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Early Edition: March 22, 2023

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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.


Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping signed 14 agreements yesterday, during the second day of Xi’s state visit to Moscow. “We signed a statement on deepening the strategic partnership and bilateral ties, which are entering a new era,” Xi said, following talks with Putin in the Kremlin. However, Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, described the agreements as pretty thin,” adding that they were mostly incremental updates to arrangements that both parties had agreed to before the summit. Valerie Hopkins reports for the New York Times.

The U.S. will send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine far more quickly than expected, with a number of them scheduled to arrive later this year. The tanks will come from the U.S. military’s existing inventory of older M1A1 Abrams and will be renovated before shipment to Kyiv, which is expected to take several months, the Pentagon said in a briefing to reporters. John Ismay reports for the New York Times

Ukrainian soldiers have learned how to operate the U.S. Patriot missile defense system faster than expected, U.S. officials have said. 65 Ukrainians arrived for training in Fort Sill in January, and are now just about ready to use the systems on the battlefield to protect Ukrainian cities and infrastructure from Russian attacks. Officials had previously cautioned that the training could take up to a year. Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO

The U.K. Ministry of Defense yesterday accused Russia of “deliberately trying to disinform,” after Putin warned London against providing Ukraine with ammunition that contains depleted uranium. Putin said yesterday that the U.K.’s decision to send ammunition containing depleted uranium to Ukraine meant that the West was “already starting to use weapons with a nuclear component.” However, the U.K. defense ministry hit back at this claim saying that depleted uranium was a “standard component” in ammunition. “Russia knows this, but is deliberately trying to disinform,” it added. Jessie Gretener, Darya Tarasova and Jack Guy report for CNN


The U.S. is flying surveillance drones farther south above the Black Sea after a Russian jet collided with a U.S. drone last week, two U.S. officials have said. The drone flights have remained in international airspace, but since the collision between one of the Russian jets and the MQ-9 Reaper drone last Tuesday, the U.S. has moved its drone flights farther away from airspace surrounding the Crimean peninsula and eastern portions of the Black Sea. One of the officials said the routes are part of an effort “to avoid being too provocative,” as the Biden administration remains careful to avoid a direct conflict between U.S. and Russian forces. Oren Liebermann and Jim Scuitto report for CNN

North Korea fired several cruise missiles today, continuing its spree of weapons tests in response to ongoing joint military drills by the U.S. and South Korea. Dasl Yoon reports for the Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration has determined that government troops and other forces in Ethiopia, a key U.S. partner in East Africa, committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the country’s two-year civil war. Blinken announced the new assessment as he unveiled the State Department’s annual report on global human rights. Blinken described the two-year war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as a “devastating” conflict that generated widespread killing, sexual violence and displacement, adding that many of these actions were “calculated and deliberate.” The Ethiopian government called the announcement “inflammatory” and “untimely.” Missy Ryan reports for the Washington Post


The Manhattan grand jury investigating Trump’s role in a hush-money payment to adult actor Stormy Daniels will meet today as it comes closer to voting on a potential indictment of the former president. During the meeting, jurors could hear from additional witnesses or prosecutors could formally present charges, which is the final step before the jurors vote on whether to indict. Any potential indictment wouldn’t be public until it is unsealed by a judge. While the timing of any possible surrender by Trump is unknown, law-enforcement officials said they anticipated it likely wouldn’t happen this week. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal

Communications between Daniels and an attorney currently representing Trump have been turned over to the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The exchanges – which date back to when Daniels was seeking representation – raise the possibility that Trump attorney, Joe Tacopina, could be sidelined from his defense of the former president in the case pertaining to Trump’s alleged role in paying hush money to Daniels. Daniels’ communications with Tacopina include details relating to her situation and could show a disclosure of confidential information from Daniels, her attorney Clark Brewster has said. Tacopina denies that there is a conflict or that confidential information was shared. Kristen Holmes and Tierney Sneed report for CNN


An appeals court in Washington has put a temporary halt on a ruling that paved the way for federal investigators to elicit grand jury testimony from one of Trump’s lawyers as part of their inquiry into the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. At the request of Trump’s legal team, the three-judge panel stayed, pending appeal, a sealed ruling that rejected attorney-client privilege claims raised by the former president’s lawyer, Evan Corcoran, during a grand jury appearance in January. The panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit set extraordinarily tight deadlines for additional information and arguments, ordering Trump’s lawyers to file a briefing by midnight yesterday and special counsel Jack Smith’s team to respond by 6 am E.S.T. today. C. Ryan Barber reports for the Wall Street Journal.

The Air Force has notified lawmakers that it improperly released the military records of a total of seven Republican Party congressional candidates to a Democratic-aligned research firm during the 2022 campaign cycle. The revelation came in a letter sent on Friday to House Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY). Five of the Republican candidates are already known, and two had not been confirmed until now. The records of two additional people were also “released without authority,” the letter states. Olivia Beavers reports for POLITICO

Last year Rolling Stone revealed that the FBI had raided the home of a renowned journalist, but failed to report that the raid had been carried out in connection with an investigation into images of child sexual abuse. Whilst the article’s author intended to include this key fact, the published article instead suggested that the journalist, James Gordon Meek, was targeted for his coverage of national security. This raises questions as to why this omission was made. David Folkenflik provides analysis for NPR


Israel’s Parliament yesterday repealed legislation that barred settlers from four Jewish communities in the occupied West Bank that were evacuated in 2005. The action means that visits to the settlements will now be allowed, however it is unlikely to lead to any immediate new construction. Nevertheless, the U.S. State Department strongly condemned the legislative change, saying it was “extremely troubled” by it. Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times.

Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today defend himself against claims he deliberately misled parliament during his term in office. The former UK leader will give evidence to a parliamentary committee that is investigating Johnson’s claim that COVID-19 rules and guidelines were followed “at all times” during his time in 10 Downing Street. Johnson has already admitted in written evidence submitted Monday that he accepts the comments, made to parliament in Dec. 2021, were misleading, but denies that he made them intentionally and claims that at the time he had been given assurances by trusted aides that no rules were broken. Luke McGee reports for CNN.

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