Fdd's overnight brief

June 29, 2023

In The News


European diplomats have told Iran they plan to retain European Union ballistic missile sanctions set to expire in October under the defunct 2015 Iran nuclear deal, four sources said, a step that could provoke Iranian retaliation. – Reuters 

Iran has filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Canada because Ottawa allows civil damages cases against Tehran for alleged terrorist acts to be filed in its courts, the U.N.’s top court said on Wednesday. According to Iran’s claim, released by the court, Canada’s actions violate its state immunity enshrined in international law. – Reuters 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denied that an agreement between the Biden Administration and the Iranian government on Iran’s nuclear program. – Arutz Sheva

A new bipartisan resolution introduced on Tuesday reiterates U.S. opposition to a nuclear-armed Iran and declares support for Israel’s “freedom of action” to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon. – Jewish Insider

The mother of a 16-year-old girl allegedly beaten to death by security forces during protests in Iran has spoken of her continuing heartache. – BBC

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan in a tough call with his Israeli counterpart last week expressed concern that Israel is leaking information to the press about indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran, three U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios. – Axios

Mike Watson writes: Human-rights advocates often denounce balance-of-power thinking as bloodless and amoral, but their causes fare better when America’s geopolitical situation is stronger. If Mr. Biden is determined to reach an “understanding” with Iran, he should stop delivering sanctimonious lectures to the Israelis. – Wall Street Journal 

Dr. Mordechai Kedar writes: It is for precisely this reason that the Zangezur Corridor should be restored to Azerbaijani sovereignty as soon as possible to send the message that the trio of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Israel remain resolutely opposed to the mullahs and their regional ambitions, even as the West inches closer to capitulation in the wake of a new nuclear deal. – Arutz Sheva

Farzin Nadimi writes: Iranian officials are keenly aware that Putin’s crisis parallels their own vulnerabilities, so they will likely step up their efforts to cement the bilateral security relationship and obtain Russian weapons and technology. – Washington Institute 

Johanna Moore, Karolina Hird, and Kitaneh Fitzpatrick write: Iranian officials have previously expressed interest in receiving Russian fighter jets and air defense systems in return for Iran’s support for the Russian war effort, although these sales have not yet materialized. ISW and the CTP previously assessed that Iran is seeking to leverage arms sales to generate revenue for the Iranian economy. – Institute for the Study of War

Russia & Ukraine

For five days, the attacking Russians threw everything they had at the Ukrainian brigade defending a patch of forest here on the eastern front — mortar, artillery, flamethrowers and tank fire — mowing down whatever stood in their way. By the sixth day, bodies littered the smoldering terrain. Only a scorched field and blackened tree stumps remained. – Washington Post

In the hours after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s army of ex-convicts and mercenaries halted their advance on Moscow, the Kremlin set out to seize full control of the global empire built by the notorious military entrepreneur. Russia’s deputy foreign minister flew to Damascus to personally deliver a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: Wagner Group forces would no longer operate there independently. […] from Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations shuttled from Syria to Mali, another of Wagner’s key foreign outposts. – Wall Street Journal 

Satellite imagery shows that Belarus is rapidly building what appear to be temporary structures at a deserted military base, revealing a possible location for Wagner fighters who were given the option of relocating to the country after the group’s failed mutiny against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. – New York Times

As President Vladimir V. Putin seeks to assert control in Russia, he is moving to punish people who enabled the mercenary boss Yevgeny V. Prigozhin’s rebellion over the weekend, but Mr. Prigozhin’s deep connections with the ruling elite are complicating those efforts. – New York Times

The Wagner Group mercenaries who seized the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on Saturday in a failed mutiny included at least three convicted criminals, a Reuters review of facial recognition software, court records and social media showed. – Reuters 

As one of the most brutal mercenary forces marched on Moscow, some among Russia’s elite trembled in fear that the world’s biggest nuclear power was teetering on the brink of what President Vladimir Putin said could have been a civil war. – Reuters 

