Fdd's overnight brief

February 25, 2022

In The News


Rockets struck Kyiv early Friday morning, according to several Ukrainian officials, as the United States warned that Russian forces were just 20 miles outside the capital and cautioned that the city could fall quickly. – Washington Post 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, posing one of the biggest security threats to Europe since World War II, is staking his legacy on an irredentist invasion of Ukraine that poses significant risks to his own country and raises worrisome questions about his ambitions to bring Kyiv to heel. – Washington Post 

The European Union will formally sign off on sanctions Friday that will cut 70% of Russia’s banking system off from international financial markets and place limits on the amount of money Russian elites can hold in the EU, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. – Wall Street journal  

Russia’s overnight assault on Ukraine triggered a surge of calls for Western allies to completely sever Russia off from the global financial system by disconnecting it from the so-called Swift global payment system. Fear of collateral damage is putting the idea on hold for now. – Wall Street Journal  

Shocked Russians turned out by the thousands Thursday to decry their country’s invasion of Ukraine as emotional calls for protests grew on social media. Some 1,745 people in 54 Russian cities were detained, at least 957 of them in Moscow. – Associated Press 

Russia has spent the past seven years building up formidable financial defences, yet in the long run, its economy is unlikely to withstand the onslaught of coordinated sanctions from the West. – Reuters 

US President Joe Biden was meeting with G7 allies Thursday to hammer out a raft of new sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine, and will later speak to the American people on a crisis that he warns will cause “catastrophic loss of life.” – Agence France-Presse 

Russia intends to take the whole of Ukraine but the Russian army failed to deliver it main objectives on the first day of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Friday. – Reuters 

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan on Friday expressed his concern over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and said his court may investigate possible war crimes in the country. – Reuters 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday that continued Russian aggression against his country showed that sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West were not enough. – Reuters 

The flurry of sanctions the U.S. announced this week against Russia are some of the hardest hitting that Moscow has ever faced, but the slow pain they inflict may not be enough to deter President Vladimir Putin from escalating his invasion of Ukraine, experts said. – NBC 

Efforts by the US to inflict economic pain on Russia in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine could be hamstrung if sanctions drive an increase in energy prices. – Financial Times 

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that “enemy saboteur groups” have entered Kyiv and Russia is planning to assassinate him as Vladimir Putin’s invading forces intensified their attack on Ukraine’s capital and other cities on Friday. – Financial Times 

Russia has developed a multilayered plan to invade and seize Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv as part of its ongoing invasion of Ukrainian territory, according to intelligence sources of the Ukrainian outlet Ukrainska Pravda and further shared by the news outlet Kyiv Independent. – Jerusalem Post 

The Biden administration’s call for sanctions against Russia will jeopardize the country’s ability to buy semiconductors and other technology — and it could affect military technologies in the future. – Bloomberg 

Top U.S. space officials this week said it’s likely Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will extend to space, predicting continued GPS jamming and spoofing and urging military and commercial space operators to be prepared for possible cyber attacks. – Defense News 

Editorial: We can debate if Mr. Biden’s weakness on Afghanistan caused Mr. Putin to believe he could invade Ukraine, but you fight a new Cold War with the President you have. Mr. Biden now has to rally the world and the American public to understand the stakes in Ukraine and counter the rapidly increasing threats to America. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: Mr. Biden ducked a question at his Thursday press conference about why the U.S. hasn’t sanctioned Mr. Putin personally but said it’s still possible. The press should keep asking. The only sanctions that will really get Mr. Putin’s attention are those that threaten his control of Russia and the loyalty of his cronies. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: But Mr. Kerry’s comments aren’t a gaffe. They reveal the Biden Administration’s obsession with climate, and with punishing fossil-fuel production, which has made the U.S. and Europe vulnerable to Mr. Putin’s energy blackmail. The climate lobby has made Mr. Putin more powerful. Every time Mr. Kerry visits Moscow, the boys in the Kremlin must think it’s Christmas. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: In his two televised addresses this week, Mr. Biden displayed the resolution and calm of a tested leader, and the Western alliance demonstrated a rare unity in the face of Russia’s attack. The West is strongest when it stands together for its shared values and against a common enemy. However difficult it may be, our pain will be nothing compared with the agonies of the Ukrainian people at the hands of an invading army. – New York Times 

