Fdd's overnight brief

March 17, 2022

In The News


Officials from both Russia and Ukraine expressed cautious optimism Wednesday that peace talks were making progress toward ending almost three weeks of fighting across Ukraine. Washington Post  

Ukrainian officials accused Russia on Wednesday of bombing a theater where hundreds of displaced families have sought refuge in the besieged port city of Mariupol, part of a string of intense attacks that continued even as diplomats said they were making progress in peace talks. – Washington Post 

The Russian government may be headed for its first foreign debt default since the Bolshevik Party shocked Western investors in 1918 by refusing to repay the borrowings of Czar Nicholas II. – Washington Post 

In 1990, about 30,000 Russians braved the January frost to line up in Moscow’s Pushkin Square. The payoff for the hourslong wait was the first taste of burgers and fries from the country’s inaugural McDonald’s restaurant. – Wall Street Journal 

Ukraine said its military had launched a counteroffensive in its capital, Kyiv, and other key cities, as President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the U.S. Congress to provide more weapons and increase economic pressure on Russia. – Wall Street Journal 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing Congress on Wednesday from a capital being attacked by Russian artillery fire and missiles, delivered a stark new plea for American military aid, making a moral case to hundreds of gathered lawmakers that the world’s preeminent superpower must do more to prevent his nation’s destruction. – Washington Post 

When President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday, aired a video documenting the human toll of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, the images were so graphic they prompted an apology from a cable news anchor for having failed to warn viewers about what they were going to see. – Washington Post 

NATO defense ministers explored an ambitious new plan for the expansion of the alliance’s forces in Europe at a special meeting held in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss how to respond to the war in Ukraine without getting drawn into a wider conflict. – Washington Post 

In 36 days of fighting on Iwo Jima during World War II, nearly 7,000 Marines were killed. Now, 20 days after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia invaded Ukraine, his military has already lost more soldiers, according to American intelligence estimates. – New York Times  

Ukraine’s digital officials and some tech-savvy expatriates in the United States have been calling for Apple and Google to cut Russia off from their app stores and for security company Cloudflare to stop protecting Pravda and Russian war propaganda sites from state-backed and activist hackers. – Washington Post 

Koch Industries, the American manufacturing giant that employs 122,000 people across the world, said Wednesday it would not exit its operations in Russia because doing so would put its “employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good.” – Washington Post 

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin may be the most well-known former intelligence officer to be a head of state. Up until his disastrous miscalculation invading Ukraine, conventional wisdom held that Putin’s professional background conferred on him a perspective rarely enjoyed by senior political figures in great powers. – Washington Post 

International outrage over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grew on Thursday as U.S. and Ukrainian officials said civilians waiting in line for bread and sheltering in a theatre had been killed by Russian forces. U.S. President Joe Biden called Russian leader Vladimir Putin a war criminal in comments the Kremlin said were “unforgivable” as it insisted the war in Ukraine was “going to plan” amid talk of compromise at peace talks. – Reuters 

The U.N. Security Council is due to vote on Friday on a Russian-drafted call for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine, but diplomats say the measure is set to fail because it does not push for an end to the fighting or withdrawal of Russian troops. – Reuters 

The United States and its allies on Wednesday launched a multilateral task force to tackle Russian oligarchs, increasing cooperation on freezing assets as the West steps up pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters 

Despite three weeks of Russian bombardment, Ukraine has kept up a stiff defense of its cities by using Turkish-made drones to carry out pop-up attacks on the invaders with a lethal effectiveness that has surprised Western military experts. – Associated Press 

Vladimir Putin has vowed to raise Russia’s minimum wage and the salaries of all public sector workers as part of measures designed to cushion western economic sanctions triggered by his decision to wage war against Ukraine. – Financial Times 

Russia says a deal with Ukraine is looking more likely after the Ukrainian president said the country will likely not be admitted to NATO. – The Daily Beast 

Local Ukrainian staff of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv are pleading with the U.S. government for help and accusing State Department officials of backtracking on promises of support as they scramble to survive or escape the Russian invasion. – Foreign Policy 

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a resolution late Tuesday seeking investigations of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime for war crimes over the invasion of Ukraine.- Associated Press 

Ukraine and Russia have made significant progress on a tentative peace plan including a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal if Kyiv declares neutrality and accepts limits on its armed forces, according to five people briefed on the talks. – Financial Times 

Barring a breakthrough in slow-moving peace talks, Ukrainians’ mettle could be tested under the white heat of collective civilian punishment in ways it rarely has before. – Financial Times 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday, said the war in Ukraine must stop and Ankara would pursue diplomatic efforts to arrange a lasting ceasefire. – Reuters 

