Fdd's overnight brief

March 3, 2022

In The News


Explosions continued to rock the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in the early hours of Thursday, with the night sky lit up by a large blast in what appeared to be the city’s outskirts. Air raid sirens sounded through the night as Russian strikes bombarded the capital and other fierce battles played out across Ukraine. – Washington Post 

In one week of war, life within the boundaries of Ukraine has been upended, but the brutal assault Russian President Vladimir Putin launched last Thursday has also reverberated around the globe, steering history in a new direction and switching up 75 years of relations among some of the world’s most powerful and wealthy countries. – Washington Post 

As more and more people are injured or killed in Russia’s war against Ukraine, Moscow faces mounting allegations that it has used cluster and vacuum weapons, which can put civilians at increased risk, particularly when used in urban areas. – Washington Post 

After capturing the strategic city of Kherson, Russian forces pushed west on Thursday, bearing down on another important port city, Mykolaiev, the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych, said in an interview. Mr. Senkevych said roughly 800 Russian vehicles, including a column of rocket launchers, was headed toward Mykolaiev from the north, east and south. – New York Times 

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday the creation of a task force to go after billionaire oligarchs who have aided President Vladimir V. Putin in his invasion of Ukraine, part of an effort by the United States to seize and freeze the assets of those who have violated sanctions. – New York Times 

Russian forces pounded Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with airstrikes in a bid to break the will of the country’s resistance as Moscow’s offensive toward Kyiv stalled amid fierce Ukrainian counterattacks and logistics mishaps. – Wall Street Journal 

Hours after a Russian missile Tuesday struck the TV tower in Kyiv’s Babyn Yar area, the site of one of the worst massacres during the Holocaust, Vitali Senchenko phoned his cousin in Israel, trying to get his family out of the city. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.N. General Assembly voted at an emergency session Wednesday to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops, with sustained applause breaking out after a formidable show of support among the 193 member nations against the invasion. – Associated Press  

Dozens of anti-war demonstrators were detained in Moscow and Saint Petersburg Wednesday after jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called on Russians to protest President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. – Agence France-Presse  

Russian shelling and attacks on civilian populations killed 34 civilians in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region in the past 24 hours between March 2-3, the emergency services said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The European Union, the U.S., and a handful of America’s allies in Asia have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with financial sanctions unprecedented for a target Russia’s size. The steps taken to isolate it within the global financial system are aimed at punishing President Vladimir Putin by sowing chaos in his country’s economy. – Bloomberg 

The steady drumbeat of retaliatory actions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine comes with some U.S. signaling that it doesn’t want the crisis to spiral out of control. – Bloomberg  

Ever since western leaders began to threaten Vladimir Putin with sweeping sanctions over Ukraine they have been clear any such measures would seek to avoid disrupting energy supplies — the lifeblood of the western economy as much as of Russia’s. But as the brutality of Moscow’s invasion has intensified, the idea of targeting oil and gas exports for sanctions is no longer off the table — even if it damages western economies in the process. – Financial Times 

The World Bank announced on Wednesday it was ending all programs in Russia and Belarus, citing “hostilities against the people of Ukraine.” – The Hill 

Defense officials from Europe claim that the Russians have placed inside the very center of Ukraine, with emphasis on Kyiv, fighters from the “Spetsnaz,” an umbrella term for Russian special forces, with the notable “Zaslon” unit. It is a unit defined as the assignation arm for covert missions of the Russian Intelligence and the “alpha unit”, that specializes in the war against terrorism in extreme conditions, but also operates far from the Russian borders. – Jerusalem Post 

Editorial: After Echo of Moscow went silent on Tuesday evening, the station’s vital YouTube channel also went dark. When we asked why, YouTube said it was being restored. But overall, the outlook for the Russian news media is bleak. They have been ordered not to use the word “war” in their reports, but instead “special military operation in Ukraine.” Dozhd chief editor Tikhon Dzyadko said he left Russia, fearing for his safety. – Washington Post 

Editorial: The most neutral way social media sites could craft such a rule, as the Stanford Internet Observatory’s Alex Stamos points out, would be to block state-run media from any country that blocks them. To do otherwise hands a megaphone to authoritarians abroad even as they prevent their citizens from hearing anyone except them speak at home. Or the companies could simply stand, as many in other industries are doing, with Ukraine — and skip the pretense of neutrality in a conflict where it’s clear who is in the right and who is so dangerously in the wrong. – Washington Post 

