Fdd's overnight brief

July 7, 2022

In The News

Russia & Ukraine

Russia’s invading army shelled the positions of Ukrainian defenders along the front line as both sides girded for the next battles for control of Ukraine’s east. – Wall Street Journal

Four months after Russia invaded Ukraine, foreign combat veterans who answered the Ukrainian president’s call to fight are grappling with the grueling reality of a war unlike any they have seen. – New York Times

Russia’s steady advances in eastern Ukraine, relying on superior firepower and larger numbers of troops, are grinding down Ukraine’s military and setting the stage for a protracted war of attrition in which Kyiv needs more Western weapons and help training new soldiers to turn the tide. – Wall Street Journal

A top Kremlin official warned the U.S. Wednesday that it could face the “wrath of God” if it pursues efforts to help establish an international tribunal to investigate Russia’s action in Ukraine, while the Russian lower house speaker urged Washington to remember that Alaska used to belong to Russia. – Associated Press

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has flown into Indonesia’s resort island of Bali for a meeting of G20 foreign ministers, which is set to be overshadowed by tensions triggered by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. – Reuters

Russia will give the state greater control over private business and workers in order to put the economy on a stronger war footing, signalling that the country is preparing for the long-haul in its battle for control of Ukraine. – Financial Times

News emerged Wednesday on the six Belarusian soldiers who went missing in the Luhansk region late last month after they volunteered to fight for Ukraine against Russia, with reports confirming at least one had been killed and another captured. – Fox News

Russia’s parliament on Wednesday rushed through two bills imposing strict controls on the economy, requiring businesses to supply goods to the armed forces and obliging employees at some firms to work overtime. – Reuters

Russia claims to have made use of a new advanced weapon system in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine: An anti-drone gun, Russian media outlet TASS reported, citing an unnamed security source. – Jerusalem Post

Russian state TV host Olga Skabeyeva suggested that the Kremlin has the power to propel Donald Trump back into the White House if he runs again in 2024. – Business Insider

The US and its allies have discussed trying to cap the price on Russian oil between $40 and about $60 a barrel, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN), the first and only Ukrainian-born member of Congress, publicly criticized President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for how they have been navigating Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Washington Examiner

It is important to bear in mind that the Kremlin friendly VTsIOM (The Russian Public Opinion Research Center] and FOM (The Public Opinion Research Center) together with the Levada Center that is fighting for its very existence after being designated a foreign agent do not conduct their surveys without constraints. However, the three polling agencies have recently concurred that Russians are beginning to tune out of coverage of the “Special Operation” in Ukraine. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Josh Rogin writes: By dragging its feet on giving Zelensky the weapons he is asking for, the United States risks ensuring that the stalemate persists, which ultimately redounds to Putin’s benefit. The Biden administration underestimated Ukrainian forces in the first stage of the war. It must not repeat the same mistake now. – Washington Post

Yulia Latynina writes: A world without a war is only a dream. When the strong and just refuse to fight with the weapons they have, thugs and bullies can do what they want. The West must build precision weapons that can take out Russia’s nuclear silos—and let Mr. Putin know that they aren’t afraid to use them. Develop drones that can hunt and kill terrorists. An open society can’t dictate to rogue states how to live. But it should be able to prevent aggression like the invasion of Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Daniel Yergin writes: The global mismatch between demand and available supply for oil and natural gas is precarious. It will likely get worse over the next few months as Mr. Putin steps up his energy war, China’s demand increases as it comes out of Covid shut-ins, the dislocations in the global-supply system increase, and the tight balance between supply and demand tightens even further. – Wall Street Journal

Andreas Kluth writes: We must constantly reevaluate what role the past plays in the present, which is our ward. What matters today is not who Stepan Bandera was on balance. It’s who Vladimir Putin is, what atrocities he’s committing every day, and how Ukrainians are resisting. Ukrainians have plenty of contemporary role models to choose from in their valiant struggle. They can afford to leave behind those no longer fit for purpose. – Bloomberg

