Fdd's overnight brief

March 23, 2023

In The News


Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, have agreed to meet soon and pave the way for the re-opening of embassies under a deal to re-establish ties, Saudi state news agency SPA said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Russia has become the largest foreign investor in Iran over the past year, according to Iranian officials, as the two heavily sanctioned nations have stepped up co-operation since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. – Financial Times 

A senior Israeli official told Axios Israel is monitoring Iran’s nuclear program and may take action if it enriches uranium above the 60% level. – Fox News 

Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, Johanna Moore, Brian Carter, and Nicholas Carl write: First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber discussed privatization in ambiguous terms on March 22, likely in response to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s demand for concrete action to improve the Iranian economy. […]Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Political Affairs Ali Bagheri Kani met with Armenian Foreign Affairs Minister Ararat Mirzoyan during an official visit to Yerevan, Armenia on March 22. – Institute for the Study of War 

Marc Greendorfer and Roz Rothstein write: The Ayatollahs in Tehran have described Israel as the small Satan, and the United States as the big one. They don’t hide their eagerness to destroy Israel before turning their sights towards the US. The findings in our new in-depth report about the Mapping Project should serve as a wake-up call for the FBI, Department of Justice, and other American security agencies regarding the threat of Iranian plots targeting the American homeland. The Iranian regime is preparing for the day after a potential Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities. And so should the US government. – Jerusalem Post 

Russia & Ukraine

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a likely 2024 Republican presidential candidate, sought to qualify his recent contentious remarks that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “territorial dispute” and not vital to U.S. interests. – Wall Street Journal

The war in Ukraine has accelerated the unraveling of the international arms-control architecture painstakingly constructed from the Cold War onward, heightening concern among experts that a new nuclear arms race could emerge as decades of restraint on the numbers of nuclear weapons collapses. – Wall Street Journal

European countries should detain Vladimir Putin and turn him over to the International Criminal Court if the Russian president visits their countries, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers Wednesday. – Washington Post 

Britain on Wednesday defended its decision to supply Ukraine with weapons made with depleted uranium, a day after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia falsely claimed the material had a “nuclear component.” – New York Times

The spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians said on Wednesday that Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church shared responsibility for the conflict in Ukraine but that he stood ready to help in Russia’s postwar “spiritual regeneration”. – Reuters

The West dislikes Russia and China’s independence and the coming decades will not be quiet as it will try to break Russia up into smaller and weaker states, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping for a two-day summit in Moscow this week. Here’s a look at the key outcomes. – Reuters  

The Russian-backed administration in Sevastopol said on Wednesday that it had suspended ferry routes around the port city, shortly after the city’s governor said a Ukrainian drone attack had been repelled by air defences. – Reuters  

Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund have agreed on a $15.6 billion loan package aimed at shoring up government finances severely strained by Russia’s invasion and leveraging even more support by reassuring allies that Ukraine is pursuing strong economic policies and fighting corruption. – Associated Press

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the powerful founder of mercenary group Wagner, is preparing to scale back his private army’s operations in Ukraine after Russian military chiefs succeeded in cutting key supplies of men and munitions, people familiar with the matter said. – Bloomberg

White House national security spokesman John Kirby called the pilot who downed a U.S. drone last week “an idiot” on Wednesday. The comment comes after Russia rewarded the pilot for downing the drone. – Washington Examiner

The White House on Wednesday condemned peace talks between China and Russia, saying Vladimir Putin “hasn’t taken his foot off the gas.” – Washington Examiner

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs announced it will convene a hearing on aid to Ukraine next Wednesday amid GOP infighting on the matter. – Washington Examiner

Andreas Kluth writes: Republicans and Democrats must understand what Europeans like Morawiecki grasp instinctively. The prospects for world order and peace will be decided in large part in Washington, no matter which party is in power. This also means that Ukraine’s survival as an independent nation could hinge on whom the GOP nominates for president. – Bloomberg

Riley Bailey, George Barros, Grace Mappes, Kateryna Stepanenko, Nicole Wolkov, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Russian forces conducted a limited drone and missile strike campaign in Ukraine overnight on March 21-22, indicating that Russian forces continue struggling with precision missile shortages. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) intends to increase the size of Russia’s air defense forces at a Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) collegium on March 22. – Institute for the Study of War 