Editorial: Mr. Putin’s nuclear sabre-rattling is designed to make Mr. Biden and other Western leaders leave Ukraine to fight alone, even if he goes full Grozny. But the same risks existed throughout the Cold War, and the two sides avoided a direct confrontation despite much covert warfare. The U.S. doesn’t want to fight the Russian army and air force, but the moral and political price will be high if it watches from the sidelines as Ukrainians die by the thousands. – Wall Street Journal 

Jack Devine writes: China may provide economic assistance, but Beijing’s help won’t be cost-free and will be inadequate to fill the shortfall from cash outflows. And as Mr. Putin’s star begins to fade, the Chinese will cut their losses and distance themselves from him. Chinese state banks have already begun limiting the financing on Russian commodities. The end date of the Putin age is still uncertain, but against the unified resistance of the free world, his hubris and disdain for the will of his people will bring him down. His position of strength will transform to a place of historical ignominy. – Wall Street Journal 

Tom Rogan writes: Putin lacks the military and financial capacity to conduct a long-lasting operation at that scale. If the West supported a Ukrainian insurgency, the costs of any occupation would grow exponentially. Put another way, Putin is now caught between his own destiny-driven ambitions and the cold reality of a free Ukraine. – Washington Examiner 

Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis writes: At this point Mr. Biden must accept the hand Putin has dealt.  Take him seriously and put our nuclear forces on alert. President Biden, with the backing of NATO, you must make it very clear to Putin that ANY use of nuclear weapons will trigger a horrific US response, especially a strike on a NATO country, regardless of the size of the strike. – Fox News 

Desmond Lachman writes: All of this suggests that whatever foreign policy objectives Russian President Vladimir Putin might achieve by his Ukraine invasion, they will come at a very heavy economic cost for the average Russian household. It is far from clear that the Russian citizenry will think that Putin’s war was worth their having to pay those economic costs. – The Hill 


The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will visit Tehran on Saturday, Iranian news agency Nournews reported, suggesting this could help pave the way to a revival of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with major powers. – Reuters 

Diplomats trying to salvage a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran wrangled around the clock over sticking points to an agreement that could bring Iranian oil back to the global market at a critical time for the world economy. – Bloomberg 

The United States intends to remove as early as next week the sanctions imposed over the years on dozens of Iranian individuals and institutions involved in terrorism and missile development, Channel 12 News reported on Wednesday. The question that is now being discussed is whether the sanctions over the Revolutionary Guards will also be lifted. – Arutz Sheva 

Iran tried to launch a satellite into space this past Saturday night but failed to do so due to a malfunction at the launch site, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reports. – Arutz Sheva 

Lahav Harkov writes: Now that the West is showing unity and strength against Russia, there is no reason for it to show weakness when negotiating with Iran. As it has with Russia, the West can stand up for itself against Iran and say its actions are unacceptable. Unlike with Russia, it is not too late to avoid the deadly consequences of the Iran nuclear program before the West reaches that conclusion. – Jerusalem Post 

Farzin Nadimi writes: The United States has been watching Iran’s drone program since at least 2002 and needs to maintain this vigilance. […]Even if Washington and Tehran agree to mutually return to their commitments under the nuclear deal, U.S. authorities should continue aggressively sanctioning any Iranian entities and individuals involved in the drone program. This posture will be necessary so long as the regime refuses to abandon its hostile, destabilizing actions in the Middle East. – Washington Institute  


Trucks with heavy machine guns stopped at street corners, unloading men in camouflage carrying radios and assault rifles. Going door to door, they barged into homes, tossed open drawers and pored through cellphones — looking for any connection to an armed insurgency. – New York Times 

Humanitarian agencies may have distributed enough aid in Afghanistan to avert famine and large-scale starvation, but the country’s economic collapse is “approaching a point of irreversibility,” the U.N. envoy to Kabul said on Wednesday. – Reuters  

Sean Hannity criticized President Biden on Wednesday, saying he didn’t pay enough homage to the 13 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan during the annual State of the Union address. – Fox News 


Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has proposed Israeli mediation between Russia and Ukraine, spoke with the leaders of both countries on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Israel will continue to do “what it takes” in order to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, even if a deal is reached between Tehran and the West. – Jerusalem Post 