Editorial: As the leader of the free world, the U.S. must rally its allies in support of the noble ideals of democracy and a rules-based international order. The Ukrainian people must find in Joe Biden unflinching support, and Putin must be made to understand that he is all alone. He has made a most grievous error, and he must rescind his claims on Ukraine. – Washington Examiner 

Robert C. O’Brien and Alexander B. Gray write: The U.S. remains the world’s indispensable power and retains global interests. The primacy of the China challenge and justifiable skepticism of U.S. overseas entanglements, born out of the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions, don’t mean we can ignore American interests in other areas of the world, particularly today in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal 

David Ignatius writes: The Ukraine assault, pitting a messianic Russian autocrat against the wishes of every other major nation, perhaps including China, will determine the shape of the new order to come. If Putin loses his battle to subjugate Ukraine, the new order will have a solid and promising foundation. If Putin wins, the new era will be very dangerous indeed. – Washington Post 

Eugene Robinson writes: Rather than confuse and weaken NATO, Putin seems to have united its members. Rather than erase the notion of independent Ukrainian nationhood, he seems to have reinforced it. And while roughly 200,000 troops equipped with modern weaponry might be enough to defeat the Ukrainian military, they are not enough to permanently conquer a country of more than 43 million people who don’t want to be occupied. Putin hasn’t made a bold chess move; he has overturned the chessboard. He cannot be sure where the pieces will land. – Washington Post 

Peggy Noonan writes: All the West is going to have to play a long, cool, careful game. Leaders and officials should do nothing to provoke. In Europe they should speak in one voice to the extent possible: define, describe, be precise, no histrionics. Don’t taunt. […]Sometimes it’s good to quiet your rousing voices and concentrate on not letting this become World War III. – Wall Street Journal 

Kimberley A. Strassel writes: Mr. Biden’s first Thursday response to the Ukrainian invasion offered a mixed bag—tough talk on Russia, but also progressive talking points (such as pre-emptively demagoguing oil and gas producers for any price hikes). Yet he can’t have it both ways, and by Tuesday he’ll have had plenty of time for the choosing. Will it be an emboldened, reset Biden presidency? Or more progressive puerility, as per usual? – Wall Street Journal 

Walter Russell Mead writes: Nothing less can be our goal. “My idea of American policy toward the Soviet Union is simple, and some would say simplistic,” Reagan told his foreign-policy adviser Richard Allen in 1977. “We win and they lose.” Mr. Putin has sought to return the world to an era of zero-sum international competition under the law of the jungle; he and the acolytes and imitators inspired by his example must be taught why that’s bad. – Wall Street Journal  

Nika Melkozerova writes: First Mr. Putin annexed Crimea, then he fomented the war in the Donbas that has killed more than 14,000 people. Now the battle for Ukraine has come to a climax. But it’s about more than Ukraine. It’s a contest between democracy and autocracy, freedom and dictatorship, whose implications will scatter across the world. It’s not our fight alone. So please don’t leave us alone to fight it. – New York Times 

Prashant Rao writes: In essence, Ukrainian insurgents would require just about all that the Iraqi and Afghan insurgents and extremists needed, except for suicide bombers, which I assume would not be employed. And the question will again be whether to provide that assistance overtly or just covertly, or at all, I suspect. – The Atlantic 