As Russia’s invasion enters its 17th month, Ukrainian forces say Moscow is ramping up its use of low-cost suicide drones that are capable of destroying equipment many times their value and not easy to defend against. The Lancet drone, an angular grey tube with two sets of four wings, has been an increasing threat on Ukraine’s frontlines in recent months, according to Ukrainian soldiers. – Reuters 

General Sergei Surovikin, the deputy commander of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, was sympathetic to mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s weekend rebellion, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, though it was unclear if he actively supported it. Prigozhin startled the world by leading an armed revolt on Saturday that brought his Wagner Group fighters from the Ukrainian border to within 200 kilometers (125 miles) of Moscow before he abruptly called off the uprising. – Reuters 

Rescuers have pulled another body from the ruins of a restaurant in eastern Ukraine’s city of Kramatorsk, taking to 12 the death toll following a Russian missile strike, Ukraine’s emergency services said on Thursday. Three children were among the dead, while 60 more people were wounded, the authorities said. – Reuters 

Ukrainian authorities on Wednesday arrested a man they accused of helping Russia direct a missile strike that killed at least 11 people, including three teenagers, at a popular pizza restaurant in eastern Ukraine. – Associated Press

When troops from Russia’s Wagner group left Ukraine’s battlefields for last weekend’s aborted uprising across the border, officials in Kyiv could barely conceal their joy at the prospect for disarray in Moscow. But the withdrawal of the Kremlin-funded mercenaries — who provided Russia with some of its most brutal and capable combat units — hasn’t so far made it easier for Ukraine’s high-stakes counteroffensive, and it’s not clear whether it will, according to officials and analysts. – Bloomberg

Secretary of State Antony Blinken favors “sticking with [the] program” of support for Ukraine, despite an upsurge in anxiety that Russia’s instability could present new dangers to Western allies. “The short answer is no,” Blinken said Wednesday when asked about changing U.S. policy in light of the Wagner Group’s aborted march on Moscow. “In terms of its support for Ukraine, exerting pressure on Russia, strengthening our own defensive alliance — we’re sticking with that program.” – Washington Examiner 

The former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe spoke for many in the national security community when he tweeted yesterday, “Why does the Biden administration continue to refuse to provide ATACMS to Ukraine?” “They could make Crimea untenable for Russian forces, same as when Viet Minh put artillery around French at Dien Bin Phuh,” argued retired Gen. Ben Hodges. “There’s no shortage of ATACMS — only a shortage of political will.” – Washington Examiner 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin not to “eliminate” the Wagner Group mercenary company during an armed rebellion over the weekend.

All eyes are on Moscow — but no one knows what they’re looking at. Are there more uprisings in the works? Will Vladimir Putin escalate his brutality in Ukraine to compensate? Are his nukes secure? Will everything somehow return to a tense, war-time status quo? These types of questions have gripped conversations after a failed mutiny saw the Wagner Group’s mercenaries march within hours of Moscow before turning back. – Politico 

Editorial: Russia has not been governed by rule of law under Mr. Putin, but it has reached new depths of lawlessness and arbitrary enforcement during the war. In the current system, Mr. Putin’s foes are punished and, on his whim, warlords get off. It should be the other way around: Mr. Putin should be prosecuted for war crimes, and the thousands of innocent people penalized for antiwar views should be set free. – Washington Post

Thomas E. Graham writes: Nothing, however, will change the reality. Even in his fleeting moment of glory, Mr. Lukashenko cuts a pathetic figure as a Russian pawn. Perhaps the one worthy service he has performed for his country over the years is to briefly show how Belarus could position itself as a respectable player in European affairs, as a venue for constructive East-West dialogue with a dynamic tech sector. But Minsk can revive and sustain that role only under the leadership of a president who accepts European values. Mr. Lukashenko will never be that person. – New York Times

Leonid Bershidsky writes: It’s important to make a clear distinction between System RF and Putin, who merely personifies it now. If the personality changes but the system remains, any benefit to Ukraine and the West will be only temporary. – Bloomberg 

