious to prove it still has the technological capabilities befitting a great world power. – Wall Street Journal

A co-founder of Yandex, Russia’s biggest tech company, has become the second major Russian businessman under Western sanctions to publicly denounce President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, even as other Russian billionaires remain silent. – Washington Post 

For nearly 18 months, Ukraine has stood against its Russian invaders — rallying support for its troops by embracing last year’s battlefield victories in the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson regions. Those wins carried beleaguered Ukrainians through a winter of airstrikes on civilian infrastructure and a brutal and symbolic battle for Bakhmut, the eastern city that fell to the Russians in May. – Washington Post 

After Russia’s ruble hit a 16-month low against the U.S. dollar, raising fears of rising inflation, even one of President Vladimir V. Putin’s top cheerleaders in state media lashed out at the country’s financial authorities on Thursday over an exchange rate that he said was a subject of global mockery. – New York Times

Ukrainian authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation Thursday of nearly 12,000 civilians from 37 towns and villages in the eastern Kharkiv region, where Russian forces reportedly are making a concerted effort to punch through the front line. – Associated Press 

Ukraine announced a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea on Thursday to release cargo ships trapped in its ports since the outbreak of war, a new test of Russia’s de facto blockade since Moscow abandoned a deal last month to let Kyiv export grain. – Reuters

Ukraine’s national anti-corruption agency added Bacardi Limited to its list of international war sponsors, citing the company’s continued business and tax payments in Russia. – The Hill

Some 200,000 people are thought to have been killed in fighting between Russia and Ukraine since February 24, 2022, when President Vladimir Putin opened the latest—and perhaps final—chapter of Moscow’s 30-year effort to hinder Kyiv’s westward drift and regenerate a neo-imperial sphere of influence. – Newsweek

Ukrainian special forces soldiers in Kyiv’s elite “Shaman” battalion are working inside Russian territory to take out some of Moscow’s senior commanders, according to a new report. “We have an increased number of targets, missions on specific people or targets, such as buildings where a general or somebody like that is located inside Russia,” a Ukrainian sergeant with the call-sign “Intelligent,” told London’s The Times. – Newsweek

The sensational deal between President Vladimir Putin and Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may have collapsed, amid reports that the mercenary fighters are leaving their bases in Belarus and heading to multiple different areas of Wagner activity. – Newsweek

Russian forces have lost 16 tanks and 13 armored personnel vehicles (APVs) in 24 hours, according to Ukraine’s military, as Kyiv pushes on with its counteroffensive in southern and eastern Ukraine. – Newsweek

Russian troops fighting in Ukraine recorded a video appeal addressed to the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin, accusing a regional governor of stealing their wages. – Newsweek

The new Russian offensive in northeastern Ukraine is causing concern among military officials in Kyiv, as Moscow’s forces look to spoil the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive still raging in the south and east of the country. Former prisoners in “Storm-Z” units are said to be part of the Kremlin’s push. – Newsweek

Two civilians were killed in Ukrainian shelling of the Russian village of Chausy in the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine, the region’s governor said on Thursday, while a civilian was killed in a Ukrainian strike on the Russian-held town of Nova Kakhovka in southern Ukraine, according to Russian-appointed authorities. – Reuters

David A. Super writes: Putin’s only real hope is that the West will tire of the war and cut off aid to Ukraine. If we show patience, and do not ask the Ukrainians to wage a Russian-style public relations war, we can expect to see collapses of Russian logistics, Russian frontline defenses, and the Russian regime, in no particular order. Defeating Putin’s ugly aggression once and for all will be well worth it. – The Hill

Stephen Biddle writes: Calls for revolution and transformation have been commonplace in the defense debate in the generations after World War II. They have mostly not fared well in light of observed experience in that time. After a year and a half of war in Ukraine, there is no reason to think that this time they will be proved right. – Foreign Affairs

