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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.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House Jan. 6 committee held its first public hearings last night. Key takeaways are provided by the New York Times.
The Committee sought to place former President Donald Trump at the center of the conspiracy. The committee’s chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, and vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, began by laying out what they described as an elaborate, intentional scheme by Trump to remain in power. “Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup,” Thompson said.
Key figures around the president did not believe his claims of election fraud at the time. Using the videotaped testimony of some of Trump’s closest aides and allies, the committee showed that Trump’s campaign was aware that he had lost the 2020 election, but nevertheless embarked on a calculated campaign to gain support for his bid to remain in power.
The committee brought the violence of the day to life by airing the hearings at primetime, showing previously unseen footage of the violence at the capitol, and hearing the testimony of a capitol police officer who defended against the attack.
The Proud Boys’ effort on January 6 was organized and calculated. One of the witnesses, a British documentary filmmaker named Nick Quested who was embedded with the Proud Boys, gave testimony that indicated that the group’s leadership had conspired with another extremist organization, the Oath Keepers, well ahead of the riot to plan an attack that would breach the Capitol.
Read Representative Liz Cheney’s opening statement from last night in full here.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Russian investigators opened over 1000 cases against Ukrainian soldiers, raising fears of show trials. The trials will fit into Putin’s narrative about the war, whose stated aim was to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians.” Beyond holding trials to support its narrative on the war, the Kremlin might also turn the fate of these prisoners into a powerful bargaining chip in future talks with Kyiv. Ivan Nechepurenko reports for the New York Times.
Ukraine “desperately needs heavy weapons,” the country’s minister of defense said yesterday. Oleksiy Reznikov praised the generosity of Ukraine’s western allies, but said that he was not satisfied with the speed or the quantity of weapons coming into Ukraine. With much of the fighting taking place at a greater distance, Russia’s long-range weapon superiority is especially significant. Marc Santora Reports for the New York Times.
Russia may be profiting more from energy sales than it did before the war, U.S. Energy Security Envoy Amos J. Hochstein said yesterday. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Hochstein said that global demand for oil has been “far greater, stronger, than anyone predicted” after the pandemic. As a result, prices for fossil fuels have risen — possibly leading to Russia’s energy industry making more money despite having to sell its crude at a deeply discounted price. This windfall comes despite western sanctions that have sought to cripple Russia’s international sales of oil. María Paúl reports for the Washington Post.
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency said yesterday that the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine was untenable. Rafael Mariano Grossi expressed “grave concern” about the lack of security and guards at the nuclear power plant. He said that five out of seven “indispensable” security pillars have been compromised at the plant, he added. Paulina Villegas reports for the Washington Post.
Three foreign fighters captured by Russia were sentenced to death yesterday. A court in the Russian-occupied territory of Donetsk sentenced the three men — two from the U.K. and one from Morocco — to death for fighting as mercenaries alongside Ukrainian forces. Britain has condemned the trial in the unrecognized territory, saying it was being used for political ends and that the men should be treated as combatants. “They are prisoners of war,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted after the sentence. “This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy.” Thomas Grove reports for the Wall Street Journal
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
At least 4.8 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded across Europe, the U.N.’s refugee agency reported on Thursday, citing new data from national authorities. The war has resulted in “one of the largest human displacement crises in the world today,” the agency said. Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times
The European Central Bank (ECB) will raise interest rates for the first time in 11 years, President Christine Lagarde said yesterday. In order to counter rising inflation, the ECB will also stop growing its bond-buying program this month. “High inflation is a major challenge for all of us,” the bank said in a statement, as it warned that inflationary pressures had “broadened and intensified,” reaching more goods and services. The central bank was explicit about raising rates, saying it planned to raise its three key rates by a quarter-point at its July meeting. Eshe Nelson reports for the New York Times.
Ukrainian officials are concerned that, as the war drags on, fatigue in the West will reduce support for Ukraine. The U.S. and its allies have given billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine, as European countries have taken in millions of refugees, and there has been unprecedented unity in post-World War II Europe in imposing sanctions on President Vladimir Putin and Russia. But as the shock of the Feb. 24 invasion subsides, analysts say the Kremlin could exploit a dragged-out, entrenched conflict and possible waning interest among western powers that might lead to pressuring Ukraine into a settlement. Colleen Barry and Yuras Karmanau report for AP.