Hal Brands writes: If the fighting drags on beyond this summer, don’t be shocked if cluster munitions eventually fall in the same category as Abrams tanks, HIMARs, and F-16s — other weapons the US swore it wouldn’t provide to Ukraine up until the moment it did. In a war where the geopolitical stakes are severe, and the prospects of Ukrainian success uncertain, there are no easy choices left. – Bloomberg 

Andreas Kluth writes: This is not what anybody would wish for a country with about 6,000 nuclear warheads, the largest arsenal in the world. Nor for a regime that may be tempted to flaunt its power — or overcompensate for its loss — by escalating its genocidal war against Ukraine. It makes you yearn for the relative simplicity of Pushkin and his Cossack hero. – Bloomberg

Michael Barone writes: At the moment, Putin’s Russia seems weaker than in early 2022, Xi’s China seems no stronger, and Latin America may be recoiling from leftist extremism. Former President Barack Obama liked to say that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but Americans may be forgiven, after the last quarter-century, for thinking it just wobbles around, not always predictably, and that getting things right requires not just wisdom and energy but also a dollop of good luck. – Washington Examiner 

Oleksandr Shulga writes: Avoiding confrontation will not guarantee even relative safety for certain NATO members as this confrontation is an ongoing process for a significant part of Russian society. For this reason, it has no reason to avoid another “special military operation”, as it will be the logical next step of this confrontation in Russian public consciousness. NATO can of course close the door on Ukrainian membership, but it is wholly wrong to think this makes it safer. Russians are ready for the next round. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Chels Michta writes: While outcomes are hard to predict, the Russian past can offer insights into recurrent processes and patterns. At the very least, Russian imperial history has shown that the country’s autocratic political system lacks a mechanism to contain and defuse pressures at home and that it fares badly when confronted with a failed foreign policy venture or military defeat. It would be well to remember this when assessing Putin’s grip on power, and what this crisis may ultimately portend for the Russian Federation. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Ian Williams writes: To this end, Western defense industrial capacity for everything from air defense interceptors to precision-guided munitions needs to be scaled up and new supply chains built. This process will not only help the United States maintain the steady support that Ukraine needs to win the war as quickly as possible, but it will also leave the United States and its allies in a stronger position to deter and defeat future threats. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Can Kasapoğlu writes: There is one final wildcard scenario worth considering. The content of Prigozhin’s deal with the Kremlin is unknown. The Wagner chief waged an armed mutiny in Russia, drove hundreds of kilometers to the gates of the capital, downed seven aircraft, and got away with it. He has several potential allies within the regime. Thus, it remains possible that Putin agreed to a major transfer of power in his deal with Prigozhin. – Hudson Institute


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would drop the most controversial part of his plan to remake the country’s court system, pushing ahead with legislation stripped of a provision that would have given the national legislature the power to overturn rulings by the Supreme Court. “It’s out,” Netanyahu said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that also touched on relations with the U.S., his decision not to supply weapons to Ukraine and his concerns about deepening ties between Russia and Iran. – Wall Street Journal 

Dozens of Israeli air force reservists said Wednesday they’ll refuse to show up for duty if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government moves ahead with a contentious plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary. – Associated Press

Turmoil in the occupied West Bank, where violence between Jewish settlers and Palestinians is spiraling, is making Israel’s goal of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia “a lot tougher, if not impossible,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Israel’s defence minister condemned rampages by groups of Jewish settlers in Palestinian towns and villages in recent days as his top general warned that officers could not stand by and allow attacks which have drawn strong U.S. censure. – Reuters 

Two prominent critics of the Israeli government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary are being investigated by a law enforcement task force set up by Itamar Ben-Gvir, the extreme-right national security minister. – Financial Times

Israel Police arrested 15 Palestinians on the Temple Mount under suspicion of displaying photos of terrorists and the flags of Palestinian terrorist movements, including the Hamas terrorist movement, after the Wednesday morning Eid al-Adha prayer, according to Jerusalem police. – Jerusalem Post

The UN Secretary-General’s new report on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) welcomed letters and “practical measures” from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). – Algemeiner

