Fdd's overnight brief

May 5, 2022

In The News


Ukrainian forces are ousting Russian troops from a string of villages that were used to strike the country’s second most-populous city, Kharkiv, regaining strategic terrain that could blunt Russia’s attempt to conquer the eastern Donbas region. – Wall Street Journal 

The Kremlin is carrying out strikes on infrastructure that is critical to Ukraine’s efforts to resupply its forces in their defense against Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian officials and the Pentagon said Wednesday. – Washington Post 

Russian forces are preparing for a parade in the shattered port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said, clearing debris from a bombed-out theater that had served as the city’s main shelter before it was destroyed seven weeks ago, in an attack that remains one of the deadliest of the war. – Washington Post 

As hundreds of Ukrainians faced annihilation in an encircled steel plant, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich sent word last month that he had achieved a possible breakthrough. The billionaire and would-be peace broker told officials in Ukraine that he had met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in mid-April and “reached an understanding” that would allow wounded soldiers and civilians — children among them — to leave the besieged mill in Mariupol, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. – Washington Post 

The Kremlin on Wednesday dismissed speculation that President Vladimir Putin planned to declare war against Ukraine and declare a national mobilisation on May 9 when Russia commemorates the Soviet Union’s victory in World War Two. – Reuters 

A series of Russian airstrikes throughout Ukraine reflects a possible effort to demoralize the beleaguered civilian population, according to officials and observers, as invading Russian forces continue to struggle against Ukrainian resistance. – Washington Examiner 

On the 70th day of its offensive, Russian forces unleashed more missile strikes across Ukraine and stepped up artillery attacks, as its troops make little progress on the ground in their effort to take over all of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, which borders Russia. – Washington Examiner 

Editorial: Russian producers are already closing wells because they lack storage to hold their excess supply. This could do longer-term damage to Russian production as well as the country’s economy and budget. Russia exported about $180 billion of oil last year, about three times as much as it did gas. Revenue from Rosneft alone makes up about a fifth of the Kremlin’s budget. Europe has learned a hard lesson about making itself vulnerable to Russian energy supplies. But an oil-import ban shows it is finally moving to reduce its dependence on a dictator. – Wall Street Journal 

Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, and Mason Clark write: Russian forces will likely continue to merge offensive efforts southward of Izyum with westward advances from Donetsk in order to encircle Ukrainian troops in southern Kharkiv Oblast and Western Donetsk. Russia may change the status of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, possibly by merging them into a single “Donbas Republic” and/or by annexing them directly to Russia. – Institute for the Study of War 

Kseniya Kirillova writes: Such intense propaganda has at least two goals. First, it is designed to expand and mobilize the “passionate minority”, which, unlike the apolitical majority, is still actively involved in the political agenda. Secondly, propaganda is designed to increase the belief in an external threat to such an extent that Russians cannot even think about expressing dissatisfaction with their own socio-economic problems, which are worsening by the month. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Cyrus Newlin and Andrew Lohsen write: A climate of internal repression brews, and the influence of ultra-nationalists grows among the military and security services. The regime’s brittleness, enduring hostility to Euro-Atlantic institutions, and nationalistic rhetoric begin to worry the international community about Russia’s control of its nuclear forces. The regime itself begins to destabilize. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

John R. Deni writes: The West clearly needs a new strategy toward Russia, and Austin’s comment should serve as a blueprint. The United States should seek to go beyond competing with or deterring Russia as suggested in recent strategies and instead seek to erode its power over time in the military, diplomatic, and economic spheres. It’s the only strategy that will roll back Russia’s ability to threaten vital U.S. interests. – Foreign Policy 


Emboldened by an oil price surge since Russia invaded Ukraine, Iran’s clerical rulers are in no rush to revive a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers to ease sanctions on its energy-reliant economy, three officials familiar with Tehran’s thinking said. – Reuters 

The United States is now preparing equally for both a scenario where there is a mutual return to compliance with Iran on a nuclear deal, as well as one in which there is not an agreement, the State Department said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Iran is planning to execute an Iranian-Swedish researcher imprisoned since 2016, Iranian media reported Wednesday, as major court cases further strain tense relations between the two countries. – Associated Press 

As they do every year, Iran and its allies marked International Qods Day (“Roz-e Qods” in Persian) on the last Friday of Ramadan – which this year occurred on April 29 – with events in Iran, in several Arab countries and online. At these events, leaders of the Iran-led resistance axis – including officials of Hizbullah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Houthi movement in Yemen, and the Iran-backed militias in Iraq – called for continued jihad against “the temporary entity” Israel and for the liberation of Palestine as part of a regional war involving all components of the resistance axis, which they referred to as the “Jerusalem axis.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Washington’s approach toward Ukraine could reverberate in its dealings with Iran and in relationships with Middle East nations, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday at the Milken Institute Global Conference here. – Jewish Insider 

