Fdd's overnight brief

June 30, 2022

In The News

Russia & Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia completed what Kyiv said was the largest exchange of prisoners since Moscow invaded in February, as Russian forces continued their push to encircle Lysychansk in the east and the U.S. outlined its biggest military expansion in Europe since the Cold War. – Wall Street Journal

NATO declared Russia the “most significant and direct threat” to its members’ peace and security on Wednesday and vowed to strengthen support for Ukraine, even as that country’s leader chided the alliance for not doing more to help it defeat Moscow. – Associated Press

The lower house of Russia’s parliament on Wednesday approved the critical second reading of a proposed law that would allow the banning of foreign news media in response to other countries taking actions against Russian news outlets. – Associated Press

A sanctions task force of leading Ukraine allies has frozen more than $330 billion in financial resources owned by Russia’s elite and the central bank since Moscow’s troops invaded, the group announced Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

Russia said on Wednesday that restrictions imposed by Norway were blocking goods for Russian-populated settlements on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, and threatened unspecified “retaliatory measures” unless Oslo resolves the issue. – Reuters

The U.N. atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would respond in kind if NATO deployed troops and infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the U.S.-led military alliance. – Reuters

David Ignatius writes: If Ukraine can stop Russia on the battlefield, it will have to decide eventually what kind of settlement it wants — since an unconditional surrender by a nuclear-armed Russia is unlikely. But that diplomatic moment is probably a long way off. This is Ukraine’s war to fight. But NATO needs to plan its strategy as if the alliance’s own credibility and survival were at stake. – Washington Post

Adam Taylor writes: But while Moscow’s frustrated military campaign in Ukraine has undermined preconceived conception’s about Russian military strength, it may simultaneously suck attention away from the far greater long-term threat in China. – Washington Post

Max Boot writes: From the Western perspective, there is no alternative but to keep sending far more weaponry and ammunition to Ukraine. There will be no peace until either Russia or Ukraine is defeated — and we had better hope it’s not Ukraine. Russia’s strike on the Kremenchuk shopping mall, using precision weapons to kill the innocent, is a reminder of the stakes involved: The Russians stand for barbarism and despotism, while the Ukrainians fight for democracy and self-determination. – Washington Post

Jason Pack writes: Now, however, a combination of mutual distrust, sanctions and Ukraine-centred priorities threaten to make genuine collaboration difficult to achieve. This dilemma epitomises our age of enduring global disorder. The onus is on western governments to differentiate between areas of mutual interest and those which require a co-ordinated riposte to Moscow. If they fail, it will be all of our children who suffer the consequences. – Financial Times

Edward S. Verona writes: However, sanctions will gradually degrade Russia’s ability to wage war on its neighbors as the production of military equipment declines and government revenues plummet. The big question is if the impact of sanctions on the Russian population will help contribute to the public’s growing disenchantment with their country’s leadership for embarking on an unnecessary war without a credible justification. – The Hill

Kirill Rogov writes: To recall the Soviet-West German “gas for pipes” deal is to remember that the conflict between communist China and the USSR was, for the west, a geopolitical windfall — one of the most important gains the US and its European allies made during the cold war. The Kremlin’s confrontation with the west today is turning the tables. As the new rivalries of the 21st century take shape, it represents the most valuable strategic gain that has yet come China’s way. – Financial Times

Michael Brenner writes: The fate of today’s Jewish politicians in Europe will most likely not be as tragic as Eisner’s, Rathenau’s and Luxemburg’s. But as the Russian attacks on Zelensky demonstrate, in times of conflict, the Jewish background of a leader can be used as part of a broader political and wartime strategy of defamation. This latest version, originating in the Kremlin, is just a new, perfidious variant of the old virus called antisemitism. – Times of Israel

Karolina Hird, Frederick W. Kagan, George Barros, and Grace Mappes write: While ISW cannot independently confirm the status of control of Dementiivka, control of individual settlements north of Kharkiv City along the frontline is likely highly contested. Russian forces additionally fought for control of Velyki Prokhody, Tsupivka, Pytomnik, and Ruska Lozova and shelled areas of Kharkiv City and surrounding settlements.[25] Continued battles for control of such settlements to the north of Kharkiv City suggests that while the Kremlin claims to be prioritizing the capture of the Donbas, it also seeks to regain control of Ukrainian territory outside Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. – Institute for the Study of War