Bryan Clark and Peter Rough writes: The time has come to break Russia on both fronts. As much as the Biden administration would like to contain the war by limiting Ukrainian access to better weapons, the stakes are already global. Ukraine has pleaded with the West since the start of the war for the tools it needs to fight back and win. Now the rest of the world is counting on it, too. – Foreign Policy

Mark Temnycky writes: Ukraine is best placed to decide when negotiations are viable and to determine the terms. That is because the country has already made a down payment in blood and destruction. The democratic community should of course offer its advice to the government, but ultimately it is in everyone’s interest that Ukraine defeats Russia, and ensures that Russia never again invades its neighbors. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Leonid Bershidsky writes:  It’s painful to many — including me — that allowing Russia’s export trade to continue as before funds Putin’s war effort and multiplies human suffering. But cutting Russia out of the food supply equation is hardly realistic. Plenty of other ways exist to make the Putin regime pay for the outrage it has wreaked on Ukraine, such as the confiscation of Russia’s international reserves to pay for the ravaged nation’s reconstruction. – Bloomberg


Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has detained several foreigners it accuses of spying, including a man it identified as Giles Whitaker, the United Kingdom’s former deputy head of mission in Tehran, state media reported Wednesday. – Washington Post

The UK Foreign Office denied claims by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Wednesday evening that the deputy head of the United Kingdom’s mission in Iran, Giles Whitaker, and a number of other diplomats and academics were detained by the IRGC for allegedly spying and taking samples of soil from a “prohibited area” during a missile exercise. – Jerusalem Post

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on a network of Chinese, Emirati and other companies that it accused of helping to deliver and sell Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia, pressuring Tehran as it seeks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. – Reuters

Iran said on Wednesday it sought a strong and lasting nuclear agreement with world powers following talks with U.S. ally Qatar on easing stalled efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear pact. – Reuters

Belgium’s parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial prisoner-swap treaty with Iran in a first reading of a text that still has to be submitted to a full vote to be ratified. – Agence France-Presse

Iran’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country is not making any demands outside the parameters of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, as efforts to revive the hobbled agreement falter. – Agence France-Presse

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The full details of the Fars News report are hard to verify and it remains to be seen if it is accurate and if the shocking details were indeed said in such a manner by Zarif. For now, the report is a window into the regime’s infighting and differing worldviews in Tehran. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: That the IRGC’s image was tarnished in recent months is clear. That it wants to show it can detain some people, make up a big story to protect some “missile” tests, while also rocking the Iran deal boat, may be in it and the regime’s interest. It remains to be scene which scenario, or all three, are related to why Iran pounced on these foreigners. – Jerusalem Post

Dennis Ross writes: Of course, the United States will also have to make clear what Iran stands to gain from such an alternative. That could be far greater sanctions relief if Tehran agrees to a longer and stronger deal. A “more for more” agreement of this kind might be possible—but only if Iranian leaders are genuinely afraid of what they could lose without one. Ironically, it seems, restoring Iran’s fear of the United States may be the only way to avoid a war, limit Iranian threats in the region, and produce an acceptable diplomatic outcome on the character of the Iranian nuclear program. – Foreign Affairs


As the U.N. Security Council prepares to vote Thursday on humanitarian aid deliveries to rebel-held northwest Syria from Turkey, Russia agreed to continue such deliveries but only for six months — not a year, as many U.N. Security Council members, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and more than 30 nongovernmental groups want. – Associated Press

Over the past two years, Adila Afesh has seen the food assistance her Syrian family receives shrink by nearly two-thirds. Now, she fears Russia — perhaps seeking to retaliate against Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine — will block the renewal of a U.N. Security Council resolution that allows aid to be delivered from Turkey to Syrians who, like her family, live in the rebel-run Idlib province. – Associated Press

A Syrian militant working with the Syrian Army was killed in an alleged Israeli drone strike in Quneitra in southwestern Syria on Wednesday, according to Syrian state news agency SANA. – Jerusalem Post


Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday used his first trip abroad since taking office to urge world powers to step up pressure on Iran over its nuclear activities, calling the Islamic republic a threat to regional stability. – Associated Press

The IDF shot down a drone belonging to Hezbollah which was heading from Lebanon towards Israel’s territorial waters last week, just days before three drones were shot down while headed towards the Karish gas field off the coast of northern Israel, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

The Biden administration called for accountability in the shooting of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, only a day after it determined she had likely been killed by gunfire from an IDF position in Jenin on May 11. – Jerusalem Post

A Palestinian man was arrested on suspicion of stabbing an Israeli man in Givat Shmuel near Bnei Brak on Tuesday, police announced on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday in the first public call between a senior White House official and Lapid since he took office last week. – Times of Israel

Bishara A. Bahbah writes: Notwithstanding all the above, if Hamas, a self-proclaimed extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, has a 1% chance of winning any Palestinian elections, those elections should not be held. The PLO and by extension the PA should ban the participation of any religiously affiliated (Muslim or Christian) party in Palestinian elections. Yes, that ban should include Hamas because it is a radical political-religious movement. – Jerusalem Post

Arabian Peninsula

Qatar has built an outsized role in global commodity markets since it first began exporting liquefied natural gas more than two decades ago. Now, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a series of deals to develop a new gasfield, the Gulf state’s influence over international energy flows is set to grow even larger. – Financial Times

Yemen Shiite Houthi rebels have set a new condition for partially lifting the siege of the city of Taiz as a part of the truce which went into effect April 2. – Bloomberg

The United Arab Emirates is cutting red tape to make it easier and quicker for digital companies to incorporate, the latest economic policy announcement as the government seeks to further diversify the economy away from oil revenues. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia

A senior Saudi official said on Thursday that the Gulf kingdom is considering inviting an Israeli official during or after U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the region. – Ynet

David Ignatius writes: Maybe when Biden meets with MBS, he will find the strength and decency to say what Rakan — along with the Khashoggi family and so many thousands of other oppressed Saudis — have been waiting to hear: Enough is enough. Biden should ask MBS for a commitment that these abuses of human rights will never happen again. – Washington Post

Hatice Cengiz writes: President Biden, rather than helping to heal our anguish and sorrow with justice and accountability, this visit will significantly compound our grief and hopelessness. I implore you to cancel your trip and uphold your promise to pursue justice for Jamal. – Washington Post

Middle East & North Africa

Americans whose relatives are detained in Saudi Arabia and Egypt called on President Biden to help secure their freedom as he prepares to meet the leaders of the two Middle Eastern countries during a trip to the region next week. – Wall Street Journal

While the idealism of the Arab Spring for the most part has long faded, Tunisia has been seen as an exception. Now even that country’s stint as a near-democracy is about to end with a return to full autocracy, as the president, Kais Saied, has consolidated all powers in his hands. – New York Sun

Yesterday, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan sent an urgent letter to the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General demanding immediate action against Hezbollah positions recently established near the northern border of Israel that serve as cover for terrorist activities. – Arutz Sheva

Lebanon plans to start sending back tens of thousands of Syrian refugees within months over objections by the United Nations and rights groups, a minister said in an interview Wednesday. – Associated Press

Recently, ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, there have been many reports that the U.S. administration intends to promote the establishment of a NATO-like military alliance in the region in order to confront various security threats, chief of them Iran. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Leena Khan writes: Erdoğan views the international stage through a lens of opportunities. The emerging power vacuum in Syria is the next opportunity for him to pursue Turkey’s national security agenda and quash the PKK while strengthening his political position at home. A Turkish invasion would feed the increasingly nationalist fervor in Turkey that has kept Erdoğan in power for so long. – Middle East Institute

