With help from Lara Seligman, Lawrence Ukenye, Daniel Lippman and Connor O’Brien
Subscribe here | Email Alex
As it stands today, Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN is the only person who can designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. But he may have just gotten his marching orders from President JOE BIDEN not to slap that label on the Kremlin, lowering the chances of Russia suffering the stiffest sanctions possible.
Upon his return to the White House Monday night, Biden was asked by a reporter if Russia should be placed on the state sponsor of terrorism list alongside North Korea, Syria, Cuba and Iran. “No,” the president replied.
Biden’s one-word statement reflects the administration’s long-held view that the designation would do more harm than good. The sanctions that would follow placing Russia on the list are so broad that they’ll do more than hurt just Russia’s economy — they’ll impact anyone doing legitimate business there.
That matters less to international finance and business than when, say, North Korea or Iran are given the terrorism sponsor designation because those countries are far less integrated in the global economy — but Russia is, and so the third and fourth order effects (etc. etc.) could unleash widespread pain.
Plus, administration officials say, American sanctions on Moscow are about as tough already as any that would come after putting Russia on the terrorism blacklist. The move would be redundant and unhelpful, Biden’s team argues.
Blinken, then, was always unlikely to place the label on Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN’s forehead. But if he had any inkling to do so, Biden’s comment surely squashed it.
In Washington, that’s not the end of it. Biden’s “no” will ratchet up the tension as the administration fights with Congress over the issue.
In July, Speaker NANCY PELOSI told Blinken that if he didn’t put Russia on the terrorism blacklist, then Congress would. Since then, the Senate unanimously passed a non-binding resolution urging Blinken to do so, followed by a bipartisan quintet of House members introducing a bill that would officially slap the designation on Russia.
Rep. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-N.J.), one of those five House lawmakers, indicated to NatSec Daily Tuesday that he and others would push the bill forward, Biden’s stance notwithstanding.
“I understand our main focus has to stay on tangible things — military aid to Ukraine and squeezing Putin economically. But a strong case has been made that Russia merits designation given its use of the Wagner Group and support for other violent extremists, and I see no reason why the administration or Congress should shield them from it,” he said.
WELCOME, LIZ TRUSS: The United Kingdom has a new prime minister, and her name is LIZ TRUSS. In a brief speech outside 10 Downing Street, the country’s third female in charge and 56th head of government said she was “determined to deliver” amid economic chaos left behind by outgoing Prime Minister BORIS JOHNSON.
Biden welcomed Truss, saying in a statement that he looked forward to working with her to maintain the “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K.
Russian Foreign Minister SERGEI LAVROV had a different take: “Liz Truss has a knowingly negative position on Russia. She defends Britain’s interests without any desire to compromise, which is unlikely to strengthen London’s position on the international stage,” he said.
Truss has no public mandate — her Conservative Party chose her and gave her power. The latest she can call an election is January 2025, but Truss already signaled that she might call for a vote in 2024.
Read: Our own RYAN HEATH and ELLA CREAMER on what Washington thinks of the new British premier.
RUSSIA NEEDS NORTH KOREAN WEAPONS: In what feels like the geopolitical version of hitting rock bottom, Russia has turned to North Korea to buy rockets and artillery shells, our own LARA SELIGMAN reported.
The information comes from downgraded intelligence, signaling that the Biden administration wants to embarrass the Kremlin and show that Western-led sanctions have placed a vise around Russia’s military and economy.
The purchase of arms from Pyongyang “indicates that the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions,” a U.S. official told Seligman, noting that Russia will likely go back to KIM JONG UN Mart when needed.
Putin, it seems, is desperate: “It’s the microchips that look set to get Vladimir Putin in the end. Six months into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is being throttled by a severe technology deficit inflicted by sanctions,” POLITICO’s ZOYA SHEFTALOVICH and LAURENS CERULUS reported.
Meanwhile: Russia began receiving the first shipments of Iranian Mohajer-6 and Shahed drones for use on the battlefield, according to the Pentagon. The drones can be used to conduct strikes, electronic warfare and targeting, though officials said the systems have already experienced a number of failures, Seligman reported.
