Fdd's overnight brief

October 7, 2020

In The News


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday warned of the danger of the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict turning into a regional war. – Reuters

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday warned that his country will not tolerate the presence of foreign fighters — “terrorists that Iran has fought for years” — near its northern border, where a conflict is raging between Azerbaijan and Armenia. – Associated Press

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has canceled a scheduled government meeting amid fears of contracting a coronavirus infection from one of the attendees, according to Fars news agency. – Arutz Sheva

The chairman of the Iran-China Chamber of Commerce, Majid Reza Hariri, says Iran’s oil revenue this year is “at best $5 billion.” […]According to Hariri, the US sanctions and the coronavirus outbreak have contributed to the decrease of Iran’s non-oil exports. – Radio Farda

Editorial: Even the humanitarian catastrophe of a global pandemic that has killed more than 27,000 of its citizens has not tempered its brutality. The regime is trying to portray itself to governments in Europe and elsewhere in the world as a victim of U.S. aggression; it blames the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign for its poor response to the pandemic. It’s not likely to convince many people as long as Ms. Sotoudeh and others like her remain imprisoned. – Washington Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s media has claimed that the country is one of the world leaders in radar. Brig.-Gen. Ali Hajizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said that new radar systems installed in Yazd province illustrate the country’s proficiency in this area. […]Iran’s claims of its increased radar abilities is meant as a message to the US and Israel regarding its capabilities. It is also looking to export its abilities to allies in Syria and potentially Iraq and elsewhere. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The context of the Iranian comments show how concerned Tehran is. It does not want more instability on its borders and has worked to spread that instability far from home so that it destabilizes Yemen, Lebanon and other places, but does not allow these conflicts to eat away at its borders. It wants neighboring states weak, not strong. – Jerusalem Post

Farzin Nadimi writes: Even so, Iran is well aware of the major disparity between its Azeri and Armenian communities, which constitute 16-24 percent and 0.2 percent of the country’s population, respectively. For this reason, and assuming the conflict persists, Iran’s future military engagement with Armenia will most likely be covert, perhaps with IRGC-Qods Force advisors helping the country organize its planned “auxiliary militia” using the experience they gained in Iraq and Syria. Finally, the performance of Israeli loitering drones and guided ballistic missiles in Nagorno-Karabakh is giving Iran definitive evidence of their potency, raising the specter of further proliferation in the region. – Washington Institute


Iran’s Deputy Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade (MIMT) Hamid Zadboom called the reconstruction of countries such as Syria a “religious duty,” adding that “Iranian building materials needed to renovate the war-torn country are underway.” – Radio Farda

At least 11 people were killed and dozens more were wounded on Tuesday in an explosion in the northwest Syrian town of al-Bab, which is under the control of Turkey-backed rebel factions, hospital sources told Reuters. – Reuters

A senior delegation of officials from the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction met in Damascus on Tuesday with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and briefed him on the latest developments concerning the Palestinian issue, particularly efforts to achieve Palestinian unity and thwart Israeli and US “conspiracies” against the Palestinians. – Jerusalem Post

Lawyers representing victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria say they have filed criminal complaints with Germany’s federal public prosecutor against Syrian officials they blame for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in rebel-held areas. – Reuters


President Tayyip Erdogan’s strong backing for Azerbaijan in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has set Turkey apart from other big nations and alarmed NATO allies that are demanding a ceasefire. – Reuters

The European Union’s executive said on Tuesday that Turkey’s government was undermining its economy, eroding democracy and destroying independent courts, leaving its bid to join the EU further away than ever. – Reuters

Greece welcomes moves by Turkey to de-escalate recent tensions in the east Mediterranean, its prime minister said on Tuesday, but Ankara needs to show a firmer commitment to improving relations. – Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday criticised international efforts to tackle the Azeri-Armenian conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, saying they had achieved nothing in nearly 30 years. – Reuters

Authorities in breakaway northern Cyprus are to open the coastal section of the long-fenced-off disputed town of Varosha, a Turkish Cypriot leader announced Tuesday ahead of elections at the weekend. – Agence France-Presse


Israeli diplomat Sarah Weiss Maudi has been appointed to serve as the UN Legal Committee’s vice chair for the 75th General Assembly, it was announced on Tuesday. – Algemeiner

Palestinian Foreign Ministry officials have convened with representatives of Palestinian factions, civilian organizations, and prisoners organizations to discuss ways to remove terror organizations from the European Union’s lists of restrictive measures. The listing is significant as the EU cannot pay out funds to NGOs who have ties to the terror groups on the lists, or who refuse to sign. – Jerusalem Post

