Fdd's overnight brief

May 6, 2022

In The News


Video released by the office of the Mariupol mayor on Thursday claimed to show the inside of a Russian “filtration camp.” The three clips — released on Telegram — were filmed inside a school in Bezimenne village, east of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to geolocation by The Washington Post. The school is on the coast of the Sea of Azov, which is briefly shown in one of the videos. – Washington Post 

Russian forces appeared to tighten their grip on the southern port city of Mariupol on Thursday, with a senior police official describing “constant” attempts to overrun the last Ukrainian forces holding out at the embattled Azovstal steel plant. – Washington Post 

A series of attacks inside Russian territory and unexplained explosions at Russian targets near the border with Ukraine have expanded the scope of the conflict in recent weeks, underscoring Russian vulnerabilities in regions that are crucial to Moscow’s renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal 

The European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulator warned on Thursday of increased risks to airlines due to the war in Ukraine, such as civil planes being accidentally targeted as well as an increased risk of cyber attacks. – Reuters 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent nuclear saber-rattling has not only unnerved the West. It has upset what’s known as “the world nuclear order,” a series of arms control agreements that undergird an international consensus that the use of nuclear weapons is to be avoided at all costs. – Washington Examiner 

Experts and officials from the U.S. and Ukraine detailed the war crimes being committed by Russia amid its assault on Ukraine at a hearing of the U.S. Helsinki Commission on May 4, but were less certain about whether those actions constitute genocide. – The Hill 

Russia’s envoy to the United States has told Newsweek that leaders of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance do not grasp the true gravity of a potential nuclear conflict erupting, as a tense war of words among powers looms over the ongoing fighting in Ukraine. – Newsweek 

Some Russian soldiers in Ukraine have been rebelling against their generals, or teetering on the edge of rebellion and taking active steps aimed at halting the offensive, according to calls Ukraine says it has intercepted from Russian troops and commanders. – Newsweek 

The crew of RTS Moskva (121) was blind to and not ready for the Ukrainian missile attack that sank Russia’s Black Sea flagship, according to a new analysis of the April 13 strike reviewed by USNI News. The review of images following the strike of the two Neptune anti-ship missiles from open-source naval analyst and retired Navy Capt. Chris Carlson told USNI News that the guided-missile cruiser did not have its radars activated and could not see the threat from the two weapons. – USNI News 

Editorial:  In blatant disregard of Ukraine’s recognized status under international law, Mr. Putin has declared that it is not a real state but rather the product of anti-Russian foreign machinations, which Russia must counter with force. This can only be called a war of conquest — and Mr. Putin is deadly serious about it. His opponents, led by the United States, must be equally serious about stopping him. – Washington Post 

Mikhail Khodorkovsky writes: A stable Russia will come about not by replacing one autocratic ruler with another but by establishing a federal parliamentary republic that coordinates the interests of Russia’s regions and doesn’t hijack their resources to wage war. Mr. Putin’s invasion has exposed the threat posed by authoritarian regimes. The West must be ready to respond. Eliminating its hydrocarbon dependency, helping Ukraine to victory and revival, and planning for a de-Putinized Russia must be part of the response. – Wall Street Journal 

Max Z. Margulies and Laura Resnick Samotin write: Beyond Russia’s border, other countries are likely to feel the ramifications of this war’s use of conscripts. European militaries have been trending away from conscription and toward smaller, more professional volunteer forces. Yet the draft has made a comeback over the last few years, with several countries that eliminated conscription either reinstating it or debating doing so. Fear of additional Russian aggression could pressure more countries to adopt conscription. They may view having larger armies and the ability to call up more troops quickly as the most effective deterrence. – Wall Street Journal 

Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz write: The United States has long had a Russia challenge, but in the last two months it has become evident that it will be impossible to address that broader challenge with Putin still in power. Of course, it would be imprudent for the United States to adopt a formal policy of regime change, but Washington need not pull any punches in fear that what follows Putin would be worse. The patterns of post-Cold War history suggest that political dynamics in Russia are unlikely to get worse and might even get better once Putin departs. – Politico 