Editorial: The U.S. failed to deter Mr. Putin by merely threatening sanctions, then imposed sanctions only gradually after the invasion. […]It’s as if Mr. Biden is so wary of provoking Mr. Putin that he’s afraid what might happen if Ukraine won the war. The consequences will be far more dire for the U.S. if Mr. Putin conquers Ukraine. His troops will sit on NATO’s border and he’ll have shown the world he can invade nations as he wants despite global opposition. His ambitions won’t stop there. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: The key, then, is for the Biden administration to take bolder steps more quickly in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Zelensky and his people should not expect direct U.S. military engagement against Russia, but there are many options short of that deserving of Biden’s support. – Washington Examiner 

Editorial: Russia bears the ignominy of being the country with history’s longest default. The country finally paid off repudiated tsarist debt in 1996. It is not in Russia’s interest — or the world’s — for a repeat of such long-term damage. A non-negotiable first step to avoid such a fate must be to make peace. – Financial Times 

Zalmay Khalilzad writes: The current U.S. strategy has already failed Ukraine, but the worst is yet to come. Russia has been clumsy and has suffered for it, but there is no indication that Mr. Putin will back down and accept defeat. For the sake of the Ukrainian people, who have sacrificed so much already, the U.S. needs to do more to defend them and also work with Ukraine, Russia and others for a diplomatic settlement. – Wall Street Journal 

Daniel Henninger writes: In the rarest eclipse imaginable, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are in alignment on one thing: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shouldn’t be allowed to pull us into World War III. Sen. Marco Rubio has chipped in the same portentous thought. Beware wars to come is always a useful idea, but let’s hope America’s political leadership has a clearer view of what is happening in the here and now. – Wall Street Journal 

Henry Olsen writes: The United States should also prepare Ukraine for the long game. It should allow Ukrainians to come to America to begin training on U.S. weapons systems such as F-16s or the Patriot missile defense system, which would likely become the foundation for a postwar Ukrainian military. Ukrainian pilots and technicians cannot use sophisticated Western arms in this war because they need extensive training to employ. – Washington Post  

Hal Brands writes: Biden is correct that a conflict with Moscow would be horrible. But not the least of the paradoxes of this war is that taking U.S. intervention off the table entirely may tempt just the sort of Russian escalation that the president is, quite rightly, hoping to avoid. – Bloomberg 

Patty-Jane Geller writes: Nuclear weapons used to be considered a relic of the Cold War. Now, the West is learning that nuclear weapons are salient once more. NATO again must prepare to protect the West from use of the world’s most dangerous weapons. – FOX News 

Gregory Waters writes: A potential Syrian deployment to Ukraine does appear more likely now than it did two weeks ago. But it is important to be wary of the deluge of Syrian opposition — and now Ukrainian — rumors surrounding the topic. If Syrians are sent it will be a relatively small number of individuals, not entire military units; they will have little to no impact on the battlefield and they will have been lured to their death by lies and the mirage of financial stability. – Middle East Institute 

Rep. Michael Waltz writes: Should we fail to deter Putin from taking that next step, not only will the people of Ukraine continue to suffer mass atrocities, I fear China, North Korea and Iran will be next to push the bounds of their ruthlessness against sovereign neighbors. – FOX News 

James Jay Carafano writes: Putin will look for other ways to look powerful and threaten the West, to evade sanctions and rebuild his economy and to make himself a useful ally for China. Win, lose or draw, the West can’t drop its guard. Free Ukraine can also expect an international effort, on the level of the post-World War II Marshall Plan, to rapidly rebuild its shattered infrastructure, reintegrate displaced persons, and build up its depleted defenses. Such a plan would undoubtedly advance Ukraine’s hopes to see its nation one day whole, free, and prosperous. – FOX News 

Dalibor Rohac writes: In short, whether the president likes it or not, wars tend to upend domestic political dynamics. The administration will be judged both in the midterms and in 2024 not by whether it did the minimum necessary to help Ukraine and its embattled people while sticking with Biden’s campaign promise to keep the United States out of “forever wars” but whether it fully rose to the challenge of confronting Putin’s revanchism, which unchecked puts our entire system of alliances […]at risk. Here’s hoping Team Biden can choose wisely. – New York Post 

Alan Beattie writes: t’s not realistic to expect emerging markets en masse definitively to choose a European-American politico-economic camp over a Chinese one. The UN resolution condemning the invasion, although it passed overwhelmingly, received some significant abstentions in Africa and Asia, including India and South Africa as well as China itself. This isn’t a new cold war, or if it is then half the developing world will want to be in a new non-aligned movement. – Financial Times 