Paula J. Dobriansky writes: The attack on Ukraine is a clear wake-up call to all those who have argued that America is not confronting dangerous great power competition with not only China but also Russia. Russia is destabilizing Europe, seeking to undercut U.S. power and influence globally and to fragment our close alliances and partnerships. And Moscow is threatening implicitly and explicitly to use its massive nuclear arsenal against any who resist. These events will shape the international system and American foreign and security policy for years to come. – Barrons 

David Rothkopf writes: In the end, all these factors will contribute to Putin’s decline, will add to his vulnerability to domestic challenges, will isolate him, and will, in the end, destroy him. […]But if history is any guide, his over-reach and his miscalculations, his weaknesses as a strategist, and the flaws in his character will undo him. And, if there is justice in the world, if the people of the U.S. and Europe are paying attention, they will also serve to undo those Putin acolytes abroad who supported this monster and ignored the profound danger to us all that he embodies. – The Daily Beast 

Paul J. Davies writes: Financial shock and awe may be the only tactic that can reverse Russia’s aggression – and it is Europe that will bear the costs. If it doesn’t, it is also Europe that will most likely bear the consequences. – Bloomberg 

Tiana Lowe writes: Putin is a dictator and a murderer. He never deserved the deference and respect shown to him by the West and its leaders. But he gambled that we were pusillanimous wimps, and that bet just endlessly keeps paying off. – Washington Examiner 

Stephen Blank writes: In other words, NATO should either accelerate the track membership for Ukraine or give it the membership it needs now. The argument that reforms there are incomplete is now irrelevant. NATO is first an organization for the collective, and Russia’s invasion threatens European security as a whole. […]These actions will deter Moscow, strengthen Ukraine and our allies, and invigorate international, not just European, security. If there are those who do not believe that defeating and deterring Putin is in our interest, then the burden of proof remains upon them. – Washington Examiner 

Hal Brands writes: But if the Western democracies fail, then the fallout from Putin’s gambit may be a preview of greater global disruptions to come. – Bloomberg  

Ben Dubow writes: Putin may be counting on a repeat of the euphoria that followed Crimea’s annexation as a further step in Russia’s spiritual rejuvenation. But he should take heed of the implications of the Russian Idea and what befell the Tsarist autocracy and Soviet Bolshevism–and the suffering inflicted on Russians in the process. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Eriks Selga and Jérémie Langlois write: Without new narratives and terminology, Putin will keep exploiting the misconception that Russia has unique claims on countries occupied by its predecessor, driving more wedges between democratic solidarity. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Daniel Hoffman writes: Putin cannot allow Ukraine to succeed as a democracy, which would serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for his own domestic opponents who are denied basic civil liberties including freedom of expression and assembly. Putin’s long-term objective is the destruction of Ukraine as a state. – Fox News 

Anna Mahjar-Barducci writes: Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that “this is not the beginning of a war,” but rather the prevention of the development of a crisis, which may lead to a global military confrontation. She also said that the recognition of the DPR and LPR help to put an end to the war in Donbass. […]He then added that Putin’s actions are not to be read in the “space of politics,” where the support of the street is needed, but rather in a history textbook. “Tangible popular support is saved for the future.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 


Iran, the U.S. and other world powers are nearing a deal to revive a 2015 agreement that curbs Tehran’s nuclear work in return for relief from international sanctions. – Wall Street journal 

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on the phone on Thursday, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. – Jerusalem Post 

Tehran has not just made significant technological progress, which will only be monitored for the next three years, it is also about to receive $7bn in released frozen assets, as well as sanctions relief on exports such as oil. This money, Israel believes, will be funnelled to Iran’s proxies across the region, and the international legitimacy conferred by the nuclear accord could encourage the Islamic Republic to be bolder in its regional ambitions. – The Guardian 

David M. Weinberg writes: Of course, this is where the crises with Russia and Iran coalesce. These countries (and China too) seek to emasculate the West, to expose America as a paper tiger. Putin wants Eastern Europe back in the Russian orbit. Iran wants to go further – to bring about the Shi’ite messianic era, which means bringing the entire Middle East (at least) under its thumb. Which means crushing Israel and enervating America. – Jerusalem Post 

