With help from Alex Ward, Oriana Pawlyk, Connor O’Brien and Daniel Lippman
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Say what you will about democracy, but it loves to surprise.
This past weekend saw two elections, in France and Colombia, whose eye-opening outcomes could have notable effects on President JOE BIDEN’s foreign policy. White House aides are still trying to figure out exactly what those results mean for the president’s international agenda, but it’s fair to say that domestic politics will change significantly in the two critical partner countries.
In France: Far-left and far-right candidates picked up enough seats in parliament to deny President EMMANUEL MACRON and his centrist coalition an absolute majority. This means that Macron will have to negotiate for every single vote to push through much of his preferred legislation. Essentially, Macron’s case represents “a trans-Atlantic carbon copy of Biden’s situation,” writes CNN contributor DAVID A. ANDELMAN.
Macron has not always been perfectly aligned with the White House or fellow European leaders; at times, he’s seemed too willing to hold Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN’s hand in the wake of the war in Ukraine. But overall, he’s been a solid and reliable ally, and the White House was relieved when he won his own election in April over far-right candidate MARINE LE PEN. Biden may sympathize with the political reality facing Macron (is there a JOE MANCHIN in the Sénat français?), but he also must reckon with now having a weaker partner at the Élysée.
Our friend CHARLES KUPCHAN, a former senior U.S. official dealing with European issues, sees pros and cons for Washington in Paris: “Even though the French president enjoys considerable sway over matters of foreign policy, his weakened position will likely produce a more cautious stance — not good news for the United States when Washington has been looking to Europe to shoulder more geopolitical responsibility. On the other [hand], Macron may need to be more of a team player on the European stage than he has been, a change that could ultimately work to the advantage of European integration and produce an EU that remains strongly oriented toward partnership with the United States.”
In Colombia: Leftist GUSTAVO PETRO’s election as the country’s next president could portend major changes to the Bogotá-Washington relationship.
Among other planks of his platform, Petro wants to renegotiate elements of Colombia’s free trade agreement with the U.S.; limit oil and gas exploration in Colombia; change the way Colombia fights rebel groups; and re-establish relations with Venezuelan President NICOLAS MADURO, a dictator whom the U.S. does not formally recognize — and whose policies have produced a refugee crisis that has affected Colombia.
Petro is an ex-guerilla taking charge in a country that has been led for decades by figures from the right-wing and center-right. His election is “a phenomenon that we see across the Americas and the world: voters are disillusioned with the political establishment,” notes JASON MARCZAK of the Atlantic Council.
Petro’s ascension, however, doesn’t mean that he’ll be able to easily enact all of his plans. He’ll need to build alliances in Colombia’s legislature, and he could face serious resistance from the country’s business community. Then, of course, there’s the potential for pressure from the U.S., especially given recent world events. (Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN has already been in touch with Petro, assuring him of America’s commitment to the bilateral relationship.)
“In the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine and one of the tightest oil markets in several decades, a potential Colombian decrease in production will impact the United States’ ability to offset Russian oil and gas,” warns RYAN BERG of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Berg also pointed out that “oil and gas is one of Colombia’s top export revenues,” something Petro may want to keep in mind.
And in Israel: We would be remiss if we did not mention the latest news from the Knesset, where Prime Minister NAFTALI BENNETT and Foreign Minister YAIR LAPID’s jittery coalition government is collapsing. The country now expects to hold its fifth election in just three years.
The planned October vote could provide a political lifeline to former longtime Prime Minister BENJAMIN NETANYAHU. But whether it’s him or someone else who seizes the moment, the trends in Israeli politics suggest the outcome will favor hard-liners more than moderates.
We are told the turbulence won’t affect Biden’s planned visit to Israel in July, when he’ll meet with whoever is in charge of the caretaker government there (likely Lapid). “We have a strategic relationship with Israel that goes beyond any one government,” a National Security Council spokesperson said. “The president looks forward to the visit next month.”