Liam Collins, Michael Kofman and John Spencer write: Yet while many of the Russian assumptions behind the invasion plan were fundamentally incorrect, the initial assault was not doomed to failure. A stubborn defense and counterattack by Ukrainian forces at Hostomel was decisive in scuttling Russian attempts to conduct a decapitation attack. Had the Russian operation at Hostomel gone differently, and Russian forces entered the capital in those early hours, it may have had a cascade effect on the course of the overall invasion. – War on the Rocks


For the first time in Israel’s history, all 15 of its Supreme Court justices will crowd onto the bench on Sept. 12 to hear a case together. The reason: This one is so momentous that it could not only decide the powers of the court itself but also kindle a constitutional crisis. – New York Times

A Palestinian was killed and four others wounded in clashes early Friday morning during an Israeli operation in the Tulkarem refugee camp, according to Palestinian reports. – Agence France-Presse

Israeli authorities conditionally released on Thursday a Palestinian man and three of his sons who had been detained over clashes with Jewish settlers accused of a deadly attack near a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank last week. – Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired most of the governors in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, responding to long-standing demands for a political shake-up as frustration grows with the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority. – Associated Press

Any Saudi deal which allows for uranium enrichment would help spark a nuclear arms race, endangering Israel and the region, Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid warned on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post 

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have traded accusations over the humanitarian and economic crises in the Gaza Strip, with each side holding the other responsible for the suffering of the two million residents of the coastal enclave. – Jerusalem Post

Members of the coalition support normalization with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, they said separately as the week came to a close. […] Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich supports an agreement, and praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to bring about peace with Arab states, as per the Abraham Accords signed in 2020 that brought peace with Morocco, Bahrain, and the UAE. – Jerusalem Post

The Ukrainian Ambassador slammed Israel on Thursday for terminating health insurance coverage for approximately 14,000 Ukrainian refugees in Israel. “Not only did the Israeli government refuse to sell Ukraine protective measures… Israel also stopped medical aid to refugees who fled to Israel from a threat of brutal killing at the hands of the Russians,”  Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk said in a statement on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Avi Mayer writes: “There are far too many people in American politics who are quick to render judgment on Israel without actually knowing much about the country, without actually having gone to the country or studied in depth, and there’s far more emotion than knowledge on the subject.” “So I would recommend just more education and more outreach to members of Congress, and encouraging them to travel to Israel,” Torres concluded. Amen, Congressman. Amen. – Jerusalem Post

Yaakov Katz writes: US military aid to Israel is the clearest illustration of US commitment to Israeli security since it transcends political tension such as is taking place currently, with one of the countries enacting policies that the other dislikes. The current situation might not be perfect, but it is the best way to advance American and Israeli interests in an increasingly volatile Middle East. – Jerusalem Post

Eric R. Mandel writes: When I speak to Americans, especially Jewish Americans who are appalled at the government’s decision regarding reasonableness, I perceive anger at the radical messengers of change rather than the policy itself, of which most have, at best, a superficial understanding. – Jerusalem Post 

Jeremy Issacharoff writes: This would not only have a dramatic impact on the vital strategic partnership that emerged in recent years between the two countries but would also damage Israel’s moral standing in Germany and beyond, particularly with respect to Holocaust remembrance. The complex history of Israel and Germany in the past and the ethos and collective memory of the Jewish people, can fathom no other conclusion. – Jerusalem Post 

Mark Regev writes: He gave qualified acceptance of Palestinian statehood in his June 2009 Bar-Ilan speech, and more recently in his championing of Trump’s January 2020 “Deal of the Century” Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. He could also revisit the understanding of settlement growth discussed with the Trump White House. Of course, while Netanyahu can be expected to rise to the occasion, it is not clear that all his coalition partners will go along too. – Jerusalem Post

David Rosenberg writes: If those at the top, from bin Salman on down, send the signal that Israel is a welcome business partner, it’s just possible that Saudi could really end up being the UAE on a much larger scale. Right now, however, the signals aren’t there. – Haaretz