Osama al Sharif writes: For Jordan it was important to pre-empt any talk about Israeli membership of a potential regional military alliance. This will remain its position as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unresolved. One thing pundits in Amman are certain of though is that intra-Arab differences and rivalries, even when it comes to Iran, will ensure that there will be a long, long way to go before an open military alliance with Israel comes into existence. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has tested an unprecedented number of missiles this year as it expands its weapons program. Until recently, it usually boasted about each test in state media — sometimes with dramatic flair. – Washington Post

A South Korea activist said Thursday he launched more huge balloons carrying COVID-19 relief items toward North Korea, days after the North vowed to sternly deal with such activities and made a highly questionable claim they were a source of the virus. – Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convened an unprecedented conference aimed at strengthening the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s (WPK) “monolithic” leadership across society, state media reported on Thursday. – Reuters

Three federal agencies said Wednesday that North Korean hackers have been attacking the health care sector with ransomware, and cautioned victims that paying up could run afoul of U.S. sanctions rules. – CyberScoop


The heads of the FBI and Britain’s domestic security service issued sharply worded warnings to business leaders about the threats posed by Chinese espionage, especially spying aimed at stealing Western technology companies’ intellectual property. – Wall Street Journal

Learning from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China is looking for ways to protect its economy from the threat of international sanctions should a confrontation over Taiwan occur, “a clue” to Beijing’s view of what the future holds, the F.B.I. director said Wednesday. – New York Times

China launched a scathing attack on the U.S. and NATO on Wednesday, days before a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. – Associated Press

Signs are mounting that China’s economy shrank in the second quarter for the first time since 2020, placing the nation’s official statistics under fresh scrutiny as analysts bet the government will avoid acknowledging that slump. – Bloomberg

Maurice R. Greenberg writes: The U.S. and China have a long history of collaboration dating to before World War II. When the People’s Republic of China reopened to the world, the U.S. extended favorable trade terms to foster China’s economic growth, becoming one of China’s biggest trading partners, which we continue to be today. – Wall Street Journal

Greg Ip writes: That brings us to the China tariffs. Mr. Trump imposed them to force China to alter its own discriminatory practices. Yet without any sign of such concessions, Mr. Biden plans to roll some back as a gesture of concern for inflation, which is battering his popularity. Bill Bishop, author of the China-focused newsletter Sinocism, wrote this would “further confirm the view held by some in Beijing…that the U.S. does not have the stomach for ‘protracted war’” with China. – Wall Street Journal

Ian Buruma writes: Promising ever-growing prosperity is a fragile basis for political legitimacy in any case. All economies, including China’s, have their ups and downs. If, because of bad political decisions, geopolitics or the ravages of climate change, the Chinese economy were to falter badly and prosperity was no longer guaranteed, the China Model could break down very swiftly. Xi’s confidence seems premature at best — and, most likely, dangerously misplaced. – Bloomberg

South Asia

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday on relations between the two countries as they seek to repair ties that were strained under former Prime Minister Imran Khan. – Reuters

President Joe Biden in a letter to Congress on Wednesday said that he will officially rescind Afghanistan’s designation as a major non‑NATO ally. – CNN

A group of Afghan children were grazing sheep in fields near the village of Bolak Wandi in eastern Helmand when they spotted a metallic object half-buried in the ground. Crowding round excitedly, they argued over who had found it first and who could sell it for scrap. – Reuters

Hamid Mir writes: Unless the TTP is willing to surrender its weapons, it will push Pakistan into civil war. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis lost their lives during the insurgency. Did they make this sacrifice so that the rest of us could betray our country’s constitutional principles? Let’s hope not. – Washington Post


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday regional architecture such as the Pacific Islands Forum was critical in resolving regional problems and local security issues should be resolved locally. – Reuters

Uzbekistan’s president blamed “foreign forces” on Wednesday for inciting unrest in the Central Asian state’s autonomous Karakalpakstan republic, where the government says 18 people were killed in violent clashes last week. – Reuters