Lebanese Hezbollah goes to great lengths to publicize its overt, social, and political activities and to conceal its covert terrorist, militant, and criminal pursuits. In the words of one operative, Hezbollah’s “Golden Rule” is this: The Less You Know, the Better. – Washington Institute 

A U.S. Treasury delegation urged Lebanese authorities to mount investigations into what it described as abuses within the Lebanese banking system by members of the political and economic elite, the U.S. Treasury said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

An International Monetary Fund delegation could visit Lebanon in the second half of March to continue discussions on an aid programme supported by reforms, Lebanon’s Deputy Prime Minister Saade Chami said in a statement on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

The Biden administration is pushing its closest Middle East partners to back Ukraine in its deepening war with Russia and for help alleviating the economic fallout—without much to show for it. – Wall Street Journal 

Tunisian military judge ordered on Wednesday the imprisonment of Abd Errazak Kilani, a lawyer and prominent opponent of President Kais Saied, who seized almost all powers in July, for inciting police to break the law, a lawyer told Reuters – Reuters 

The relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States is going through “a stress test,” Emirati envoy to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba, said on Thursday, but added that he was confident the close partners would “get out of it”. – Reuters 

Anna Ahronheim writes: Israel still has the chance to figure out how to support Ukraine with military means, to save the country from a Russian occupation while continuing its strikes in Syria. It is possible. To paraphrase Theodor Herzl, where there is a will, there is a way. – Jerusalem Post 


China’s strategic partnership with Russia has the potential to be a lifeline for a Russian economy foundering under crippling Western sanctions, but Beijing appears to be holding back over practical constraints and fears of secondary sanctions on Chinese institutions. – Washington Post 

A Western intelligence report said senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to senior Biden administration officials and a European official. – New York Times 

China’s embassy in the United States has warned its citizens in the country to pay close attention to their personal safety, citing a “worrying” security situation there. – Reuters 

A sobering realization is setting in as American policymakers begin to assess the new, harsher international environment. Officials in Washington are recognizing that ties between Russia and China, long discounted—or even dismissed—as a “marriage of convenience,” have the potential to reshape global politics. – Bloomberg 

Mark Gongloff writes: But Xi might already be wondering if Putin is in fact a Bad Autocrat Friend (not to be confused with a Bad Art Friend). When Putin attacked Ukraine just after the Beijing Olympics ended, it was easy to suspect Russia had coordinated the move with China. But evidence is piling up that Xi might not have thought Putin would actually go through with this cockamamie invasion, writes Matthew Brooker. – Bloomberg 

Zachary Faria writes: You cannot show that you stand for peace and human rights by opposing Russia while simultaneously pandering to China. These companies had no excuse for their attitude toward China before, and they certainly don’t have one now that they have shown they are at least in some circumstances willing to condemn and take action against another dangerous regime. – Washington Examiner 

John Lee writes: China seeks a so-called Community with a Shared Future for Mankind under its leadership. Beijing’s insincerity, indecisiveness and irresponsibility over the past three weeks have rendered that an even more unattractive prospect for the rest of the world. – New York Post 

Dan McKivergan writes: The day after his meeting with Putin, Xi led a toast at the welcoming banquet for the Olympic Games where he expressed the need for nations to “work together to build an international family of harmony and cooperation.” Seventeen days later, Putin launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine. In the end, Xi will likely make more tactical adjustments to distance China from Putin’s war crimes, but it’s not likely he’ll make a strategic break with Moscow. Continued autocratic rule in Russia is important to Beijing, whether Putin or someone else rules the Kremlin. – The Dispatch 

South Asia

The United States said on Wednesday it would follow the lead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by inviting a non-political representative from military-ruled Myanmar to a summit with the 10-country bloc in Washington this month. – Reuters 

A bomb exploded near a police van in southwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing an officer and two other people and wounding 27, mostly passers-by, police said. – Associated Press 

India plans to avoid condemning Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as it needs Russian weapons in its standoff with China, and officials in New Delhi are confident the U.S. won’t apply much pressure, people familiar with the matter said. – Bloomberg 

Singapore will set up a new wing of its armed forces dedicated to digital security with a minister saying the Russia-Ukraine war, which has included cyberattacks, shows the need to build the country’s own defenses against external threats. – Bloomberg 

