Fdd's overnight brief

June 17, 2022

In The News


Moscow’s move to slash natural-gas exports to Europe has pitched the continent’s energy crisis into a dangerous new phase that threatens to drain vital fuel supplies and kneecap the continent’s economy. – Wall Street Journal 

Ukraine’s hunt for weapons in the global defense market to help it fight Moscow’s forces is facing increasing competition from Russia, which is often looking to buy those same items or attempting to cut off Kyiv’s supply, according to government officials and arms brokers. – Wall Street Journal 

Before the war with Russia, the yearnings of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority were mostly brushed off as benign nostalgia for a time when they lived in one nation with other ethnic Hungarians. Now, divided loyalties within the tiny community — which has soaked up Hungary’s ambivalence toward Russia’s invasion — are being seen as something more worrisome by their fellow Ukrainians, some of whom fear they are susceptible to pro-Russia propaganda from Hungary. – Washington Post 

An air strike hit a building sheltering civilians in Ukraine’s embattled eastern city of Lysychansk on Thursday, killing at leastfour and wounding seven, local governor Serhiy Gaidai said. […] The governor said a separate air strike on Thursday had hit a sanatorium building in Lysychansk and collapsed it, possibly causing further casualties. – Reuters 

The claims made about the health of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will be 70 in October, are lurid and macabre, as well as impossible to verify. But they illustrate how little is known about the health of a leader whose medical condition is fundamental to the future of Europe, all the more so after he ordered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Agence France-Presse 

Ivan Krastev writes: Before the war, Moscow’s middle class and Putin’s oligarchs thought and acted as if they belonged to both the Russian and the western world. Such an “amphibious” life is no longer possible. Barricaded identities are replacing multiple affiliations. In Russia, being “Russian” is now defined by genuine or feigned public support for Putin’s war with the west. In the west, being Russian is increasingly identified with not belonging to the west. Many Russians living outside Russia today feel like exiles. – Financial Times 

Kateryna Stepanenko, Mason Clark, George Barros, and Grace Mappes write: Russian forces continued to launch ground assaults on Severodonetsk and settlements along the Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Lysychansk. Ukrainian military intelligence reported that Russian forces are no longer operating as concrete battalion tactical groups (BTGs), as ISW previously assessed. Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations northwest of Slovyansk, while Ukrainian forces reportedly resumed preparations for counteroffensives west of Izyum. Russian and Ukrainian forces engaged in clashes north and northeast of Kharkiv City, though no significant territory changed hands. – Institute for the Study of War 


Israeli and American intelligence officials have been watching each day as Iran digs a vast tunnel network just south of the Natanz nuclear production site, in what they believe is Tehran’s biggest effort yet to construct new nuclear facilities so deep in the mountains that they can withstand bunker-busting bombs and cyberattacks. – New York Times 

Oil prices rose on Thursday in topsy-turvy trading after the United States announced new sanctions on Iran, and as energy markets stayed focused on supply concerns that have sent prices soaring this year. – Reuters 

The United States imposed sanctions on Thursday on Chinese and Emirati companies and on a network of Iranian firms that help export Iran’s petrochemicals, a step that may raise pressure on Tehran to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. – Reuters 

Editorial: Finally, Biden should reiterate his vow never to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Without setting any red lines publicly, he should make clear to the Iranians that any attempt to enrich uranium to weapons grade or to kick out IAEA inspectors could be a trigger for military action. The US should work closely with Israel on its own capabilities and plans, while continuing high-profile joint military exercises. – Bloomberg 


The United Nations representative in Afghanistan lamented in her farewell statement Thursday the harsh edicts that the Taliban have imposed on girls and women since they seized power in the country, denying them the right to education and work and forcing millions to stay at home. – Associated Press 

The Taliban‘s religious police have put up posters across the southern Afghan city of Kandahar saying that Muslim women who do not wear an Islamic hijab that fully covers their bodies are “trying to look like animals”, an official confirmed on Thursday. – Agence France-Presse 

Since the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, girls have largely been banned from going to secondary school. The campus of Afghanistan’s American university was closed and its students were left uncertain of their future. […] Of the 110 Afghan students that travelled to Sulaimaniya to complete their studies, 32 graduated in the beginning of June, including Mohammadi and Sahak. – Reuters 