Alon Pinkas writes: Whether or not there will be a trilateral deal, it is Israel that needs to deal with the Palestinian issue. In the event of a “no deal,” the Palestinian problem and solution remain entirely in Israel’s court. The United States and Saudi Arabia do not have to coexist with 5 million resentful and desperate Palestinians. Israel does. – Haaretz

Ghaith al-Omari writes: For now, the decision is shrouded in the PA’s typical ambiguity, making it difficult to precisely surmise the edict’s intent and potential impact. Abbas has a history of using dramatic domestic announcements to project a sense of motion without creating actual change (e.g., see his aborted election announcement of 2021). Thus, while the U.S. government should keep a close eye on how the edict affects Fatah high politics, the PA’s public standing, and West Bank militant groups, it may be premature to take a stance on the measure at the moment; indeed, some skepticism about its significance is warranted until events prove otherwise. – Washington Institute

Leon Hadar writes: If Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes such steps that would lead to the withdrawal of two extremist right-wing ministers—Itamar-Gvir, the head of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit, and Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism Party—from the current coalition. That would then leave Netanyahu no choice but to rely on the support of the centrist parties in the Knesset and make with them a deal to end the current crisis over the government’s controversial plan for judicial reform. – The National Interest


Turkey’s defense ministry said on Thursday that a spate of attacks the previous day and overnight by Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq killed at least six Turkish soldiers. The attacks prompted retaliatory airstrikes that left four members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, dead on Thursday, according to a social media post shared later by the ministry. – Associated Press

Turkey aims to lower soaring inflation permanently after a transitional period where prices remain high, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Thursday in an interview with the Yeni Safak newspaper. – Reuters

Asli Aydintasbas and Jeremy Shapiro writes: Neither enemies nor allies, these powers will not understand Washington’s struggle with Beijing and Moscow in moral or ideological terms. Rather, they will seek to maintain their independence from all sides and constantly ask themselves, What’s in it for us? The United States will need to find answers to that question that go beyond empty paeans to a rules-based order that no one really believes in. Creating a more realistic relationship with a post-Western Turkey, one based on mutually beneficial transactions, would be a good place to start. – Foreign Affairs


An assailant threw a Molotov cocktail at Sweden’s embassy in Beirut, causing no casualties, Stockholm’s foreign minister and a diplomatic source said Thursday, amid anger over recent Quran desecrations. – Agence France-Presse

The United States, Britain and Canada on Thursday announced sanctions against the former governor of Lebanon’s central bank, Riad Salameh, accusing him of corrupt actions to enrich himself and his associates. – Reuters

Lebanon’s caretaker defence minister Maurice Slim was safe on Thursday after his car was hit by gunfire, the country’s interior minister said in a statement. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisia and Libya took back 276 sub-Saharan migrants stranded in a desert region along the border between the two countries and brought them to shelters on Thursday. Tunisia has been blamed for dumping the migrants in the sizzling heat in the no-man’s land near the border post of Ras Jedir. – Associated Press

Egypt’s annual headline inflation rose to a new all-time high of 36.5% in July, in line with analysts’ expectations, as food prices soared, data from the country’s statistics agency CAPMAS showed on Thursday. – Reuters

Hal Brands writes: It’s a fair point, given how overstretched the American military is — but one that simply underscores the impossibility of pivoting away from the Middle East. Whether as a source of vital energy or a theater of great-power rivalry, the Middle East keeps intruding on Washington’s agenda. A region the president, and many Americans, would prefer to escape still matters very much. – Bloomberg

Hamdi Malik writes: Additionally, muqawama platforms such as Sabereen News who frantically attacked PM Sudani and head of the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), Ali al-Moayad after the news of blocking telegram was published, later toned down their anti-government narrative. – Washington Institute