Tovah Lazaroff writes: The smiles and the handshakes in Washington and Berlin were nice. But in some ways, it is only if that meeting is held, and plans are approved, without any corresponding hiccups to the normalization process, that one can truly say, that the process has started. – Jerusalem Post

Bob Silverman writes: The United States has an exciting new initiative for Middle Eastern peace that benefits U.S. national interests in the region by supporting our allies. This is true regardless of which party is in the White House. Expanding normalization to new countries will require continued U.S. diplomacy at the highest level, and we must ensure that this initiative doesn’t fall into partisan cracks. The best way of containing anti-normalization backlash is through making support for projects under the Israel-UAE and Israel-Bahrain agreements a bipartisan top priority in the Middle East. – The National Interest

Simon Henderson writes: Israel has been cultivating its alliance with the Azerbaijanis for three decades, and the relationship has had the twin benefits of bolstering its oil supplies and fostering productive commercial ties with Turkey. Today, Israel has at least one plausible option for offsetting any dislocation in these supplies, but pursuing it could jeopardize relations with both Baku and Ankara. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

In a surprising televised monologue, a senior member of the Saudi royal family and former ambassador to Washington accused Palestinian leaders of betraying their people, signaling an erosion of Saudi support for an issue long considered sacrosanct. – New York Times

British manufacturers exported £11bn worth of arms during 2019 – the second highest figure on record – despite a court order that the UK must halt any sales to Saudi Arabia that could be used in Yemen. – The Guardian

Moammar Al-Eryani writes: The recent statements made by Brig. Gen. Abu al-Fadl Shikaraji, spokesman for the Iranian military, represented the first official admission of the role of the mullahs’ regime in Iran in managing, supporting and arming the coup that the Houthi militia carried out against the the state of Yemen and its people. This brazen admission casts a clear light on Tehran’s destabilizing role in the security and stability of Yemen and the region. – Washington Times

Middle East & North Africa

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday parliamentary consultations to choose a new prime minister who will form the country’s next government will begin on Oct. 15. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister said on Tuesday, in a joint statement with Israeli and German counterparts, that the most important thing that must be emphasized today is the return of hope to Palestinians and Israelis to work for a two-state solution, UAE state news agency (WAM) reported. – Reuters

Kuwait’s new ruler Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah on Wednesday named Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad, deputy head of the country’s National Guard, as crown prince of the U.S.-allied OPEC member state. – Reuters

The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Israel met in Berlin on Tuesday for talks that Germany hopes will strengthen nascent ties between the two nations and bolster broader Middle East peace efforts. – Associated Press 

Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are carrying out regular and increasingly blatant violations of the UN arms embargo on Libya, fuelling a proxy war that is evading political solutions, a joint investigation by the Guardian has found. – The Guardian

An Egyptian television channel on Tuesday aired Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi’s remarks on regional peace, as he met in Berlin with his Emirati counterpart. – Times of Israel

Stephen Paduano writes: If Washington still hopes to stave off war between two of its closest allies on the African continent, it will need to reverse course. Fortunately, the path forward does not rely on the United States. Negotiations will now be led by the African Union, a more honest and informed broker. However, the United States can still help. […]It will be important for this administration, or the next one, to work toward a real solution on the Nile. If not, the region’s water crisis and power politics may provoke an avoidable war. – Washington Post

Jumana Kawar writes: For this purpose, the JAF could grow its cadre of military and civilian trainers in cooperation with universities and think tanks in the Kingdom and the region. Such multilateral and international cooperation is essential for the future of the Middle East . Because of its unique strategic location, balanced regional relations, and growing defense capabilities, Jordan can play a major role in the quest for regional stability and the response to changing security dynamics. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

A senior North Korean diplomat who disappeared from Italy in late 2018 has been living secretly in South Korea since July of last year, a member of the intelligence committee of the South Korean Parliament and the South’s news media said on Wednesday. – New York Times

The former top commander in South Korea said he thinks continuing to halt large-scale military exercises “is no longer relevant” as a negotiating tool with North Korea over denuclearizing the peninsula. – USNI News

Michael J. Green and Cheol Hee Park write: The U.S. role should be consistent but subtle—reinforcing the focus on common interests trilaterally while quietly encouraging progress behind the scenes. The current lack of leadership from the White House in that respect has clearly not helped. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Xi Jinping celebrates China’s battle against the coronavirus as a success. But in the United States and other wealthy democracies, the pandemic has driven negative views of China to new heights, a survey published on Tuesday showed. – New York Times

The U.S. strategy to deter China hasn’t been effective, former national security adviser John Bolton said, calling for a more consistent approach by Washington in its dealings with Beijing. – Wall Street Journal