Aaron Reich writes: Simply put, it seems Russia has suffered from inaccuracy regarding its long-range missile strikes. This may very well have been what happened with other notable instances of Russian missiles striking civilian targets. – Jerusalem Post


Indirect talks between Iran and the U.S. on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal ended without a breakthrough Wednesday, with no date set for negotiations to continue. – Wall Street Journal

An Iranian border guard was killed in an “incident” in the country’s southeast at a border crossing with Afghanistan, Iran’s foreign ministry said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

Firas Elias writes: It is true that there are recent regional efforts from Kadhimi to bring Iran and the Gulf—and specifically Saudi Arabia—closer together. But the continuing drone and missile attacks on U.S. bases conducted by Iranian-aligned militias—some of which are connected to the Shia Coordination Framework—make clear that the United States could soon find itself in a difficult situation in Iraq given this most recent turn of regional and international events. Depending on how the Shia Coalition Framework proceeds on government formation moving forward, the United States may need to rethink its approach in Iraq. – Washington Institute

David Albright and Sarah Burkhard write: Overall, this finding raises further questions about the status of Iran’s bellows efforts, including whether Iran is in fact making maraging steel bellows, and if so, where it is sourcing the maraging steel. Is it produced domestically or imported? – Institute for Science and International Security

Salem Alketbi writes: There are signs that Tehran is speaking more boldly about its deterrent capabilities and developing military sophistication that it believes can save it from a military strike, whether by Israel, the US, or both, using drones, an arsenal of ballistic missiles and proxies, which pose a grave threat to the security of Israel and the Gulf States. – Jerusalem Post


Syria said Wednesday it will recognize the “independence and sovereignty” of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions and contacts will be established to set up diplomatic relations. – Associated Press

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday announced the end of diplomatic ties between Kyiv and Damascus after Moscow ally Syria recognised the independence of eastern Ukraine’s two separatist republics. – Agence France-Presse

Syrian forces conducted a missile strike on a vehicle carrying members of a Turkey-backed armed opposition faction in a rebel-held part of the country’s north Wednesday, opposition activists said, and nine gunmen were killed. – Associated Press


Pro-government Turkish media lauded a deal to allow Finland and Sweden to join NATO as a triumph for President Tayyip Erdogan, saying on Wednesday he had wrested concrete gains from the West in the country’s fight against terrorism. – Reuters

The Biden administration threw its support on Wednesday behind the potential sale of U.S. F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, a day after Ankara lifted a veto of NATO membership for Finland and Sweden. – Reuters

Turkey will renew requests for Sweden and Finland to extradite individuals it considers terrorists after the countries reached a deal over the Nordic nations’ NATO membership bids, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Wednesday. – Reuters


Israeli lawmakers voted early Thursday to dissolve parliament, marking the end of the first Israeli coalition government to include an independent Arab party and setting the stage for the country’s fifth general election in less than four years. – Wall Street Journal

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who led a broad but fragile coalition government that came unraveled barely a year after taking office, announced Wednesday that he will not run in upcoming elections. – Associated Press

Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian militant early Wednesday in the occupied West Bank during clashes that broke out during an arrest raid, Palestinian officials said. – Associated Press

Palestinian gunmen opened fire during clashes with IDF troops guarding worshipers at a Jewish shrine in West Bank early Thursday, lightly wounding three Israelis. – Times of Israel

Overnight, IDF, ISA and Israel Border Police forces conducted counterterrorism activities in a number of locations in Judea and Samaria, including the towns of Qarawat Bani Hassan, Deir Abu Masha’al, Abu Shukhaydam, Arraba and Anabta. – Arutz Sheva

Kan reports that Hamas has agreed in principle to allow an Israeli civilian to enter Gaza in an attempt to negotiate for a prisoner exchange deal. – Arutz Sheva

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency placed six employees on leave this week after the pro-Israel advocacy group UN Watch published a report showing they had written posts in support of violence and the Hamas terror group. – Times of Israel