UKRAINIAN PILOTS PLEAD FOR AMERICAN JETS: Old Soviet-style jets won’t cut it in a long war against Russia, according to the Ukrainian fighter pilots flying them, who spoke to our own ORIANA PAWLYK and other reporters on condition of anonymity. Instead, they’re pushing the U.S. to send American-made warplanes over vulnerable drones that can’t defend themselves.
The Ukrainian air force’s first and foremost needs are modern, ground-based air defenses that are absolutely vital to thwart the constant Russian cruise missile attacks crippling cities on a daily basis, said a pair of pilots identifying themselves only as “JUICE” and “MOONFISH,” who asked the media not to disclose the date or location of the recent conversation. Their second-most pressing need is to acquire Western jets, they said.
Give us your F-16s: Moonfish said he was confident the aviators who have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with U.S. pilots in the past can jumpstart the process. He pointed out that international students who have come to train alongside the Air Force’s F-16 Formal Training Unit were well-versed in other platforms first, and that they likely didn’t have real-time combat experience. Still, those students learned how to make use of the multi-role fighter aircraft pretty quickly, Moonfish assessed.
Four months into Russia’s invasion, Ukraine has “more pilots than jets at this point,” Moonfish said, although he didn’t offer current inventory levels. The pilots are now flying roughly 20 to 30 sorties each day. “We need suppression of enemy air defense capability, we need air-to-ground capability — just to save our resources, to save our citizens, to save our critical infrastructure, to save our ground units,” Juice said.
And keep your Gray Eagles: As the U.S. weighs supplying Ukraine with MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones, the pilots agreed those weapons wouldn’t much help the overall war effort. “It’s very dangerous to use such expensive drones in our case because of enemy air defenses,” said Juice, noting that the drones are best-suited for reconnaissance missions given their more than 30-hour flight time. “For attack missions, you need to be closer. … It’s not Afghanistan here.”
GARLAND GOES TO UKRAINE: Attorney General MERRICK GARLAND made an unannounced visit to Ukraine today to discuss U.S. and international efforts to prosecute war crimes resulting from Russia’s invasion, Quint writes.
Appearing alongside Ukrainian Prosecutor General IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, Garland said the U.S. “is sending an unmistakable message: There is no place to hide. We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable.”
Garland also announced the launch of a War Crimes Accountability Team to be led by ELI ROSENBAUM, a more than three-decade DOJ veteran who previously served as director of the Office of Special Investigations, helping identify and deport Nazi war criminals. HOPE OLDS, the acting section chief of the department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section, will aid Rosenbaum’s efforts, as will prosecutors CHRISTINA GIFFIN, CHRISTIAN LEVESQUE and COURTNEY URSCHEL, the department said.
With his visit, Garland becomes the latest member of Biden’s Cabinet to make a trip to the war-torn country; Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN and Blinken traveled there together in April. The Justice Department previously announced last week that Garland was traveling elsewhere in Europe for various meetings.
PENTAGON PONDERS DOUBLING ROCKET LAUNCHER LOAD TO KYIV: Our own LARA SELIGMAN reported over the weekend that the Defense Department is leaning toward delivering four more rocket launchers to Ukraine in its next tranche of military aid — a move that would double the number of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems sent to the country.
The U.S. is already sending four of the HIMARS, a mobile rocket launcher and precision munitions that can strike targets 48 miles away. The U.K., meanwhile, is sending three units of a similar weapon, the American-made M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, with a range of 50 miles. Germany also announced that it will transfer three Ms270s to Kyiv.
The Defense Department is still weighing all options, and the decision to send four additional HIMARS is not yet final, a Pentagon official said, noting that U.S. contributions to Ukraine’s effort are made in consultation with allies and partners. The final call will be “based on Ukrainian immediate needs,” the official added.
EXPLAINING PYONGYANG’S SILENCE: Loyal NatSec Daily readers know that our own ALEX WARD is obsessed with why North Korea has been giving the U.S. the silent treatment. So while in Seoul, Alex has been asking for some answers from South Korean experts and officials.
Among the newer explanations he’s heard: Sanctions and the spread of Covid-19 have so ravaged the North Korean economy that leader KIM JONG UN doesn’t have the bandwidth to tackle high-stakes negotiations.