Jason Blessing writes: US lawmakers are pushing to stand up civilian cyber reserves under the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. Ukraine offers real-time feedback on developing a formal cyber surge capacity under fire. The US and its European NATO allies have an important opportunity to both support Ukraine’s initiative and draw lessons for bolstering their own respective cyber reserve capacities. – American Enterprise Institute 

Kseniya Kirillova writes: Regardless, the fact is that there are now substantial émigré groups with continuing ties to Russia and with continuing influence there. This worries the Kremlin more than many in the West realize. […]For those it deems serious threats, that is those with influence and reach, the Russian authorities appear to be remembering with fondness the days of Stalin. As Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov have noted, “The Kremlin wants politically active exiles] to feel the crosshairs on their backs.” – Center for European Policy Analysis

Julia Davis writes: Most Russians are not overly religious, with church attendance sparse (only 6% attend church regularly.) Most propagandists, many of them raised in the atheist Soviet state, are not only irreligious, they openly ​ ​admit this, while at the same time peddling the idea of a holy war against Ukraine and the West. – Center for European Policy Analysis  

Amy J. Nelson writes: Today, he is using New START politically—to irritate, annoy, or otherwise upset the United States, and to curry favor domestically. In doing so, he has turned New START into a prop in his propaganda machine. While he fully comprehends strategic stability and the potential risks of fully withdrawing from New START, Putin will continue to play an arms control game with rules all his own. And the United States will have to adapt. – Foreign Policy 


Israel ratified a law on Thursday limiting the circumstances in which a prime minister can be removed, despite worries voiced by a government jurist that it may be meant to shield the incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu from any fallout from his corruption trials. – Reuters 

Poland will reinstate its ambassador to Israel, the Israeli foreign ministry said on Wednesday, after relations between the countries deteriorated when Warsaw introduced a law limiting the ability of Jews to recover World War Two properties. – Reuters 

Israel tried on Wednesday to calm international concern over its amending of a law that had ordered the 2005 evacuation of settlers from an area of the occupied West Bank, saying it had no intention of building new settlements there. – Reuters 

Days into Israel’s devastating war with Gaza militants in 2021, the Israeli army began deploying keyboard warriors to a second front: a covert social media operation to praise the military’s bombing campaign in the coastal enclave. – Associated Press

The Palestinians and Israel clashed over the future intentions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far right-wing government at a U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday, with the Palestinian U.N. ambassador pointing to an Israeli minister’s statement “denying our existence to justify what is to come.” – Associated Press 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said he would prevent the passage of a proposal by a powerful ally in his governing coalition to punish Christian proselytizing with jail time. – Associated Press

Israel’s transportation minister, Miri Regev, targeted the United Arab Emirates with a barb that sent her colleagues scrambling to protect relations with one of Israel’s most important Gulf Arab partners. – Washington Examiner

Despite the vast political differences between the United States and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new hardline government, the Biden administration made clear from the get-go in December that it was still interested in and committed to strengthening ties with Israel. – Times of Israel 

The Iron Dome air defense system shot down an unmanned aircraft belonging to the Hamas terror group flying over the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces said. – Times of Israel 

Editorial: Even if the prime minister disagrees with these sentiments, the Netanyahu of past governments would have been attuned to them and adjusted policy accordingly. The current Netanyahu, however, is not similarly attuned, and the result – as the summons of Herzog to the State Department attests – is bad for Israel-US ties. – Jerusalem Post 

Tovah Lazaroff writes: Sharon in his letter to Bush had unequivocally pledged to support two states. Then as the US pointed out on Tuesday, it violated that pledge. Biden has been the first president in decades not to immediately pursue an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, but it wants to hold open the option to do so. The Knesset on Tuesday might have taken a step to assuage a national trauma, but it also trashed the small shards of US and Palestinian hopes of a two-state peace process just as it seemed that progress was possible. – Jerusalem Post 