Tom Rollins writes: He is right: Russia is doing in Ukraine what it did for years in Syria. But that should be a source of reflection, an opportunity for renewed solidarity, among Europeans who now, whether through geographic proximity, news coverage, or just blinkered racism, can more fully appreciate the years of horror that Russia helped inflict on Syrians — and that Russia is now inflicting on Ukrainians. – Middle East Institute 


Iran has defied Western powers by converting some of its uranium enriched to near weapons-grade into a form less easily recovered, diluted and shipped out of the country, a report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Wednesday showed. – Reuters 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British national who was imprisoned in Iran in 2016, left the country on Wednesday, according to Iranian state media and the British government, as Tehran moves closer to reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers. – Wall Street Journal 

Iran, the U.S. and other world powers are nearing a deal to revive a 2015 agreement that curbs Tehran’s nuclear work in return for relief from international sanctions. – Wall Street Journal 

Iran fired a barrage of ballistic missiles into Iraq over the weekend, striking what it claimed was an Israeli target and leaving some analysts scratching their heads about what exactly precipitated the blitz and why Iraq. – New York Times  

Britain is looking at ways to pay a historic 400 million pound ($522 million) debt to Iran, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Wednesday, adding that she would not say if it had been settled already. – Reuters 

As the war in Ukraine rages on, diplomats trying to salvage the languishing 2015 Iran nuclear deal have been forging ahead with negotiations despite distractions caused by the conflict. They now appear to be near the cusp of a deal that would bring the U.S. back into the accord and bring Iran back into compliance with limits on its nuclear program. – Associated Press 

In a February 7, 2022 article titled “Shame on You, America!” in the Saudi daily Al-Madina, journalist Talal Al-Qashqari directs harsh criticism at the Biden administration for its decision to lift sanctions imposed on Iran by the previous U.S. administration. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said on Tuesday that he wants the Biden administration to submit any new nuclear agreement with Iran for congressional review “if it does meet the obligations” of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) — but said he plans to hold hearings even if it does not. – Jewish Insider 

The US believes that a possible deal with Iran is close, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday. “We do think the remaining issues can be bridged,” Price said in a press briefing. “We have made significant progress, we are close to a possible deal, but we’re not there yet.” – Jerusalem Post 

Russia may use the emerging Iran nuclear deal to preserve billions of dollars in nuclear trade as a loophole to Western sanctions against it for its Ukraine invasion, according to David Albright, president of the Institute of Science and International Security. – Jerusalem Post 

The Biden Administration should focus on preventing a nuclear Iran rather than wasting its energy worrying about West Bank settlements, Yesha Council head David Elhayani said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran’s foreign minister said Wednesday that two issues remain with the United States in paused negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. – Agence France-Presse 

The Biden administration is considering removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from a terror blacklist in return for a public commitment from Iran to de-escalation in the region, three Israeli officials and two U.S. sources tell me. – Axios 

Katherine Bauer and Patrick Clawson write: Iranians who want better relations with the West can still be heard today, but they will now find it more difficult to present the JCPOA as evidence that cooperation reaps more economic benefits than confrontation. – Washington Institute  


A year ago, Naftali Bennett was struggling for his political survival as Israel headed toward its fourth consecutive election. Today, the Israeli prime minister is at the forefront of global efforts to end the war in Ukraine. – Associated Press  

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was the lead mediator between Russia and Ukraine, according to three officials close to the talks, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday. According to the officials, the talks that were mediated by Bennett led to the first draft of the ceasefire agreement which is currently being discussed. – Jerusalem Post 

Photos and personal documents disclosing information on Mossad director David Barnea and his family were leaked in a Telegram channel called “Open Hands” on Tuesday, Walla reported. – Jerusalem Post  

Could the State of Israel purchase Greek islands in the Mediterranean? According to attorney Avri Steiner, the islands would become another Iron Dome amidst increasing ballistic threats from Iran. – Jerusalem Post 

Russia has blocked Israeli news websites in its continuing ban of media outlets amid its ongoing war in Ukraine. – Jerusalem Post 

As Israeli mediation efforts continued during the third week of Russia’s war in Ukraine, US Congressman Ritchie Torres (D-NY) suggested that the Jewish state could not afford to make an “enemy” of Moscow, in view of regional security challenges and Russia’s presence at the ongoing talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. – Algemeiner 

A group of ten Jewish members of the US House of Representatives sent an open letter on Wednesday to the secretary-general of Amnesty International, denouncing comments by the head of the NGO’s US branch that rejected Israel’s right to exist, which the lawmakers described as symptomatic of Amnesty’s hostile attitude toward Israel. – Algemeiner   

