Fdd's overnight brief

July 21, 2022

In The News

Russia & Ukraine

Natural gas began flowing again through the main pipeline from Russia to Germany on Thursday, allaying European fears that a shut-off during scheduled maintenance would become permanent, but not resolving broader concerns about the continent’s energy being held hostage in Russia’s war. – Washington Post

Senior U.S. officials acknowledged Wednesday that the United States and its allies are considering whether to provide Ukraine with new fighter jets and the training needed to operate them, a move that would dramatically expand Western involvement in the war with Russia. – Washington Post

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska addressed Congress on Wednesday, making a rare personal appeal as the wife of a foreign leader for the United States to provide Ukraine with air defense systems, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its sixth month. – Washington Post

The European Union on Wednesday called on its members to ration natural gas, as they brace for the “likely scenario” that Russia could cut off the flow to Europe. – Washington Post

Russia’s top diplomat said Wednesday that his country’s territorial ambitions in Ukraine might broaden, as European leaders warned their citizens to prepare for sacrifices in the face of a conflict that shows no sign of ending any time soon. – New York Times

Commenting on the visit of Vladimir V. Putin to Iran, a member of the Russian Parliament and television talking head, Yevgeny G. Popov, said that the two countries hoped to form an “axis of good,” mocking former President George W. Bush’s description of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” – New York Times

While Vladimir Putin wages a conventional war in Ukraine, he has opened a second front in Europe that is coming to a head: A battle over natural gas. – Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would fulfill its commitments to supply natural gas to Europe but warned that flows via the Nord Stream pipeline could be curbed soon if sanctions prevent additional maintenance on its components. – Wall Street Journal

Almost five months after Russia invaded Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky is still fighting an enemy within: Russian sympathizers and spies at the heart of his government. – Wall Street Journal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s dismissal of senior officials is casting an inconvenient light on an issue that the Biden administration has largely ignored since the outbreak of war with Russia: Ukraine’s history of rampant corruption and shaky governance. – Associated Press

Ukraine has secured preliminary agreement from government creditors and bondholders to suspend debt repayments from August 1 until at least the end of 2023, as it struggles to plug a budget deficit running at $5bn a month. Bilateral lenders including Germany, the UK and the US on Wednesday said payments would be suspended from next month and they would “strongly encourage” private bondholders to do the same. – Financial Times

The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency said Russia’s interest in buying drones from Iran for its war in Ukraine reveals the poor state of its military. – Bloomberg

Russian political scientist and economist Joseph Diskin, a member of Russia’s Civic Chamber is fearful that as the war drags on the regime will be increasingly tempted to employ Stalinist tactics of ideological mobilization that cannot succeed without massive terror. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Seth G. Jones and Philip G. Wasielewski write: The costs of U.S. hesitancy are growing every day. Russian successes on the battlefield will only whet Mr. Putin’s appetite for further military adventurism and weaken deterrence. The risks aren’t confined to Europe, either. American reluctance also sends a signal to China that Washington and its Western partners may well dither if Beijing pounces on Taiwan. There is little time to waste. – Wall Street Journal

James Stavridis writes: Worrying about Putin’s using a weapon of mass destruction is warranted — but more likely it would be chemical than nuclear. Cold comfort perhaps, but at least we would remain at arm’s length from the lever to the apocalypse. – Bloomberg

Tom Mutch writes: Back then Russian and Ukrainian troops fought as part of one army: now they tear each other apart on the most brutal battlefields Europe has seen since 1945. Several holes have been blown in the plane’s fuselage and wings by missile fragments, but the frame has held together. It looks like a bomber that’s just returned from a daring bombing raid on Berlin. Standing underneath the monument, Colonel Ignat pointed at the wreckage and said, “The Russians want to bring us to our knees, make us surrender, and wipe us out. But this will never happen, and with the world’s help, we know Ukraine will win.” – The Daily Beast