Afghans are struggling to make ends meet amid an economic crisis that has disrupted basic services, left them with rising costs and dim employment prospects, and battered the health and financial sectors. But the country’s Taliban leaders, limited to domestic revenue to fund its first annual budget, have found ways to squeeze citizens even more. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 


The defense ministers of Greece and Turkey met Thursday on the sidelines of a NATO meeting amid renewed tensions between the neighboring countries and allies, Turkey’s defense ministry said. – Associated Press 

Israel and Turkey have foiled multiple Iranian attempts on the lives of Israelis in Turkey in the last few days, N12 reported on Thursday. The joint operation revealed an extensive Iranian terror cell in Turkey that planned large attacks. – Jerusalem Post 

Bobby Ghosh writes: Their best bet might be to signal to him that if Turkey won’t join the consensus, they will devise workarounds. This may require the NATO powers to build a separate security architecture for Sweden and Finland outside the alliance — at least until next summer, when they will either be dealing with a new Turkish president or with a victorious Erdogan who no longer needs them as bogeymen. – Bloomberg 


Israel secretly coordinates with the U.S. on many of the airstrikes it carries out in Syria as the allies face a battlefield crowded with militant groups, Iranian-backed militias and foreign militaries, according to current and former U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal 

Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians and wounded eight others early Friday during a military operation in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. – Associated Press 

Israel has canceled educational trips to Poland for thousands of high school students this summer, claiming the Polish government is trying to control the Holocaust-studies curriculum taught to Israeli children, the Israeli foreign minister said. – Associated Press 

The Israeli Embassy in Argentina on Thursday confirmed that a member of the IRGC Quds Force had been found among the passengers on an Iranian Mahan Air cargo plane on Sunday. The Iranian plane had been leased to a Venezuelan state-owned airline and was en route from Mexico when it landed in Argentina. – Jerusalem Post 

The US on Thursday called on Israel to release the findings of an internal police investigation into violence at the funeral of slain Al Jazeera TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, an American citizen. – Times of Israel 

The Israel Defense Forces said troops arrested four suspects carrying two firearms in the West Bank seam zone, close to the Arab Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, on Thursday afternoon. – Times of Israel 

More than a year after the Israel Defense Forces fought an 11-day war against terrorists in the Gaza Strip, military officials on Thursday touted new defensive measures as key to maintaining one of the quietest periods in southern Israel in recent years, but warned that the Hamas terror group is working to circumvent them in a potential surprise attack. – Times of Israel 

Mark Regev writes: Perhaps herein lies one reason for the current good relationship: Britannia no longer rules the waves, and Israel is far from the poor and struggling newly independent state it once was, even surpassing the UK in various fields – including in GDP per capita. So as Britain celebrates the platinum jubilee, both countries meet as relative coequals, and a genuine partnership can flourish. – Jerusalem Post 

Shira Efron and Ghaith al-Omari write: The decision by the Biden administration to de-prioritize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is understandable—even wise—given the political realities in Israel and among the Palestinians. But doing away with a U.S. initiative that has successfully contributed to maintaining stability and, in doing so, has prevented escalation that would have otherwise drawn the United States back into the conflict is—to say the least—ill-advised and self-defeating. – Washington Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

President Kais Saied has gathered nearly all state power in his hands after dismantling much of Tunisia’s young democracy over 11 turbulent months. But as he prepares for a referendum to approve his changes, challenges loom ever larger. – Reuters 

Yemen’s Houthi rebels are still recruiting children into their military ranks to fight in the country’s grinding civil war, despite an agreement with the United Nations in April to halt the practice, Houthi officials, aid workers and residents told The Associated Press. – Associated Press 

Mohammed el-Senussi writes: Seventy years ago, the U.N. helped Libyans create a democracy of their own by accounting for Libya’s culture, society and need for a unified identity. It can do it again by listening to ordinary Libyans rather than a small and corrupt elite. The option of restoring Libya’s Independence Constitution—the product of inspired U.N. mediation—should be put on the table where it belongs. This is a historic opportunity and it must not go to waste. – Wall Street Journal 