Kateryna Stepanenko, Mason Clark, and George Barros write: The Ukrainian counteroffensive out of Kharkiv city may disrupt Russian forces northeast of Kharkiv and will likely force Russian forces to decide whether to reinforce positions near Kharkiv or risk losing most or all of their positions within artillery range of the city. […]Ukrainian counteroffensives around Kharkiv City may unhinge Russian positions northeast of the city, possibly forcing the Russians to choose between reinforcing those positions or abandoning them if the Ukrainians continue to press their counterattack. – Institute for the Study of War 

James Foggo and Benjamin Mainardi write: Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has reminded the international community that war in the 21st century is indeed a real possibility, despite the insistence by many that Russia would not invade Ukraine throughout the months-long build-up of its forces along the Ukrainian border. The pre-war positioning of ground forces along the frontier from 2021 to 2022, however, was not the beginning of the Kremlin’s preparations for war with Ukraine, nor has the ground war been the only dimension of the conflict. Rather, the February invasion was the culmination of decades of Russian aggression in the Black Sea to reshape the regional status quo and achieve dominance as the leading Black Sea naval power. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Noah Rothman writes: What was once unthinkable is now not just possible but increasingly likely: Russia will lose its war of choice in Ukraine. The scope of Kyiv’s victory depends on many factors, but one of the most important is the continued provision of Western lethal aid to Ukraine. Western policymakers have gotten the message. Our prohibitive fear of what Russia would do to Ukraine and the West has been properly replaced with the understanding that Russia should be afraid of us. – Commentary Magazine 


The Senate is demonstrating increasing impatience with President Biden’s attempt to fulfill an election campaign promise to return America to the 2015 Iran deal, with more Democrats and most Republicans urging the plug be pulled on his Iran diplomacy. – New York Sun 

President Joe Biden’s bid to revive the Iran nuclear deal flunked its first test in the U.S. Senate. […]Lawmakers from both parties said it was a warning shot to Biden’s negotiating team, who have all but acknowledged in private that an agreement that goes beyond curtailing Iran’s nuclear program is no longer possible, according to multiple people familiar with classified Hill briefings on the subject. – Politico 

Iranian authorities issued “secret directives” to the security and the judiciary units to prepare for public protests after an increase in food prices due to fears of the collapse of the Vienna talks, Iranian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. The sources said that the security services, police, riot control, the judiciary, and public prosecution offices are on alert to face possible disturbances within the next three months. – Asharq Al-Awsat 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: While Hezbollah has a large number of drones, the real goal of Iran and its proxies may sometimes be to test Israel’s defenses, rather than use them to destroy things. Nevertheless, the threat is rapidly rising. Hamas used new drones in the May 2021 conflict. The attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria, and against a ship in the Gulf of Oman in July 2021, as well as reports the US downed drones over Iraq that were heading to Israel, are all examples of the rising threat. – Jerusalem Post 

David Albright and Sarah Burkhard write: Based on official Iranian accounts, the new tunnel complex will house a new centrifuge assembly facility to replace the Iranian Centrifuge Assembly Center (ICAC) destroyed in an attack in July 2020. However, a recent Institute analysis found that the new tunnel complex will likely be more deeply buried than Fordow and have significantly more floor space, raising questions about other sensitive nuclear activities at the site, most worrisome, enrichment activities. – Institute for Science and International Security 

Michael Rubin writes: The Iranians were right about Biden . Elections matter, at least in America. But, so long as Washington does not crow triumphantly as Obama did after bin Laden’s death or Trump did after Soleimani’s, then Iran’s ability to distract its public with nationalist opprobrium is limited. The public may remain under the threat of Iranian terrorism until Biden leaves office, but a new administration could take a new approach, one which would truly convince Iranian leaders and Revolutionary Guard officers that they will pay not only a high price for terrorism but a deeply personal one as well. – Washington Examiner 