Troy O. Fritzhand writes: This in itself is the problem facing politics in Israel today: we have no leadership, so we look abroad for guidance. With this, do we really think we can write a constitution? I don’t think anybody believes that the current Knesset, coalition or opposition, contains even a handful of worthy people to enshrine a constitution into law. They can’t sit at a table together, never mind something bigger. If we had real leaders from both the coalition and opposition, they would tell Macron and other foreign leaders, “thanks for your input but we can deal with our own issues, just like you should deal with your own.” – Jerusalem Post 

Akiva Van Koningsveld writes: Terrorism against the Jewish state continues to evolve, with genocidal groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas making common cause to attract young Palestinians. The emergence of new terror militias that are centered around territory rather than political affiliation, like the Lions’ Den and the Jenin Battalion, increasingly poses a threat to Israeli security forces. – Algemeiner 

Nir Hasson writes: If we have a bit of luck, composure and good judgment, Ramadan can be what it is intended to be according to Muslim tradition, a month of kindness and serenity. But luck and composure and good judgment have been seriously lacking recently in Israel. – Haaretz

Tal Meidan writes: Women’s rights are always the first to be trampled with every shock to the system, but that’s not the only reason men should be supporting us now. […]I urge anyone who, to her regret but to our delight, has been infected by the bug of leadership and justice: Get up and take charge. This protest must give rise to the female leader whom the liberal camp craves so much. – Haaretz  

David Makovsky and Nickolay Mladenov write: Each of the parties at Sharm may have its own reasons for wanting to avoid another holiday explosion in the West Bank. Yet if the new Quintet is to become a durable framework for problem-solving during and beyond Ramadan, Israel and the PA will need to be convinced that the other side is committed to stabilization. And mutual actions, not just words, will be necessary to truly allay each other’s deepest doubts. – Washington Institute 

Nadav Pollak writes: Yes, Israel is currently focused on how to deal with an assortment of weighty problems at home. But it is precisely because of this domestic instability that signaling adversaries like Hezbollah is so important. By sending the right message, Israel can show that it is still a formidable force and should not be tested during this time. – Washington Institute 


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers on Wednesday that the State Department has been putting together a review of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and will share findings with Congress by mid-April. – Reuters 

The military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan convinced adversaries Washington was “feckless,” according to the commander who led the troops’ exit. – Washington Examiner

Cory Mills writes: Never has he been more wrong than in his handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The American people deserve answers about what went wrong, and my colleagues and I in Congress are going to make sure we get those answers. – Fox News 


A federal judge in New York ordered Iran’s central bank and a European intermediary on Wednesday to pay out $1.68 billion to family members of troops killed in the 1983 car bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon. – Reuters  

Lebanese security forces Wednesday fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters, mainly retired soldiers, who tried to break through the fence leading to the government headquarters in downtown Beirut. – Associated Press 

Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday broke his group’s silence on a blast on a highway in northern Israel last week, which was carried out by a man who infiltrated from Lebanon. – Times of Israel 

Saudi Arabia

A unit of Saudi Arabia’s investment fund and an Abu Dhabi-based company are planning to invest in a multi-billion dollar funding round for Elon Musk-led SpaceX, The Information reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the discussions. – Reuters 

Despite rising concern in Washington about China’s inroads into the Middle East, including its increasing ties to Saudi Arabia, the recent Chinese-brokered deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran does not appear to herald any significant changes in posture toward Riyadh — from either critics or supporters of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. – Jewish Insider  

Jon B. Alterman writes: This is likely the beginning of a new era of Saudi diplomacy, and it will mean much more work for the Saudis. Like most diplomacy, many of its wins are likely to be partial. But to a degree unseen in decades, the Saudis are stepping out on their own. – Center for Strategic and  International Studies 

Middle East & North Africa

After years of underinvestment in North Africa’s energy infrastructure, global oil-and-gas giants from Halliburton Co. and Chevron Corp. to Eni SpA are ramping up their presence in the region as demand from Europe grows. – Wall Street Journal 

Egypt’s Suez Canal economic zone said on Wednesday that it partnered with Abu Dhabi (AD) ports to develop several projects in ports within the zone. – Reuters 

The World Bank said on Wednesday it had approved a new $7 billion partnership agreement with Egypt for 2023-2027 with a focus on boosting private sector jobs, provision of better health and education services, and adaptation to climate change. – Reuters 

