Fdd's overnight brief

June 16, 2022

In The News


The United States will send an additional $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, President Biden announced Wednesday, bolstering Ukrainian forces as they are pummeled by a Russian offensive in the country’s east. – Washington Post 

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended ongoing weapons and security aid to Ukraine by saying that “the numbers clearly favor the Russians” in the war’s current state. – Washington Post  

Chinese President Xi Jinping declared his support for Russia’s “sovereignty and security” during a Wednesday phone call with Vladimir Putin, prompting a swift U.S. rebuke that nations siding with the Russian leader over the Ukraine war will be “on the wrong side of history.” – Washington Post  

Russia is scrambling to recruit men to fight in Ukraine after major losses in the early months of the war left the army stretched thin and some soldiers disenchanted. – Washington Post  

Two U.S. military veterans have gone missing in Ukraine, and it is feared they have been captured by Russian forces, family members of the missing Americans said Wednesday. – Washington Post 

Chinese President Xi Jinping re-emphasized support for Moscow’s security concerns in his second phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly four months ago, showing little sign of backing off from an entente that has alienated Beijing further from the West. – Wall Street Journal 

In the end, the battle for the Ukrainian city of Mariupol came down to a showdown over a single big industrial plant. Now, it looks like the fight over Sievierodonetsk in Ukraine’s east might go the same way. – New York Times 

Russia has torpedoed a Western-backed proposal to discuss whether its diamonds are funding war ahead of an international conflict diamond meeting in Botswana, letters seen by Reuters show. – Reuters 

An overnight Russian air-launched rocket strike hit a suburb of the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy, killing four and wounding six, the local governor said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Russia and the United States must discuss the extension of the START nuclear arms reduction treaty, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA news agency in an interview on Thursday. – Reuters 

The United States imposed sanctions on Wednesday on two men linked to a Russian “ethnically motivated violent extremist group,” one of whom visited the United States to connect with far-right groups while the other funded pro-Russian fighters in the Donbas. – Reuters 

The head of Ukraine’s military on Wednesday said Russia had concentrated its main strike forces in the north of Luhansk region and were trying to attack simultaneously in nine directions. – Reuters 

Russia on Wednesday said it has offered “safe passage” for Ukraine grain shipments from Black Sea ports but is not responsible for establishing the corridors and Turkey suggested that ships could be guided around sea mines. – Reuters 

Russia said on Wednesday that the West had “shot itself in the head” by trying to limit energy imports from the oil and gas fields of Siberia due to the Ukraine conflict, in sharp contrast to China which has increased deliveries of energy. – Reuters 

The top U.S. military officer on Wednesday confirmed staggering statistics of the Ukrainian military’s battlefield losses as their war with Russia devolves into a grinding, one-sided artillery battle in the country’s east – U.S. News & World Report 

For the Ukrainian soldiers fighting to retake ground in the wheat fields and empty villages northwest of the city of Kherson, the liberation of one of Ukraine’s most strategically important Black Sea cities feels tantalisingly close. – Reuters 

A top Democratic lawmaker is pushing the Biden administration to send Ukraine armed drones and longer range artillery, he told reporters Wednesday. – Military.com 

The Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Kherson’s shipyards are prepared to in the future build ships for the Russian Black Sea Fleet, deputy head of the military-civilian administration in the Kherson region Kirill Stremousov told Russian state media outlet RIA on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post 

Editorial: The treatment of Mr. Navalny shows yet again that Mr. Putin has shifted from soft authoritarianism to totalitarianism. Russia has not been a state governed by the rule of law for a long while, but Mr. Putin is taking it back to dictatorial times. […]As for Mr. Navalny, it is clear Mr. Putin would like the world to never hear from him again. The Russian president wants to break his most troublesome critic. That makes it even more vital that everyone else speak up for Mr. Navalny, so his voice continues to be heard until the day he walks free. – Washington Post

Andreas Kluth writes: Note that the analogy of World War II does not extend to whatever Hitler did in the years after 1939. The comparison does not imply that Putin is planning a Holocaust, nor that he must eventually commit suicide — or that Russia, like Nazi Germany, must end up occupied and dismembered. To understand how Putin’s war could end, we need to observe how this tragedy unfolds, while reaching again and again for the most appropriate lessons of the past. – Bloomberg 