Michael Rubin writes: I spent early December 2020 in portions of southern Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah, which was in the midst of a crisis: Their money was drying up because the Guard could no longer afford to subsidize them fully. As the group switched salary payments from U.S. dollars to the nearly worthless Lebanese pound, Hezbollah’s leadership was learning that many of its rank-and-file had joined for the money and privileges rather than the ideology. Unfortunately, President Joe Biden and Blinken are snatching a counterterrorism defeat from the jaws of victory. – Washington Examiner 


Eight members of polio vaccination teams working to eradicate the crippling virus in Afghanistan were killed on Thursday in four separate attacks, the United Nations said. – Agence France-Presse 

The Taliban-controlled government of Afghanistan released a statement Friday addressing the Russia-Ukraine war, urging restraint and expressing concern for civilians. – FOX News 

Clashes between Afghan and Pakistani security forces have killed two people and wounded several in a border region of the two neighbours, officials said, the latest in a series of such skirmishes. – Reuters 


This is the Islamic State in 2022. No longer holding territory, as the group did until 2019, but lying low in small groups, operating with increasing sophistication and exploiting the breathing spaced afforded by Syria’s fractured politics to rebuild. They are also taking advantage of the local Kurdish-led administration’s struggles to fully govern the broad swath of northeastern Syria it has come to control since the fall of the caliphate, recruiting informants from impoverished communities and intimidating individuals who work with local government. – Washington Post 

The government of economically-battered Syria decided Thursday to cut spending in an effort to reduce the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, concerned that oil and wheat prices could sharply increase, the state-owned news agency said. – Associated Press 

Canadian officials are working with Syrian Kurdish authorities and international organizations to gather information and help Canadian citizens being detained in Syria, a Canadian government spokesman said Thursday. – Associated Press 

Two Russian guided-missile cruisers from Russia’s North and Pacific fleets met off the coast of Syria as part of a 16-ship Russian Navy formation, according to satellite photos taken on Thursday. – USNI News 

Anna Ahronheim writes: With the West focused on Ukraine, Iran might also see an opening to accelerate its nuclear program. That is something that Jerusalem will not accept. Walking a thin diplomatic tightrope while increasing military pressure on Iran and Hezbollah will be something that Israel will have to excel in for the coming weeks, if not months, of the war that broke out on Thursday morning. – Jerusalem Post 


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is punishing his critics by revoking their diplomatic passports, Palestinians said on Thursday. At the same time, Abbas is using the passports to reward his loyalists, they added. – Jerusalem Post 

Moscow took issue with Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and Jerusalem just prior to its attack on Ukraine. – Jerusalem Post 

The United States has asked Israel to support a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a report on Army Radio. – Jerusalem Post 

President Isaac Herzog declined to condemn Russia directly for its invasion of Ukraine during a state visit to Greece on Thursday. Meeting Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Herzog said he was praying for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. – Times of Israel 

Bar-Ilan University on Thursday welcomed Bahraini ambassador to Israel Khaled Yousif al-Jalahmah, who visited the University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials and Faculty of Engineering. – Arutz Sheva 

Editorial: Israel needs to pay heed to its strongest ally, whose president, Joe Biden, strongly condemned Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified attack. Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way.” While focusing on the safety of Israelis and the Jewish community in Ukraine, Israel should take a moral stand against the war. That is what is needed right now. – Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

The ripples of Thursday’s Russian invasion of Ukraine will be felt far and wide. But, for a number of reasons, these ripples – more like battering waves – are likely to strike Israel and the Mideast with greater intensity than other parts of the world. – Jerusalem Post 

In this podcast, terrorism scholar Matthew Levitt sets out to break this rule by shining a bright spotlight on Hezbollah’s global terrorist and criminal activities. Levitt has been following Lebanese Hezbollah for almost three decades in and out of government. He’s written books, given expert testimony, and literally mapped Hezbollah’s worldwide illicit activities in an online interactive map and timeline. – Washington Institute 