Girls have pretty much been unable to attend secondary school in Afghanistan since the Taliban took power nine months ago. Public protests – with demonstrators shouting “We are sick of captivity!” – have been shut down by the Taliban. But now the supporters of secondary education for girls have unexpected new allies: Muslim clerics, including those sympathetic to the Taliban. – NPR 

The Taliban has repeatedly boasted of “defeating” its rival, the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) militant group, and bragged about establishing complete “security” in Afghanistan in recent months. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Lynne O’Donnell writes: If the return of extremist Taliban rule is bad enough for the Afghan people as a whole, LGBT people in particular face arrest, detention, torture, and gang rape. Activists have documented dozens of cases of harassment, beatings, burnings, and killings of young people. In one case, a young man’s abused body was dumped in a street days after he went missing. In another, a lesbian who refused an arranged marriage was killed by her family. – Foreign Policy 


A suspected terrorist attack in central Israel killed at least three people and injured several others late on Thursday, shaking the country as it celebrated Independence Day. – Wall Street Journal 

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a rare apology on Thursday to Israel over recent antisemitic comments from Russia’s foreign minister connecting Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to Judaism, according to the Israeli prime minister. – Washington Post 

The wide-ranging policy imposes new restrictions on foreigners who marry Palestinians or who come to the West Bank to work, volunteer, study or teach, further extending Israel’s nearly 55-year military rule into nearly every corner of Palestinian life. The rules do not apply to people visiting Israel or the more than 130 Jewish settlements scattered across the West Bank. – Associated Press 

Israeli security forces are continuing a large manhunt after two Palestinians killed three Israeli civilians in the city of Elad. Police identified the two suspects 19 year-old Assad al-Rafai and 20-year-old Tzabahi Abu Shakir, both from the Jenin area in the West Bank.  Security services released their pictures and have asked for the public’s help in locating them, indicating that the two might still be in Israeli territory. – Jerusalem Post 

The Knesset defense panel chief says that Hamas will pay the price for its incitement to terror in the wake of the deadly attack in Elad. “Hamas calls on people to carry out terrorist attacks and gives them instructions. They need to understand that they need to stop this, and we will exact a price for incitement,” Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben-Barak tells Army Radio. “What exactly is being done? It has not yet been decided.” – Times of Israel 

The State of Israel received an outpouring of official greetings in honor of its 74th Independence Day on Thursday, from leaders in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. – Algemeiner  

Naif Abu Sharkia writes: Despite the difficult events of the last month at al-Aqsa and the sharp criticism by Hamas’s Sinwar and other figures, Ra’am’s leaders remain committed to making their own decisions. They continue to assess that they can meaningfully influence Israeli politics to advance their objectives and therefore are likely to continue supporting the coalition. – Middle East Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

The Palestinian Authority and Jordan are working together to stop Hamas from controlling the Aqsa Mosque compound (Temple Mount), a PA official revealed on Thursday. The official told The Jerusalem Post that Ramallah and Amman have already taken a number of steps to prevent Hamas supporters from “commandeering” the protests of Muslim worshipers against Israeli measures, including visits by Jews to the site. – Jerusalem Post 

The Saudi prince who initially rejected Elon Musk’s takeover bid of Twitter now says he welcomes the move after joining a group of billionaire investors in helping the Tesla boss secure funding for the $44 billion transaction. – New York Post 

Overloaded trucks and cars packed with families ply narrow, bumpy mountain roads surrounding this Yemeni city long-besieged by Huthi rebels — evidence that the terms of a truce have yet to be met. – Agence France-Presse 

Josh Rogin writes: The new de facto alliance among Putin, MBS and MBZ is understandable: All three dictators see the spread of freedom, democracy and human rights as existential threats to their holds on power. But the entire rationalization for U.S. partnerships with these Gulf countries is based on their role as important players in maintaining energy stability. If they aren’t doing it, what exactly are we getting in return for our investment? – Washington Post 