Editorial: The upshot is that the United States should use its power as the IMF’s largest shareholder to help countries restructure their debts, but this will be much harder to do with a multiplicity of private bondholders involved and with China engaged in the equivalent of international predatory lending. Sri Lanka presents an opportunity for the Biden administration to fashion a rescue in conjunction with other members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — India, Japan and Australia. That could both mitigate suffering and show the entire Indo-Pacific that it pays to deal with the United States rather than China or Russia. – Washington Post


European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the 27-nation European Union needs to make emergency plans to prepare for a complete cut-off of Russian gas in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. – Associated Press

The Lithuanian government is set to transfer a Bayraktar TB2 combat drone, which was originally paid for by Lithuanian citizens via crowdfunding, to Ukraine on Wednesday evening, Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said. – Reuters

Thomas J. Duesterberg and Angélique Talmor write: This constellation of forces will in turn sap the new-found solidarity of the U.S. and Europe in support of Ukraine and also arrest any evolution toward U.S.-European convergence in policy to combat the growing economic and political power of Russia’s main ally: China. Without a quick turnaround in the Biden agenda to weaken the domestic oil and gas industry, U.S.-European cooperation on global issues is in danger of unraveling. – Hudson Institute

Dalibor Rohac writes: To prevent such a situation, the widest possible range of benefits of an EU membership, including full market access, should be extended to Ukraine upfront, instead of following the traditional formal timeline for accession negotiations. – American Enterprise Institute


Rwanda and Congo have agreed to reduce tensions following one-day talks between their presidents mediated by Angola, Congo’s presidency announced Wednesday. – Associated Press

Islamic State claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a raid on a Nigerian prison in the capital Abuja which freed around 440 inmates, raising fears that insurgents are venturing from their enclaves in the northeast. – Reuters

The world’s poorest country, according to the UN’s human development index, Niger is rarely considered a geopolitical linchpin. But that is exactly what it has become as successive dominoes fall, terrorism spreads and Russian influence grows in the Sahel, a sub-continental-sized belt of semi-desert stretching thousands of miles across Africa. – Financial Times


Hackers claim to have obtained a trove of data on 1 billion Chinese from a Shanghai police database in a leak that, if confirmed, could be one of the largest data breaches in history. – Associated Press

Israel has significant cyber advantages over Iran, especially when integrated with its other capabilities, former IDF Unit 8200 Cyber Operations chief col. (res.) Amir Becker told The Jerusalem Post in his first interview since retiring in 2021. – Jerusalem Post

National Guard teams from across New England partnered with other military services and the private sector to practice fending off cyberattacks and dealing with their fallout. – Defense News

The federal government and private sector are facing increasing pressure to fill key cyber roles as high-profile attacks and international threats rattle various U.S. sectors. – The Hill

Apple will introduce a feature this fall allowing users to lock services that could otherwise be exploited by malicious hackers looking to infect their phones with spyware. While the company expects that ultimately only a fraction of its users may need the optional layer of enhanced security, the tool highlights Apple’s ongoing fight against the growing global spyware industry. – CyberScoop


When the U.S. Navy hosted its first advanced tactical training event for surface ships in 2016, it purposely avoided collecting much data: The ships didn’t need another assessment, the thinking went; instead, they needed rigorous training ahead of linking up with the rest of the carrier strike group. Six years later, that is changing. – Defense News

Integration and testing activities for an experimental navigation satellite are ramping up at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate as the U.S. Space Force prepares to launch its first major positioning, navigation and timing demonstration in nearly 50 years. – Defense News

David Von Drehle writes: It is a measure of the long history of faithful service to the United States that the commission had hundreds of excellent options. In range and meaning, these proposals are inspired. The old names represented division. The new ones should unify. – Washington Post

Ryan C. Berg and Chris Bernotavicius writes: Reinvigorating the IADB will not just enhance its ability to engage on short-term objectives but position it as a leading forum for long-term strategic threats, too, such as IUU fishing, military engagement on climate change, and cohesive responses to disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. As the organization celebrates its 80th year, these critical steps could reinvigorate it and guarantee another 80 years. – Center for Strategic and International Studies