Caitlin Welsh, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., Jennifer Jun, and Emma Dodd write: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 8 to 13 million additional people will face undernourishment in 2022 to 2023 if Ukraine’s grain exports are unable to freely move throughout the country and overseas. Unless Russia’s war in Ukraine is swiftly curtailed, continued attacks on Ukraine’s agricultural production will not only deteriorate food insecurity in Ukraine, but will also exacerbate food insecurity worldwide. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Biden administration officials assured senators at a Wednesday classified briefing that the U.S. would ramp up sanctions on Iran if needed as hopes dim for a diplomatic pathway on Tehran’s nuclear program, according to attendees. – Politico 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called on Wednesday morning for the United Nations Security Council’s “snapback” sanctions on Iran to be implemented over its resurgent nuclear program. – Times of Israel 

Pensioners and retired public employees have again taken to the streets in the southern city of Ahvaz amid growing discontent over living conditions in Iran and the government’s failure to address the problem. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps claimed Wednesday that Iran is dealing ongoing “blows” to the State of Israel. – Times of Israel 

Iranian authorities have seized a vessel carrying 90,000 litres of smuggled fuel in the waters around Kish Island in the Gulf, Iranian state news agency IRNA reported on Thursday. – Reuters 

Iran acknowledged Wednesday it plans two tests for its new solid-fueled rocket after satellite photos showed preparations at a desert launch pad previously used in the program, even as tensions remain high over Tehran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program. – Associated Press 

Iranian authorities have arrested a person accused of having a link to two French citizens being held on espionage charges, state television reported Thursday. – Associated Press 

Jonathan Spyer writes: It appears that a bold change of the rules of engagement, in which the totality of Iranian strategy will now be opposed also on Iranian soil, forms an additional component of this effort. The strike on the drone fleet at Kermanshah and the killing of Khodaei in Tehran were the first manifestations of this new approach. Three additional unexplained deaths of senior Iranian security personnel have occurred in subsequent weeks. The shadow war between Israel and Iran has entered a new phase. – Wall Street Journal 


More than 100 men who worked at the British embassy in Afghanistan remain in the country, with some telling the BBC they have been beaten and tortured. – BBC  

The Air Force has concluded that air crew members acted appropriately and were not at fault for some tragic deaths during the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan last year, when desperate Afghans clung to a military plane as it was taking off and fell to their deaths or were caught in the wheels. – Associated Press 

James Durso writes: Washington can dip its toe in by working with Central and South Asian countries on regional projects that improve economic opportunity for all. While Washington expects the Taliban to prove its good intentions to the West by changing its policies by 180 degrees, Afghanistan’s neighbors will be looking to Washington to see if the Americans can move beyond anger over the failure of the Afghanistan project and start to think strategically about the region. – The Hill  


Russia tried to persuade Turkey to cancel plans for a military operation in Syria during talks in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, the TASS news agency cited Moscow’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentyev as saying on Thursday. – Reuters 

The scenes described this week by Israeli tourists whisked out of Turkey by secret agents to escape Iranian assassins sounded like something out of an action film. […]The Israeli press has reported that several other tourists have been pulled out of Turkey in similar fashion in recent weeks. A top-level intelligence official confirmed the reports to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, adding, “The real drama is even bigger. Iran deployed several assassination squads in Turkey whose mission was to kill or kidnap Israelis at almost any cost. All of these attempts have been foiled so far, some of them at the very last minute.” – Al-Monitor 

The main takeaway from a recent meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey, Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu, is that there was nothing to take away — except the growing realization that there is likely some truth to Ukraine’s accusation that Russia has been selling contraband Ukrainian grain to Turkey. The glaringly inconclusive meeting between Messrs. Lavrov and Cavusoglu at Ankara earlier this month — ostensibly to facilitate the safe passage of merchant ships in the heavily mined Black Sea — has also served to raise the profile of a Greek port, Alexandroupoli. – New York Sun 