Outgoing United States Ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, says he regrets a recent tweet in which he equated the murder of Israeli civilians by Arab terrorists to deaths caused in IDF anti-terror operations. – Arutz Sheva

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is discussing the possibility of declaring itself bankrupt due to its difficult financial situation, Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported on Wednesday. The closure of a large number of government offices and instability in the West Bank are behind this decision. – i24news

The IDF’s Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi stated on Wednesday that any officer who stands by as “an Israeli citizen” torches a Palestinian house, “cannot be an officer.” – Haaretz

The first six months of Benjamin Netanyahu’s sixth term as premier saw a significant drop in the number of visits by senior Israeli officials to Arab countries, compared to the first six months of the Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid government. Netanyahu visited only one Arab country (Jordan) during the period, while Bennett in his first six months traveled to the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt. – Haaretz

Editorial: As Netanyahu prepares for his trip to China, he will face close scrutiny. Critics of Israel will perceive this as an opportunity to voice their concerns. The prime minister must, therefore, effectively articulate his global perspective and explain how engaging with Beijing benefits Israel’s relationships and strategic interests. – Jerusalem Post

Shlomo Ne’eman writes: The real victory over the enemy is to take away the hope for the establishment of an Arab state in our territory. Terrorism seeks to achieve victory over us not on the battlefield, but in the political arena. Our answer must be to make decisions based on our own national security and ultimately victory. – Jerusalem Post

Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger writes: The US commercial industries benefit in a similar way through some 250 research and development centers in Israel, owned by US high-tech giants, and leveraging Israel’s brainpower for the benefit of the US commercial industries. – Arutz Sheva

Saudi Arabia

Two people were killed when an armed man exchanged fire with Saudi Arabian security authorities near the U.S. consulate building in Jeddah, leading to the deaths of the gunman and a security guard, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday. – Reuters

It may not be possible for Israel to establish relations with Saudi Arabia in light of the violence in Judea and Samaria, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Council of Foreign Relations on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Nicholas Kristof writes: Whitson notes one difference between Saudi Arabia and other dictatorships: Russia, China and Iran don’t ask us to arm them or protect them, yet M.B.S. insists that we do all this for him — and so far, we’ve gone along. If we have learned anything from a quarter-century of miscalculations with Putin, it should be that thuggish dictators are unreliable partners. – New York Times

Middle East & North Africa

Israel and Egypt have in recent weeks held security talks with the participation of senior officers on the subject of the lessons that need to be gleaned from the recent shooting attack, in which an Egyptian policeman crossed the border and murdered three IDF soldiers. – Arutz Sheva

U.S. Central Command launched an official investigation into a May 3 drone strike in Syria that may have resulted in the death of a civilian, the combatant command confirmed to Military Times. “The review of the allegations of a civilian casualty from the U.S. Central Command May 3, 2023, strike in Syria has transitioned to an AR 15-6 investigation,” Maj. John Moore, a CENTCOM spokesperson, said in a statement. – Military Times 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iron Dome was developed to stop Iranian-backed rocket fire from Lebanon and Gaza. Ukraine now wants Iron Dome. European countries are rushing to acquire new defense technology and looking to the Middle East to see what works. Turkey developed cheap armed drones and has used Syria and Iraq as an area for target practice to increase sales. All of this is evidence that while some policymakers want to be done with the Middle East, the region is still like the scene in Godfather III, it continues to drag people back in. – Jerusalem Post

Tom Rogan writes: Foreign adversaries beyond Russia share that interest. China will be particularly keen to know how Harris might act on matters such as Taiwan. They’ll want to know whether she values trade relations or the prioritization of human rights. […] Iran will want to know if Harris would accept its pursuit of a nuclear weapons program or favor appeasement-minded diplomacy. Same with North Korea. Top line: Biden is still the president, but every moment of confusion fuels further foreign attention on his deputy. – Washington Examiner 

Ilan I. Berman writes: Against the backdrop of a new continental war in Europe, Western governments can be counted on to try at all costs to avoid a Latin American-style meltdown on the part of NATO’s second strongest military member. But it’s already clear that, more so than anything else he attempts, Turkey’s economic health will determine whether Erdogan’s third term—and his larger legacy—is seen as a success or a failure. – Newsweek