Former Turkish economy tsar Mehmet Simsek’s refusal to return to politics has left President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party scrambling to rebuild its economic credibility less than two months before landmark elections, insiders and analysts say. – Reuters 

The United States is “actively” working on re-establishing a diplomatic presence in Libya, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, although he declined to provide an exact time on when the U.S. embassy can be reopened. – Reuters 

German authorities have arrested a Syrian man accused of belonging to a unit of the Islamic State group in his homeland that kidnapped and killed opponents, prosecutors said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Jordan’s Parliament symbolically voted to expel Israel’s ambassador on Wednesday and the UAE expressed concern about events in Israel, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a crisis with regional allies. – Jerusalem Post 

Winthrop Rodgers writes: Without such a change in approach, Mamshai foresees “more division and fragmentation” and “the further decline of political freedoms, democratic values, and violation of human rights principles” in Iraqi Kurdistan. This would be a grave injustice for the Iraqi Kurdish people, who have made many sacrifices in the past 20 years in the fight against dictatorship and extremism in Iraq. – Foreign Policy 

Korean Peninsula

South Korean and U.S. troops launched their largest amphibious landing drills in years involving a U.S. amphibious assault ship, officials said on Thursday, a day after North Korea tested four long-range cruise missiles. – Reuters 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un does not appear poised to carry out a nuclear test during U.S.-South Korea military exercises, but the United States is staying vigilant, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

South Korea’s unification minister and senior Japanese government officials reaffirmed their close cooperation in response to North Korea’s escalating missile threats at a rare meeting on Thursday, a sign of a further thaw in relations that comes only a week after their leaders agreed to work past their troubled history and mend ties so they can better respond together to growing regional threats. – Associated Press


Long reluctant to inject itself into conflicts far from its shores, Beijing is showing a new assertiveness as Xi Jinping begins his third term as the country’s head of state, positioning China to draw like-minded countries to its side and to have a greater say on global matters. – Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin this week called the Power of Siberia pipeline, which carries Russian gas to China, the “deal of the century.” But Putin’s hopes of swiftly securing a sequel of the century — the giant Power of Siberia 2 — deflated over two days of talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week. – Washington Post 

In late 1978, China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping set in motion two major policy shifts that would change China and the world order in the decades to come. At a Communist Party meeting in December of that year, the leadership declared that China would turn its focus from political struggle to economic development. Within days, China and the United States announced that they would establish diplomatic relations. – New York Times 

The Solomon Islands has awarded a multi-million-dollar contract to a Chinese state company to upgrade an international port in Honiara in a project funded by the Asian Development Bank, an official of the island nation said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

China is “very carefully” watching how Washington and the world respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has not yet crossed the line of providing lethal aid to Moscow, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

China will strengthen its policy guidance to support advanced manufacturing, Premier Li Qiang was quoted as saying by state radio on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Xi Jinping’s meetings in Moscow with Vladimir Putin put the Biden administration in an uncomfortable position: on the sidelines as two adversaries discuss a Ukraine peace proposal that the US has deemed unacceptable. – Bloomberg

China lambasted the latest steps taken by the UK and US to supply conventionally-armed but nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, in a diplomatic broadside circulated overnight among international atomic envoys. – Bloomberg

The United States has rejected Chinese claims that a U.S. warship was driven out of waters it illegally entered in the disputed South China Sea on Thursday. – NBC 

Chris Buckley writes: In their joint statement, Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin criticized NATO’s efforts to pay more attention to Asia. The leaders held up China and Russia’s relationship as superior to traditional Western military blocs because it is “mature, stable, independent and resilient.” China’s official news agency, Xinhua, issued an article explaining why the two countries would not want to establish a formal alliance that obliged them to aid each other in wars. Some readers were not convinced. “It’s only in name that we’re not allies,” said one reader’s comment. – New York Times 

David Fickling writes: As Europe’s experience has shown, it can be wrenching for an industrial sector hooked on gas to break the habit — but China hasn’t really reached that point yet, and probably never will. Instead, its future will be one of widespread electrification — and with renewables expansion continuing at a headlong pace, that means coal’s future is limited as well. Moscow has few alternatives to a future as China’s resource colony. Beijing, to Putin’s chagrin, has plenty. – Bloomberg