Wayne C. Ackerman writes: NATO, the U.S., and the European Union could consider facilitating investments in the new Black Sea gas plays, supporting Turkish fast-track development, reducing Turkish consumption of Russian gas, and allowing more Azerbaijani gas to reach the European market. […]Due to geopolitics, Turkey has increased its global stage presence at the moment with the Ukraine-Russia conflict, NATO expansion, energy infrastructure, and Black Sea gas discoveries. As a result, expect the eastern Mediterranean developments to mature with minimal Turkish interest. – Middle East Institute  


The European Union signed an agreement with Israel and Egypt to boost gas shipments on Wednesday, tapping into the gas riches of the eastern Mediterranean as it races to secure alternatives to Russian energy. – Wall Street Journal 

It might be that turning around an ocean liner takes a while, but that doesn’t mean Europe’s U-turn on Israel — which is becoming apparent with each passing week — isn’t astounding. It is developing into a major story, even if, like President Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, it has to do with an acute need for energy sources.  Just this week, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was in the Negev, pocketing an honorary degree from Ben Gurion University. “Europe and Israel are bound to be friends and allies,” she burbled. “The history of Europe is the history of the Jewish people.” – New York Sun 

Legislation seeking to disband the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry investigating Israel has gained support in recent weeks, amassing 34 cosponsors since its introduction this spring. – Jewish insider 

The US administration has been pushing Israel to avoid taking unilateral steps that would further damage ties with the Palestinians in the lead-up to President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel and the West Bank next month, two Israeli and Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel Wednesday. – Times of Israel 

The Israel Defense Forces said it would conduct a military drill in the Galilee panhandle in northern Israel on Thursday morning, which will include artillery fire toward the Mount Dov area on the border with Lebanon. – Times of Israel 

An Israeli court on Wednesday found a Gaza aid worker guilty of several terrorism charges in a high-profile case in which his employer, independent auditors and the Australian government say they have found no evidence of wrongdoing. – Associated Press 

Ukraine submitted a request for a half a billion-dollar loan from Israel, to help deal with its struggling economy amid the ongoing war with Russia. – Ynet 

Israeli Ambassador to Russia Alex Ben-Zvi was summoned for a reprimand by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov following last week’s attack on the Damascus airport. – Arutz Sheva 

Mustafa al-Sawaf, a senior Hamas official and one of the leading journalists in the Gaza Strip, says that the Palestinian Arab terrorist organizations are improving their military readiness ahead of the the next military confrontation with Israel. – Arutz Sheva 

The IDF, Israel Security Agency (Shabak), and Border Police forces on Wednesday conducted counterterrorism activities in a number of locations in Judea and Samaria. – Arutz Sheva 


Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Wednesday that he decided to withdraw from the political process so as not to be involved with “corrupt” politicians, the state news agency reported. – Reuters 

At least two people were killed and seven injured in Turkish air strikes targeting the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), in Iraq’s northern province of Sinjar, security sources said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Sarah Idan writes: If Iraq follows through on this antisemitic, racist, and warmongering law, its government should be held to account by the world. After expending so much blood and treasure in Iraq, the free world risks losing our country both culturally and politically to the Iranian-led “Axis of Resistance,” which is fiercely opposed to democracy and human rights. Put simply, hate crimes — like the extirpation of Iraq’s minority communities, and the new proposal to execute anyone who has contact with Israel — must not be allowed to stand. There must be consequences. – Algemeiner 

Saudi Arabia

Saudi pro-government commentators are gloating over U.S. President Joe Biden’s planned visit next month, saying the U.S. leader’s about-turn on his vow to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” reflected the kingdom’s importance in global affairs. – Reuters 

Israel is looking to U.S. President Joe Biden’s Mideast trip next month to bolster its efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, a country with which it does not have official ties, according to Israel’s foreign minister. – Associated Press 

As President Joe Biden prepares for his meeting with Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful Saudi crown prince known worldwide simply as “MBS,” the plans of his visit are overshadowed by a mounting energy crisis that is likely to dominate their discussions next month in the coastal city of Jeddah. – Newsweek 