MACRON ASKED SOCCER STAR MBAPPÉ TO STAY: It’s NatSec Daily’s first day back from hiatus, so forgive this little indulgence of sports gossip, but OMG French President EMMANUEL MACRON asked French soccer star KYLIAN MBAPPÉ not to leave for Real Madrid and instead remain with Paris-Saint Germain (PSG).
“In June, with Mbappé’s P.S.G. contract expiring, Real Madrid came back again, putting together the biggest contract package in its history. But P.S.G. countered one final time, at one point enlisting the help of President Macron. The vision the president pitched to Mbappé was one about being the standard-bearer for his country, at least for a few more years — of the chance to be a hero for France, and for P.S.G. at the same time,” the New York Times’ TARIQ PANJA reported.
“I never imagined I’m gonna talk with the president about my future, about my future in my career, so it’s something crazy, really something crazy,” he said. “He told me: ‘I want you to stay. I don’t want you to leave now. You are so important for the country.’”
“Of course,” Mbappé continued, “when the president says that to you, that counts.”
IT’S TUESDAY: Thanks for tuning in to NatSec Daily. This space is reserved for the top U.S. and foreign officials, the lawmakers, the lobbyists, the experts and the people like you who care about how the natsec sausage gets made. Aim your tips and comments at [email protected], and follow me on Twitter at @alexbward.
While you’re at it, follow the rest of POLITICO’s national security team: @nahaltoosi, @woodruffbets, @politicoryan, @PhelimKine, @ChristopherJM, @BryanDBender, @laraseligman, @connorobrienNH, @paulmcleary, @leehudson, @AndrewDesiderio, @magmill95 and @Lawrence_Ukenye.
IAEA CALLS FOR ‘SAFETY ZONE’ AT NUKE PLANT: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is “gravel concerned” about what inspectors witnessed at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), stating that “a nuclear safety and security protection zone” is needed to prevent a nuclear accident.
The recommendation came in a report released today by the IAEA with some stunning images and scenes. NPR’s GEOFF BRUMFIEL hit some of the highlights on his Twitter feed, namely how the IAEA team witnessed shelling of the ZNPP while it was visiting and pictures showing that artillery blew out windows on the walkway to reactor 6.
It’s a worrying picture, as the shelling and Russian military presence increases the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe.
Read:WSJ goes deep inside the IAEA mission at ZNPP.
CHINA: U.S. SPYING ON UNIVERSITY: China blamed the U.S. on Monday night of cyberspying on a university that does military research.
“Northwestern Polytechnical University reported computer break-ins in June, the National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center announced. It said the center, working with a commercial security provider, Qihoo 360 Technology Co., traced the attacks to the National Security Agency but didn’t say how that was done,” The Associated Press reported.
Beijing and Washington constantly accuse each other of cyberespionage, probably because they each constantly do cyberespionage on each other. But China’s accusations are quite broad in this case.
What America (allegedly) did “seriously endanger[s] China’s national security,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson MAO NING, adding further that the U.S. is listening in on Chinese cell phone calls and stealing text messages.
AUSTIN, MILLEY HEAD TO GERMANY: Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN and Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. MARK MILLEY head to Germany today for an in-person meeting of the Ukraine defense contact group at Ramstein Air Force Base, Pentagon press Secretary Brig. Gen. PATRICK RYDER announced on Tuesday.
Austin and Milley will be joined by senior military and defense leaders from more than 50 nations around the world to discuss how to support Ukraine’s ongoing fight against Russia. Officials say to expect discussions about new military aid to Kyiv, as Ukrainian forces begin to recapture territory in Kherson in the south and in Kharkiv Oblast.
ON THE TEAM: Anduril Industries will announce today that it is joining American Rheinmetall Vehicles’ team vying for the Army’s M-2 Bradley replacement and will provide command and control software, own our LEE HUDSON scooped in Morning Defense (for Pros!).
American Rheinmetall Vehicles is working with four other firms on proposals for the Optionally-Manned Fighting Vehicle, including Textron Systems, Raytheon Technologies, L3Harris Technologies and Allison Transmission.
The Army also awarded contracts in July 2021 to Point Blank Enterprises, Oshkosh Defense, BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems to design alternatives.
The Army has tried and failed twice to replace the Bradley. The Future Combat System was canceled in 2009 and the Ground Combat Vehicle program was canceled in 2014. The service plans to award up to three contracts in the second quarter of fiscal 2023 for the next phase of the competition.