Brian Katulis writes: Second, when it comes to foreign policy, the Biden administration faces some serious bandwidth issues as it seeks to support Ukraine, compete with China, address climate change, and link America’s new national industrial policy to measures in the world that build stronger relationships with partners and allies. The effort to produce progress in Israeli-Saudi relations will likely take more time and energy to achieve lasting results and maximum benefits for the broader region and world — it is very much worth the effort, but only if it’s done right. – Middle East Institute

Michaël Tanchum writes: While the prototype Pele reactor is currently mandated to be demonstrated only within the United States under the safety oversight of the DOE, the Department of Defense will decide at a future date about the transition of the technology and its commercial use in private industry. As the security implications of climate change become increasingly stark, Washington should engage Rabat’s forward-leaning posture in finding solutions to water scarcity. With the nuclear option already part of Morocco’s portfolio of possible solutions for addressing the food-water-energy trilemma, the White House should consider how to engage Rabat as a stakeholder in the diffusion of the United States’ Generation IV mobile nuclear power technology. – Middle East Institute


Korean Peninsula

North Korea continued developing nuclear weapons and producing nuclear fissile material in 2023 and evading United Nations sanctions that aim to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to an unpublished United Nations report seen by Reuters on Thursday. – Reuters

South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Friday that it hopes the issue of Iranian frozen funds will be resolved smoothly. – Reuters

China’s coast guard held joint drills with its counterparts from Russia and South Korea from Aug. 7 to 10, according to an official statement from the China side. – Reuters


The United States and China are the world’s two most important economic powers. But they face polar opposite economic problems. […] China faces a different problem: Deflation. According to official statistics released Wednesday, consumer prices had fallen by 0.3 percent over the last year after being stagnant for months. – Washington Post 

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday to block and regulate high-tech U.S.-based investments going toward China — a move the administration said was targeted but it also reflected an intensifying competition between the world’s two biggest powers. – Associated Press

China is likely to launch military drills next week near Taiwan, using Vice President William Lai’s stopovers in the United States as a pretext to intimidate voters ahead of an election next year and make them “fear war”, Taiwanese officials said. – Reuters

China has lifted pandemic-era restrictions on group tours for more countries, including key markets such as the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia in a potential boon for their tourism industries. – Reuters

China has uncovered a Chinese national suspected of spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), its state security ministry said on Friday, highlighting what it said were the risks and dangers of Chinese citizens being recruited abroad. – Reuters

China will pause plans to build a new embassy in London, a decision that may increase diplomatic tensions when both countries want to repair damaged relations, people with knowledge of the situation said. – Reuters

President Joe Biden blasted China’s economic problems as a “ticking time bomb” and referred to Communist Party leaders as “bad folks,” his latest barb against President Xi Jinping’s government even as his administration seeks to improve overall ties with Beijing. – Bloomberg

Companies from South Africa and China concluded trade deals worth $2.19 billion during a visit to the country by Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao. – Bloomberg

The material two alleged spies for China provided to their handlers point to a sustained interest from the People’s Liberation Army in amphibious operations as threats to Taiwan grow, two naval experts told USNI News. – USNI News

Editorial: U.S. investment in Chinese startups dropped by more than 30% from 2021 to 2022. U.S. investment in Chinese venture funds fell by nearly 80% between the first quarter of 2019 and this year. China needs more foreign investment as its economy slows and its industrial policy fails to deliver faster growth. Mr. Biden’s order won’t block businesses from investing in China for the most part, but they may decide on their own that the risks exceed the benefits. – Wall Street Journal

Joseph C. Sternberg writes:  If a developing country like China starts to flirt with deflation, the convergence definitely isn’t happening. The solution must be to jump-start productivity. This isn’t what Western gadflies will tell Beijing to do. Expect more pleading for another round of monetary credit stimulus as in the post-2008 period. Mr. Xi’s test is whether he can deliver a true productivity revolution this time instead. – Wall Street Journal