Simon Henderson writes: But the Biden trip is still a month away and lots can go wrong in that time. King Salman is in uncertain health. After a colonoscopy a few weeks ago (in itself a surprising level of candor), the monarch stayed in hospital for a few days of “rest.” And Iran may take the opportunity to remind its regional neighbors that it regards itself as the principal country in the area. After all, even the United States calls it “the Persian Gulf.” – The Hill 

Nadav Eyal writes: Biden’s upcoming visit in the Middle East exemplifies realpolitik diplomacy, but also shows an about-turn by the president, which is also a lesson to be learned. – Ynet 

Liz Peek writes: Finally, MBS, who had achieved some acclaim for modernizing his country, might seek to regain his footing on the world stage. Bringing down oil prices would help. – New York Sun 

Herb Keinon writes: What is clearly emerging from Biden’s upcoming trip to the Middle East is that his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority is just a sideshow. Saudi Arabia is the main event. – Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

A Yemeni journalist was killed when his car exploded while he was driving in the southern port city of Aden, an official said Thursday, the latest such attack in the seat of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. – Associated Press 

Russia expressed “serious concern” on Wednesday to Israel’s ambassador about air strikes that shut down Syria’s Damascus International Airport last week, the foreign ministry said in a statement. – Reuters 

The U.S.-led coalition forces detained on Thursday a senior Islamic State leader during an operation in Syria on June 16, a statement by the coalition said. – Reuters 

Despite an agreement with the U.N. in April to halt the practice, the Houthis continue to recruit children into the military ranks to fight in the country’s grinding civil war, Houthi officials, aid workers and residents told the AP. – Associated Press 

Korean Peninsula

North Korea appears to be expanding work at its nuclear test site to include a second tunnel, a U.S.-based think tank said on Thursday, as South Korean and U.S. officials say North Korea might conduct a nuclear test any day. – Reuters 

There was no evidence that the South Korean fisheries official shot and burned by North Korean troops in 2020 intended to defect, South Korea’s maritime and military authorities said on Thursday, reversing its earlier announcement. – Reuters 

Howard W. French writes: At some point, North Korea must be convinced that the returns on continual investment in nuclear weapons and delivery systems are becoming negative, not because of threats of countermeasures and retaliation but because the devotion of so many resources into high-tech efforts with virtually no spinoff benefits for civilians in a poor society locks everyone but a tiny elite into stunted lives. Opening the door a crack to the creation of a middle class might help nourish desires for better, and if it is applied sincerely and with patience, it will take away the excuse that the country’s failures to improve the lot of its citizens is the fault of hostile others. – Foreign Policy 


UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was unable to visit detained Uyghurs and that she was accompanied by authorities while visiting Xinjiang, remarks that raise questions about the Chinese government’s efforts to influence her trip. – Bloomberg 

One of China’s largest and most capable combat ships is conducting long-distance exercises in the Sea of Japan, state media reported Thursday, in a display of China’s increasing naval reach. – Associated Press 

Editorial: Whether it is intellectual property, territory, or human lives, China does not have the right to claim ownership over things that fundamentally do not belong to it. For reasons both moral and strategic, Biden must reject Beijing’s latest outrage with immediate physical action. – Washington Examiner 


Japan and Australia’s defense ministers on Wednesday vowed to step up their ties to support democratic values in the Indo-Pacific region and agreed to work more closely with Southeast Asia and the Pacific island nations where China is seeking to expand its influence. – Associated Press  

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled legislation that would help the Royal Australian Navy train its future submarine warfare officers with U.S. sailors. – USNI News 

China is moving to consolidate the country’s iron ore imports through a new centrally controlled group by the end of this year, as Xi Jinping’s administration seeks to increase Beijing’s pricing power over the industry. – Financial Times


French President Emmanuel Macron said Ukraine would eventually have to hold peace talks with Russia, while Ukrainian troops fought hard to hold back the Russian invasion force in the country’s east. – Wall Street Journal 

The European Union announced fresh legal action against the British government on Wednesday over its proposed rewrite of parts of the Brexit agreement, setting up a protracted period of uncertainty over the deal’s future and a possible trade war in Europe. – Wall Street Journal 