Danielle Pletka writes: Does targeted killing solve major foreign-policy challenges? Rarely. Then again, from Israel’s perspective, diplomacy has also failed to unravel its thorniest problems. Rather, Israel’s remarkable prowess in overt and shadow wars has—perhaps counterintuitively—helped persuade both its neighbors in Egypt and Jordan and its new friends in the Gulf of the wisdom of setting aside old differences. – Foreign Policy

Walter Bingham writes: Only Netanyahu has the skill to negotiate a comprehensive policy to prevent Iran from becoming a menacing nuclear power and to ensure the backing of the United States, should Israel have to go it alone. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt will receive a $500 million loan from the World Bank to help finance its wheat purchases as prices skyrocket because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the bank said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog met with Jordan’s King Abdullah this week, a spokesperson for the president said on Wednesday. – Reuters

A car bomb targeting a top provincial security official in the southern Yemen city of Aden killed at least six people Wednesday and wounded eight others, Yemeni officials said. – Associated Press

The United States’ ambassador to Libya warned rival actors on Wednesday against using the country’s oil wealth as a political “weapon”, amid an internal blockade that has slashed output since April. – Agence France-Presse

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Jordan, Egypt and Qatar may be open to Iran, and even the Saudis are working on reconciliation – but none of them want the Iranian system that is imposed on Baghdad to harm their security. Similarly, Turkey wants to work with Iran on some issues, but doesn’t want to be harmed by the chaos that the Iranian regime is spreading. – Jerusalem Post

Robert Satloff writes: After all our country has been through these past twenty-one years, isn’t the real moral imperative not to shun MBS but to do everything in your power as President to ensure that the Saudi Arabia of tomorrow is definitively, conclusively, and irretrievably different than the Saudi Arabia of the past? – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

The leaders of the United States, South Korea and Japan on Wednesday expressed deep concern over North Korea’s missile tests and said they would cooperate more closely to address the threat posed by Pyongyang. – Reuters

South Korea’s 2019 decision to deport without legal process two North Korean fishermen suspected of murdering their shipmates violated human rights principles, a U.N. investigator said on Wednesday, after prosecutors reopened the case. – Reuters

A high-resolution satellite image acquired on June 24, 2022, clearly details the current observable status of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility. There is no new activity at Tunnel No. 3. This is expected because we assess North Korea has finished all preparations for conducting a nuclear test at this tunnel. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Donald Kirk writes: Kim is aware of the punishment that awaits his regime if he were to fire a missile or explode a warhead for any purpose other than testing. We should recognize the latest meetings of his party’s military commission for what they were — sound and fury signifying nothing other than another stab at shocking his foes into compromise and concessions. The proper response should be to expose his bold words as hollow nonsense. – The Hill


On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to travel outside mainland China for the first time since the start of the pandemic to attend the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule. – Washington Post

The U.S. Commerce Department added five Chinese companies to an export blacklist for allegedly helping Russia’s military despite U.S. and allied efforts to cut off Russia’s access to technology following its invasion of Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

NATO has for the first time singled out China as one of its strategic priorities for the next decade, warning about its growing military ambitions, confrontational rhetoric toward Taiwan and other neighbors, and increasingly close ties to Russia. – Associated Press

Chinese university students have been lured to work at a secretive technology company that masked the true nature of their jobs: researching western targets for spying and translating hacked documents as part of Beijing’s industrial-scale intelligence regime. – Financial Times

China’s domestically made Fujian aircraft carrier, its third, which was launched on June 17, 2022, is equipped with electromagnetic catapults and arresting devices. Commenting on the Fujian, renowned journalist Hu Xijin wrote in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece Global Times that aircraft carriers are not only “the most convenient punching fist of a great power,” but also “a symbol of national will and strategic deterrence.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

On June 23-24, China hosted the 14th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit. The theme of the virtual summit was “Foster High-Quality BRICS Partnership, Usher in a New Era for Global Development.” Commenting on the summit, the CCP mouthpiece media outlet Global Times wrote that “the U.S. and the West are forming small circles… while emerging and developing countries are actively advocating the practice of genuine multilateralism, openness and inclusiveness, as well as cooperation and win-win results.” – Middle East Media Research Institute