Brett Schaefer writes: While China is the main concern, other relatively wealthy nations similarly benefit from measures intended to assist poor nations. The concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” needs reconsideration and limitation to ensure that it targets nations that truly need special consideration. It is incumbent on the U.S. and like-minded countries to push back and ensure that wealthy, economically competitive nations like China do not profit from benefits and different standards intended to assist poor nations. – Heritage Foundation

South Asia

Indian police are searching for a separatist leader who has revived calls for an independent Sikh homeland, stirring fears of violence in northwestern Punjab state where there’s a history of bloody insurgency. – Associated Press 

The U.S. nominee to lead the World Bank, former Mastercard (MA.N) CEO Ajay Banga, returns to his native India on Thursday, capping a three-week global tour to drum up support and discuss development and climate needs with donor and borrowing countries. – Reuters 

Sri Lanka will kick off the next round of talks with creditors in the third week of April, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Wednesday, adding that the debt-stricken nation has started to receive funds from the International Monetary Fund. – Reuters 

UK foreign secretary James Cleverly has said the UK will review security at the Indian High Commission in London, as tensions remain high following a security breach at New Delhi’s diplomatic mission. – Financial Times 

Facing a host of crises, nuclear-armed Pakistan is torn between a military-backed government and a popular and rebellious former prime minister, Imran Khan, as the formerly America-allied country falls under Beijing’s spell. – New York Sun 

Akhil Ramesh writes: A revival of this separatist movement, particularly on American soil will not only act as an impediment to capitalizing the momentum in the U.S.-India relationship but will affect the lives of innocent Hindus and Sikhs through increased othering, ostracization and even abuses in the Western world. – The Hill 


Russia said on Wednesday that a division of its Bastion coastal defence missile systems had been deployed to Paramushir, one of the Kuril islands in the north Pacific, some of which Japan claims as its territory. – Reuters 

The United States does not see an imminent threat of China invading Taiwan but is ready to defend the self-ruled island, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday in Singapore. – Reuters 

Chinese defence officials met their Australian counterparts in Canberra on Wednesday, China’s Ministry of National Defense said, in their first formal meeting since 2019. – Reuters 

Japan’s prime minister pledged Wednesday to provide Poland with development support to help the European country assist neighboring Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia’s invasion. – Associated Press

Senior Chinese and Filipino diplomats were meeting in Manila on Thursday to review their relations amid thorny issues, including Beijing’s alarm over a Philippine decision to allow the U.S. military to expand its presence to a northern region facing the Taiwan Strait and escalating spats in the disputed South China Sea. – Associated Press

Police in provincial Thailand killed a man who had fired at commandos storming his house early Thursday trying to safely end a 14-hour standoff after he shot to death three people and wounded three others, police said. – Associated Press

Seven progressive House Democrats voted against a bill on Wednesday that would require periodic reviews and updated reports pertaining to the State Department’s guidelines for U.S. engagement with Taiwan, marking the only opposition to the bill. – The Hill 

Editorial: The hard part will be absorbing the lessons, especially as some Republicans want to cut U.S. military spending as part of a debt-ceiling kamikaze run. But a fight for Taiwan is both preventable and worth preventing. As Democrats starve defense to fund an entitlement state, the country is depending on the Republicans in the game room to prevent the next war. – Wall Street Journal

Simone Gao writes: Mr. Xi may also see his window of opportunity closing to retake Taiwan. China’s economy is losing steam while the Western alliance is strengthening. Whether the Chinese Communist Party sticks with the united front or opts for confrontation, it may have to decide soon. – Wall Street Journal 


Prince William made an unannounced trip to Poland on Wednesday to “personally thank” British and Polish troops supporting Ukraine’s armed forces as part of a two-day visit intended to highlight Britain’s support for Ukraine. – New York Times 

Russia will always remain important for Europe, Austria’s foreign minister said, saying that to think otherwise was delusional. – Reuters 

The United States has offered to sell Slovakia 12 new Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters at a two-thirds discount after Bratislava sent its retired MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will visit China next week following a formal invitation by President Xi Jinping, as the Asian country seeks to position itself as a mediator in the ongoing war in Ukraine. – Reuters 