Kim’s top priority is boosting his regime’s legitimacy by improving the dire financial situation — even though he continues to spend massive amounts of money on strengthening his nuclear and missile arsenals. Going forward, expect the ruler to focus more on importing foodstuffs and jolting light industry in his country.
Kim is also aware that the U.S. is preoccupied with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and similarly can’t pay close enough attention to nuclear talks with Pyongyang.
And finally, Kim is still angry about the collapse of a U.S.-North Korea pact in Hanoi three years ago. He simply doesn’t trust the Biden administration to show a willingness to deal — which, in fairness, it really hasn’t. What U.S. officials have said to date is that they’d be willing to chat with no preconditions, but that sentiment is more of a passive gesture, not an active policy.
Alex will remain in Seoul for the rest of the week and send us some more tidbits about what he’s hearing, so stay tuned for those dispatches.
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RUSSIA WON’T RULE OUT DEATH PENALTY FOR CAPTURED AMERICANS: Kremlin spokesperson DMITRY PESKOV told NBC News’ KEIR SIMMONS in an interview Monday that the two U.S. military veterans captured in Ukraine are “soldiers of fortune” who were “involved in illegal activities” and “should be punished” — declining to rule out the death penalty for the pair of Americans.
The families of ALEXANDER DRUEKE and ANDY HUYNH reported them missing last week. Russian state-controlled media have broadcast videos of Drueke and Huynh, and reported that they were being held by separatists. Peskov didn’t say whether Drueke and Huynh were being detained in Russia or by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, but he added that they weren’t likely to be covered by the Geneva Conventions.
As for GRADY KURPASI, a third U.S. military veteran reported missing in Ukraine, Peskov said he had no information about him. Peskov went on to deny that detained American WNBA star BRITTNEY GRINER was being held as a “hostage” by Moscow. A Russian court last week extended Griner’s detention through at least July 2.
Asked last Friday about Drueke, Huynh and Kurpasi, Biden said he had “been briefed” on the cases and that U.S. officials “don’t know where they are.” Biden told reporters: “I want to reiterate: Americans should not be going to Ukraine now. I’ll say it again: Americans should not be going to Ukraine now. They should not be going to Ukraine.”
‘SCORES OF SECURITY VULNERABILITIES’: Our colleagues at Weekly Cybersecurity have an alarming new item that won’t give you much confidence in the safety of U.S. critical infrastructure.
“Researchers at Forescout have discovered scores of security vulnerabilities affecting dozens of devices in critical infrastructure operators’ systems that could give hackers the ability to steal login credentials or access certain products, according to a report released this morning,” SAM SABIN writes. “The sheer number of flaws — 56 new vulnerabilities across 10 operational tech vendors — and the risks associated with them is also prompting CISA to issue an advisory later today with recommended next steps.”
Affected products include distributed control systems that help process data to engineering workstations and remote terminal units that send data between hardware and control systems in pipelines, water systems and other pieces of critical infrastructure. Hackers could also exploit the recently discovered security flaws to take a piece of the infrastructure’s network offline or, in some cases, gain complete control of the affected product.
Per Sabin: “Forescout estimates that more than 35,000 individual devices will need to fix the vulnerabilities, with about a quarter of those in the manufacturing sector and 16 percent in the healthcare industry. Researchers described the flaws as ‘insecure by design’ since the issues are tied to the basic design of the operational technology itself, and the bad news is that ‘insecure by design’ flaws are the go-to for hackers looking to target critical infrastructure.”
Affected vendors include Honeywell, Motorola, Siemens and others.
BIDEN TO LIMIT LANDMINE USE: The administration will reverse a Trump-era directive that expanded the U.S. military’s use of anti-personnel landmines, fulfilling a 2020 campaign promise 18 months after taking office.
Landmines, among the most horrific and bluntest weapons of war, “have disproportionate impact on civilians, including children, long after fighting has stopped,” according to a White House fact sheet. With this move, the U.S. once again bans the use of landmines in battlefields outside of the Korean Peninsula. The Biden administration, like others before it, assessed that the weapons still prove valuable in deterring North Korean tanks and troops from streaming over its border with South Korea.