Daniel Moss writes: Either way, a world economy that’s singing out of harmony is one replete with risks. The Fed again finds itself the hinge point. For all the gloom emanating from China, its central bank seems rather passive. US inflation is still too high for Fed Chair Jerome Powell to start sending out gentle flares about the global economy as he did in late 2018 or as Janet Yellen before him did in 2015, after the People’s Bank of China botched a currency devaluation. – Bloomberg

Minxin Pei writes: China’s economic woes should give the US more confidence about its ability to prevail in the long run. Nevertheless, it must also exercise strategic discipline. Like Beijing, Washington must be selective about where to contest Chinese power and where to avoid needless entanglements. It shouldn’t waste energy and resources obsessing over Chinese influence in every corner of the globe and every global institution. – Bloomberg

Zachary Faria writes: The real story here is the illegal Chinese bio lab secretly operating on U.S. soil, and the possibility of there being more labs like it, three years after a Chinese lab was responsible for a global pandemic. But the Associated Press would rather focus on “misinformation” and “conspiracy theories” because its obsession with allegations of ethnic bigotry takes priority over public health, even though public health is being threatened by Chinese medical companies and even the Chinese government. – Washington Examiner 

South Asia

Pakistan is negotiating with Gulf nations to bring in billions of dollars of investment, as Islamabad seeks the foreign currency it badly needs to stabilize its economy and the oil-rich monarchies move to diversify their economies and expand their influence. – Wall Street Journal

Once, India was under the British Empire’s thumb. These days, the tables are turned, as a new prime minister with roots in the former colony focuses the United Kingdom’s trade and economic attention on the subcontinent now that Britain is no longer a member of the European Union. – New York Sun

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday easily defeated a vote of no-confidence taken by the opposition over his handling of a deadly ethnic conflict in Manipur, and in a two-hour speech dismissed the move as a vain attempt to “defame India”. – Reuters

Pakistan’s outgoing prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, and the leader of the opposition will meet again on Friday to try to pick a caretaker leader to oversee a general election due by November, the premier’s office said. – Reuters

A Pakistan’s anti-graft court canceled the bail of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a corruption case, which may lead to his arrest in another case, Geo television channel reported. – Bloomberg

Graeme Smith and Ibraheem Bahiss write: In many ways, Western countries remain Afghanistan’s gatekeepers. Someday, a Taliban regime that respects human rights might be fully welcomed into the club of nations. That day, however, is distant. The West cannot stand around and wait for the cow to die. The region is struggling, and both Afghans and their neighbors deserve to eat. – Foreign Affairs 


Outgoing Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has unveiled a list of people expected to feature in a new cabinet, including several sons and daughters of close allies and serving ministers. – Reuters

Australian journalist Cheng Lei, detained in China on national security charges, has described how standing in sunlight for just 10 hours a year feels in a “love letter” to her country. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: It is time instead for USAID to send trucks flying the American flag to the Lachin corridor under the observation of US diplomats stationed in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. If Azerbaijan impedes diplomats’ movement, it is time to send its ambassador home. If it refuses to allow the flow of relief supplies or, worse, threatens to kill Western observers as Azerbaijan’s ambassador in Brussels recently did, then it is time for sanctions. There is no shortage of options. Biden can put an end to the Section 907 waiver, enforce of the Humanitarian Assistance Corridors Act, designate under the Magnitsky Act, and even support Aliyev’s indictment under the Genocide Convention. – American Enterprise Institute


Facing a tsunami of disinformation about the treatment of Muslims that has in recent months fueled protests from Stockholm to Baghdad, Sweden decided it needed to fight back. – New York Times

Germany will own NATO’s second largest helicopter fleet with the 60 Chinooks it announced it was buying last month, German Air Force Chief Ingo Gerhartz was quoted as saying on Friday. – Reuters

Romania is poised to sign a $6.5 billion contract to upgrade its air force with US-made F-35 aircraft, the Black Sea nation’s biggest such deal to date as Russia’s war with Ukraine rages on the other side of the border. – Reuters

