Fdd's overnight brief

July 29, 2022

In The News

Russia & Ukraine

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that no concrete result has been achieved in U.S.-Russian prisoner exchange negotiations after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States made a “substantial proposal” to Moscow for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and security consultant Paul Whelan. – Washington Post

Russian advances in Ukraine have slowed almost to a standstill as newly delivered Western weapons help Ukrainian forces reclaim much of the advantage they had lost in recent months, opening a window of opportunity to turn the tide of the war in their favor again. – Washington Post

The Biden administration disclosed publicly that the United States had made “a substantial offer” to Russia to secure the release of two American prisoners because closed-door negotiations had stalled, an administration official said Thursday. – Washington Post

It might seem eccentric, even macabre, to collect war debris like this. But Mr. Sumliennyi isn’t the only one. Across Ukraine, many civilians and soldiers are foraging for shrapnel pieces, mortar fins, spent bullet casings and bits of bombs. Ukrainian artists are weaving them into their work. Auction houses are moving discarded pieces of weapons and other battlefield finds, raising thousands of dollars for Ukrainian soldiers. – New York Times

Ukraine has warned that Russia is racing to bolster its troops and defenses in the south, and that Kyiv still needed more weapons from the West, creating a heightened sense of urgency ahead of a looming counteroffensive to reclaim territory seized by Moscow. – New York Times

Russian forces launched a missile attack on the Kyiv area for the first time in weeks Thursday and pounded the northern Chernihiv region as well, in what Ukraine said was revenge for standing up to the Kremlin. – Associated Press

Former Russian TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova was fined 50,000 roubles ($820) on Thursday after being found guilty of discrediting the country’s armed forces in social media posts condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine. – Reuters

Russian private military firm Wagner has likely been allocated responsibility for specific sectors of the front line in eastern Ukraine, possibly as Russia is facing a major shortage of combat infantry, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update on Friday. – Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that following last week’s grain exports deal agreed with Ukraine and Russia, there is a need to focus on a ceasefire between the warring sides. At a news conference, Cavusoglu also said the successful implementation of the grain deal would build up trust between the two countries and could pave way for a diplomatic solution of the conflict. – Reuters

Russian forces are orchestrating a “massive displacement” program to depopulate Ukrainian territory that falls under their control, a senior U.S. diplomat alleged after an international investigation.“Forced population transfers are the key to the Kremlin’s plan,” Ambassador Michael Carpenter, who represents the United States at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said Thursday. – Washington Examiner 

Christian Caryl writes: All this has tragically vindicated Kara-Murza’s two decades of warnings about Putin. Meanwhile, the Magnitsky Act-style sanctions he has long advocated are serving as the model for a host of international measures punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. An unprecedented wave of internal repression has put more than 16,000 Russians behind bars. And it has put Kara-Murza on a collision course with a ruthless dictator who acts as though he has little left to lose. – Washington Post

Sonny Bunch writes: Instead of getting mad at a desperate politician trying to save his country from destruction, perhaps you can redirect your agita toward the country that is reducing Ukrainian cities to rubble and forcibly relocating its people to all corners of the Russian landmass. There are villains in this conflict. Volodymyr Zelensky isn’t among them. – Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes: To its credit, the Biden administration has given Ukraine an enormous amount of aid — but that entire effort could falter without a new weapons surge. If Putin establishes territorial gains this year, next year he will only push further. Time is running out to give Zelensky what he needs to win or at least negotiate from a position of strength. – Washington Post

Dmytro Kuleba writes: In that spirit, we in Ukraine call on our partners to increase their support and reject Russia’s fake peace proposals. Nor should they pay any attention to the narrative, amplified by Russian propaganda, of so-called war fatigue. Every war is tiresome, but we need to endure. The price of losing — a crushed Ukraine, a shattered West and a resurgent Russia — is too high to countenance anything else. – New York Times

Luke Coffey writes: Ukrainians are currently defending a front line that is approximately 1,250 miles long—this is equal to the straight- line distance from Washington, DC, to Houston, Texas. Russian public opinion still supports the war.” While Russia’s advancements in the Donbas have been slow and costly, there is no indication that Moscow will stop its offensive anytime soon. President Vladimir Putin knows that his legacy rides on Russia’s victory or defeat in Ukraine. – Hudson Institute

Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, Layne Phillipson, Katherine Lawlor, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan writes: Ukrainian advisor to the mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko reported that Ukrainian teachers from Donetsk and Mariupol completed a pre-certification course for “knowledge and teaching of Russian propaganda” to children in occupied territories.( …)That Russian effort is one component of the Kremlin campaign to set conditions for longer-term Russian social control throughout occupied parts of Ukraine. – Institute for the Study of War