Karolina Hird, George Barros, Grace Mappes, and Frederick W. Kagan write: The current Russian offensive will likely make marginal territorial gains northeast of the E40 highway in Donetsk before culminating along the E40. […]Russian occupation authorities are likely propagandizing recent Ukrainian high-precision strikes and partisan activity to set conditions for mass deportations of Ukrainian citizens to Russian territory. – Institute for the Study of War

Anshel Pfeffer writes: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tried over the weekend to deny American leaks regarding a deal between his country and Russia to supply drones for the war in Ukraine – but the situation seems clear-cut. Russia’s army has been bogged down for nearly five months since it invaded Ukraine, and among the many glaring flaws in its preparation has been the absence of a significant drone capability – which is integral to 21st-century warfare. – Haaretz 


Iran has recalled its ambassador to Sweden in protest against a Swedish court’s life time in prison sentence for a former Iranian official for involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988 in the Islamic Republic. – Reuters

Iran warned that proposed US legislation targeting the Islamic Republic could further imperil stalled Biden administration efforts to resurrect the moribund nuclear deal. – Bloomberg

Tehran gave assurances Wednesday that its nuclear policy was unchanged and that it still adhered to a fatwa banning weapons of mass destruction, after an Iranian official said the country was able to make atomic bombs. – Agence France-Presse

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday warned Iran against supporting Russia with its invasion of Ukraine a day after the intractable U.S. adversaries publicly expressed a desire for new forms of cooperation, including potential weapons exchanges. – U.S. News & World Report

Between July 13 and July 17, 2022, former Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Larijani, who currently serves as a senior advisor to Iran’s Chief Justice and who has also served as the head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, appeared in various TV interviews and discussed Iran’s nuclear program. In a July 13, 2022 interview on Ofogh TV (Iran), Larijani said that the West is interested in the JCPOA because it would weaken Iran’s nuclear capabilities. He also said that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is “dead”, and that Israel, India, and Pakistan are better off for not joining it. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

John Bolton writes: America’s counterproliferation diplomacy on Iran will need to be much more extensive, accompanied by far tougher economic sanctions and assistance to legitimate opposition groups to overthrow the ayatollahs. A joint Israeli-Arab foreign-minister traveling team would be a good start. – Wall Street Journal

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Russia’s TASS media also highlights the weakening of the West and the “multipolar” world that it believes we are now entering. That means Iranian and Russian media have the same narrative take on the meetings. This level of message discipline among Moscow, Tehran and Ankara is unusual. They may have shared some interests in the past, but today their interests appear to be coinciding to an unprecedented degree. – Jerusalem Post


U.S. forces must withdraw from Syria, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who presented a united front with Russia and Iran while accusing the United States of training Kurdish forces “to commit a terrorist act” against his country. – Washington Examiner

Russian forces in Syria on Wednesday shot down two drones that fired at its military base at Hmeimim, Interfax news agency cited a defence official as saying. – Reuters

A new Turkish offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria will remain on Turkey’s agenda until its security concerns are addressed, President Tayyip Erdogan said, according to a text shared by the presidency, after talks with Iran and Russia’s leaders. – Reuters


Michael Rubin writes: It is in the interest of all parties to resolve disputes in the South Caucasus diplomatically. To do otherwise only benefits Russia and Iran. If the State Department wants to show diplomacy to be back, however, it can play a role. First, rather than reward Ankara for signaling conciliation, it should instead judge Turkey on the substance of its actions. Never again should Turkey reap the benefits of a policy it has no intention to implement. – 19FortyFive

M. Murat Kubilay writes: Trying to avoid early elections will only increase the social tension. The second half of the year will probably be disastrous for the Turkish economy and the political consequences will be dramatic and inevitable. It will be almost impossible to maintain economic stability until the scheduled elections in June 2023. – Middle East Institute 

Jihad Mashamoun writes: The deep strategic relationship between Sudan and Turkey has proven to be resilient over time, although the recent reconciliation between Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will put this to the test. How Burhan balances Egypt’s lack of trust in Turkey will likely determine the future of the relationship between Sudan and Turkey. – Middle East Institute