The policy change has been met with cheers from those who argue the U.S. can’t use such weaponry and jeers from those who think this will make it harder for America to win wars. What we notice, though, is that Biden took a long time to make the decision — even though he told Alex two years ago he would “promptly” end Trump’s policy, which permitted more landmine use.
The 1997 Ottawa Treaty prohibited the use, stockpiling, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines worldwide. More than 160 countries, including all other NATO nations, already follow the treaty’s guidelines.
HOUSE WEIGHS BIG BUDGET BOOST: The House Armed Services Committee could increase the price tag of its defense bill by as much as $37 billion Wednesday, report our own CONNOR O’BRIEN and LEE HUDSON (for Pros!).
The committee will consider an amendment to endorse a supersized budget during its marathon markup of the National Defense Authorization amid a GOP-led push to ratchet up defense spending beyond Biden’s budget request.
The bill written by House Armed Services Chair ADAM SMITH (D-Wash.) currently aligns with the administration’s proposal of $803 billion for national defense. But Smith has conceded that committee members will likely back even more money.
While the amendment’s adoption would be a hefty increase, jacking up the bill’s price tag to roughly $840 billion, it would still total less than the Senate’s NDAA. Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to tack $45 billion onto Biden’s budget plan.
MORNING D NDAA CONTEST: So how late will Wednesday’s markup last? Last year’s meeting finished at 2:33 a.m. Can HASC head out earlier this year, or are House lawmakers in for another late night? Our colleagues at Morning Defense want to hear from you! Send your best prediction to [email protected] by 1 p.m. tomorrow, and the reader with the closest guess will get a shoutout in Thursday’s newsletter — plus a coveted 12 months of bragging rights.
SCHOLZ ADVISER SLAMMED FOR RUSSIA REMARKS: German Chancellor OLAF SCHOLZ’s top foreign policy aide is coming under criticism for comments Monday suggesting Europe should focus more on preserving long-term relations with Russia and less on the specifics of German tank shipments to Ukraine, writes POLITICO’s HANS VON DER BURCHARD.
The adviser, JENS PLÖTNER, argued that debates over Germany’s military support for Ukraine were “driven by a feverishness that misses the bigger questions in many cases.” Plötner went on to complain that “you can fill a lot of newspaper pages with 20 Marders” — referring to the infantry fighting vehicles that Scholz has refused to send to Ukraine — “but larger articles about what will actually be our relationship with Russia in the future are somehow less frequent.”
MARIE-AGNES STRACK-ZIMMERMANN, who chairs the German parliament’s defense committee and is a member of the liberal Free Democratic Party, was one of the prominent politicians to rebuke Plötner’s remarks. His statements, she tweeted, “reveal thinking that has brought us into this terrible situation over the past few decades. After all, this is not the time to think fondly of Russia, but to help Ukraine.”
— THOMAS MANCINELLI is now principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for legislative affairs. He most recently was national security adviser for Sen. CHRIS COONS (D-Del.) and previously served in the State Department under the Obama administration
— ELIZABETH O’BAGY has been hired as a senior foreign policy adviser for Coons. She currently serves as an external relations officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Washington, D.C.
— DALEEP SINGH has been named chief global economist and head of global macroeconomic research at PGIM Fixed Income. He most recently served as deputy national security adviser for international economics and deputy director of the National Economic Council.
— JOEL STARR is now a senior adviser for the Middle East and North Africa Center at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He previously served as deputy assistant secretary of State for regional security in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
— JOHN LEICESTER and HANNA ARHIROVA, The Associated Press: “‘The Impossible’: Ukraine’s Secret, Deadly Rescue Missions”
— MUYI XIAO, PAUL MOZUR, ISABELLE QIAN and ALEXANDER CARDIA, The New York Times: “China’s Surveillance State Is Growing Bigger and More Invasive. These Documents Reveal How.”