David Kirichenko writes: When Russia laid the groundwork for its latest aggression against Ukraine by deploying large-scale units to the Ukrainian border in November, the West did too little to bolster its military presence in Central and Eastern Europe. Moldova presents an opportunity to forestall future aggression by Russian forces intent on reimposing colonial rule on countries that have reclaimed their freedom. Now is the time to help Moldova. – Center for European Policy Analysis

James H. Armstead writes: Make no mistake, President Zelenskyy is fighting for more than his country; he is defending Western democratic values and the lives of NATO citizens who would one day have had to confront Putin’s war machine. Which begs these questions — How many of Europe’s current leaders would display the same fortitude if their countries were invaded? How many would buckle under the pressure? We can make educated guesses, but in truth, a leader’s real worth in war is never clear until the first invaders cross the frontier – Center for European Policy Analysis

Stephen Blank writes: Thus, Ukraine is fighting America’s and Europe’s war. Russian spokesmen, e.g.  Sergei Karaganov, Director of the Council On Foreign and Defense Policy, frankly stated this: “We are at war with the West. The European security order is illegitimate”. That statement, is, of course, a call for a permanent war with the West, which is what we face if Russia is not defeated. Given the nature of this genocidal war to date, is that really something we can live with – Center for European Policy Analysis

Benjamin Schmitt writes: In a struggle as dire as Russia’s criminal onslaught against Ukraine, Putin and his authoritarian cronies need to see a wall of strength from democracies – unwilling to waver in their resolve to hold the Kremlin to account. Technology export controls against Russia are working; democracies should keep expanding them. Then the only nation forced to change its political calculus due to “Ukraine fatigue” will be Putin’s Russia. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Iran has made steady advances in the design and production of military drones in recent years, and has stepped up their transfer to militant groups across the Middle East as it seeks to shift the dynamics of battlefields from Yemen to Gaza. – New York Times

There is still time to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but the ball remains in Tehran’s court, a French presidency official said on Thursday, ahead of talks between Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. – Reuters

During the Malek Ashtar Festival held in Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan province, Rear Admiral Tangsiri stated that using domestic technical know-how and products by Iranian scientists have equipped newly manufactured speedboats with stealth systems to avoid radars, according to Fars News. – Jerusalem Post

An alleged Israeli spy network made up of five individuals has been arrested in Iran, an Iranian media outlet claimed Thursday, the second such group detention announced within a week. The semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency said the five suspects were the leader of the cell and four associates, all of whom were “affiliated with the Israeli regime” and had allegedly been in contact with the head of Israel’s Mossad. – Times of Israel

Twelve Senate Republicans on Tuesday accused the Justice Department of deliberately ignoring requests from the Argentinian government for information about potential Iranian espionage activity, in a new letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. – Jewish Insider 


Russia’s threat to shut down a prominent Jewish organization has stoked fears among Jews planning to leave the country because of its war against Ukraine, while deepening a rift between Russia and Israel. – Washington Post 

IDF soldiers from Battalion 636 thwarted a shooting attack targeting a military post at the entrance to the city of Nablus in the West Bank on Thursday night, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. – Jerusalem Post

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita will visit Israel in September for the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords. – Jerusalem Post

Mossad chief David Barnea went to the Prime Minister’s Office for his weekly work meeting with Naftali Bennett. On his way to Bennett’s office, he ran into Shimrit Meir, the prime minister’s then-diplomatic adviser and the person considered to be the most powerful figure in the PMO during Bennett’s year as prime minister. At the end of the meeting, he asserted to other security officials who were present that he was convinced Meir had leaked information about an unusual Mossad operation that had taken place not long before. Meir denies doing this. – Haaretz 

Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Representative of “Palestine” to the United Nations, said on Thursday says that the Palestinian Authority’s leadership is conducting talks at the highest levels, led by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, with the aim of demanding full membership of “the State of Palestine” in the United Nations, in order to preserve the two-state solution. – Arutz Sheva

When President Joe Biden visited Israel and the West Bank earlier this month, he emphasized his administration’s unwavering commitment to two states — one Israeli, and one Palestinian — as a solution to the decades-old intractable conflict. – Jewish Insider 