A majority of senators, including 16 Democrats, voted on Wednesday night in favor of a non-binding Senate measure that opposes entering into an Iran deal addressing only the regime’s nuclear program as well as the removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ terrorism designation. The final vote on the measure was 62 to 33. – Jewish Insider 

Alex Vatanka writes: The Iranians were equally shocked by the extent of the involvement of Turkey and Israel during the fighting and in the aftermath of the cease-fire that was brokered by Moscow but where Ankara was — unlike Tehran — a party to the negotiations. […]Only time will tell if Iran can recover any lost ground in the South Caucasus, but there is no question in Tehran today that Iran has been too neglectful of the significance of the region for its geostrategic and economic interests. – Middle East Institute 


The number of unaccompanied children who sought asylum in the European Union in 2021 jumped by 72% as the number of refugees arriving from Afghanistan rose sharply, the bloc’s statistics office said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Taliban officials in Afghanistan’s most progressive city have told driving instructors to stop issuing licences to women, professionals from the sector told AFP. – Agence France-Presse 

A UK general who served in Afghanistan says the government should “feel deeply ashamed” after Afghans who worked with Nato were left in the country. Gen Sir John McColl said the UK was “not delivering” on a pledge to help Afghans under threat from the Taliban after working with the British. – BBC 


Clashes broke out on Temple Mount between Palestinian rioters and Israel Police on Thursday morning, as Jewish visitors arrived at the holy site on Israel’s Independence Day after almost two weeks of the compound’s closure to Jews. – Jerusalem Post  

Israeli security forces arrested three Palestinian men near the West Bank city of Jericho on Wednesday suspected of smuggling guns from Jordan, confiscating several handguns in the process. – Times of Israel  

Terrorist groups have in recent days been disseminating false information on social media regarding the Temple Mount, the Israeli Police alleged on Wednesday, with the aim of stoking violence around the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site. – Algemeiner 

A director of a Palestinian NGO that Israel declared a terror organization last year was barred from boarding a flight to the United States. – Haaretz 

The Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper reported on Wednesday that the Hamas terrorist organization has sent a firm message to Egypt regarding the Temple Mount and demanded that it be passed on to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. – Arutz Sheva 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov provoked tensions in Russia’s relations with Israel by his remarks during a May 1, 2022 interview with the Italian Mediaset network. The interviewer prodded Lavrov about the Russian narrative that views the current regime in Kyiv as aiding and abetting the Nazism that has gripped Ukraine: – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

A U.S. Senate committee is expected to pass a bill on Thursday that could open members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners to antitrust lawsuits for orchestrating supply cuts that raise global crude prices. – Reuters 

The U.N. chief called for Lebanon’s parliamentary elections on May 15 to be “free, fair transparent and inclusive” in a report circulated Wednesday and urged the quick formation of a government afterward that gives priority to implementing reforms addressing the country’s multiple crises. – Associated Press 

Before travelling to Moscow last week, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stopped over in Ankara to meet Tayyip Erdogan and praise the Turkish leader’s diplomatic efforts to end the war in Ukraine. – Reuters 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Why does Iran care? Iran has long wondered whether Turkey will continue to work closely with Tehran or drift away toward the Gulf. Iran wants to use Syria as a platform to base its weapons to attack Israel. It may increase its transfer of weapons if it thinks that Ankara is distracted by elections and trying to remove Syrians from Turkey. Iran will also pay close attention to whether Turkey’s policy will destabilize Syria. – Jerusalem Post  

Robert A. Manning writes: In any case, there tends to be a false choice framed as the U.S. leaving the Middle East or staying. Neither is right. In fact, the U.S. retains sizeable capabilities in the Middle East, and will continue, if by default, to backstop threats to stability. But going forward, the U.S. is unlikely to either crusade for change or get sucked into the Middle East’s pathologies. The remarkable trends in the region suggest all sides are downsizing their expectations accordingly. – The Hill 

Danielle Pletka writes: As with Qatar and Al Udeid, the United States will continue to enjoy basing and prepositioning in Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE. But those basing rights will come with little political or economic loyalty. And as Biden discovered when he approached Saudi Arabia and its neighbors for support, the Gulf nations will make their decisions based on what they perceive to be their interests, not America’s. – Foreign Policy 