Korean Peninsula

U.S. President Joe Biden will discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs with his counterparts in South Korea and Japan during a trip to those two countries later this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday. – Reuters 

On Thursday, South Korea’s spy agency became the first in Asia to join NATO’s Cyber Defense Group in a move that risks inflaming tensions with regional superpower China. In a statement, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) said it had been admitted as a contributing participant for NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), a cyber defense hub established in May 2008 in Tallinn, Estonia, focused on research, training, and exercises in the field of cybersecurity. – TIME 

US military and intelligence agencies assess that North Korea could be ready to resume underground nuclear testing this month, according to three US officials. – CNN 


A high-stakes arms race between the United States and China could lead to a breakdown of joint research partnerships across the two societies due to federal suspicions that Beijing exploits the initiatives to acquire sensitive U.S. technology for the People’s Liberation Army. – Washington Examiner 

China and the United States this week accused each other of spreading disinformation about the war in Ukraine, after Washington said Beijing has been repeating Russia’s narratives throughout the conflict. – Newsweek 

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: Whether Germany’s new skepticism of China sticks will be a major political, economic and strategic question of the next decade. A likely outcome is not a total divorce, but rather the adoption in Berlin of a less enthusiastic, more hard-nosed attitude toward China. That will still be a far cry from what Mr. Xi probably thought he’d get when he signed his friendship pact with Mr. Putin three months ago. – Wall Street Journal 

South Asia

Sri Lanka’s beleaguered government won a key vote in Parliament on Thursday as a ruling coalition-backed candidate was elected deputy speaker, despite growing public pressure on the government amid the worst economic crisis in decades. – Associated Press 

India and France on Wednesday called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities” in Ukraine, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi again stopping short of condemning Russia’s invasion of its neighbour. – Agence France-Presse 

After Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan accused the United States of conspiring to boot him from power, social media posts shared thousands of times appeared to show a tweet from Pakistan’s former US ambassador declaring that Washington had “interfered” in Islamabad’s internal affairs. However, the tweet was posted by an imposter account that has been suspended. – Agence France-Presse 


The $300 million superyacht owned by Russian oligarch Suleyman Kerimov was seized Thursday by Fijian authorities on behalf of the United States as part of the ongoing efforts to sanction and punish Russia’s elite in response to the invasion of Ukraine. – Washington Post 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned on Thursday that the invasion of Ukraine could be replicated in East Asia if leading powers do not respond as one, saying peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait must be maintained. – Reuters 

Australia’s defense policy debate heated up when the defense minister said there was evidence that the Chinese Communist Party wanted Australia’s government to change at the May 21 election because a center-left Labor Party administration would attempt to appease Beijing. – Associated Press 

Gregory B. Poling and Simon Tran Hudes write: As a result, it will accelerate the diversification of its military procurement, as it has been doing since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. That will be a drawn-out process, and one that will contribute to the steady deepening of U.S.-Vietnam security ties. But in the interim, Washington will need to accept that Hanoi cannot risk its own military preparedness by overtly condemning Moscow. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Gary Sands writes: The crisis of confidence among Taiwanese can also prove to be an opportunity for Taiwan to learn from Ukraine what is needed to better prepare for an invasion. The determination of Ukraine’s people to hold off Russian forces is the inspiring “David vs. Goliath” tale that many wish to support, and Taipei would do well to replicate their exemplary model. – The National Interest 


The United States provided Ukraine with intelligence that helped Kyiv attack and sink the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, in one of the most dramatic battlefield successes of the 71-day old war, according to people familiar with the matter. – Washington Post 

Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have taken vast stores of grain from Ukraine and exported them to Russia, exacerbating the risk of shortages and hunger in areas under Russian control. – Washington Post 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko — Russia’s staunch ally — said he did not expect the war in Ukraine to “drag on this way.” Lukashenko told the Associated Press on Thursday that he was doing “everything” he could to stop the 10-week-long conflict and that his own military’s sudden drills this week posed no threat to other countries. – Washington Post 