A diplomatic thaw between Israel and Turkey has created challenges for Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which counts on Ankara’s support, but could also offer it a more “trustworthy” middleman to deal with the Jewish state, experts say. – Agence France-Presse 

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides on Tuesday revealed several of his initiatives aimed at improving the West Bank economy, while also insisting that Palestinians are ultimately most interested in self-determination and cannot be “bought off” with plans requiring them to forgo political sovereignty. – Times of Israel 

Sever Plocker writes: Regarding the claim of maintaining good ties with Putin for the sake of safe keeping the border with Syria, some would say that this is a needless concern. Russia’s military and technological capabilities in this region are limited, close to non-existent, and definitely not enough to threaten Israel. – Ynet 

Arabian Peninsula

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to deliver a plea from the West: pump more oil. – Wall Street Journal 

The United States and Britain are ramping up pressure on Saudi Arabia to pump more oil and join efforts to isolate Russia, while Riyadh has shown little readiness to respond and has revived a threat to ditch dollars in its oil sales to China. – Reuters 

A United Nations appeal for Yemen Wednesday raised $1.3 billion, less than a third of what the organization had targeted to help the Arab world’s poorest country, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief announced. – Associated Press 

Yemen’s Houthi group said on Wednesday it would welcome talks with the Saudi-led coalition if the venue is a neutral country, including some Gulf states, and that the priority is lifting “arbitrary” restrictions on Yemeni ports and Sanaa airport. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

The crisis over control of executive power in Libya could lead to instability and parallel governments, the U.N. political affairs chief told the Security Council on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Police have broken up a militant cell linked to Islamic State in the southern Tunisian city of Tataouine, the interior ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Israel and Egypt have agreed to expand their aviation ties with a new direct route between Tel Aviv and the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh expected to launch in April, Israel’s prime minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Korean Peninsula

It’s about to be a volatile few months on the Korean Peninsula, just as much of the world is riveted on the crisis in Eastern Europe. – Washington Post 

A North Korean missile fired from its capital region exploded soon after liftoff in an apparent failed launch on Wednesday, South Korea’s military said, amid speculation that the North is preparing to launch its longest-range weapon in the most significant provocation in years. – Associated Press  

It is unclear if the apparent failure of a missile launch on Wednesday dealt a lasting blow to North Korea’s plans, but analysts say failures are an important part of any development programme and in the North’s case, have often hinted at progress in more indigenous designs. – Reuters 

More than 24 hours after a missile test reportedly ended in a fiery failure over Pyongyang on Wednesday, North Korea had yet to say anything about the incident. – Reuters 


In a recent exchange between U.S. and Chinese experts, the Chinese side, citing minor shifts in language, insisted that Beijing was distancing itself from Vladimir Putin’s war. – Washington Post 

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have charged five people with acting on behalf of the Chinese secret police to stalk, spy on and harass U.S. residents critical of Beijing, officials announced Wednesday. – Washington Post  

Washington has expelled another state-owned Chinese phone carrier from the U.S. market over national security concerns amid rising tension with Beijing. – Associated Press 

President Joe Biden set out to finally complete the “pivot to Asia,” a long sought adjustment of U.S. foreign policy to better reflect the rise of America’s most significant military and economic competitor: China. – Associated Press 

Beijing is preparing to make a concession on the disclosure of Chinese audit information in an effort to resolve an impasse threatening more than $2tn of shares in US-listed Chinese companies. – Financial Times 

South Asia

The Biden administration is allowing Afghans who have been residing in the United States to remain in the country legally for at least another 18 months, an attempt to provide them more stability as gaining permanent residency could take years. – New York Times  

India’s central bank is in initial consultations on a rupee-rouble trade arrangement with Moscow that would enable exports to Russia to continue after western sanctions restricted international payment mechanisms. – Financial Times 

Sri Lanka has begun talks with the IMF over a debt relief package after protests over a deepening economic crisis forced Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government into a policy U-turn. – Financial Times 


Taiwan held live fire drills in its northernmost territory on Wednesday, putting the spotlight on a remote island that is strategically located at a chokepoint near China – and potentially vulnerable to attack. – Reuters 

China’s government on Wednesday lambasted Taiwan’s humanitarian aid for Ukraine and sanctions on Russia as “taking advantage of other’s difficulties” after the island announced it was sending more funds donated by the public for refugees. – Reuters 

A court in Cambodia on Thursday convicted 21 people of treason and related charges for their nonviolent political opposition to the government several years ago. – Associated Press 

The main opposition organization in military-ruled Myanmar on Wednesday urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to act strongly to restore democracy in the Southeast Asian nation, saying that the international community should put sanctions and other pressures on the country’s generals. – Associated Press  