China said on Wednesday that the United States should stop its unprovoked attacks and accusations against China, accusing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of maliciously creating political confrontation and smearing Beijing. – Reuters

Pope Francis’s persistent interest in controversial negotiations with China could foreshadow a move to downgrade relations with Taiwan in favor of the mainland communist regime. – Washington Examiner

Nearly 40 mainly Western countries criticized China’s treatment of minority groups, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet, on Tuesday and expressed grave concern at the impact of its new national security law on human rights in Hong Kong. – Associated Press

Tom Rogan writes: For all its claims of mutually beneficial global engagement, Xi’s regime quite openly cares about nothing but itself. And by itself, I mean the Standing Committee and Politburo, most certainly not the Chinese people. Making policy in that vein, whether this year, next year, or the year after, China’s own actions will ensure that the Quad finds new strength, numbers, and resolution to resist. – Washington Examiner

Joseph Bosco writes: Trump and his trade team took on China’s economic aggression frontally and unflinchingly, and achieved a Phase 1 breakthrough that, if carried out, would have started the communist government on the path to long-promised and long-delayed internal economic and political reform. […]If like-minded countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia join such a U.S.-led effort as Pompeo urged, or develop their own collaborative efforts toward the same end, the global community can experience the same peaceful transformation that ended the Cold War. History shows the catastrophic alternative when totalitarianism goes unchecked. – The Hill


Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary election results were annulled Tuesday by the election commission hours after protesters stormed the main political building, claiming the voting was rigged and throwing the Central Asian country into an apparent leadership crisis. Kyrgyzstan’s president, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, portrayed the post-election unrest as an attempted coup in a country pulled in two directions: seen by Moscow as part of its political sphere but also increasingly linked to Beijing through Chinese investments. – Washington Post

Political opposition forces in Kyrgyzstan said they were seeking to seize power and form a new government after taking control of state buildings in the capital following elections that international monitors said were marred by allegations of voter fraud. […]Resource-rich Kyrgyzstan, which has been a stage for competing Russian, Chinese and U.S. interests since independence from the Soviet Union, has seen a quick succession of governments in recent years, including two presidents toppled by revolution in 2005 and 2010. – Wall Street Journal

For Japan, it was the first time its new prime minister hosted international emissaries. […]The physicality of the gesture highlighted the importance that both sides put on meeting in person to demonstrate the solidity of their bond in the face of rising challenges from China, even amid a widening coronavirus outbreak inside the White House and Japan’s cautious approach to opening its borders to foreign travelers. – New York Times

The group, which has been held incommunicado in a jail on the mainland since then, has become known as the “Hong Kong 12.” Their situation is fueling fears in Hong Kong about the stark differences between the city’s British-styled courts and the mainland’s opaque legal system. These fears underpinned last year’s protests as well as opposition to a new national security law that was imposed on the city this summer by Beijing. – Wall Street Journal

A senior U.S. defence official said on Tuesday Taiwan’s plan to boost defense spending by $1.4 billion was a step in the right direction, but insufficient to ensure resilient defense in the face of an increasing Chinese threat. – Reuters

Dozens of unidentified people tried to break into the office of Canadian-owned Kumtor Gold Company in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Wednesday, Russian news agency TASS and news website 24.kg said. – Reuters

China said on Wednesday that it is highly concerned about the current situation in Kyrgyzstan and hopes the country can return to stability as soon as possible. – Reuters

The defence ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh region said on Wednesday it had recorded another 40 casualties among its military, pushing the military death toll to 280 since fighting with Azeri forces erupted on Sept. 27, the Interfax news agency reported. – Reuters

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the actions of Turkey and Azerbaijan amounted to a “terroristic attack” over Nagorno-Karabakh that formed part of the continuation of Armenian genocide. – Reuters

Britain and Canada said on Tuesday there was an urgent need to stop military action in and around Nagorno-Karabakh and called for all parties to return to the negotiating table. – Reuters

Vietnam has arrested a prominent blogger and dissident for “anti-state activities” hours after its government held annual talks on human rights with the United States, sources and international human rights groups said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Taiwan has spent almost $900 million this year on scrambling its air force against Chinese incursions, the island’s defence minister said on Wednesday, describing the pressure they are facing as “great”. – Reuters

Turkey’s top diplomat traveled to Baku on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan amid a flare-up in fighting over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. – Associated Press 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was more critical now than ever for the regional allies in Indo-Pacific to collaborate against what he called Chinese Communist Party’s “exploitation, coercion and corruption.” – Reuters

A growing number of Democrats in Congress are calling for the Trump administration to immediately suspend U.S. security aid to Azerbaijan, as fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces reaches its second week. – Defense News