— JARED MALSIN, The Wall Street Journal: “Turkish Defense Industry Grows Cautious Over Selling Weapons to Ukraine”
— The Atlantic Council and the Delegation of the European Union to the United States, 8:30 a.m.: “2022 EU-U.S. Defense and Future Forum — with FREDERICK KEMPE, STAVROS LAMBRINIDIS, STEFANO SANNINO, NICK SCHIFRIN, WENDY SHERMAN and more”
— Federal Computer Week and Carahsoft, 8:30 a.m.: “Government Customer Experience and Engagement Summit — with HOLLY JOERS, BARBARA MORTON, COLT WHITTALL and more”
— House Appropriations Committee, 10 a.m.: “Subcommittee Markup: Report on the Suballocation of Budget Allocations for Fiscal Year 2023, Defense and Legislative Branch Appropriations Bills”
— House Armed Services Committee, 10 a.m.: “Full Committee Markup: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023”
— House Foreign Affairs Committee, 10 a.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Addressing Root Causes of Migration from Central America through Private Investment: Progress in VP Harris’ Call to Action — with JONATHAN FANTINI-PORTER, ERIC FARNSWORTH and CELINA DE SOLA”
— House Intelligence Committee, 10 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: National Security Agency Budget Hearing”
— House Judiciary Committee, 10 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Oversight of the Department of Justice National Security Division”
— House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, 10 a.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Legislative Hearing — with MIKE BOST, JOY ILEM, GARTH MILLER, MATT MILLER, MARK TAKANO and more”
— The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, 10 a.m.: “Countering Foreign Information Operations: Developing a Whole of Society Approach to Build Resilience”
— The Hudson Institute, 10:30 a.m.: “Defense Disruptors Series: General CHARLES Q. BROWN and the Future of the U.S. Air Force — with BRYAN CLARK and DAN PATT”
— The American Bar Association, 12 p.m.: “The Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Status Update — with MILTON A. BEARDEN, JACK DEVINE, BARBARA LINNEY, JONATHAN MICHAEL MEYER, RACHEL E. VANLANDINGHAM and JONATHAN D.T. WARD”
— The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and the American Conservative, 12 p.m.: “The New Right: Ukraine Marks Major Foreign Policy Shift Among Conservatives — with GEORGE BEEBE, EMILE DOAK, MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SAURABH SHARMA and KELLEY VLAHOS”
— The Center for a New American Security, 12:30 p.m.: “Conversation with MICHAEL BROWN, Director of the Defense Innovation Unit — with MARTIJN RASSER”
— House Foreign Affairs Committee, 2 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: The Biden Administration’s Policy Objectives in the Middle East and North Africa — with BARBARA LEAF and ANDREW PLITT”
— The Israel Policy Forum, 2 p.m.: “The Knesset’s Dissolution Déjà Vu: The Era of Israel’s Endless Elections Endures — with MICHAEL KOPLOW and AMIR TIBON”
— House Homeland Security Committee, 2:30 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Securing the Future: Harnessing the Potential of Emerging Technologies While Mitigating Security Risks — with RON GREEN, ANDREW LOHN, CHARLES ROBINSON and ROB STRAYER”
— Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 2:30 p.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Examining FEMA’s Strategic Priorities and Disaster Preparedness — with DEANNE CRISWELL”
— Senate Intelligence Committee, 2:30 p.m.: “Closed Briefing: Intelligence Matters”
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 2:45 p.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: NATO Enlargement: Examining the Proposed Accession of Sweden and Finland — with KAREN DONFRIED and CELESTE WALLANDER”
— The R Street Institute, 4:30 p.m.: “Deep Dive: Water Cybersecurity — with TATYANA BOLTON, GABRIEL DAVIS, MARK MONTGOMERY and BLAKE SOBCZAK”
— House Appropriations Committee, 5 p.m.: “Subcommittee Markup: Fiscal Year 2023 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee Bill”
— The Institute of World Politics, 6 p.m.: “Seminar: Counterintelligence and Cyber Technology — with PAUL DAVIS”
Have a natsec-centric event coming up? Transitioning to a new defense-adjacent or foreign policy-focused gig? Shoot us an email at [email protected] or [email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.
And thanks to our editor, John Yearwood, without whose knowledge of Latin America we would be lost.