Korean Peninsula

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Thursday picked a conservative scholar and an outspoken critic of North Korea’s human rights record as the country’s new unification minister handling relations with Pyongyang in a cabinet reshuffle. – Reuters 

But little changed for the majority of the 26 million people trapped in North Korea. The economy had never really recovered from the end of Moscow’s patronage after the Soviet Union collapsed, or from the devastating famine which followed in the 1990s. It had been years since the state had provided meaningful support to its people. – Financial Times

Japan and South Korea agreed to restore a foreign currency swap deal after its last agreement expired eight years ago, adding to signs that the two nations are improving their relations on multiple fronts including defense, trade and finance. – Bloomberg

South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has signed a contract worth KRW86.7 billion (USD66 million) with local firm Hancom Lifecare to procure ground laser target designators (GLTDs). – Janes


The Chinese spy balloon that floated over the U.S. early this year was loaded with American-made equipment that helped it collect photos, videos and other information, U.S. officials said, citing preliminary findings from a closely held investigation. – Wall Street Journal 

The United States and China agreed to consider expanding commercial flights between the two countries to improve people-to-people contact, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she hopes to travel to China to reestablish contact with Beijing, acknowledging there were disagreements between the two countries, MSNBC on Wednesday reported her saying during an interview. The are heightened tensions and pessimism in the U.S.-China relationship over national security issues, including Taiwan, Russia’s war in Ukraine, growing U.S. export bans on advanced technologies and China’s state-led industrial policies. – Reuters 

China has passed a sweeping foreign policy law that bolts together a slew of existing tools to counter Western powers, and extends President Xi Jinping’s combative stance on asserting Beijing on the world stage. – Bloomberg 

The US must lift sanctions against China if the Biden administration wants high-level communication between the Chinese and American armed forces, a Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday. “The US side knows the reason for difficulties in its military-to-military relations with China — it actually imposed unilateral sanctions on China,” Liu Pengyu, the spokesman for China’s Embassy in Washington, said in a briefing on Wednesday. – Bloomberg

China signed cooperative arrangements with “friend” New Zealand on Wednesday during a visit by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins aimed at improving market access for a Western country that has long maintained a conciliatory approach towards China. – Reuters

Alan Beattie writes: China envy is a natural sentiment for US and European policymakers. Having lots of levers to pull and arbitrary cash to disperse is always more fun than setting rules and running multilateral systems. But democracies without persistent surpluses to recycle will tend to be at a loss at that game compared with autocracies that do. When it comes to investment and trade, the rich world’s comparative advantages are openness and consistency. They should pursue them. – Financial Times

South Asia

The World Bank approved $700 million in budgetary and welfare support for Sri Lanka on Thursday, the biggest funding tranche for the crisis-hit island nation since an International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal in March. – Reuters 

The United States expects a greater partnership with India in the South China Sea, where China has been at the center of numerous territorial disputes with regional countries, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Sri Lanka’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a program to restructure the country’s staggering domestic debt as the island nation struggles to emerge from an economic crisis that has engulfed it since last year. – Associated Press

Pakistani security forces Wednesday killed an Islamic State group commander and two other militants during a raid on a militant hideout near the border with Afghanistan, the military said. – Associated Press


The former premier of Australia’s most populous state engaged in corrupt conduct involving another lawmaker with whom she was in a secret romantic relationship, a years-long corruption inquiry that examined business dealings with China said on Thursday. – Reuters 

An active duty missile corvette of the Indian Navy is on its way to Vietnam as a gift, the first warship given by India to any country. The domestically built corvette INS Kirpan left India’s east coast on Wednesday, the navy said. India and Vietnam have strengthened their ties in recent years, with a special focus on defence, as both countries are concerned over an increasingly assertive China. – Reuters 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, a devoted and very active user of Facebook — on which he has posted everything from photos of his grandchildren to threats against his political enemies — said Wednesday that he will no longer upload to the platform and will instead depend on the Telegram app to get his message across. – Associated Press