Korean Peninsula

A major North Korean propaganda website denounced on Thursday South Korea’s incoming president Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed to take a tougher line on weapons tests by Pyongyang, describing him as “pro-United States”, and “confrontational”. – Reuters 

The United States condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launch on Wednesday and urged Pyongyang to refrain from further destabilizing actions, the U.S. military said in a statement. – Reuters 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday tension is rising in East Asia, as shown by a North Korean missile launch earlier in the day. – Reuters 


The U.S. Senate on Wednesday moved to begin formal legislative talks on a long-stalled bill to pay for $52 billion in semiconductor chips manufacturing subsidiesand boost U.S. competitiveness with China. – Reuters 

The unveiling of President Joe Biden’s detailed strategy toward China — delayed by internal deliberations, Covid-19 and the Ukraine conflict — will have to wait even longer. – Bloomberg 

Josh Rogin writes: The biggest mistake the West made in Ukraine was playing into this kind of propaganda by waiting until after Putin attacked to mobilize a real defense. For Taiwan, the time to arm the island and deploy the resources needed for rallying to its defense is now. –  Washington Post 

Phil Gramm and Roger Wicker write: The primary objective of the U.S., its allies and Taiwan isn’t to repel a Chinese attack but to prevent it from ever occurring. Effective deterrence is the key to national security. Any wolf has the ability to kill a gentle porcupine. And yet such an attack virtually never occurs in nature. The defense of the porcupine’s quills, which can rip through the predator’s mouth and throat, is the deterrent that protects the small creature in the violent woods. Through the force-multiplying miracle of modern weapons, we can help make Taiwan a porcupine and deter aggression that could have profoundly negative consequences for Taiwan, China and the world. – Wall Street Journal 

Michael R. Pompeo writes: In the Trump administration, we recognized that the Chinese Communist Party actively seeks to remake the world in its own authoritarian image. We should take note of the brutality and cruelty it is currently visiting upon its own people, and pray for the Chinese people, who are suffering both from the scourge of COVID and the scourge of the CCP’s tyranny. Most importantly, we must ensure that the Chinese Communist Party is never able to export or impose its wicked system on any freedom-loving people. – Fox News 

Chris King writes: The shutdown of Duowei News by Beijing is a sign that Xi Jinping is using an iron fist to purge the CCP of his political enemies, ahead of the party’s 20th National Congress. The political climate in Beijing today is very harsh, and Xi Jinping cannot stand to have even a bit of grit in his eye. Whether it be a mild discussion of the current situation and politics or the so-called “less scolding and more help,” it is not tolerated. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

South Asia

Shari Baluch was a 30-year-old mother of two children and a schoolteacher. Late last month, on a university campus in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, she detonated a suicide bomb, killing herself and four others, including three Chinese teachers. Releasing a photo of her wearing fatigues and flashing a victory sign, the Baluchistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility, extending a recent wave of deadly attacks by Baluch separatists. – New York Times 

One after the next, the entreaties have streamed into India. Buying Russian oil, President Biden told India’s prime minister, is not in your country’s interest. Undermining sanctions, a U.S. official starkly warned, could bring “consequences.” Taking a harder line on Russia, a parade of American and European emissaries argued, is a global imperative. – New York Times 

Sri Lanka’s economy is in dire straits with its usable foreign reserves down to less than $50 million, the country’s finance minister said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Mihir Sharma writes: India has always thought of itself as the leader of the postcolonial world and anti-imperialism was long central to its foreign policy. A Europe that “speaks the language of power” is attractive. But a Europe that can also speak the language of the oppressed with authority is one that India, and much of the emerging world, might heed with even more care. – Bloomberg 


For the first time since the Fukushima catastrophe, a small majority of the Japanese public has expressed support for bringing the plants back online, indicating a growing awareness that the world’s third-largest economy may struggle to keep the lights on as it confronts its own limited resources during a time of geopolitical upheaval. – New York Times 

Australia will respond calmly to the Solomon Islands after it signed a security pact with China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, dismissing a furious response by the leader of the Pacific nation to Western criticism of the deal. – Reuters 

Japan would face “difficulty” to immediately follow a move to cut off Russian oil imports over the invasion of Ukraine, its minister of economy, trade, and industry Koichi Hagiuda said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Taiwan signalled on Thursday that it had abandoned a plan to buy advanced new anti-submarine warfare helicopters from the United States, saying they were too expensive. – Reuters 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday to bolster defence and trade cooperation, part of Britain’s post-Brexit policy to deepen ties with nations in the Indo-Pacific region. – Reuters 

The Supreme Court in military-ruled Myanmar on Wednesday struck down an appeal from deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi against a five-year jail sentence she was handed last week on corruption charges. – Reuters   