Montenegro’s President Jakov Milatovic on Thursday nominated Milojko Spajic, a leader of a pro-Western party that won a parliamentary vote in June, as prime minister-designate tasked to form a government. – Reuters

Editorial: Italy and Spain are right about one thing: Europe’s banks should be making a larger contribution to the greater good. But they should do so by building capital buffers that will make them and the whole economy more resilient and dynamic, not by paying extra taxes that will render them more likely to need bailouts when the next crisis hits. As anyone in Willie Sutton’s line of work can attest, robbing banks is not the path toward long-term prosperity. – Bloomberg

Editorial: More diplomatic resources should go toward securing migrant-return agreements with third countries and ensuring any broader off-shoring deals hold up to judicial scrutiny. That should go hand-in-hand with expanded pathways for legal migration and better policies to integrate newcomers, which will benefit Britain’s economy. – Bloomberg

Marc A. Thiessen writes: We must not tolerate the changing of borders in Europe by force.” He is right. It would be nice to hear the leading Republican presidential contenders speak with similar moral clarity — and for President Biden to finally back concrete efforts to bring Ukraine into NATO. – Washington Post 

Arsen Ostrovsky and Matthijs Schüssler write: It is long past time the EU designates the entire group as a terrorist organization. Doing so will make Europe, Lebanon, and the Middle East safer, plus deliver a major blow against Iran’s malign influence in the region and Europe. – Newsweek

Benjamin Schmitt and Aura Sabadus write: While acknowledging the priorities associated with rebuilding Ukraine’s energy sector and protecting Europe’s electricity, renewables, and hydrocarbon import infrastructure, we also recognize the long-term goals of achieving a successful energy transition on both sides of the Atlantic to contribute to tangible progress on addressing the climate crisis. – Center for European Policy Analysis

David Cadier and Martin Quencez write: Finally, France has now joined the chorus of states voicing lofty slogans in support of Ukraine, which risk becoming increasingly divorced from the reality of Western policies. Stating that Ukraine is now defending the whole of Europe might be useful or necessary in justifying the financial and military costs to domestic audiences. But, it is not necessarily true, and gives Ukraine a false impression of how far the West is willing to go on its behalf. Managing Kyiv’s expectations and frustrations will likely become one of the most challenging political issues for Western countries — France now very much included. – War on the Rocks

Lynn Kuok writes: What is known about NATO in the region is very much a reflection of the mirror China holds up to it. China’s complaints about NATO hold sway in Asia. Understanding, addressing, and ideally, preempting these concerns will allow the alliance to more effectively engage an important region to achieve its core objective of safeguarding the freedom and security of its members. – Foreign Policy


A group of West African governments mobilized a standby military force Thursday, officials said, as regional leaders meeting at an emergency summit struggled to chart a clear path out of the crisis in Niger two weeks after Nigerien generals unseated the country’s elected president, Mohamed Bazoum. – Washington Post 

The United States will hold the junta that took power in Niger accountable for the safety of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, his family, and detained members of the government, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday. – Reuters

Niger’s junta told a top U.S. diplomat that they would kill deposed President Mohamed Bazoum if neighboring countries attempted any military intervention to restore his rule, two Western officials told The Associated Press. – Associated Press 

A British man was killed amid violent protests in the South African city of Cape Town after the vehicle he was riding in drove into the midst of some of the unrest. The 40-year-old man was sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle when he was shot in the head, South African police said. – Associated Press

South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma appeared at the Estcourt correctional facility on Friday morning and was released under a remission process, a senior prisons official said. – Reuters

At least 20 people were killed by gunmen in north-central Nigeria early Thursday, surivors said, the latest in a cycle of violence targeting remote villages in the West African nation. – Associated Press

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday denounced the World Bank’s decision to suspend new funding in response to a harsh anti-LGBTQ law and vowed to find alternative sources of credit. – Reuters

Latin America

Six Colombians were arrested in connection with the assassination of an Ecuadorean presidential candidate in Quito, officials with Ecuador’s Interior Ministry said, hours after President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency to bring order to the country buffeted by drug-fueled violence. – Wall Street Journal