Beijing launched a new-generation aircraft carrier Friday, the first such ship to be both designed and built in China, in a milestone as it seeks to extend the range and power of its navy. The Type 003 carrier christened Fujian left its drydock at a shipyard outside Shanghai in the morning and tied up at a nearby pier, state media reports said. – Associated Press 

Organizers of November’s soccer World Cup in Qatar appeared to give in to outrage from Taiwan officials and altered a ticketing system that had identified Taiwanese attendees as hailing from China. – Bloomberg 

President Joe Biden will launch a global infrastructure initiative to counter China’s international ambitions, particularly in the Indo-Pacific, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Thursday. – Bloomberg 

Josh Rogin writes: Meeting military escalation with escalation brings real risks that must be managed, not ignored. But the costs of war if China concludes it can take Taiwan easily would be exponentially higher. The United States doesn’t have the luxury of waiting until the next decade to counter China’s military expansion in Asia. As George Washington said in his first speech to Congress in 1790, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” – Washington Post 

James M. Dorsey writes: Turkey is one state where the issue of the Uighurs in China is not simply a far-from-my-bed show. Uighurs play into domestic politics in a country home to the largest Uighur exile community that has long supported the rights of its Turkic brethren in China and still boasts strong strands of pan-Turkism. These are all elements that could come to the fore when Turkey goes to the polls next year as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Turkish republic. The question is not whether China will encounter choppy waters in the Middle East but when and where. – Middle East Institute 

Zongyuan Zoe Liu writes: While the Biden administration should seek to challenge and coexist with China by the “invest, align, compete” strategy, it should also resist the temptation of either overestimating China’s capacity and demonizing Beijing or naively dismissing China’s potential to challenge U.S. global leadership and the dollar’s dominance. Washington can marginalize China’s attempt to neutralize U.S. geoeconomic power by strengthening the attractiveness of U.S. leadership and the appeal of the existing global system. – Foreign Policy 

South Asia

Violence erupted in parts of India on Thursday with thousands of angry youths setting train coaches and vehicles on fire, blocking highways and attacking police with rocks to protest a new short-term government recruitment policy for the military. – Associated Press 

A special meeting of foreign ministers from India and Southeast Asian countries opened Thursday with co-chairs India and Singapore calling for a strengthening of ties amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and a heightened rivalry between the United States and China that threaten peace and stability in the region. – Associated Press 

Thousands of people marched in Bangladesh’s capital on Thursday to demand the governments of Bangladesh and India officially condemn comments by two Indian governing party officials deemed derogatory to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. The march began at the country’s main Baitul Mukarram Mosque but was blocked by police as it headed toward India’s Embassy, a few kilometers (miles) away. – Associated Press 


Myanmar’s military junta has doubled down on threats to carry out its first executions since seizing power, defying repeated appeals from the international community and outraging pro-democracy activists who have spent more than a year under siege. – Washington Post 

The election has exposed old wounds. But it has also revealed fresh frustrations with liberal democracy in the Philippines, a close U.S. military ally that has drifted toward China under outgoing president and strongman Rodrigo Duterte. – Washington Post 

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol said the United Nations Security Council should respond in a coordinated manner against North Korea’s missile provocations, South Korea’s Newsis reported on Friday. – Reuters 

As the military conflict in Ukraine bogs down on a slice of the embattled nation’s eastern and southern periphery, the geopolitical shift sparked by Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion keeps gaining new ground. This week, it emerged that the leaders of Japan and South Korea will attend a NATO summit, as observers, for the first time. It’s another sign of Western-style democracies teaming up to meet the bellicose challenge of Moscow and the growing global assertiveness of Beijing. – TIME

Pacific security issues should and can be dealt with by countries in the region, Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said on Friday, adding that China remained an attractive economic partner given its size. – Reuters 

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with the Solomon Islands leader Manasseh Sogavare on Friday, the first visit to Honiara by the new Australian government amid concern over its Pacific neighbour’s security pact with China. – Reuters 

A duo of U.S. senators introduced a bill on Thursday to significantly enhance support for Taiwan, including provisions for billions of dollars in U.S. security assistance and changes to the decades old law undergirding Washington’s unofficial ties with the Chinese-claimed democratic island. – Reuters  

Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday he would take advice on whether to accept President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s invitation to visit Ukraine during an upcoming European trip. – Associated Press 

Australia’s new foreign minister on Thursday made New Zealand the first stop on her third Pacific trip in a month as Canberra steps up efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the region. – Associated Press 


Ukraine’s allies need to accelerate their military assistance and other forms of aid before war fatigue takes hold in the West and Russia makes territorial gains that could become permanent, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said. – Washington Post 

The leaders of the European Union’s three largest economies on Thursday said they were backing Ukraine’s candidacy to join the 27-member bloc, a move that President Volodymyr Zelensky has fiercely advocated as his country loses ground in the face of Russia’s invasion. – Washington Post 

Authorities in the Netherlands said Thursday that they refused entry to a Russian spy posing as a Brazilian national to infiltrate the International Criminal Court — where authorities speculated he was seeking to gain access to information relating to the ICC’s investigations of alleged Russian war crimes. – Washington Post 

Britain will host talks on rebuilding key infrastructure in Kyiv on Friday, a day after the leaders of Germany, France and Italy visited Ukraine and offered it the hope of EU membership as it battles a ferocious Russian offensive in the east. – Reuters 

The evacuation of 568 civilians sheltering in bunkers under the Azot chemical plant in the embattled city of Sievierodonetsk is currently impossible due to shelling and heavy fighting, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region said on Friday. – Reuters  

European Council President Charles Michel visited North Macedonia on Thursday and said efforts to start European Union membership talks with the landlocked Balkan country and neighboring Albania have become a “top priority” since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Associated Press 

Ukraine alone should decide whether or not to accept any territorial concessions towards Russia in view of ending the war, French President Emmanuel Macron told TF1 television in an interview as he visited Kyiv. – Reuters 

The Lithuanian parliament on Thursday called for the criminal prosecution of Russia’s leadership for its invasion of Ukraine and what it said is the wide-scale forced deportation of Ukrainians to Russian territory. – Reuters 

Britain said on Thursday it could send more troops to Estonia and lead a brigade there, echoing German plans in Lithuania ahead of a NATO summit to agree future deployments on the alliance’s eastern flank in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. – Reuters 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had taken off on separate flights from southeastern Poland after their risky, high-stakes visit to Kyiv when they were conferenced into a phone call from President Joe Biden. – NBC 

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 

Peter Rough writes: Any such deal is sure to kill any remaining solidarity and trust underpinning the European Union. Even if they are not outright destabilized by the war, Eastern European states such as Poland and the Baltics will, in the future, see an EU led by France and Germany less as a community of values and more as an economic arrangement held together by euros and cents. The war in Ukraine may have badly mauled the Russian military, but if Putin appears confident, it is because Scholz—along with Macron—may yet help him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. If so, it will be even clearer that the Zeitenwende was no such thing. – Foreign Policy 


The massacre in Seytenga underscored the increasingly perilous security situation in Burkina Faso, where military leaders ousted the president in a coup in January. At the time, officers promised to restore peace to the country, where militants linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have killed thousands and displaced more than 1.5 million. – Washington Post 

Decades-old tensions between Rwanda, which has one of Africa’s most effective militaries, and Congo, one of the continent’s largest and most troubled countries, have spiked along their shared border a few hours’ drive from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Alarm has reached the point where Kenya’s president is urging the immediate deployment of a newly created regional force to eastern Congo to keep the peace. – Associated Press 

The summit is an opportunity to highlight Rwanda’s stability and relative prosperity under Kagame’s rule. It also will focus attention on Rwanda’s widely criticized deal with Britain to deport asylum-seekers from the U.K. to Rwanda. Legal challenges stopped a flight that would have brought the first group just days before the summit. – Associated Press 

Uganda’s military said on Thursday it had discovered bomb making material at a training facility for an Islamic State-allied rebel group around 60 kilometres west of the capital Kampala, and that three people had been detained. – Reuters 