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy are expected to pay their first visit to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Thursday, in what is intended as a show of solidarity as his beleaguered country struggles to hold the line against Russian forces. – New York Times 

Russian people and companies are using entities in Georgia to bypass Western sanctions, a group of Ukrainian lawmakers said on Wednesday, urging the United States to take action, but they did not provide further details or specific examples. – Reuters 

Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) on Wednesday announced a further cut in the amount of gas it can pump through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe, a move Germany’s economy minister said was aimed at sowing uncertainty and pushing up fuel prices. – Reuters 

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that Moldova’s bid to join the European Union was “perfectly legitimate”, speaking at a joint news conference with Moldova President Maia Sandu. – Reuters 

Bulgaria’s pro-EU prime minister Kiril Petkov took a hard line against Russia from the outset of its invasion of Ukraine, proclaiming that Bulgaria “will not bow . . . When we see something so obvious that we disagree with, we cannot keep quiet.” – Financial Times 

Several NATO members are looking to Germany for cues as they think about how to boost the alliance’s eastern defenses against Russia. – Bloomberg 

The German government on Wednesday approved the deployment of up to 50 soldiers to join a European Union military mission in Bosnia. The deployment, which still has to be signed off on by Parliament, would be authorized until June 30, 2023. – Associated Press 

Bradley Martin and William Courtney write: The western Black Sea is mined by Ukraine to forestall amphibious assault and by Russia to prevent Ukrainian transit. Maritime insurers may mistrust any Kremlin assurances about transit safety. Underwriters might already be charging a war-risk premium of up to 10 percent of a vessel’s value. – The Hill 

Benjamin Schmitt writes: For the sake of Ukraine’s struggle, we must ensure that reason will prevail and result in effective energy security policies to counter Russian malign energy activities across the Transatlantic community. For the sakes of those millions of people now exposed to the Kremlin’s malice, failure is not an option. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday called for the immediate deployment of a new regional military force to try to stop rebel violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. – Reuters 

The British government vowed Wednesday to organize more flights to deport asylum-seekers from around the world to Rwanda, after a last-minute court judgment grounded the first plane due to take off under the contentious policy. – Associated Press 

The head of the U.N. refugee agency says “Europe should be much more worried” that more people from Africa’s Sahel region could seek to move north to escape violence, climate crises like droughts and floods and the impact of growing food shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Associated Press 

United States

The US is urging European capitals to seek ways of easing the impact of their ban on insuring Russian oil cargoes, arguing the measure could cause global crude prices to soar. – Financial Times  

The street in front of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington was renamed Wednesday for Jamal Khashoggi as activists vowed never to forget the slain journalist despite President Joe Biden’s planned visit to the kingdom. – Agence France-Presse 

An Israeli legal NGO has urged the US to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) following the publication of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) that criticized Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

Dana Milbank writes: If the broader movement isn’t willing to step in and condemn those among them fanning antisemitic conspiracy theories and violence against Jews, then BDS will become nothing more than BS. – Washington Post 


The U.S. government has pushed new, increased funding into three technology companies since the start of the Ukraine conflict to help Russians sidestep censors and access Western media, according to five people familiar with the situation. – Reuters 

Rep. Adam Smith, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday that the United States needs to invest far more in protecting national security communications and software. – CyberScoop 

A suspect allegedly involved in hacking Tehran municipality systems last week was identified and arrested on Wednesday, according to Fars News. The detainee is said to have been in contact with foreign intelligence services, no further details were reported. – Jerusalem Post 


Federal agents have begun questioning U.S. technology companies on how their computer chips ended up in Russian military equipment recovered in Ukraine. – Washington Post 

A day after House appropriators backed the White House’s defense funding plan for fiscal 2023, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said he expects spending totals to be increased in coming days in response to rising inflation. – Defense News 

Bill Greenwalt, Jerry McGinn, and Christopher Zember write: The DPA has consistently been upheld as a common ground for both Democrats and Republicans, and it aligns with bipartisan initiatives such as the House Armed Services Committee’s critical supply chain task force and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Working together, we can effectively and appropriately use the DPA as a strategic asset for shared American values and national interests. – Defense News