Swedish lawmakers overwhelmingly voted Wednesday in favor of Sweden joining NATO, signing off on the country’s membership along with the required legislation. – Associated Press

German investigators carried out raids on Wednesday related to an alleged coup plot involving supporters of a far-right movement, authorities said. A police officer was shot in the arm during one of the searches. – Associated Press

Editorial: On Wednesday, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report on the grim situation in Belarus. It found “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” during and after the 2020 presidential election, which Mr. Lukashenko stole from the legitimate victors, a ticket led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. […]All of these arrests represent difficulty and trauma for those unjustly thrown in jail. But police searches and arrests cannot suppress an idea — or the desire of people to live free of the despots ruling Russia and Belarus. – Washington Post

Edward P. Joseph writes: Close transatlantic coordination and focus have brought Serbia and Kosovo to the verge of a breakthrough. With a bit more effort and imagination in the United States and Europe, the entire region can cross the threshold, permanently insulating the Balkans from Russian and Chinese influence. – Foreign Policy 


South Africa must implement reforms to boost private-sector investment, promote good governance and improve the efficiency of public spending to shore up an economy hamstrung by rolling blackouts, the International Monetary Fund said. – Bloomberg

Ethiopia’s parliament on Wednesday removed the Tigray region’s main political movement from a list of terrorist organizations, a major step towards establishing an interim local government after a two-year civil war. – Reuters 

The African Union appealed for nearly $90 million Wednesday for its peacekeeping force in Somalia, which is providing support to its military forces battling al-Shabab extremists. – Associated Press

More than 400 rebels accused of killing Chad’s former president have been sentenced to life in prison. – Associated Press 

An army convoy has delivered desperately-needed supplies to a northern Burkina Faso city that has been blockaded by jihadists for months, locals and security sources told AFP Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

Latin America

A power struggle and a trail of unpaid oil sales led Venezuela’s ruling elite to purge one of their own inner circle this week as the government tries to recover billions in missing energy revenues. – Bloomberg

Honduras denied on Wednesday it had demanded $2.5 billion in aid from Taiwan before its announcement to seek to open relations with China, instead saying the country had repeatedly requested Taiwan buy Honduran public debt. – Reuters

The Honduran foreign minister is travelling to China to “promote” the establishment of diplomatic ties, an official said, signalling the end is most likely near for the country’s decades-long relations with Taiwan. – Reuters  

Arturo McFields Yescas writes: Beyond the official narrative, what Venezuela needs is a real change, without dictatorship and with real democracy. The change must start with the immediate and unconditional release of Venezuela’s 282 political prisoners. The country needs a road map to return to democracy and to ensure the holding of free and fair elections that include the more than 7 million Venezuelans who had fled the county and oppression under the regime. This can be a good starting point. – The Hill 

Brian Michael Jenkins writes:  And there is no solution in sight; although many solutions are on offer, from decriminalizing all drugs to putting drug dealers in front of firing squads. So long as millions of Americans doing illegal drugs are willing to spend tens of billions of dollars, ruin their health, risk incarceration and die of overdoses, knocking out some drug labs in Mexico will not solve the basic problem. And designating the cartels as terrorist groups is hardly a solution. – The Hill 

North America

President Joe Biden plans to have a brief meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s biggest political rival during an official visit to Canada that begins on Thursday, a senior administration official said. – Reuters 

A Chinese-Canadian lawmaker, cited in unconfirmed media reports as having ties to the Beijing government, forcefully denied those allegations but announced his resignation as a member of the Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. – Reuters 

Canada is extending a support program meant to help Ukrainians and their immediate families to become temporary residents of the North American country and easily apply for work or study permits, the Canadian immigration ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

United States

The Biden administration has extended invitations to 120 global leaders for next week’s Summit for Democracy, including to representatives from eight countries that weren’t invited to the White House’s inaugural summit in 2021. – Associated Press

Federal prosecutors warned of a potential surge in January 6 charges, including possibly more than 1,000 new people being arrested. – Washington Examiner