French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called for the resumption of long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in order to prevent simmering tensions in one of the Middle East’s longest conflicts from boiling over again. – Agence France-Presse

After years of banning journalists from reporting that Israel uses armed drones to strike targets, the IDF’s Military Censor has finally allowed publishing what many already knew. – Jerusalem Post

Pnina Shuker and Eldad Ben Aharon write: Lapid must seize this opportunity and the positive channel he paved with Biden last week to refine the current US administration’s position regarding an Israeli initiative for a preventive war against Hezbollah, in case of a “rainy day” or when the conditions for it are optimal for Israel – whichever comes first. – Jerusalem Post


Iraq accused Turkey of carrying out an artillery attack on a popular tourist destination in the country’s mountainous north, killing eight people in an area where Ankara has conducted a decadeslong military campaign targeting Kurdish militants. – Wall Street Journal

The United States on Wednesday condemned a shelling that killed civilians in the northern Dohuk region of Iraq, the State Department said in a statement. – Reuters

Iraq’s government will call back the Iraqi charge d’affaires in Turkey for consultation after accusing Ankara of carrying out a strike on a mountain resort in the northern province of Dohuk, the state news agency INA reported. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

While working at Twitter from 2013 to 2015, Ahmad Abouammo was responsible for helping celebrities, journalists and other notable figures in the Middle East promote their Twitter accounts. He handled requests for Twitter’s coveted blue verification badges and arranged tours of the San Francisco headquarters. But the Justice Department says he misused his access to Twitter user data, gathering the personal information of political dissidents and passing it to Saudi Arabia in exchange for a luxury watch and hundreds of thousands of dollars. – New York Times

Jonathan Schachter writes: Even after his trip, if President Biden were to change course, he would find a coalition of capable, committed Middle Eastern allies who are eager to work with the United States to guarantee a more secure and stable region that serves American interests. Such a policy would bolster America’s partnerships in the Middle East, would be far more likely to succeed, and would create greater regional security at a time of growing threats elsewhere around the globe. – The Hill

Ben Fishman and Kyle Robertson write: A comprehensive U.S. response to the referendum should include an honest assessment of its conduct, concerns over the constitution itself, and steps Saeid should take to begin easing Tunisia’s authoritarian trajectory, such as releasing political opponents. – Washington Institute

Steven A. Cook and Beth Sanner write: This is quite different from the Cold War redux that some analysts infer. It is instead a messier, more challenging environment for U.S. policymakers who remain ambivalent about the Middle East. From where the Saudis, Egyptians, Emiratis, Turks, Israelis, and others sit, Russia is a legitimate player in ways that a whirlwind U.S. presidential visit is not likely to change any time soon. – Foreign Policy

Danielle Pletka and Dan Blumenthal write: For the foreseeable future, China’s role on the sidelines is unlikely to change. Beijing will continue to worry about the security of its Middle East energy sources, seek to leverage political influence with its main suppliers, and look for opportunities to better project military power. But as long as Xi remains determined to come down firmly in favor of both sides in the power struggle between Iran and its regional neighbors, China will remain a bit player in the Middle East. – Foreign Policy

Korean Peninsula

​​In late May, dozens of U.S. intelligence officials, military officers and security analysts gathered in Omaha, Neb., to assess the escalating nuclear threat from North Korea as the regime develops new tactical nuclear weapons. – Wall Street Journal

In June, US and South Korean forces fired eight missiles into the Sea of Japan in a coordinated show of strength. The launches — a response to North Korea’s firing of eight short-range ballistic missiles into the same waters a day earlier — “demonstrated the capability and posture to launch immediate precision strikes on the origins of provocations, even if North Korea launches missiles from various locations,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. – Business Insider


The United States is a “maker of security risks” in the Taiwan Strait with its frequent provocations there, China’s military said on Wednesday after another U.S. warship sailed through the sensitive waterway. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden plans to speak with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, by the end of the month at a moment of simmering tensions between the countries over Taiwan and trade. – Reuters