The United States is confident it can address any security concerns Sweden and Finland may have about the period of time after they apply for NATO membership and before they are accepted into the alliance, the White House said on Thursday. – Reuters 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed in a call on Thursday they would not recognize any Russian territorial gains in Ukraine, a German government spokesperson said in a statement. – Reuters 

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on the European Union to offer his nation membership in the bloc, saying it would be a “powerful response” to Russia’s unprovoked invasion. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Adam Taylor writes: For Ukraine, even defeat in Mariupol will be celebrated as a sign of how a smaller force can hold out against a bigger one — and how one can lose a battle but win a war. But in Russia, victory in Mariupol will serve a much weaker purpose, retroactively justifying a war that didn’t need to be fought at all. – Washington Post 

Ben Hodges and Timo S. Koster write: Our deterrence has to be employed within the context of clear, desired outcomes, versus simply aiming for an end to the fighting. And if NATO’s core task of collective defense doesn’t come into play, its other core task of a crisis response can be applied. […]There are clear lessons to take from the current conflict in Ukraine. The most immediate is that Putin is not dissuaded by Western sanctions and regards borderland states without the NATO security guarantee as a fair game. Moldova and other non-NATO countries have reason to be fearful. He may even go further, by gambling that a risk-averse alliance would hesitate to defend smaller members, like the Baltic states. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Jakub Grygiel writes: In the end, the contest for Europe’s arbiter—a power or a group of powers that decide the continent’s political dynamics—is wide open. The hero of the day is, of course, Ukraine’s valorous people. But the Ukrainians’ role on a larger geopolitical level has been to shed utter clarity on the fact that the leading aspirants of the past, Russia and Germany, are particularly unsuited for that role. The United States remains an indispensable power but needs to act through European counterparts. – Foreign Policy 

Caroline de Gruyter writes: So far, this is just talk in political, diplomatic, and military circles. Whether Switzerland will really start to cooperate with NATO in an operational way will likely be decided in a referendum. If it is approved, the process could take two years. Nevertheless, that this discussion is taking place at all is revolutionary by Swiss standards. If even the devoutly neutral Swiss wake up and move closer to the Western camp, it means the world is really changing. – Foreign Policy 


Pope Francis approved spending up to one million euros to free a Colombian nun kidnapped in Mali, a cardinal told a Vatican court on Thursday, revealing previously undisclosed negotiations to secure her release. Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, formerly one of the Vatican’s highest-ranking prelates, said the pope had authorized his efforts, including payments to the militants linked to Al Qaeda who in 2017 had kidnapped Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti in a village in Mali. She was released in 2021. – New York Times 

Somali lawmakers are expected to pick the country’s new president on May 15, a parliamentary committee said on Thursday, the final step in a tortuous election process that has suffered delays due to a rift within the outgoing administration. – Reuters 

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said Mali could collapse if a UN peacekeeping mission withdrew, but suggested an option could be to replace it with an African Union force backed by a tougher operating mandate. – Agence France-Presse 

Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe has agreed to act as a mediator in Mali’s political crisis as the West African country’s military junta faces pressure to re-establish civilian rule, their foreign ministers said. – Agence France-Presse 

Latin America

Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the most prominent son of Nicaragua’s autocratic president, Daniel Ortega, quietly approached Washington to restart dialogue, according to officials and diplomats familiar with the outreach, as the Biden administration levied sanctions against Moscow, one of the Central American nation’s few remaining allies. – New York Times 

Ukraine’s senior presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, on Thursday blasted comments by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that Ukraine shouldered equal blame for Moscow’s invasion, describing them as “Russian attempts to distort the truth.” – Reuters 

Argentina’s central bank dealt cryptocurrencies a blow Thursday, prohibiting financial institutions in the South American country from offering clients any operations involving unregulated digital assets. – Bloomberg 