The followers of the influential populist Shiite cleric came by the thousands to storm Iraq’s parliament. Just as quickly, the protesters dispersed at his command. Mass mobilization and control is a well-worn strategy of Muqtada al-Sadr, a mercurial figure who has emerged as a powerful force in Iraq’s cutthroat political scene with a nationalist, anti-Iran agenda. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: This comes as the Kurdistan region, which is more wealthy and stable than the rest of Iraq, is still trying to negotiate with Baghdad over oil revenues and energy disputes. But Turkey’s ongoing operations – and Iran’s recent claims to have arrested members of the Komala Kurdish group – point to the fact that the Kurdistan region is very much in the cross hairs of regional powers. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Knights writes: This dilemma suggests the need for Washington to renew serious multilateral efforts to de-escalate Turkish-PKK violence in a way that gives Ankara some reassurance on border security. Washington would benefit from being part of an Iraqi-Turkish solution and helping Baghdad gain credit for securing concessions from Ankara, ideally including a visible redeployment away from Zilkan. Failing that, Iran-backed militias will continue portraying themselves as the sole defenders of Iraq’s sovereignty – Washington Institute 

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman engaged in a long handshake with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace on Thursday, in the latest sign of the crown prince’s rehabilitation nearly four years after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. – Washington Post

The twist is that it’s in Saudi Arabia, in a remote stretch of desert, and that you can’t move there anytime soon, because it only exists in promotional videos — the latest pie-in-the-sky pet project of the country’s crown prince and de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS. – Washington Post

Rebeccah L. Heinrichs writes: Harming the US-Saudi partnership over any of Saudi’s truly abominable crimes could seriously risk more American lives, cause greater conflict, and increase injustice and human suffering. President Biden was right to go to Saudi Arabia. Now, did the trip go well? It doesn’t seem so, largely in part because the president could not resist trying to placate the journalistic class by raising Khashoggi’s murder; and the visual of the infamous fist-bump conveyed an intimate relationship when what is needed is a business-like one. Alas, at least President Biden and MBS are talking after the Saudi prince’s prior refusal to take the president’s calls. – Hudson Institute

Middle East & North Africa

A Syrian cargo ship, sanctioned by the United States and carrying what Ukraine says is stolen barley from the war-torn country, has docked in Lebanon, the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in the Mideast nation said Thursday. – Associated Press

After nine years of sweeping crackdowns on dissent, Egypt is set to launch a carefully choreographed political dialogue, but the main Islamist opposition movement is excluded and critics say a parallel move to release prisoners is proceeding too slowly. – Reuters

The latest killings in Syria come after attacks in Iraq and Turkey’s threats to launch another invasion. It’s unclear if that invasion will take place. The US has asked Turkey not to carry out the invasion. The US State Department has called for an immediate de-escalation in northern Syria. “We believe it’s crucial for all sides to maintain and respect ceasefire zones to enhance stability in Syria and work towards a political solution to the conflict.” – Jerusalem Post

Anthony B. Kim writes: From Washington’s foreign policy perspectives, Tunisia could still make itself a critical asset of untapped potential value for the United States. A steady and democratic Tunisia would not only provide the U.S. with a strategic ally, but also could serve as a possible, practical model for future democracies in the Middle East and North Africa region. – Heritage Foundation


President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke Thursday amid growing tensions between their two countries — most recently over a potential trip to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — but while Chinese officials said Xi aired grievances, the U.S. characterized the call as a basic effort to improve communication. – Washington Post

Chinese leaders all but acknowledged that the country would miss its annual growth target this year, while signaling that they would stay the course on zero-tolerance Covid-prevention measures and take only cautious steps to support the struggling property market. – Wall Street Journal 

In the weeks before the House and the Senate ended 13 months of arguments and passed the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act, China’s main, state-supported chip maker cleared a major technological hurdle that delivered a bit of a shock to the world. – New York Times

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Friday that it will continue to deepen its close security partnership with the United States, after U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s leader Xi Jinping spoke on Thursday. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden raised genocide and forced labor issues with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in their phone call earlier on Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during a briefing. – Reuters

 A U.S. aircraft carrier and its strike group have returned to the South China Sea after a port call in Singapore, deploying in the disputed region as tensions with China rise over a possible visit to Taiwan by congressional leader Nancy Pelosi. – Reuters

After the Chinese Foreign Ministry stressed that China had made sterner warnings to U.S. officials and China is fully prepared for any eventuality over U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned Taiwan trip… the Chinese Defense Ministry… vowed that if the U.S. insists, the Chinese military will by no means sit idly by and strong measures will be taken to thwart any external interference and ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist attempts. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

 U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping managed largely to steer clear of escalatory rhetoric on Taiwan in a Thursday call, suggesting that neither side – preoccupied with economic woes at home – wants a fresh crisis across the Taiwan Strait. Xi’s warning to Biden against “playing with fire” over Taiwan, though vivid, largely mirrored his remarks from the two leaders’ video meeting in November. – Reuters