Mihir Sharma writes: Increasing the Putin regime’s international isolation is a worthy goal. But it won’t happen overnight. The best chance is to speed up efforts to ensure that countries such as India and Vietnam can find useful and affordable alternatives to Russian weaponry, while encouraging them to take the broadest possible view of their national interest. You won’t get them off the fence otherwise. – Bloomberg 


While most American allies in the region have fallen in line, authoritarian governments and those with weaker ties to the West have been more reluctant to act on the conflict in Ukraine. Across the Asia-Pacific, only Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Australia have agreed to international sanctions against Moscow. Taiwan, the self-governed territory that China claims as its own, has also agreed to sanctions and voiced support for Ukraine. – New York Times 

Japan is ready to take in Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday, adding that he had made the pledge during a phone conversation with his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki. – Reuters 

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen bestowed a presidential honour on former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday for his contribution to boosting relations with the island, as China’s top newspaper lambasted him again as a “liar”. – Reuters 

Leaders of the Quad group of countries – the United States, Japan, Australia and India – will hold a previously unannounced online meeting on Thursday, India and Australia said. – Reuters 

As it overturned precedent to follow the U.S. and Europe in imposing harsh sanctions to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, Japan said it scrambled fighter jets to intercept a helicopter — thought to be Russian — that entered its airspace. That fueled more sniping between Japan and Russia, which have been at odds over four small islands that lie between them since the end of World War II, preventing them from formally ending hostilities. The outbreak of war in Europe has turned rising tensions into downright antagonism, probably ending chances of a settlement for the time being. – Bloomberg 

The Russian Embassy in Canberra was evacuated on Thursday after a suspicious package containing a white powder was delivered to the site, according to Sky News Australia. – Jerusalem Post 

A People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force’s (PLANAF’s) Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG) Z-9C anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters have entered Taiwan’s southwestern air-defense identification zone (ADIZ) for the first time , according to data provided by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Taipei. – Janes 


A large crowd gathered Wednesday on the road to Enerhodar, home to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, blocking Russian troops from entering the city. – Washington Post 

One factor has long underpinned pushback by European governments and business over sanctions on Russia: concern for their own pocketbooks. But in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the continent has seen a rapid about-face and has already begun to feel the effects. – Washington Post 

Ukraine’s government is seeking a fast track to join the European Union as the country fights a Russian invasion. However, EU membership negotiations usually take a decade or more and include broad domestic economic, judicial and political demands. EU member states have also soured on enlargement. – Wall Street Journal 

In all, about 20 countries — most members of NATO and the European Union, but not all — are funneling arms into Ukraine to fight off Russian invaders and arm an insurgency, if the war comes to that. At the same time, NATO is moving military equipment and as many as 22,000 more troops into member states bordering Russia and Belarus, to reassure them and enhance deterrence. – New York Times 

Two Afghan brothers suspected of killing their sister for adopting a Western lifestyle went on trial in Berlin on Wednesday, in a case that highlights the violence against women and cultural tensions among some recent migrants to Germany. – Reuters 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the entire Israeli cabinet has agreed to come to Berlin for government talks. – Reuters 

Through the Cold War and the decades since, nothing could persuade Finns and Swedes that they would be better off joining NATO — until now. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has profoundly changed Europe’s security outlook, including for Nordic neutrals Finland and Sweden, where support for joining NATO has surged to record levels. – Associated Press 

More than 1 million people have fled Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, in the swiftest refugee exodus this century, the United Nations said Thursday, as Russian forces kept up their bombardment of the country’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, and laid siege to two strategic seaports. – Associated Press 

The impact of the conflict in Ukraine on the US economy is “highly uncertain” and the central bank will need to move with care to contain rising inflation and ensure the recovery continues, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse 

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has accomplished what four years of hectoring by former President Donald Trump failed to do — persuade Germany to double its defense budget and boost its military contribution to NATO. – NBC 

An unidentified missile struck a Bangladeshi vessel docked at the Ukrainian port of Olvia on the northern Black Sea, setting it a blaze and killing an engineer on board, the ship owner said. – Bloomberg 

The Ukrainian military claimed that on Wednesday the Russia Navy made the Panamanian flagged general cargo ship Helt enter a dangerous zone of the Black Sea so that it could use the civilian vessel as a shield to cover the movement of Russian warships. – Jerusalem Post 