South Asia

The video — of two Muslim men killing a Hindu man on Tuesday in the state of Rajasthan because they said he had insulted the Prophet Muhammad — spread quickly in India. The authorities shut down the internet in the state over concerns that the case could kindle broader unrest. The men were arrested on terrorism charges, the police said. – New York Times

Sri Lanka’s strategic location has attracted outsized interest in the small island nation from regional giants China and India for more than a decade, with Beijing and its free-flowing loans and infrastructure investments widely seen as having gained the upper hand in the quest for influence. But Sri Lanka’s economic collapse has proved an opportunity for India to swing the pendulum back, with New Delhi stepping in with massive financial and material assistance to its neighbor. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s foreign minister called for an easing of Western sanctions against Afghanistan under the Taliban government, saying the basic functioning of the Afghan economy must not be endangered. – Reuters


Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was sworn into office on Thursday, sealing a family comeback that was decades in the making. – Washington Post

Taiwan on Wednesday rebuffed a complaint from the Philippines about live fire drills around a Taiwan-controlled island deep in the South China Sea, saying it had the right to do so and always gives issues a warning of its exercises. – Reuters

On June 23, 2022, the U.S. and Taiwan concluded the annual high-level three-day security talks, known as the “Monterey Talks,” in Washington D.C. China’s Defense Ministry has often expressed its long-held view regarding U.S.-Taiwan defense relations, urging the U.S. to stop arms sales to the country, sever military ties with it, and stop sending “wrong signals” to “Taiwan independence separatist forces.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

William Burke-White writes: Finally, the U.S. must not allow Kazakhstan and the region to be caught in the crossfire of the Ukraine war. Doing so will push Kazakhstan toward Beijing or Moscow. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s expressed commitment to Kazakhstan’s foreign minister to minimize the impact of sanctions is a start. Kazakhstan relies on Russian oil pipelines for exports and risks direct, chilling effects from energy sanctions. – The Hill


The U.S. will make its biggest military expansion in Europe since the Cold War, including its first permanent troop presence in Poland, as NATO prepares for two more members to join the alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

The conflict in Ukraine is driving a modernization of NATO weaponry, honing the alliance’s ability to face off against Russia and adding to the list of unintended consequences from Moscow’s invasion of its smaller neighbor. – Wall Street Journal

Norway is not breaching a century-old treaty covering the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard by blocking Russian cargo to the islands, the country’s foreign minister said Wednesday after Moscow threatened retaliatory measures. – Agence France-Presse

Poland’s president on Wednesday hailed a U.S. commitment to establish the 5th Army’s Headquarters in the country as the realisation of a long-held dream that would enhance its security by sending a clear signal of deterrence to Russia. – Reuters

Three Belarusian activists who were arrested for allegedly damaging railways in the country to disrupt Russian arms and troops supply to war-torn Ukraine may face the death penalty if convicted. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

For all its tough talk against Russia, the UK’s government is failing to enforce its promises to clean up dirty foreign money, a hard-hitting report by MPs said Thursday. – Agence France-Presse

NATO is putting Russia and any other “nuclear-armed peer-competitors” on notice that the trans-Atlantic alliance can and will retaliate against any nuclear attack. – Washington Examiner

The Israeli Defense Ministry will supply its Cypriot counterpart with personal protective equipment systems that will be provided to Cyprus’s military, according ot a new agreement signed on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: ​​The biggest disappointment is the relative lack of new deployments to NATO’s east by European countries. A White House fact sheet said those will be forthcoming, and they are important if Europe wants to sustain U.S. support for what is a shared burden. The world has become a much more dangerous place in the past year, and Western countries have to ramp up their military deterrent accordingly. – Wall Street Journal

Hal Brands writes: NATO will also need, and has signaled it will develop, enhanced rapid-response capabilities, such as prepositioned equipment larger forces can quickly take up in a crisis. The key is to create a capability that has a serious chance of frustrating an initial Russian assault until the cavalry can arrive and beat the invaders back — the sort of effective defense that bolsters deterrence by making it hard to imagine that aggression can succeed. – Bloomberg

