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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
The U.S., Australia, and the U.K. yesterday unveiled details of a plan to provide Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines from the early 2030s to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific. Under the deal, the U.S. intends to sell Australia at least three Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines in the early 2030s. Alongside this purchase, the U.K. and Australia will produce and operate a new “trilaterally developed” submarine class based on Britain’s next-generation design that would be built in Britain and Australia and include “cutting edge” U.S. technologies. Steve Holland, Elizabeth Piper, David Brunnstrom, and Lewis Jackson report for Reuters.
President Biden is seeking a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ease tensions following last month’s discovery of a Chinese spy balloon and Xi’s unusually blunt criticism of the U.S. No date for a phone call has yet been set, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said yesterday. Ellen Nakashima and Olivier Knox report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. and its allies seek to make their militaries “interchangeable,” which could involve frequently using each other’s weapons, equipment, and ammunition supplies, and coordinating logistics and supply chains more efficiently. By expanding its military in Asia and the Pacific and boosting the capabilities of allies, U.S. planners hope China will be deterred from any aggressive moves in the region. Mike Cherney reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Mexico is a safer country than the U.S., Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador argued yesterday, following the deadly high-profile kidnapping of four Americans. López Obrador also claimed there was “a campaign against Mexico from conservative U.S. politicians that don’t want this country to keep developing for the good of the Mexican people.” On Friday, the Texas Department of Public Safety advised that residents avoid travel to Mexico during spring break, citing the risk of cartel violence. Tatiana Arias and Caitlin Hu report for CNN.
President Biden said yesterday it is his “intention” to go to Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement after receiving a formal invitation from U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The Good Friday Agreement ended decades of conflict in Northern Ireland. The White House and legislators from both the Democratic and Republican parties have been adamant that any post-Brexit trading arrangements would not violate the Good Friday Agreement. Lauren Fedor and Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe report for the Financial Times.
The International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) intends to open two war crimes cases against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, current and former officials with knowledge of the decision have indicated. The chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, alleges that Russia abducted Ukrainian children and teenagers and sent them to Russian re-education camps, and that Russian forces deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure. Khan must present his charges to a panel of pretrial judges who will decide whether the legal standards have been met for issuing arrest warrants. Marlise Simons reports for the New York Times.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping plans to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the first time since the start of the Ukraine war, according to people familiar with the matter. This reflects China’s stated ambition of playing a key role in securing peace between Russia and Ukraine. Speaking about Xi’s potential visit, President Biden’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, said yesterday, “that would be a good thing because it would potentially bring more balance and perspective to the way that [China] is approaching this.” Keith Zhai reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Ukrainian officials have ordered the evacuation of Kupiansk, a city in northeastern Kharkiv, as the frontline is less than 5 miles away. Last week, Ukrainian authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation of Kupiansk’s most vulnerable residents due to “constant” Russian shelling. Authorities say that they manage between 8 to 40 voluntary evacuations most days. 2,500 residents have remained in the city to date. Melissa Bell and Saskya Vandoorne, and Maria Avdeeva report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
About 25,000 Ukrainians and their family members who came into the U.S. through Mexico between Feb. 24 and Apr. 25 last year are eligible for a one-year extension, the Biden administration said yesterday. The extension will be granted on a case-by-case basis. The new two-year period aligns with the length of time Ukrainians fleeing the war were later permitted to stay under a system known as “humanitarian parole.” Eileen Sullivan reports for the New York Times.
The Defense Department’s $842 billion budget request for 2024 includes $30.6 billion for missiles and munitions manufacturing, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen said yesterday. Speaking about the munitions stocks, depleted since the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Hicks said, “make no mistake: we are buying to the limits of the industrial base, even as we are expanding those limits.” Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord noted that not all the missiles would replace those sent to Ukraine but would also deter an aggressive China in the Indo-Pacific. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
U.S. and European officials have estimated that as many as 120,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the start of Russia’s invasion. Ukrainian forces are also suffering from basic shortages of ammunition, including artillery shells and mortar bombs, according to military personnel in the field. These shortages may hinder Ukraine’s much-hyped counteroffensive and could fuel criticism that the U.S. and its European allies waited too long to provide better training and supplies. Isabelle Khurshudyan, Paul Sonne, and Karen DeYoung report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. and U.K. are sowing deceptions that a pro-Ukrainian group blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last year, said Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. Russia still does not know who was behind the attack because it has not been included in an investigation of the blasts, Patrushev told the Argumenti i Fakti newspaper. Patrushev, one of President Vladimir Putin’s key allies, has previously accused “Anglo-Saxons” of sabotaging Nord Stream in what he has called a terrorist attack. Guy Faulconbridge reports for Reuters.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Former President Trump yesterday said that former Vice President Mike Pence should shoulder the blame for the Jan. 6 attack. “Had he sent the votes back to the legislatures, they wouldn’t have had a problem with Jan. 6, so in many ways you can blame him for Jan. 6,” Trump told reporters, referring to Pence’s refusal to reject the electoral college votes in Congress as Trump wanted him to do that day. The former president’s comments respond to Pence’s remarks on Saturday, where he said unequivocally that Trump had been “wrong” to demand he overturned the election results. Isaac Arnsdorf and Maeve Reston report for the Washington Post.