U.S. policymakers have rallied behind Ukraine as it faces Russia’s assault, but there’s one proposal to harden Ukraine that’s facing bipartisan opposition: a no-fly zone. – Military.com 

Christine Emba writes: Yet we should also remember that world affairs don’t unfold for our personal edification; their importance is not correlated with how well they accord with our psychological needs. The crisis in Ukraine is not a spontaneous event or a weekend influencer pop-up — it’s the result of decades’ worth of geopolitical strife. And in this conflict, contrary to our comfortingly predetermined story lines, there is no playbook showing that the underdogs will win. – Washington Post 

Yuri Vanetik writes: All my contacts in Ukraine warn that the U.S. response has been tepid, slow and insufficient. As one friend put it, by the time economic sanctions begin to bite, Ukraine will look like the desolation of “Mad Max.” Apparently that film remains popular there. – Wall Street journal 

Josef Joffe writes: The biggest question transcends Germany. It is posed by the Chinese joker in the game. Beijing shares with Moscow the ambition to topple the U.S. from its perch as the world’s No. 1. Pressed too hard, Mr. Putin will demonstrably move into Xi Jinping’s embrace to damage the U.S. Never mind that China and Russia are natural rivals. Right now, intensified collusion is a no-brainer. If China sidles up to Russia, the U.S. will pay the price of justice for Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal 

Jack Engelhard writes: As Putin plays with our world, threatening to go nuclear, Zelensky towers over Putin by the might of his immovable convictions. The world is watching this showdown between good and evil. Woe to us all if the wrong side prevails. Whichever way, Zelensky is history in the making under H for Hero. Or under J for Jewish hero. – Arutz Sheva 


U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that Sudan’s military junta will allow Russia to build a naval base on the country’s strategic Red Sea coast. – Wall Street Journal 

The Islamist militants who have rampaged through the heart of West Africa in recent years are now spreading toward the Gulf of Guinea coast, including some of the continent’s most stable and prosperous countries, according to African and U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.N. refugee agency has urged authorities in countries neighbouring Ukraine to open their borders to African citizens fleeing the conflict there amid reports that some were being denied access to safety, UNHCR said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The U.N. Human Rights Council has picked the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to lead a panel investigating violations of human rights in the conflict in northern Ethiopia, the council said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The Americas

Colombian President Ivan Duque will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden on March 10 on a visit to Washington during which the two leaders will discuss regional and global issues including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the White House said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday said former President Donald Trump may have engaged in criminal conduct in his bid to overturn his election defeat. – Reuters 

Brazil’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ronaldo Costa Filho, reaffirmed on Wednesday the country’s position in favor of an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, but said the indiscriminate application of sanctions on Russia does not lead to the reconstruction of dialogue. – Reuters 


A besieged Ukraine has adopted a gruesome tactic in hopes of stoking anti-government rage inside Russia: posting photos and videos of captured and killed Russian soldiers on the Web for anyone to see. – Washington Post 

The Senate passed legislation Tuesday evening requiring critical infrastructure owners to report to the feds when they suffer a major cyberattack or make a ransomware payment — shaking loose a bill that got stuck in the chamber last year. – Cyberscoop 

An army of volunteer hackers is rising up in cyberspace to defend Ukraine, though internet specialists are calling on geeks and other “hacktivists” to stay out of a potentially very dangerous computer war. – Agence France-Presse 

Twitter will comply with European Union sanctions on Russian state-controlled media, meaning content from such publishers will be withheld for users in EU member states, a Twitter spokesperson said Wednesday. – The Hill 


The Pentagon has postponed a scheduled intercontinental ballistic missile test, in an effort to reduce the chances that it would be “misconstrued” by Moscow just days after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin raised the alert level for his nuclear forces. – Financial Times 

The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency granted facility clearance to Rafael Systems Global Sustainment, an American subsidiary of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, in February, according to company president and CEO Joseph Anderson. – Defense News 

Maj. Gen. John Ferrari and Elaine McCusker write: With Russia and China aligning, the world is likely to get much more dangerous. Neither will be deterred by diplomacy alone. Diplomacy and sanctions must be backed up by ready, capable hard power.  Our military and the industrial base that supports it have languished under a stagnant budget and temporary funding measures for too long. The time for action is now. – Breaking Defense