Editorial: This is a crucial time for Thailand. The country’s military rulers need to know that the world, including the United States, is watching. The only democratic way forward is for the generals to step aside and let the clear winner of the May election form the next government. – Washington Post


Ahead of an annual NATO summit scheduled for next month, the leaders of alliance members Estonia and Poland on Wednesday stressed the need for vigilance over the Wagner mercenary group’s potential relocation to Belarus. – New York Times

Protesters angry after police shot a 17-year-old boy dead set cars and buildings ablaze in Paris suburbs and unrest spread to some other French cities and towns Wednesday night and Thursday morning, despite increased security efforts and the president’s calls for calm. – Associated Press

A Belarusian opposition activist says that he has provided the International Criminal Court with materials allegedly detailing President Alexander Lukashenko’s involvement in the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Belarus, accusations angrily rejected by Minsk. – Associated Press

London’s Court of Appeal will rule on Thursday if a British plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is lawful, in a verdict that could make or break Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to stop migrants from arriving by boat. – Reuters 

The Czech government called Russia a direct threat and China a systemic rival in a new security strategy, approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, reflecting what it called the end of a period of peace and stability in Europe seen since the end of the Cold War. – Reuters 

Denmark supports EU membership for Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the western Balkans but “geopolitical circumstances” did not justify skating over governance reforms, Finance Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen told the Financial Times on Thursday. – Reuters 

NATO allies have accelerated efforts to convince Turkey to lift its opposition to Sweden joining NATO but whether they will have success before leaders hold a summit in Lithuania next month is unclear, a Western official said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Britain will on Thursday introduce a law to prevent British lawyers from advising Russian companies on certain business deals, in an attempt to exert further pressure on Russia. – Reuters 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted Wednesday that right-wing populism won’t gain the upper hand in his country, days after a far-right party won control of a county administration for the first time since the Nazi era. – Associated Press

Hungary’s parliament postponed ratifying Sweden’s NATO accession bid on Wednesday to its autumn legislative session. – Associated Press

The EU is preparing to offer “future security commitments” to Ukraine as the bloc’s leaders seek to agree long-term pledges for Kyiv against the backdrop of rising instability in Russia and entrenched battle lines in the war. – Financial Times

Switzerland has vetoed a plan to export nearly 100 mothballed Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, citing neutrality laws for a decision made just as Kyiv’s counteroffensive enters a decisive phase. – Financial Times

EU countries are bickering over granting billions in new funds to deal with migration as asylum applications soar and backlogs pile up at the Continent’s borders. Germany, which received a quarter of all EU asylum applications in 2022, specifically wants to “revitalize” the EU’s ties with neighboring Turkey, according to a senior German official — a nod to the last time the bloc faced such levels of migration. – Politico 

With the NATO summit set for July 11-12, the focus will rightly be on Ukraine as member states debate a potential path for the country to join the alliance. But the alliance should look beyond Ukraine and turn a mirror on itself to consider how its own front-line states would fare in a Russian invasion. – Defense News

Barney Jopson writes: Although the PP is a devotee of the UN’s decolonisation framework, Gibraltarians trying to be hopeful say party leader Feijóo — a self-described moderate and pro-European — would find it hard to tear up what Spain has, in lockstep with Brussels, negotiated with the UK so far. Picardo himself is still optimistic that a treaty can be sealed. – Financial Times

William C. Greenwalt and Charles Rahr write: The U.S. can play a significant part in helping NATO’s front-line states defend themselves with the same fervor, and similar weaponry, that the Ukrainians are using to repel Russia. As we have learned time and time again, it is much cheaper to deter aggression than it is to fight a war. Nothing would help NATO’s deterrence credibility more than loans, leases and the transfer of American weapons to those countries directly in harm’s way. – Defense News 