The Americas

Mexican immigration authorities said Thursday they found a veritable United Nations of migrants aboard a freight truck. Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said the truck was carrying 366 migrants, including people from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Yemen, Uzbekistan and South Africa. – Associated Press 

Immigration arrests along the U.S. southern border rose in May to the highest levels ever recorded, as growing numbers of migrants arrived from Turkey, India, Russia and other nations outside the Western Hemisphere, the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures show. – Washington Post 

President Joe Biden’s protective statements about Taiwan represent a salutary “tension” with standard U.S. policy formulations, according to a top White House official. Biden has declared repeatedly that the United States would defend Taiwan from an attack by China, which regards the island democracy as an unruly province that must be brought under mainland Chinese Communist authority. – Washington Examiner 


Law enforcement in the United States, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain dismantled a global network of internet-connected devices that had been hacked by Russian cyber criminals and used for malicious purposes, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday. – Reuters 

A top Ukrainian cybersecurity official said this week that the Russian campaign to wrest control over internet and phone networks in occupied Ukraine continues to grow, even as Russian forces intensify their shelling of telecommunications infrastructure. – CyberScoop 

Farhad Manjoo writes: For millions of people, crypto, like real estate and dot-coms before it, offered a way out of what has otherwise been a dead-end economy. They were simply trying to get ahead in just about the only way one can these days: Put your money into something hot and hope it goes big. It’s the American way. – New York Times 

Maria Bustillos writes: To many, the possibility of huge profits is the most interesting thing about crypto — it’s a gold rush in which anyone can suddenly become rich beyond his or her dreams. But the regrettable get-rich-quick mentality that has too long been associated with entrepreneurship, in crypto and elsewhere, must come to an end. – New York Times 

James Andrew Lewis writes: Ukraine was not the first cyber war nor was cyberattack particularly useful to the Russians. The Ukrainian defenders and their partners did a good job of reacting quickly to deflect Russian efforts to disrupt networks. They do not appear to have faced a well-thought-out plan of attack integrated into broader campaign planning. This may be the most important lesson for cyber warfare from Ukraine: preparation and planning on how to integrate cyber operations with other modes of attack to achieve maximum effect makes cyberattacks useful. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Military commanders from Japan, the United States, South Korea, the Philippines and fourteen other countries met in Tokyo this week for a gathering that Washington hopes will help forge cooperation between nations that can help it contain China. – Reuters 

The Senate Armed Services Committee added an extra $45 billion to its version of President Joe Biden’s National Defense Authorization Act request. The committee leaders announced Thursday that they had voted 23-3 to advance the NDAA for fiscal 2023, which supports a total of $857.64 billion, according to a summary of the bill the committee released. – Washington Examiner 

Six NATO countries signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly work on concepts for a next-generation helicopter on June 16 at a meeting of alliance defense ministers in Brussels. – Defense News 

The Air Force could finally get its chance to start retiring some of its older A-10 Warthog attack planes. The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday announced it had advanced its version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which supports the Air Force’s plans to divest 21 A-10s at Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base in Indiana. The Air Force said earlier this year, when it released its proposed fiscal 2023 budget, it would replace those Warthogs with an equal number of F-16s. – Defense News 

U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would establish a program to train Royal Australian Navy officers in operating nuclear-powered submarines, as Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. work on a collaborative path toward developing and fielding the boat type for the Pacific ally. – Defense News 

Long War

UN-backed court sentenced two Hezbollah members in their absence to life imprisonment on Thursday for a huge Beirut bombing in 2005 that killed Lebanon’s ex-premier Rafic Hariri. Habib Merhi and Hussein Oneissi were found guilty on appeal in March by the Dutch-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) over the attack, which killed 21 other people and injured 226. – Agence France-Presse 

The Philippine government has designated a former peace negotiator and five other suspected communist rebel leaders as “terrorists” in a move that allowed the freezing of their financial assets, which officials said could be used to finance attacks. – Associated Press 

French drone strikes killed nearly 40 Islamic extremists earlier this week who were traveling on motorcycles near Niger’s border with Burkina Faso, France’s military announced Thursday. In a statement, the French military called the strikes a “new tactical success” for France’s counterterrorism efforts in Africa’s Sahel region, named Operation Barkhane. – Associated Press