United States

The 22-year-old veteran believed to be the first American killed while fighting in the Ukrainian military was serving as a volunteer, not a private contractor, two fellow fighters said Thursday, contradicting earlier reports suggesting the latter. – Washington Post 

Shortly before being confirmed as the top US diplomat last year, Antony Blinken told lawmakers that he would work to revive what he said was damaged American diplomacy by forming a united front to counter Iran, China and Russia. – Al Arabiya News 

Andrew Latham writes: The Cold War is long past, and the post-Cold War era of Pax Americana is dead and buried. We need to acknowledge this reality and develop new tools and maps appropriate to this era. And we need to do it soon — because arguably we’re already a decade into our own 20 years crisis and, if the past is any guide, we might not have much time left. – The Hill 

Jonathan Sweet and Mark Toth write: Nonetheless, Austin’s thinking is a welcomed departure from the Biden administration’s earlier reticence in confronting Putin despite U.S. intelligence making Putin’s intent to invade Ukraine crystal clear. It was almost as though they were standing on the sidelines waiting to see who would win before committing. And now that they see a weakened Putin, at least conventionally and politically, they “belly up to the bar.” – The Hill 

Peter Slezkine writes: Another possibility is for “the free world” to serve as a label for one side in a struggle (much invoked by the Biden administration) between democracies and autocracies. The problem is that autocracy appears to be an illness incipient in almost every country, including the United States itself. Such a free world would contain its own opposite. Efforts to externalize autocracy by circumscribing a group of good-enough democracies raises its own set of difficulties. Biden’s promise to renew “the shared purpose of the nations of the free world” resulted in a Summit for Democracy that was both muted and muddled. – Foreign Affairs 

Michael J. Mazarr writes: At a moment when much of the world is aligned against Russian aggression, it may seem counterintuitive to suggest that Washington should dial back the intensity of its defense and promotion of the rules-based order. After all, that order has given the United States a tremendous competitive advantage and helped stabilize world politics. But the war in Ukraine has exposed the system’s brittleness. And unless the United States adopts a more pragmatic and flexible approach to maintaining it, the postwar order may collapse into a new era of conflict – Foreign Affairs 


Apple, Google and Microsoft said Thursday they are looking to get rid of passwords and replace them with a more secure way to access accounts or devices. The US tech titans jointly announced support for a common standard that will let people sign in by unlocking their mobile phones, say, with fingerprint or face recognition. – Agence France-Presse 

This week a top Google artificial intelligence expert pleaded his case on Capitol Hill for lawmakers to support the Defense Department’s artificial intelligence initiatives, specifically the new chief digital and AI officer (CDAO), before the US falls behind its adversaries. – Breaking Defense 

An investigator with the Australian Federal Police this week asked an Icelandic hosting company to pull down a website dedicated to documenting hacker history, sharing information security educational resources and publishing materials from hackers. – CyberScoop 

Researchers with cybersecurity firm Cybereason briefed the FBI and Justice Department recently about Operation CuckooBees, an alleged espionage effort by Chinese state-sponsored hackers to steal proprietary information from dozens of global defense, energy, biotech, aerospace and pharmaceutical companies. – The Record 


The Army secretary has issued a new directive on modernization that sets new boundaries around Army Futures Command and reasserts the role of the service’s acquisition shop. The directive rescinds the language of previous directives from 2018 and 2020 that establishes Army Futures Command as “leading the modernization enterprise.” It also says the Army’s science and technology arm will fall under the control of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology),or ASAALT, as opposed to under Army Futures Command. – Defense News 

A littoral combat ship is headed to European waters for the first time, with the Freedom-variant LCS Sioux City leaving its Florida home port to operate in U.S. 6th Fleet’s area of responsibility. The deployment is years in the making, after the Navy intended to push an LCS into 6th Fleet in 2020 but was hindered by a classwide technical flaw that emerged. – Defense News 

Following a scathing inspector general report that warned the Army may be wasting billions on battlefield augmented reality goggles, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth pushed back today, calling the report “a bit of an over characterization.” – Breaking Defense