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied said on Thursday he will outlaw foreign funding for civil society organisations as he tries to remake the country’s politics after establishing one-man rule. – Reuters 

Naufel Alhassan write: Iraq is now approaching another turning point and it has a new opportunity, if only a brief one, to bring about change and re-engineer the system by making citizens a priority. Otherwise, recycling the failures of the past means nothing but waiting for the next gale storm. – Middle East Institute 


Over three months, senior Biden administration officials held half a dozen urgent meetings with top Chinese officials in which the Americans presented intelligence showing Russia’s troop buildup around Ukraine and beseeched the Chinese to tell Russia not to invade, according to U.S. officials. – New York Times 

China stuck to its message on Friday of refusing to call Russia’s action in Ukraine an “invasion” or criticise Moscow despite intensifying assaults from Russia’s military in the Eastern European country which are leading to growing casualties. – Reuters 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses a difficult question for China: How can it support a key strategic partner when relations with the U.S. and Europe are so much more important for its economy? – Bloomberg 


As the leaders of the world’s largest economies gather to discuss a united response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Japan — the lone Asian member of the Group of Seven nations — is cautiously working with Western allies after years of trying to avoid antagonizing Moscow. – Washington Post 

Taiwan will join “democratic countries” in putting sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine, the government said on Friday, with the world’s largest contract chipmaker TSMC adding it would comply with all export control rules. – Reuters 

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin discussed ways to protect bilateral in response to sanctions against Russia, Tokayev’s office said on Friday. – Reuters 

Australia imposed more sanctions on Friday against Russia targeting several of its elite citizens and lawmakers, and said it was “unacceptable” that China was easing trade restrictions with Moscow at a time when it invaded Ukraine. – Reuters 

Taiwanese fighters scrambled Thursday to intercept and warn off nine Chinese warplanes that penetrated the island’s declared air defense zone, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. – Military.com 

Michael Schuman writes: Taiwan is on this tenuous front line. Just as Putin can’t tolerate Ukrainian sovereignty, the Chinese Communist Party will never accept the separateness of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a core part of China occupied by an illegitimate (and by the way, democratic) government. […]Xi has already been intimidating the government in Taipei by sending squadrons of jets to harass the island, while Beijing’s complete suppression of the prodemocracy movement in Hong Kong undermines any hope that Taiwan would retain a semblance of its current freedom were it to be incorporated into Communist Party–led China. – The Atlantic 

Arif Rafiq writes: The best case scenario for the TTP is that it causes great enough pain for Islamabad to compel it to concede control over limited territory — most likely areas in North and South Waziristan — that would effectively constitute a mini-emirate between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Such an outcome, however, is unlikely at the moment. – Middle East Institute 


A U.S. nonprofit group that evacuated Americans from Kabul is helping U.S. citizens and residents flee Ukraine, with its first busload of 23 evacuees en route to a country on Ukraine’s western border. – NBC 

China joined India and other countries in ratcheting up evacuation flights and overland crossings out of Ukraine on Friday, as Russian forces began an assault on the capital Kyiv. – Financial Times 

There is a possibility the Israeli embassy in Ukraine might have to move to neighboring Poland, Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky told Reshet Bet on Friday morning in a radio interview. The subject will be discussed in a Ministry later on today. – Jerusalem Post 

American and NATO air forces are bolstering their stance in Eastern Europe after Russia launched its opening gambit in a far-reaching invasion of Ukraine on Thursday. – Defense News 

The German Ministry of Defense has notified citizens about potential disruptions in the country’s transit system, as Berlin implements NATO guidance for quickly moving troops to reinforce allies. – Defense News 

The United Kingdom plans to send additional military aid to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against a further invasion by Russia, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons on 23 February. – Janes 