Despite the high altitudes and extreme temperatures, the Depsang plains are flat and quite suitable for tanks. It is the critical point where Indian tanks could threaten Aksai Chain at the eastern portion of the larger Kashmir region. It has also been the subject of the dispute between India and China since the 1962 border war was fought between the two nuclear powers. – The National Interest

Kelly Sloan writes: Given China’s increasing assertiveness, in the region and beyond, it is reasonable, necessary even, for whomever the next president of the U.S. is to explore the question publicly: To what extent ought America formalize our commitment, military and economic, to Taiwan? – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: This is not to say that the U.S. or Taiwan should accept Beijing’s diktat that it alone will set Taiwan’s destiny. The U.S. should continue to provide economic and political support to Tsai’s government and sell certain military equipment. But the overriding intent should be to reinforce Taiwan’s ability to deter and resist an invasion and increase the international community’s support for that same objective. Not a rush of diplomatic recognition that risks crossing China’s red lines. – Washington Examiner

Michael Cecire writes: As a result, pathways to peace would seem to traverse a knife’s edge, and depend firstly on the forbearance of the warring parties, and secondly on the diplomatic entrepreneurship of rival regional powers competing across multiple theaters — or the hope that an outside power possesses the focus and strategic capital to incentivize an outbreak of peace. At the moment, however, the near future appears cloudy. – Middle East Institute

Vinay Kaura writes: Backlash from certain quarters must not be the main driver of Islamabad’s choices, however. Transformative changes are happening in the Middle East and Pakistan’s foreign policy should adapt to them. […]There are reasonable politicians in Pakistan who are willing to take initiative in regard to Israel, but Pakistan’s ideological inflexibility is likely to prevent this from happening in the foreseeable future. – Middle East Institute


Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny appeared in his first video interview since he was poisoned with a nerve agent in August, repeating accusations that Russian intelligence services were behind the attack. – Washington Post

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed on Tuesday that the substance used to poison the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny had “similar structural characteristics” to the Novichok family of highly potent nerve agents. – New York Times

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called on the European Union on Wednesday to take tough action against oligarchs close to the Kremlin as he continues his recovery in Germany after being poisoned by a nerve agent in the banned Novichok family. – Reuters

Russia successfully test launched a Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile in the Barents Sea on Tuesday, a senior Russian commander told Vladimir Putin on the Russian leader’s 68th birthday. – Reuters

The Kremlin issued a new appeal for an end to hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday after Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said the mountain enclave could become a launch pad for Islamist militants to enter Russia. – Reuters

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Tuesday it had detained a serviceman and his brother in the country’s west for having allegedly passed state secrets to Estonia. – Reuters

Azerbaijan’s ties with Russia, already strained by conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, face further pressure from the launch later this year of a gas pipeline that is poised to squeeze Moscow’s diminished gas sales to Europe and Turkey. – Reuters

Tom Rogan writes: This breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention should matter to the world. It illustrates Putin’s continuing disregard for the international norm against the use of these brutal weapons. To deter the continued use of these weapons by Russia or other parties, the United States and European Union must now sanction the Kremlin. A good place to start would be the Nord Stream II energy pipeline. – Washington Examiner


There are more than 370 suspected cases of right-wing extremism in Germany’s police and security agencies, according to a government study released Tuesday. But experts said it papers over the true depth of the problem. – Washington Post

The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that Hungary had violated E.U. rules by changing legislation in 2017 that effectively expelled an American university founded by the billionaire financier George Soros from the country. – New York Times

A Russian man accused of the downtown Berlin daylight murder of a Georgian on Moscow’s orders was going on trial Wednesday, in a case that has contributed to growing friction between Germany and Russia. – Associated Press 

Poland and Lithuania have recalled their ambassadors from neighboring Belarus, where hundreds of people have been detained during massive protests against the authoritarian president who won a sixth term in office in an election widely seen as rigged. – Associated Press 

A top European Union official dealing with the United Kingdom said Tuesday that a cliff-edge rupture between the two without even a basic trade deal by the end of the year is becoming more likely by the day. – Associated Press 

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister visited Germany’s main Holocaust memorial together with his counterpart from Israel and vowed “never again” on Tuesday, an event showcasing the two Middle East countries’ unusually warm new rapprochement. – Reuters

Britain and the EU are closer to agreement on reciprocal social security rights for their citizens after Brexit, two diplomatic sources said, with one describing talks last week on an elusive trade deal as “one of the most positive so far”. – Reuters

The Kremlin said on Tuesday it hoped that the situation in Belarus, where protests have brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets over what they say is a rigged election result, can be resolved without external mediators. – Reuters