CODEL BACK FROM ASIA: Rep. ADAM SMITH (D-Wash.), the House Armed Services Committee, chair, announced that a bipartisan congressional delegation has just returned from Japan and Indonesia — and he’s hearing increased concern about China’s aggressiveness.
If two years ago a person said China would invade Taiwan, officials in Japan, Indonesia and elsewhere would have “scoffed” at that assessment, Smith told NatSec Daily in a brief Tuesday interview. Now, he says, they see it as a “plausible and concerning scenario.”
Japan is particularly worried as some of its islands are near Taiwan. Smith speculated that some of China’s war plans could include seizing Japanese islands to fend off a Western-led repelling of Beijing’s forces.
Smith, alongside Reps. JIM COOPER (D-Tenn.) and STEVEN PALAZZO (R-Miss.), traveled to Yokosuka Naval Station and sat down with officials in Tokyo while in Japan. In Indonesia, the lawmakers spoke with the minister of defense as well as the commander of Indonesian Armed Forces.
Fun fact: The G20 later this year will take place in Indonesia, where we all may be blessed to watch Biden squirm alongside Chinese President XI JINPING and Putin.
CIV-MIL OPEN LETTER: Civil-military relations are in crisis, eight former defense secretaries and five former Joint Chiefs chairs wrote in a Tuesday open letter.
The geopolitical, societal and political climates — including “the first election in over a century when the peaceful transfer of political power was disrupted and in doubt” — are trending downward. So the 13 men listed 16 principles of civil-military relations the U.S. should adhere to in War on the Rocks, the one-stop shop for D.C. natsec-targeted open letters.
Among them: “Civilian control operates within a constitutional framework under the rule of law. Military officers swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not an oath of fealty to an individual or to an office.”
ALICE HUNT FRIEND, a former Pentagon official now with the Institute for Security and Technology, tweeted that the open letter “seems like it’s for a military audience. And just demonstrates once again that we don’t have a lot of specifics about what civilians do to exercise civilian control, beyond their general Constitutional responsibilities.”
— JOHN SULLIVAN has left his post as U.S. ambassador to Russia. The former deputy secretary of state will retire from public service after working under five presidents. We send our condolences to the ambassador on the passing of his wife.
— MILLICENT HENNESSEY has departed the White House to be a senior manager of public policy at Samsung Semiconductor, Inc. She spent five years on the National Security Council, where she focused primarily on China issues and women’s economic empowerment.
— ERIC JEWETT started on Tuesday doing strategic communications planning on a DCG Communications contract supporting the U.S. Army’s office of the chief of public affairs. He most recently was lead advance and special assistant with the Congress of Future Medical Leaders. ROBERT MITCHELL and BRIAN NESTOR also started working for the public affairs office on Tuesday as a strategic comms planner and outreach specialist, respectively. Mitchell most recently worked as a public affairs specialist for Armed Forces Retirement Home and Nestor was a civilian working for the U.S. Air Force; both are on a contract with CruxDCG.
— VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, The Wall Street Journal: Invest in the Future of Ukraine
— GEORGE PACKER, The Atlantic: Inside Ukraine’s Fight for Survival
— JAMES BAKER, The New York Times: Why Gorbachev Mattered
— The Air and Space Forces Association, 8:30 a.m.:“Warfighters in Action”
— The Center for New American Security, 9:30 a.m.:“Taiwan, Cross-Strait Relations, and an Evolving World.”
— The Henry L. Stimson Center, 9:30 a.m.:“Next Steps on Post-Delivery Controls for International Arms Transfers.”
— The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 10 a.m.:“Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace.”
— The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 10 a.m.:“Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China.”
— The Government Executive Media Group, 11 a.m.:“State of Defense: Army.”
— The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, 11 a.m.:“Russian Sharp Power in Action: The Case of Latvia.”
— The Association of the U.S. Army, 12 p.m.: “Pivot to Readiness with Army Medicine”
— The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2 p.m.:“Software-Defined Warfare: Defining the DOD’s Transition to the Digital Age.”
Have a natsec-centric event coming up? Transitioning to a new defense-adjacent or foreign policy-focused gig? Shoot me an email at [email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.
And thanks to my editor, Ben Pauker, who appreciates Macron not intervening to keep Paul Pogba at Old Trafford.