U.S. companies are hosting customer data more often on servers in China, complicating U.S. authorities’ ability to get information for criminal investigations, a senior federal prosecutor said on Wednesday. – Reuters

China appears determined on using force in Taiwan, with Russia’s experience in Ukraine affecting Beijing’s calculations on how, not whether, to invade, the head of the CIA said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

China slammed the Czech Republic for hosting a Taiwanese legislative delegation, deepening the rapid erosion of ties between Beijing and one of its formerly staunchest European Union allies. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Just another day in the life of what China’s government boasts is a “democracy that works.” What does not work is freedom to speak, to assemble, to protest or to change the leadership. Even something as straightforward as a legitimate protest over lost deposits ends with beatings, bruises and arrests. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: On that hypocrisy point, it’s worth noting Qin’s claim that the Chinese Communist Party’s governance model had lifted hundreds of millions of its citizens out of poverty. Of course, the opposite is true. It was actually China’s post-Mao access to global capitalist markets, as undergirded by the U.S.-led international order, that facilitated vast improvements in Chinese lives. This is the very thing that China’s regime now hopes to destroy. – Washington Examiner

James Kynge, Kathrin Hille, Ben Parkin and Jonathan Wheatley write: The 350m Lotus Tower that looms over the skyline in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo is one of the tallest buildings in South Asia. Funded by a Chinese state bank and designed to look like a giant lotus bud about to burst into flower, it was intended to be a metaphor for the flourishing of Sri Lanka’s economy and the “brilliant future” of the bilateral co-operation between Beijing and Colombo. – Financial Times

South Asia

Veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new president Thursday to take charge of a nation bitterly angry he will remain in power amid an unprecedented economic crisis. – Associated Press

Hundreds of people have been killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban overran the country nearly a year ago, even though security on the whole has improved since then, the United Nations said in a report Wednesday. – Associated Press

For most of its existence, the Indian Navy has been in a state of perpetual modernization. Due to its major shipbuilding programs’ long schedules and the continual need to replace older platforms with new ones – especially submarines – Delhi has been unable to meet its shipbuilding goals. – USNI News


Former U.S. defence secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday he would take back to Washington D.C. concerns expressed in Taiwan about the speed of arms sales to the island and the need to get greater access to weapons like portable missiles. – Reuters

President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that U.S. military officials believe it’s “not a good idea” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan at the moment. – Associated Press

European Parliament Vice President Nicola Beer met with Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday and called for China to open a “mutual and respectful dialogue” with the self-governing island democracy it claims as its own territory. – Associated Press


Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi was expected to resign Thursday after efforts to bring the country’s fractious parties to heel failed, kicking off a snap election campaign before the government had even fallen. – Agence France-Presse

The UK government should “urgently” strike an agreement with the EU to co-operate on emergency energy supplies in case Russia triggers a severe shortage by cutting off gas exports to the continent, an influential House of Lords committee said on Thursday. – Financial Times

Brussels has asked EU countries to cut their gas use by 15 per cent and set out emergency plans ahead of winter when it anticipates severe disruption to gas supplies from Russia. – Financial Times

Germany’s Christian Social Union (CSU) party is calling for the procurement of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, amid growing speculation over the potential threat of rocket attacks from Russia. – Algemeiner

William Nattrass writes: In both Serbia and North Macedonia, EU expansion is predicated on the belief that economic arguments must ultimately outweigh nationalist fervor. The EU believes it has a duty to resolve these long-running conflicts, but solutions must ultimately be found in the Balkans, not in Brussels. – Wall Street Journal

Lionel Laurent writes: EU leaders such as Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz need to invoke not just the “blood, sweat and tears” of wartime sacrifice, but also the call for solidarity that would diffuse the burden and resist Putin’s pressure — the crisis calls for sovereignty as well as sobriety. Until then, the odor of natural gas will smell too much like defeat. – Bloomberg