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday said he supports NATO efforts to defuse tensions between Greece and Turkey, and that agreements to establish a military deconfliction mechanism and resume diplomatic talks are steps in the right direction. – Reuters

Britain will consider what further action to take on Russia over the case of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who fell ill after German doctors said he was poisoned by nerve agent Novichok, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Angela Merkel and her European allies are preparing to retaliate against Vladimir Putin’s government over the poisoning of one of his top critics but their plans may not make much of an impression on the Kremlin. – Bloomberg


West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS lifted sanctions against Mali on Tuesday after the prime minister announced the rest of the transitional government positions nearly two months after a military coup. – Associated Press 

South Sudan has made no concrete steps toward national healing more than two years after the end of a civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people and sent more than 2 million people fleeing, a new United Nations report says. – Associated Press 

French lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously voted to return prized artefacts to Benin and Senegal more than a century after they were looted by colonial forces and hauled back to Paris to be displayed in museums. – Agence France-Presse

Jihadists in Mali have freed a prominent opposition leader who was kidnapped earlier this year and a French aid worker held captive for almost four years, in a major exchange of prisoners with the country’s new transition government. – The Guardian

The Americas

White supremacists and Russian election interference are among the top threats facing the United States, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a new report released Tuesday. – Wall Street Journal

The Department of Homeland Security warned on Tuesday that violent white supremacy was the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland” in an annual assessment that a former intelligence chief had accused the agency of withholding in deference to President Trump. – New York Times

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday extended by two years the mandate of investigators who have documented executions, disappearances and torture in Venezuela that they say may amount to crimes against humanity here. – Reuters

Iran’s involvement in Venezuela has increased significantly in recent months, to include sending members of its elite Quds Force into the country, according to a top U.S. military leader who oversees operations in the region. – Military.com


Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google engaged in anti-competitive, monopoly-style tactics to evolve into four of the world’s most powerful corporate behemoths, according to congressional investigators who called in a wide-ranging report released Tuesday for sweeping changes to federal laws so that government regulators can bring Silicon Valley back in check. – Washington Post

Facebook imposed sweeping new sanctions on the QAnon conspiracy theory on Tuesday, expanding its policy to remove all affiliated groups and pages — and all accounts on the Facebook subsidiary Instagram — even if they don’t violate other policies by inciting violence or trafficking in hate speech. – Washington Post

Bryan Clark and Dan Patt write: DoD must not continue treating AI as a tool or a product to be managed by a select few technical experts and organizations. Like software, AI-enabled algorithms pervade every commercial electronic product we touch today. The US military will need that same level of proliferation to affordably sustain the force and win in future conflicts. – Breaking Defense


The U.S. Navy must rapidly grow its attack submarine force, field smaller manned and unmanned combatants and examine changing the role of aircraft carriers in the coming decades as part of a massive expansion of the fleet to maintain American dominance on the seas, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday. – Defense News

The top U.S. negotiator in nuclear arms control talks with Russia held in Helsinki says a one-day follow-up meeting to earlier talks in Austria has yielded “important progress.” – Associated Press

Rebeccah Heinrichs writes: The challenge for policymakers and strategists is to ensure the triad is credible to deter our adversaries from concluding that a strategic attack is ever worth the cost. A credible nuclear force is one that is reliable, safe, and leverages modern technology to meet the challenges of today and for decades to come. The decision to replace the Minuteman III program with the GBSD program is a welcome move toward this end. – The National Interest

Long War

Two admitted Islamic State militants are expected to be flown on Wednesday from Iraq to the United States, where they will become the first defendants to face prosecution in a U.S. court in connection with the beheadings of American and British hostages, U.S. officials said. – Washington Post

Three Muslim men who said they were placed for years on a “no-fly” list because they refused to become FBI informants told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that they should be able to sue the agents for targeting them because of their religion. – Washington Post

The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to reinstate Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence for helping carry out the 2013 attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. – Reuters

Trump Administration

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he has declassified all documents related to federal investigations into Russian election interference and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for government emails. – Reuters

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe released a slew of documents Tuesday that former US officials and national security veterans said are likely part of a Russian disinformation campaign. – Business Insider

Eli Lake writes: McMaster could and should have been tougher on the man he served. The book’s section on Russia’s attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in 2018 in the U.K., for example, neglects to mention that Trump’s first response was a shrug. Although Trump eventually agreed to expel 60 Russian diplomats and close Russia’s consulate in San Francisco, the reluctance of many U.S. allies to confront Russia over the incident stemmed from Trump’s initial ambivalence about it. – Bloomberg