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday he welcomed any interest shown by Finland in joining NATO, a question that has gained more urgency since Russia invaded Ukraine. – Reuters 

A planned summit between China and the European Union should be canceled until Beijing shows whether it stands with Russia or the West over the conflict in Ukraine, a senior Lithuanian official said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Poland wants to buy MQ-9 Reaper drones from the United Statesin the near future and is eyeing further procurements at a later date amid rising security concerns three weeks into a Russian invasion of its neighbour Ukraine. – Reuters 

Ukrainian troops got a crash course in modern guerrilla warfare from the Central Intelligence Agency following Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea — training that US officials believe is helping Ukraine hold off the Kremlin now. – New York Post 

Editorial: The West is scrambling to improve its defenses, and this will be expensive after decades of neglect. But kudos to Germany for buying the fighter jet it needs immediately to deter aggression. If Europe is forced to confront the Russians in a fight, the hourly cost of the F-35 will not be top of mind. – Wall Street Journal 

Michael Barone writes: The leaders and peoples of Europe, suddenly alert to the need to strengthen their militaries, will take on responsibilities borne by the U.S. from the 1940s to the 1990s. Perhaps the West will set aside stringent climate policies based on models of the distant future that may prove no more valid than virologists’ COVID models of the recent past. – Washington Examiner 

Megan Greene writes: The good news is that, so far, the Russian war has united EU countries on the need for a robust fiscal response. If the authorities pick up the mantle, the EU and the eurozone can emerge from this crisis more unified and far more resilient. – Financial Times 


The U.N. Security Council extended the mandate for the 19,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in South Sudan for a year Tuesday, while demanding an immediate end to fighting in the country and political dialogue to advance a plan to prevent the world’s newest nation from returning to civil war. – Associated Press 

The ruling military junta in Mali has launched a procedure to suspend broadcasts by French state-funded international RFI radio and France 24 television, accusing the news outlets of reporting “false allegations” of abuse by the Malian army. – Reuters 

Angola’s kwanza is rallying because of an improving outlook for the economy of Africa’s second-biggest oil producer and the liberalization of its foreign-exchange regime, the nation’s central bank governor said. – Bloomberg 

The Americas

A Honduran Supreme Court judge ruled he would allow the extradition of former President Juan Orlando Hernández to face trial in New York on charges he helped smuggle tons of cocaine into the U.S. in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes that he used to finance his political career and turn one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries into a violent narco state. – Wall Street Journal 

Three Panamanian-flagged ships have been hit by Russian missiles in the Black Sea since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month, Panama’s Maritime Authority said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Canada announced on Wednesday it would be banning Belarusian aircraft from its airspace in response to their backing of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. – The Hill 

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is seeking meetings with political and business groups, and unions, among others, so that they can join negotiations alongside opposition politicians led by Juan Guaido, it said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

United States

U.S. troops’ exit from Afghanistan and Somalia has limited the United States’ ability to conduct counterterrorism operations against groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the American generals in charge of the Middle East and Africa told senators Tuesday. – Washington Post 

The U.S. customs agency says it is holding imported goods from Chinese sports brand Li Ning after an investigation indicated they were made by North Korean labor. – Associated Press 

Jonah Goldberg writes: The U.S. and our allies are doing nearly everything short of declaring a “hot war” on Russia for its immoral aggression against Ukraine. Things are not so tense with China, but there’s a broad consensus, particularly among Republicans, that “containing” China—to use a Cold War term—should become central to American foreign policy. And even many who disagree believe we are entering a new “Cold War” with China whether we want one or not. After all, sometimes wars, cold or hot, are not wars of choice. – The Dispatch 


U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the United States was offering an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine to combat Russia’s invasion, with the new package including drones and anti-aircraft systems. – Reuters 

While the jets may not change hands, the incident highlights the continued use of the Soviet-designed MiG-29 by NATO militaries, which is a logistical challenge and, increasingly, a geopolitical headache. – Business Insider 

NATO members said on Wednesday they would continue to help Ukraine fight against Russia as the alliance’s leader said Russia’s war is compelling them to increase their forces in Eastern Europe as they adapt to the “new reality.” – Business Insider 

John G. Ferrari writes: In 2021 alone, the United States and its armed forces were humbled by cyberattacks, watched their overmatch at the cutting-edge of conventional weaponry erode regarding China, and were crippled by a pandemic. […]The United States boasts a world-class—yet aging—nuclear deterrent as the anchor of its national defense strategy, yet advancing technologies have left the US vulnerable to new existential threats. – American Enterprise Institute