The State Department is ending its controversial policy of issuing assignment restrictions for diplomats as a condition of security clearance, according to an internal memo obtained by POLITICO. – Politico 


TikTok launched a battalion of influencers in the nation’s capital Wednesday to send a message to Congress: Banning the app would be met with widespread popular opposition. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration is under pressure to ban popular Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, but any such move likely hinges on passage of a new law that bolsters the government’s authority to regulate speech, experts said. – Reuters 

A total of 19 internet law scholars signed on to a January amicus brief in Gonzalez v. Google, arguing in favor of upholding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal statute at the heart of the case shielding companies like Google from liability for content posted by users. The case is widely viewed as one that could reshape content moderation and speech online. – Washington Examiner

Forty-one percent of Americans in a new poll say they support the federal government banning the video-sharing app TikTok as the platform comes under congressional scrutiny over user safety and data security concerns. – The Hill 

Cyberterrorism now ranks as the top critical threats to U.S. vital interests surpassing nuclear weapons and foreign terrorism, according to a new Gallup poll. – The Hill 

The recommendation does include Chinese-owned TikTok — at the heart of a storm on both sides of the Atlantic — but also features American platforms such as Snap and Meta’s WhatsApp and Instagram, alongside Telegram, founded by Russian-born brothers, and Signal. – Politico 

German and South Korean government agencies this week warned about a new spearphishing campaign from a notorious North Korean group targeting experts on the peninsula. – The Record 

Tara D. Sonenshine writes: In the end, the answer for America might lie in a broad new look at comprehensive legislation to ensure data security and privacy, like what the Europeans have done. Picking off TikTok is a short-term solution, but there will always be another social media clock ticking. – The Hill 

David McIntosh writes: Americans increasingly use their phones to manage every facet of their lives – from travel to banking to news and entertainment. Giving the government the power to ban apps and pick and choose between competing apps is a huge restriction on phone freedom. – Fox News 

Bill Echikson and Romy Hermans write: In Europe, the debate on ChatGPT has inflamed negotiations over the Artificial Intelligence Act. The proposed legislation classifies AI systems into four categories, with “high-risk” systems requiring transparency notices and safety assessments at market entry and throughout their lifecycle. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


China and Russia are deepening cooperation on a key atomic technology that has Pentagon planners on edge because of its potential to upset the global balance of nuclear weapons. – Bloomberg

Two more GOP congressional candidates have been identified in a leak of military records to a Democratic-aligned research group less than a week after the House Judiciary Committee opened an investigation into the records’ disclosure. – Washington Examiner

The U.S. Space Force said it needs nearly $16 billion over five years to keep building a new class of satellites that can track missiles moving at hypersonic speeds, more than twice the previous forecast. – Defense News

Congress on Wednesday took the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy effort to overhaul U.S. export control laws in order to expedite technology cooperation needed to implement a central pillar of the AUKUS trilateral agreement with Australia and the U.K. – Defense News

Program Executive Officer Ships opened the land-based test facility for its next-generation guided-missile destroyer propulsion system in Philadelphia, the Navy announced this week. – USNI News

The military lockdown on information about U.S. training of Ukrainian troops has been near absolute, with reporters blocked from access to American service members’ work in Poland and even training efforts in the United States. – Military.com   

Editorial: Defense officials tout $30.6 billion for munitions, up 12% over last year, and some will be procured through more efficient multiyear contracts. The Pentagon would buy 118 long-range antiship missiles, more than double the 48 in years past. But inventories are still well below the roughly 1,000 fired to defend Taiwan in some war games. […]Congress will no doubt try to improve the Biden blueprint, which is a relief, but Americans should know this President isn’t doing nearly enough to protect them from the world’s multiplying dangers. – Wall Street Journal

Maiya Clark writes: The 2024 NDAA can play a critical role in helping the U.S. Armed Forces continue their transformations to deter great-power aggression and prepare to fight and win the nation’s future wars. This NDAA can have tremendous signaling power to China, Russia, and other potential aggressors in the world. Issues such as military recruitment, shipbuilding and ship maintenance, and nuclear enterprise investment impact national defense today and will continue to impact readiness for decades. The time Congress spends deliberating these issues now is time well spent. – Heritage Foundation