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: Waking up suggests not only a change in mental state from asleep to alert, but also a change in physical position from horizontal under the duvet to upright and dressed for the day. Alertness is not necessarily Europe’s shortfall here. Europe’s problem is that as awake as it is regarding the Putin threat, it still doesn’t want to get out of bed. – Wall Street Journal 

Michael R. Strain writes: A lesson for the political right: Flirting with authoritarianism may seem appealing as a political or media strategy when the risks of that flirtation seem low. But even low-risk outcomes sometimes materialize. Following the 2020 election, power did not transfer peacefully from one U.S. president to the next. Today, war has returned to Europe. […]It can be lost. Serious people do not take it for granted. – National Review 


The United States conducted a drone strike against Al Shabab militants in Somalia this week, the first such military action against the Qaeda affiliate in East Africa since August, the military’s Africa Command said on Thursday. – New York Times 

In many ways, the recent spate of coups and coup attempts in Africa feels like a flashback to earlier periods in the continent’s history. With 11 coup attempts since 2019, coups appear to be on the rise after steadily declining, raising concerns about a return to military rule. – Washington Post  

A UN expert on Thursday urged Sudanese forces to stop firing live ammunition and tear gas at anti-coup protesters in a crackdown that has killed more than 80 people. – Agence France-Presse 

Latin America

In the hours after Russia launched its attack on Ukraine, Brazilians of all ideologies lined up to criticize the aggression. Presidential candidates. Political commentators. The vice president. Everyone except the politician that matters most in Brazil: President Jair Bolsonaro. – Washington Post 

A bombardment carried out by Colombia’s armed forces killed 23 FARC dissidents on Thursday as part of a military offensive to seize control of an area in the northeast of the country which sits on the border with Venezuela, the government said. – Reuters 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro disauthorized his Vice President Hamilton Mourao on Thursday for saying that Brazil opposed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters 

United States

Leading Republicans on Thursday assailed Russia for plunging Europe into its first major land war in decades — isolating former president Donald Trump, the de facto standard-bearer of their party, in his praise for the country’s authoritarian leader. – Washington Post 

Zachary Faria writes: Now, with the weakness of Biden’s resolve on full display, China is once again threatening Taiwan. Biden has done nothing to deter evil expansionist regimes and has done little to crack down on them after they make their moves. Biden has been wrong about every major foreign policy decision in his lifetime, and it appears he isn’t going to buck that trend any time soon. – Washington Examiner  

Marc A. Thiessen writes: What Biden and the Democrats don’t seem to understand is that you cannot simultaneously wage war on fossil fuels and stop Russia from waging war against Ukraine. Biden’s energy disarmament has weakened America on the world stage. The first step in reversing Putin’s aggression is to restore American energy independence. – Washington Post 


Cyberattacks against Ukrainian government websites and affiliated organizations added to the confusion of Russia’s military assault Thursday, including data-wiping malware activated a day earlier that cybersecurity researchers said infected hundreds of computers including in neighboring Latvia and Lithuania. – Associated Press 

People in Ukraine can lock down their Facebook pages as a security measure, the platform said Thursday, following warnings Russia was creating lists of Ukranians to kill after its invasion. – Agence France-Presse 

One of the most infamous hacker groups in the world, Anonymous, has declared a “cyberwar against Russia”. This message appeared on the group’s Twitter account. The hackers also claimed to have brought down the RT website. – Jerusalem Post 

President Joe Biden has been presented with a menu of options for the U.S. to carry out massive cyberattacks designed to disrupt Russia’s ability to sustain its military operations in Ukraine, four people familiar with the deliberations tell NBC News. – NBC 

Shalev Hulio writes: Cyberintelligence is a complicated and sensitive issue. There is no current alternative to collect valuable evidence from encrypted platforms. We can’t leave law enforcement blind and incapable of fighting crime. These challenges require the 21st-century solutions NSO provides. – Wall Street Journal