A $107 billion funding package for the German military received final parliamentary approval today, clearing the last legislative hurdle. The fund, announced by the German chancellor just three days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, would help Germany achieve spending over 2% of its gross domestic product on defense — a NATO target on which it has long lagged. The government and the opposition agreed that defense spending would meet the 2% target “on a multi-year average,” with help from the special fund. AP reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Alongside its European allies, the U.S. is searching for new ways to restrain rising oil prices, Treasury Secretary Yellen said. Yellen said that the U.S. was involved in “extremely active” talks with European allies about efforts to form a buyers’ cartel and set a cap on the price of Russian oil. A goal in the talks is to keep Russian oil available on global markets to buyers such as India and China, which could help stabilize prices already trending at roughly double pre-pandemic levels, while constructing a mechanism western countries could use to restrict Russian revenues from the sales. Andrew Duehren reports for the Wall Street Journal.
McDonald’s will reopen in Russia on Sunday under a new name and new ownership. Last month McDonald’s announced that it was selling its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees, Alexander Govor. McDonald’s iconic ‘Golden Arches’ have been taken down at sites in Moscow and St Petersburg, where they will make way for a new logo. It marks the first significant change in a western company’s position towards Russia since its invasion of Ukraine. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Iran’s decision to dismantle UN monitoring systems makes reviving the 2015 nuclear deal highly unlikely. Iran removed IAEA cameras from one of its nuclear facilities this week following a resolution from the IAEA condemning its nuclear practices. Tehran also threatened to install new equipment that would dramatically increase its ability to produce nuclear fuel. The Biden administration condemned the move, as did France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which said in a statement that “there has been a viable deal on the table since March, 2022” that Iran has rejected. The escalation of tensions represents a concerning shift, several experts said, and marks a hardening of Tehran’s position in the nuclear negotiations. Isabella Kwai reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. and Latin American countries will release a joint declaration pledging to receive more migrants. The statement comes in the middle of the Summit for the Americas, which is being held in Los Angeles this week. The announcement contains four pillars: stabilization and assistance to countries hosting migrants; new legal pathways for foreign workers; a joint approach to border protection, including tackling smuggling networks; and a coordinated response to historic flows across the border. Miriam Jordan reports for the New York Times.
Biden met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for the first time yesterday. The meeting had the potential to be one of the most tense of the week. Bolsonaro is a close ally of former President Trump and a supporter of many of the policies that Biden has tried to end. Bolsonaro has opened the Amazon to more logging and mining, made it easier to buy guns in Brazil, denigrated the idea of transgender rights, and moved Brazil closer to Russia. But what is most concerning to U.S. officials is Bolsonaro’s efforts to question the reliability of Brazil’s voting systems ahead of October’s presidential election and amid falling poll numbers. Jack Nicas and Michael D. Shear report for the New York Times.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman traveled to the Philippines yesterday to meet with Philippine President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Sherman said that the two discussed a range of issues, including the Philippines-U.S. alliance, deepening economic ties, advancing human rights and “preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific.” Sherman’s trip comes as part of a broader effort to reach out to leaders in the region as concern increases over China’s push to expand its own influence in a strategically important region. David Rising reports for AP.
Legislation proposed in Congress yesterday would have the Pentagon work with Israel to integrate air defenses to thwart threats from Iran. The bill is the latest attempt by the U.S. to bolster defense cooperation between Israel and the broader Middle East following normalization of relations with several Arab states. Under the bill, the Pentagon must submit a strategy that identifies an “approach to an integrated air and missile defense system” within 180 days of when the measure becomes law. Nancy A. Youssef and Stephen Kalin report for the Wall Street Journal.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a snap trip to the United Arab Emirates yesterday amid rising tensions with Iran. The trip represents the latest display of the strengthening alliance between the two countries and their united front against Iran amid rising tensions over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The visit, during which Bennett met with the U.A.E.’s president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, came just over a week after Israel and the Emirates signed a wide-ranging free-trade agreement. Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times.
Australia and New Zealand are in “lockstep” in their policies toward the Pacific islands, where China’s influence is growing, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said today. Australia, New Zealand, and the United States have voiced concerns that a new Beijing security pact with the Solomon Islands could result in a Chinese military base being established there. The Solomons and China have both denied that that will happen. Asked if Australia wants New Zealand to do more to counter China’s rise in the Pacific, Albanese told reporters in Sydney: “We’re in lockstep on the Pacific.” Rod McGuirk reports for AP.
COVID-19 has infected over 84.44 million people and has now killed over 1.01 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 530.742 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.29 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine rollout across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
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