Ken Howery writes: ​​With a shared military history between the U.S. and Sweden dating back more than two centuries, to our alliance in the Barbary Wars, I am confident Sweden will make an outstanding addition to NATO. Its choice to embark on this historic initiative to make our countries allies once again will be to our — and the world’s — great benefit. – The Hill

Tony Barber writes: In North Macedonia, some nationalists undoubtedly sound as if they are making territorial or cultural claims on their neighbours. This is why it was vital that the country settled its differences with Greece in the 2018 Prespa accord. In showing favour to Bulgaria over North Macedonia, however, the EU may have inadvertently thrown a spanner into the works of the Balkan enlargement project it professes to support. – Financial Times

Dalibor Rohac writes: Contrary to the platonic ideal of an ever-closer union, EU membership doesn’t have to be a binary choice, governed by the one-size-fits-all strictures of previous enlargements. Instead, different facets of membership can be functionally and, often times, legally separated. Needless to say, Ukraine and Moldova should be able to access as many of these perks as they can, even without the formalities of EU accession. It would be an enormous blunder if Brussels answered these two countries’ European aspirations not with nimbleness and creativity, but the usual bureaucratic tedium. – Politico


President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States will bring together leaders from across the African continent for a major summit in December in Washington to discuss pressing challenges from food security to climate change. – Reuters

Lesotho, a southern African kingdom plagued by years of political instability, will hold general elections on Oct. 7. – Bloomberg

Folahanmi Aina writes: Putting arms in the hands of civilians in response to the threat of armed banditry is not only counterproductive but an invitation for all-out chaos. It would, more than anything else, lead to the loss of more lives and further entrench the already protracted violent conflict in Zamfara state and the North West region at large. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

The United States and Canada on Wednesday demanded dispute settlement talks with Mexico under a North American trade deal, charging that Mexican energy policies were discriminatory and “undermine” international firms and cross-border supplies. – Reuters

Uruguay will push for a free trade agreement with China, the South American country’s top diplomat said on Wednesday, even as it faces resistance from some of its neighbors who favor regional trade talks over deals involving just one nation. – Reuters

Editorial: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is a left-wing nationalist who may have figured that Mexico’s help in combatting migrant chaos at the U.S. southern border would earn it a pass on its USMCA commitments. But in the rest of North America, contracts still matter. – Wall Street Journal


The FBI brought a delegation of cybersecurity officials from five different Ukrainian government agencies to New York for a bureau-hosted conference and a series of meetings with American officials in Washington next week, according to Victor Zhora, the deputy head of Ukraine’s State Special Communications Service. – CyberScoop

U.S. Cyber Command on Wednesday shared the technical details related to what the agency says are several types of malware targeting Ukrainian entities in recent months. – CyberScoop

One of the European Union’s top legislative bodies warned Tuesday that Russian hacking groups are “indiscriminately targeting essential entities globally” amid the country’s war with Ukraine, threatening potential spillover effects. – The Record


South Korea will buy 20 more F-35A fighter jets from the United States, as a part of its F-X project focused on acquiring foreign stealth fighter jets from 2023 to 2028. – Defense News

The Czech government has decided to launch negotiations with the United States to buy 24 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets for the country’s Air Force. – Defense News

The US will send four more high-mobility artillery rocket systems to Ukraine as part of the next military aid package to strengthen Kyiv in what’s become a grinding long-range fires duel, Pentagon officials said Wednesday. – Defense News

The U.S. and Dutch militaries signed an agreement Wednesday in the Netherlands to work together on future vertical lift programs, according to a statement from the U.S. Army. – Defense News

Commercial aerospace companies say the technology they’re developing to help meet a U.K. mandate on net zero emissions by 2050 could have positive implications for the U.S. defense industry. – Defense News

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., chief of staff of the Air Force, said that U.S. officials are considering training Ukrainian pilots as that country continues to fend off Russia’s invasion. – Military.com