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday he could not accept Moscow’s decision to ban him and 62 other Japanese citizens from entry into Russia, and that Russia bore full responsibility for driving bilateral ties to where they are now. – Reuters 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with Pope Francis and top Vatican officials in talks about the need for “a world free of nuclear weapons,” the Vatican said Wednesday. – Associated Press 

A judge in Fiji has ruled that U.S. authorities can seize a Russian-owned superyacht — but has put a hold on his order until at least Friday while defense lawyers mount a challenge. The yacht Amadea — worth $325 million — had earlier been stopped from leaving the South Pacific nation because of its links to Russia. That order will stand for now, preventing U.S. authorities from taking the yacht to Hawaii or elsewhere. – Associated Press 

The two men who want to lead Australia’s military and intelligence agencies after the 2022 election clashed over China and the Solomon Islands at a debate on Thursday, with each accusing the other of being unsuitable to defend the country. – Bloomberg 

Ian Buruma writes: So, it is good news that that Germans and Japanese are waking up from their postwar slumber, for it should help to make Europe stronger and Asian democracies feel more secure. This cannot have been Putin’s intention when he embarked on his latest military adventure and it should make Chinese President Xi Jinping think twice about supporting him. – Bloomberg 


Armored vehicles kicked up tails of dirt as fatigue-clad soldiers, their faces freshly daubed in camouflage paint, crouched in the pine forest here Wednesday, part of a sweeping military drill before Finland prepares to break decades of defense policy and applies to join NATO. – Wall Street Journal 

The United States has provided intelligence about Russian units that has allowed Ukrainians to target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war, according to senior American officials – New York Times 

The Italian police are in a race to finish investigating the ownership of a $700 million superyacht, which U.S. officials say is linked to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, before the vessel is put to sea and able to elude possible sanctions. – New York Times 

Soviet diplomats moved out of the hulking Warsaw housing compound more than 30 years ago. But some Russians stayed behind, sheltering until the early 2000s behind a fence topped with barbed wire from a city that, with the collapse of their empire, had suddenly become hostile territory — and an important intelligence target. – New York Times 

Germany will work for an extension of the EU’s peacekeeping mission in Bosnia as concerns mount about instability spilling over from the Ukraine war, but has not yet decided whether to provide troops, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said. – Reuters 

Across Europe, rising energy prices are testing the resolve of ordinary consumers and business owners who are caught between the continent’s dependence on cheap Russian energy and its revulsion over President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. – Associated Press 

A group of European Union countries are pushing to kick start negotiations on stalled free-trade agreements as Russia’s war with Ukraine threatens the bloc’s economic and security interests. – Bloomberg 

Moldova sees no imminent threat of unrest spilling over from the war in Ukraine despite “provocations” by pro-Russian separatists in recent days, but has been making contingency plans for “pessimistic” scenarios, President Maia Sandu said on Wednesday. Reuters 

A rift between Budapest and Kyiv over a claim Hungary had advance knowledge of Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine will likely be exacerbated by Hungary’s refusal to back EU sanctions on Russian energy. – New York Sun 

When Russia launched an attempted lightning assault on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in February, neighboring Belarus served as a staging area for Russian forces, making the country an accomplice in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. – Foreign Policy 

Editorial: Soaring energy prices are clearly a hardship. But it’s important to remember how much progress has been made. Germany is a good illustration; it has reduced its Russian oil imports from 35 percent of its needs last year to 12 percent now, coal from 45 percent to 8 percent, and natural gas from 55 percent to 35 percent. It’s better late than never for the E.U. to wean itself off Russian energy. – Washington Post  

Leonid Bershidsky writes: The window of opportunity Ukraine is about to get by denying Putin most of its territory is perhaps the biggest the country has seen since independence. At the same time, however, both Ukrainians and their allies will need to work hard to keep it from closing as the previous ones did. On the Western side, this means giving up the usual bean-counting and truly going out of the way to reward Ukrainians’ heroism — and on the Ukrainian side, perhaps a certain tempering of both the newfound leadership ambitions and the ancient urge to grab the money and run. – Bloomberg  

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Pope Francis has also alleged that “others” were involved in creating this conflict, apparently not blaming Russia for causing the war. “I am pessimistic but we must do everything possible to stop the war.” – Jerusalem Post 

Anda Bologa writes: In small countries, individuals often see history as something that just happens to them. Illustratively, in the past two centuries, Moldova was part of the Russian Empire, Romania, and then the Soviet Union before proclaiming its independence in 1991. In the current uneasy geopolitical circumstances, there is a hope that the country — much like the skating minister — stays upright and safe on history’s treacherous ice. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