The Serbian man whose videos inspired Jan. 6 attackers, and who moved to the U.S. soon after the 2020 election, continues to encourage political violence on his social media account. The man, Aleksandar Savic, and his wife appear to be proponents of a wide range of anti-communist, far-right, anti-vaccine, and anti-semitic conspiracy theories, the BBC has found, something that has sparked concern amongst extremism experts. It is unclear how the couple obtained a visa to the U.S., and what type of visa they have, however, Savic recently tweeted about his long wait to obtain a U.S. work permit. Mike Wendling and Lazara Marinkovic report for BBC News.
HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY COMMITTEE
House Oversight and Accountability Committee chair James Comer has subpoenaed Bank of America asking for records relating to three of Hunter Biden’s business associates. This is according to a letter sent to Comer from the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD). In the letter Raskin criticized Comer for not giving Democratic members standard notice before the subpoena was issued, arguing they were only given visibility a few hours prior rather than the standard committee practice of altering the minority of a subpoena 48 hours in advance. The Maryland Democrat also characterized the subpoena as a “roving congressional inquisition into the affairs of at least one private American citizen,” given that it called for “the production of thousands of pages” of one of the Biden family’s business associate’s private financial information. Zachary Cohen, Alayna Treene, Sara Murray, and Annie Grayer report for CNN.
The committee has quietly abandoned its congressional investigation into whether former President Trump profited improperly from his presidency. House Republicans will no longer enforce a court-supervised settlement agreement that demanded Mazars USA, Trump’s former accounting firm, produce his financial records to Congress. Committee Chair Comer confirmed the end of the inquiry after Democrats wrote to him raising concerns about the fact that Mazars had stopped turning over documents related to his financial dealings. Luke Broadwater Jonathan Swan report for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden is expected to sign an executive order on gun control today. The order is aimed at increasing the number of background checks to buy guns, promoting better and more secure firearms storage, and ensuring U.S. law enforcement agencies are able to get the most out of the bipartisan gun violence bill passed by Congress last summer. In the order, Biden will also mandate that his Cabinet work on a plan to better support communities suffering from gun violence. Zeke Miller and Colleen Long report for AP.
Hate crimes in the U.S. rose 11.6% in 2021, the FBI said yesterday after earlier incomplete data had suggested a decline. The bureau had previously acknowledged that the statistics it released in December were incomplete because thousands of police departments – including New York and California – hadn’t yet reported their numbers to the federal government. The new figures show a rise in hate crimes from 8,120 in 2020 to 9,065 in 2021, with 79% of law enforcement agencies reporting. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The White House yesterday called on former Vice President Mike Pence to apologize for his remark that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had gone on “maternity leave.” In a statement White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the “homophobic joke” was “offensive and inappropriate.” Veronica Stracqualursi, Nikki Carvajal and Jack Forrest report for CNN.
More than $10 billion in losses from online scams were reported to the FBI in 2022, the highest annual loss in the last five years, a new report from the bureau has revealed. The more than $3 billion jump in reports of online fraud from 2021 to 2022 was driven by a near-tripling in reports of cryptocurrency investment fraud, the FBI said in its annual Internet Crime Report. Sean Lyngaas and Hannah Rabinowitz report for CNN.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson today said that Finland’s likelihood of joining NATO before Sweden had increased, though Swedish membership was only a matter of time. Turkey, which says the two countries harbor members of what it considers terrorist groups, has been particularly opposed to Sweden’s accession. The three countries resumed talks on the process in Brussels last week. Reuters reports.
Taiwan’s domestic submarine program faces many difficulties but is going according to plan, said Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng today following a sharp increase in British exports of submarine parts to the island. Taiwan has engaged many foreign submarine technology vendors for its new fleet to bolster its defenses in the face of a rising military threat from China. Reuters reports.
India’s I.T. ministry is considering plans to force smartphone makers to allow the removal of pre-installed apps and mandate screening of major operating system updates amid concerns about spying and abuse of user data, said a senior government official. “[The] majority of smartphones used in India are having pre-installed Apps/Bloatware which poses serious privacy/information security issue(s),” stated a Feb. 8 confidential government record of an I.T. ministry meeting, seen by Reuters. India has also ramped up scrutiny of Chinese businesses, which dominate the Indian smartphone market, since a 2020 border clash, banning more than 300 Chinese apps, including TikTok. Munsif Vengattil and Aditya Kalra report for Reuters.