Fernando Villavicencio, who was gunned down at a rally on Wednesday, had a long history in Ecuadorean public affairs, largely as an antagonist to those in power. He rose to prominence as a union leader at the state oil company, Petroecuador, and later played a crucial role in exposing a corruption scandal involving the administration of former President Rafael Correa. – New York Times

Argentina will hold primary elections on Sunday, a nationwide ballot that will act as a giant voter poll ahead of general elections in October, with many people angry or apathetic over triple-digit inflation and rising poverty. – Reuters

Editorial: Villavicencio had to go into hiding more than once. When Mr. Correa was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison for bribery, Villavicencio was widely credited for bringing the former president to justice. In Congress he continued his battle against government graft. The U.S. has offered help in trying to solve the crime, and Villavicencio deserves no less. Americans who feed the drug trade with their appetites and cultural signals of approval are also feeding murder and mayhem throughout the Americas. – Wall Street Journal

Patrick L. Schmidt writes: The DFC makes equity investments and loans to projects in developing countries, but critics argue that it moves slowly, and national security does not play the role it should. Congress recognizes China is the only source of infrastructure financing for many countries, and to counter that impact the United States must offer an effective alternative. To do that, national security policy must be a higher priority for DFC. Can America increase its influence in Suriname and the region, while deterring that of China? We Americans eventually may do the right thing, but will it be too late on our third border? – The National Interest



The hacker attack highlights what has become one of the White House’s key concerns about the powerful, fast-growing new AI models: How secure they really are, and whether they could pose a threat either to American citizens, or to national security on the global stage. – Politico

While the market mostly shrugged off President Joe Biden’s move to prohibit some U.S. technology investments in China, U.S. investors said they were worried Beijing would retaliate or pull back from buying American technology. – Reuters

China wrapping up its crackdown on tech firms and switching to supporting the industry sets the tone as the country’s earnings season swings into action. – Bloomberg

A newly identified cyberespionage group in Belarus is targeting foreign embassies often with the assistance of local internet service providers, researchers with the cybersecurity firm ESET said Thursday. – CyberScoop

Intelligence gathered in cyberspace is helping Ukraine understand Russia’s plans and stop the enemy from carrying them out, according to the country’s top cyber and information security official. – The Record

China has not yet surpassed the U.S. in conducting cyber espionage despite several successful hacks that have been publicly linked to Beijing, the head of the U.S.’s premier digital spy agency said Thursday. – The Record

Nicholas A. Henderson writes: In this increasingly competitive environment between the United States and China, securing critical technologies is vital, and semiconductors are crucial to our national security and economic strength. China’s influence in this sector is growing. With the potential for Beijing to gain a leg up on the rest of the industry, it will be necessary for Washington to leverage all of its advantages to secure the high ground. A cooperative semiconductor agreement between allies is the answer. – The National Interest


Brazilian and Saudi defense companies have signed a memorandum of understanding that could lead to joint ventures and technology-sharing agreements. – Defense News

The Defense Department has created a new task force to better understand how generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools, like large language models, can bolster its innovation efforts, while also being used responsibly, the department announced today. – Breaking Defense

Standing at the tip of the home of the Royal Australian Navy’s ancestral home, four admirals representing what could be called the Quad navy demonstrated the easy camaraderie that is building between the services leaders as they labor to create forces that can fight together throughout the Pacific Ocean. – Breaking Defense

The Army’s new Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) is closing in on the initial fielding of two new missile systems while preparing to pass the development and sustainment baton to the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Missiles and Space, according to a three-star general. – Breaking Defense

Just as the Missile Defense Agency has unfurled plans to begin testing weapons and equipment to defend Guam from incoming aerial threats, the Army is moving out on an incremental test plan to tie new weapons into its command-and-control capability bound for the island, according to key Army officer.  – Breaking Defense