Andreas Kluth writes: That said, the alliance deserves accolades. It is containing the kind of aggressor it was built for, and thereby keeping its allies as safe as they can be. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said it best. Putin wanted less NATO; instead, he’s getting more of it. Good. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: The era of hard choices has thus arrived. Retaining the U.S. nuclear deterrent and ground forces umbrella for NATO, Biden should recognize that the U.S. cannot do everything it wants everywhere it wants. China must be the deployment focus, and wealthy Europe must finally pick up the slack. – Washington Examiner


Life in Kinshasa was going well for Zawadi, a mother of two from Rwanda, until faraway fighting stoked Congolese anger against her country and videos of men with machetes prowling the city streets in search of Rwandans surfaced on social media. – Reuters

The U.N. special envoy for Congo warned Wednesday that the M23 rebel group has increasingly acted as a conventional army during escalating military action in the country’s volatile east and could threaten the U.N. peacekeeping force charged with protecting civilians. – Associated Press

Mali vowed on Wednesday to defy a United Nations Security Council call for the West African country to allow freedom of movement for peacekeepers to investigate human rights abuses. – Reuters

Regional leaders voiced alarm Wednesday over escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan in a disputed border area and appealed for dialogue to stem the crisis. – Agence France-Presse

The Americas

A panel investigating atrocities during Colombia’s epic civil war called for overhauling the country’s armed forces and critiqued the U.S.-backed war on drugs as part of its final report. The president-elect said he would consider the recommendations. – Wall Street Journal

Communist China is threatening one of Argentina’s most popular tourism attractions by building two dams on the Santa Cruz river, in the province of Santa Cruz, threatening glaciers and the area’s general biodiversity. – New York Sun

Amy Mackinnon and Robbie Gramer write: But Russian officials have also sought to blame the West for the food crisis as Moscow seeks to erode global support for Western sanctions. The invasion of Ukraine has placed many countries in the global south in a bind, as they have been reluctant to join Western efforts to isolate Russia, forced to balance their own economic and security ties with Moscow. – Foreign Policy


A number of institutions in Norway have been subjected to a so-called distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) cyber attack in the last 24 hours, the Norwegian NSM security authority said on Wednesday, blaming a “criminal pro-Russian group”. – Reuters

NATO announced plans Wednesday for a commitment to create a rapid response cyber force and to bolster military partnerships with civil society and industry to respond to cyber threats. – CyberScoop

The website of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos was hit by a cyberattack after publishing satellite images of the NATO summit building and other military command centers of NATO nations, Roscosmos press service head Dmitry Trugovets said Wednesday, according to RIA. – Jerusalem Post

North Korean hackers are most likely behind an attack last week that stole as much as $100 million in cryptocurrency from a U.S. company, three digital investigative firms have concluded. – Reuters

Israel accused the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah on Wednesday of conducting a cyber operation designed to disrupt a U.N. peacekeeping mission on the border between the countries, and threatened harsh Israeli retaliation against enemy hackers. – Reuters

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced changes to a cybersecurity directive for U.S. pipelines after backlash from industry experts and trade groups. – The Record

The deputy chief of IDF Unit 8200, “Col. U.,” on Wednesday said that his intelligence agency warned the United States of attempts to hack the country’s power plants in time to thwart the cyberattack. – Jerusalem Post


A flight test of a hypersonic missile system in Hawaii ended in failure due to a problem that took place after ignition, the Department of Defense said, delivering a fresh blow to a program that has suffered stumbles. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Marine Corps is seeking to better position itself to combat threats posed by propaganda, inaccurate information and digital influence campaigns waged by world powers such as China and Russia. – Defense News

The U.S. Space Force is poised to start drafting its acquisition strategy for next phase of medium and heavy launch services contracts amid a fresh push from the House Armed Services Committee to consider “new and innovative” procurement methods. – Defense News

As the US Navy (USN) and Lockheed Martin work through the installation of the company’s High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS) on guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88), the service and the company are also working on integration and developing concepts of operations (CONOPS) for the new weapon system. – Janes