Michael McCaul writes: In addition, this bill includes critical guardrails on both the grants and the tax incentives. That’s because any company that takes federal money will be prohibited from supporting the manufacture of advanced chips in China. On top of that, companies pursuing what are referred to as “legacy chips” – or chips that are larger than 28 nanometers – production in China must notify the U.S. government. – Fox News 

Daniel Kochis writes: With China increasing its presence in the Arctic, the U.S. needs to champion an agenda that advances the U.S. national interest and devotes the required national resources to the region. These measures are not preparations for armed conflict. They are preparations for a peaceful future. With the Arctic becoming increasingly important economically and geopolitically, now is not the time for the U.S. to turn away from this strategic location in its neighborhood. – Heritage Foundation

South Asia

The World Bank does not plan to offer new financing to Sri Lanka, which is battling its worst economic crisis in decades, until the Indian Ocean nation has an adequate macroeconomic policy framework in place, the lender said on Thursday. – Reuters

Indian and Chinese foreign ministers were to attend a regional conference in Uzbekistan on Friday, a day after New Delhi expressed concern over a Chinese survey ship’s planned visit to a strategic port in India’s southern neighbour Sri Lanka – Reuters

Several Asian central banks must raise interest rates rapidly, because inflationary pressures are rising due to a global surge in food and fuel costs caused by the war in Ukraine, said a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official. – Reuters

India has expressed “deep concern” at Myanmar’s executions of four political prisoners, joining other nations in condemning the hangings and raising concerns about a setback to efforts to bring peace to the country. – Associated Press

Pakistan forbids foreign nationals and companies from funding political parties, but Abraaj emails and internal documents seen by the Financial Times, including a bank statement covering the period between February 28 and May 30 2013 for a Wootton Cricket account in the UAE, show that both companies and foreign nationals as well as citizens of Pakistan sent millions of dollars to Wootton Cricket — before money was transferred from the account to Pakistan for the PTI. – Financial Times

The victims join a recent wave of targeted killings in Pakistan’s Pashtun tribal belt, a volatile region along the border with Afghanistan that was a former militant stronghold. No group has claimed responsibility for the killings. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

David Pilling writes: Bangladesh today is where South Korea was in 1975, when it was on the cusp of a miracle. Several African countries meet or nearly meet Robertson’s criteria for lift-off. Honest and forward-thinking governments undoubtedly help. But Bangladesh shows that there is a muddle-through path towards prosperity too. – Financial Times


Australia, gripped by growing anxiety about China’s influence on its internal affairs, introduced sweeping legislation a few years ago to prevent foreign interference, but until now the laws have never been tested in court – New York Times

The Group of Seven on Thursday condemned the execution of four pro-democracy activists in Myanmar and called on the ruling military to “refrain from further arbitrary executions” and to free all political prisoners. – Reuters

A U.S. delegation discussed with Taliban officials efforts to enable the release of billions of dollars from Afghan central bank reserves, the State Department said on Thursday. – Reuters

South Korea’s biggest ever arms deal will make it a major supplier of weapons flooding into Europe since the Ukraine war began, with sales to NATO-member Poland involving more than 1,600 tanks and howitzers, and nearly 50 fighter jets.- Reuters


Britain’s national security adviser has warned that a breakdown in dialogue among rival powers is raising the risk of nuclear war, with fewer safeguards now than during the Cold War. – Washington Post

In eastern France, a dozen villages have been shutting off their streetlights at midnight. Barcelona is offering home efficiency assessments. Warsaw is subsidizing homes that replace fossil-burning stoves with heat pumps. – New York Times

Greece and Cyprus accused rival Turkey on Thursday of stoking tensions as Ankara prepared to dispatch a drill ship to the Mediterranean next month in a search for natural gas. Relations between Athens and Ankara are strained over a raft of issues ranging from overflights to disputed waters. – Reuters

Hungary expects to sign a deal with Russia on additional gas shipments of 700 million cubic metres by the end of summer, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday. The two countries have been in talks for further supplies on top of an existing long-term supply pact. – Reuters

Foreign minister Liz Truss, frontrunner to replace British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said she would be Ukraine’s “greatest friend” if she won office and said she would call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy straight away. – Reuters

The plan devised by Germany and eastern European allies to help Ukraine defend itself seemed a good idea at the time. The likes of Poland would send their Soviet-era tanks to Kyiv; in turn Germany would backfill the gaps with western-made kit from its own inventories. – Financial Times

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has encouraged migrants to attempt entry into his EU neighbours — Poland, Lithuania and Latvia — in an attempt to destabilise the region by facilitating visas and travel from the Middle East. – Financial Times