Mark Temnycky writes: Exploring these issues will take time, and resolving the challenges will not be easy. But the rewards and benefits of pursuing such a strategy would be great. Working with the defense sector, governments could develop the interchangeability of equipment across NATO and reduce the time required to make vital hardware available. The possibilities for reform are endless. Innovative minds need to find and implement them. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Irene Entringer García Blanes, Shauna N. Gillooly, Ella Kuhnhenn, Susan Peterson, and Michael J. Tierney write: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year renewed interest in enlarging NATO, and Finland and Sweden applied for membership a few months later. Finland finalized its membership in the organization in April, effectively doubling the size of NATO’s border with Russia. As for Sweden, Hungary and Turkey continue to block its accession, but a deal may be possible before NATO’s self-imposed deadline of July 11. – Foreign Policy 


Nigeria’s elections early this year were marred by problems that reduced public trust in electoral processes, European Union observers said in a final report, urging reforms to enhance transparency and accountability. President Bola Tinubu won the disputed February vote, whose result is being challenged in court by his two main rivals. – Reuters 

Air strikes and anti-aircraft fire rattled parts of Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Wednesday, residents said, despite both the military factions that have been battling each other since mid-April declaring truces for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. – Reuters 

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius told broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday that Germany is looking to pull its soldiers out of Mali faster, though still in an ordered manner, in light of the planned end of a United Nations peacekeeping mission on June 30. – Reuters 

A South African court on Wednesday ruled against the government and ordered it to reconsider its decision to terminate the special permits allowing nearly 200,000 Zimbabwe nationals to live and work in the country. – Associated Press

Bobby Ghosh writes: The Biden administration made a good start with new sanctions announced on Tuesday against four companies involved in Wagner’s gold mining and distribution operations. It also sanctioned another Wagner employee in Mali, “for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Prigozhin.” Next, it should target regime officials and organizations that are enabling Wagner’s economic activities. – Bloomberg

The Americas

A U.N. human rights expert said Wednesday that a specialized international force is needed to help fight gang violence in Haiti and that a weapons embargo should be implemented immediately. – Associated Press

Assailants tossed at least one explosive device at a police station in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, police said Wednesday, as a massive search continued for 16 police employees abducted at gunpoint on a local highway. – Associated Press

Chile temporarily took over leadership of Latin America’s Pacific Alliance on Wednesday after a spat that saw Mexico refuse to hand over the rotating presidency of the trade bloc to Peru. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has labeled Peruvian President Dina Boluarte’s administration as “spurious” after she took over from her leftist predecessor Pedro Castillo, who was ousted and arrested in December. – Reuters 

After a protracted battle to win control of Grupo Nutresa, Colombian billionaire Jaime Gilinski is banking that his deal partner, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will help turn the Latin American food company into a global player. – Financial Times

A victory for Venezuela’s autocratic president Nicolás Maduro in elections next year would further destabilise a region already facing waves of migration from the country’s economic collapse, the frontrunner in the race to lead the opposition has said. – Financial Times


A California-based law firm is launching a class-action lawsuit against OpenAI, alleging the artificial-intelligence company that created popular chatbot ChatGPT massively violated the copyrights and privacy of countless people when it used data scraped from the internet to train its tech. – Washington Post

The Biden administration is contemplating new export controls on chips for artificial intelligence, as Washington increases its efforts to make it harder for China to obtain technology with military applications. – Financial Times

The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the National Cyber Director released a memorandum on Tuesday outlining five cybersecurity budget priorities for federal departments and agencies for fiscal year 2025 consistent with the U.S. National Cybersecurity Strategy. – CyberScoop


Solid majorities of Americans support providing weaponry to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia and believe that such aid demonstrates to China and other U.S. rivals a will to protect U.S. interests and allies, according to a Reuters/Ipsos survey. – Reuters 

The US government approved the potential sale to Poland of Patriot missile defense equipment valued at as much as $15 billion, as Warsaw seeks to bolster its own security and that of NATO’s eastern flank amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Congress is ratcheting up legislative efforts to accelerate the lengthy U.S. Foreign Military Sales process mere weeks after the Pentagon released a series of its own proposals to help untangle the byzantine system. – Defense News