Guinea’s attorney general has ordered legal proceedings against ousted President Alpha Conde and 26 of his former officials over violence surrounding Conde’s disputed bid for a third term, a court document showed on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Islamic extremist rebels have killed at least seven people in an attack in northeast Borno state in Nigeria, witnesses told The Associated Press on Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Russian mercenaries allegedly executed, tortured and beat civilians in Central African Republic since 2019, according to a report released this week from Human Rights Watch. – Associated Press 

Latin America

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Russia never should have invaded Ukraine, but he believes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is as much to blame for the war as Russian leader Vladimir Putin. – Reuters 

Colombia on Wednesday extradited Dairo Antonio Usaga, known as Otoniel, an accused drug trafficker and leader of the Clan del Golfo criminal group to the United States, President Ivan Duque said. – Reuters 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday his administration will not impose sanctions on Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters 

The Americas

Mexican authorities have agreed to take back more Cuban and Nicaraguan migrants expelled by the United States under the Title 42 public health order, according to three U.S. officials and two Mexican officials with knowledge of the arrangement. – Washington Post 

A Dominican diplomat was kidnapped in Haiti and released after four days, the Dominican Republic’s foreign minister said on Monday, in an abduction that coincides with a spike in gang violence in the Caribbean country. – Reuters 

The U.S. Embassy in Havana has resumed processing visas for Cubans, though on a limited basis, more than four years after stopping consular services on the island amid a hardening of relations. The resumption comes as the number of Cubans trying to emigrate illegally to United States surges. – Associated Press 

Christopher Sabatini writes: For the summit to make this leap into relevance, however, the Biden administration must first define a sufficiently detailed, enticing agenda to attract the heads of state to travel to Los Angeles—not to mention formally invite them. The White House must also work to secure an active, in-place team of ambassadors across Latin America. A poorly attended, platitude-driven, and substantively empty summit would be worse than a bad party. It would serve for many, including China, as an embarrassing coda of U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere. – Foreign Policy 


A British parliamentary committee scrutinizing draft online safety legislation has invited Elon Musk to discuss his plans to buy Twitter and the changes he’s proposing for the social media platform. – Associated Press 

U.S. Cyber Command Director Gen. Paul Nakasone on Wednesday challenged the prevailing narrative that Russia hasn’t launched destructive cyberattacks against Ukraine amid its military invasion. Nakasone said his agency has observed a series of destructive attacks in Ukraine, on top of those that targeted the country’s satellite communications system in March. – The Hill 

National Security Agency Director and U.S. Cyber Command Gen. Paul Nakasone said Tuesday that Cyber Command conducted nine “hunt forward” operations in different countries last year, a data point he shared to illustrate why the command’s use of persistent engagement is critical to its success. – CyberScoop 

A ransomware group believed to have strong ties within Russia said Wednesday that it will release files it took from the Bulgarian government agency responsible for refugee management, a nation that has reportedly hosted hundreds of thousands of fleeing Ukrainians. – CyberScoop 


The latest tranche of U.S. military aid on its way to Ukraine to help the country in its defense against Russia includes Phoenix Ghost drones—a new, easy-to-use but powerful type of weapon. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.S. military is ramping up its weapons training for Ukrainian forces, with hundreds now being trained on artillery systems, drones and radars, defense officials said Wednesday. – The Hill 

The Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-air missile systems are both man portable. Both have been used to devastating effect by Ukraine against Russian forces. Unfortunately, Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin say it will take years to replenish stocks of these weapons that are rapidly being depleted as the United States resupplies Ukraine – Washington Examiner 

The Pentagon acknowledged this week a record 40-year-high inflation level is starting to affect contract negotiations, even resulting in a request to cancel a deal. – Defense News 

The head of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the nuclear arsenal, warned Congress Wednesday that Washington faces a heightened nuclear deterrence risk when it comes to Russia and China. – Defense News 

Editorial: Congress will have to provide resources to speed up deliveries. The Biden defense budget tries to tilt at the looming threat of China, but it does so by accepting risk in this decade to prepare for the next one. The dangerous world after Ukraine is no time to allow any real or perceived cracks in American defenses. – Wall Street Journal 

Long War

The African Union condemned an attack on peacekeeping forces in Somalia by al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked militant group, which claimed dozens of Burundian soldiers were killed. – Bloomberg  

A Dutch woman has been convicted of raising money for the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, according to a federal prosecutor. – Associated Press 

The status of a man living in Canada alleged to be a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization has become the topic of concern for the Canadian Jewish community and the subject of debate in the Canadian senate after an expose by The National Post. – Jerusalem Post