Licensing rights for 30 oil and gas blocks in the Democratic Republic of Congo went up for auction on Thursday, opening parts of the world’s second-biggest rainforest to drilling that could release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, jeopardising climate goals to tame global warming. – Reuters

Algeria, Nigeria and Niger have signed a memorandum of understanding to build a natural gas pipeline across the Sahara desert, Algeria’s energy minister Mohamed Arkab said on Thursday. The three countries agreed in June to revive decades-old talks over the project, a potential opportunity for Europe to diversify its gas sources. – Reuters

Nigerian opposition Senators pushed for President Muhammadu Buhari to face impeachment, 10-months before the end of his second term in office, over the country’s spreading security problems, the Senate minority leader said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

A senior Ethiopian official says the government is ready for talks with rival forces from the country’s northern Tigray region “anytime, anywhere” and without preconditions, in a notable break from the past. – Associated Press

French President Emmanuel Macron wrapped up a three-country Africa tour in Guinea-Bissau Thursday that saw him pledge funding for education and economic development as well as military support to fight extremism in West and Central Africa. – Associated Press

The Americas

The Nicaraguan government has withdrawn its approval of the U.S. nominee for ambassador to Nicaragua, Hugo Rodriguez, following his criticism of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s regime, the Central American country said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters

Venezuela and Colombia will reestablish diplomatic relations at an ambassadorial level when leftist president-elect Gustavo Petro takes office in Bogota on August 7, representatives of the South American neighbors said Thursday. – Associated Press

At least five Haitian migrants drowned and 68 others were rescued Thursday after a suspected human smuggling boat dropped the group off in waters near an uninhabited island west of Puerto Rico, officials said. – Associated Press

Heavy gunfire echoed throughout downtown Port-au-Prince on Wednesday as suspected gang members set a church on fire and tried to kill their opponents in a bid to gain control over more territory. – Associated Press

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser has requested the deployment of military troops to assist with migrants arriving on buses sent by the Texas and Arizona state governments, according to letters sent by her office to U.S. military and White House officials.. – Reuters

The plight of Americans detained by foreign governments has moved into the spotlight with the case of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, who is on trial in Moscow on drug charges. Since she was arrested in February, U.S. President Joe Biden has faced increasing pressure to bring home detained Americans. Although the U.S. government does not provide figures, there are more than 60 such detainees, according to the James Foley Foundation, named after an American journalist abducted and killed in Syria. – Reuters

Philip Bump writes: Waving away the concerns of families of those killed on 9/11 — including first responders whom Trump has often invoked at political events — in favor of taking money from a regime he once criticized would seem fraught for a normal politician considering a potential presidential run. Trump, though, is unlikely to pay any political price. – Washington Post


Instagram will pause features that users have campaigned against and complained make the social network too much like TikTok, according to a report in the Platformer tech newsletter Thursday. – Agence France-Presse

Facebook is letting violent hate speech slip through its controls in Kenya as it has in other countries, according to a new report from the nonprofit groups Global Witness and Foxglove. It is the third such test of Facebook’s ability to detect hateful language — either via artificial intelligence or human moderators — that the groups have run, and that the company has failed. – Times of Israel

The House Intelligence Committee scrutinized NSO Group, the Israeli tech company responsible for the Pegasus spyware that has been used by governments to spy on activists, journalists, political leaders and U.S. citizens, at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday examining the company and other commercial spy software – Jewish Insider 

The U.S. federal court system faced “an incredibly significant and sophisticated cybersecurity breach” dating to early 2020 that has “had lingering impacts” on the Department of Justice and other agencies, House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler said Thursday. – CyberScoop

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen told the House Judiciary Committee Thursday that he supports pending antitrust legislation to diminish the power of big tech despite national security concerns raised by some in the intelligence community. – CyberScoop


Planners of this year’s Rim of the Pacific naval exercise inserted first-of-kind events to challenge navies large and small, seeking to create a multinational force that is more lethal and can better sustain itself in operations. – Defense News

Radha Plumb, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the Pentagon’s No. 2 acquisitions and sustainment official, pledged to find ways to bring down the costs of the systems it buys. – Defense News

Senate Democrats on Thursday proposed a $792 billion defense spending package that would dramatically boost the White House’s military spending plans for fiscal 2023 but still didn’t total enough to satisfy congressional Republicans. – Defense News

Thomas W. Spoehr writes: Congress should act now to increase the number of military recruiters in American cities and towns and should explore methods of authorizing the military to call upon members from operational units to assist with recruiting efforts. When young Americans meet a proud professional member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the outcome is almost always positive. – Heritage Foundation