Tuesday, February 7

A day of punishment for Putin


With help from Bryan Bender, Joseph Gedeon, Maggie Miller and Connor O’Brien.

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As the Western world remains shaken by the massacres in Bucha, agencies across the Biden administration mobilized to deal Moscow one of the most comprehensive combinations of U.S. punishments since Russia mounted its invasion of Ukraine six weeks ago. Here are the major points of America’s latest response.

At the Defense Department… 

Spokesperson JOHN KIRBY announced Tuesday night that the administration “authorized an additional Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to an additional $100 million to meet an urgent Ukrainian need for additional Javelin anti-armor systems.”

The extra security assistance is the sixth drawdown of equipment from the Defense Department’s inventories for Ukraine since last August, per the Pentagon, and it comes after the department announced $300 million in security assistance last Friday.

The latest $100 million now “brings the total U.S. security assistance commitment to Ukraine to more than $2.4 billion since the beginning of the Biden Administration and more than $1.7 billion since the beginning of Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked invasion on Feb. 24,” Kirby said.

At the Treasury Department…

The Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed full blocking sanctions on Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution, and Alfa-Bank, the largest private lender in Russia. The sanctions, however, will include carve-outs for energy transactions — part of a continued effort to shield Europe from spiking oil and gas prices.

The department also targeted the adult children of Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN, the wife and daughter of Foreign Minister SERGEY LAVROV, and members of Russia’s Security Council — including former President and Prime Minister DMITRY MEDVEDEV and Prime Minister MIKHAIL MISHUSTIN.

At the White House…

President JOE BIDEN — in conjunction with the Treasury Department’s sanctions announcement — issued a new executive order banning all U.S. investment in Russia. The prohibition “will further isolate Russia from the global economy” and “ensure the enduring weakening of the Russian Federation’s global competitiveness,” per the White House.

At the State Department…

Spokesperson NED PRICE said in a statement that the department is offering a reward of up to $5 million “for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction” of twice-indicted transnational criminal SEMION MOGILEVICH, who’s living in Russia. According to the State Department, Mogilevich is wanted in the U.S. “for his alleged participation between 1993 and 1998 in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud thousands of investors related to a public company headquartered in Newtown, Pennsylvania.” The scheme, which collapsed in 1998, resulted in thousands of investors losing more than $150 million.

At the Justice Department… 

During a news conference at DOJ headquarters, Attorney General MERRICK GARLAND — flanked by Deputy Attorney General LISA MONACO and FBI Director CHRISTOPHER WRAY — unveiled the first criminal charges brought by DOJ against a Russian oligarch since the start of Russia’s invasion.

The newly unsealed indictment in the Southern District of New York charged KONSTANTIN MALOFEYEV with sanctions violations, and DOJ has already seized millions of dollars from an account at a U.S. financial institution allegedly constituting proceeds traceable to those violations. The U.S. officials went on to reveal that they successfully disrupted a global botnet controlled by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit.

But it was Garland’s remarks following the announcement of the latest DOJ actions that garnered greater attention: The attorney general confirmed the U.S. was “assisting international efforts to identify and hold accountable” alleged perpetrators of war crimes in Ukraine.

According to Garland, DOJ’s top criminal division prosecutors met Monday with prosecutors from Eurojust and Europol “to work out a plan” for evidence collection. DOJ officials also are working with a State Department team “on a multinational effort to support the Ukrainian prosecutor,” who has requested assistance from the U.S.

In addition, Garland said he spoke Tuesday with the chief DOJ prosecutor in Paris, who is there meeting with the French war crimes prosecutor. France has opened three probes into possible war crimes committed by Russian forces against French nationals in Ukraine.

“The Justice Department sees what is happening in Ukraine,” Garland warned.

SITUATION REPORT: We will only cite official sources. As always, take all figures, assessments and statements with a healthy dose of skepticism.

War in Ukraine:

— Russian forces continue “to prepare for an offensive operation in eastern Ukraine in order to establish full control over the territory of” the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. The invaders “are regrouping troops and conducting reconnaissance, trying to improve the tactical position of separate units in the South Buh area and gain a foothold on the administrative borders of the Kherson region.” (Ukrainian Ministry of Defense)

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— “The main focus of [Russian forces’] efforts is to conduct offensive operations in order to break through the defences of the Joint Forces in the Donetsk direction. It is also trying to take full control of the city of Mariupol.” (Ukrainian Ministry of Defense)

— “Russian missiles again struck the territory of our state. Foully hitting the ordinary civilian infrastructure. In particular, the new depot with fuel. … They consistently destroy fuel storage sites, product distribution centers, destroy even conventional agricultural machinery, and mine fields. They are constantly sowing mines everywhere. … In addition, Russia has blocked all our seaports, along with those vessels that have already been loaded with agricultural goods for export.” (VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.mil.gov.ua/en/news/2022/04/06/speech-by-the-president-of-ukraine-in-oireachtas-parliament-of-ireland/”,”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa790000″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa790001″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY)

Global Response:

— Germany: Chancellor OLAF SCHOLZ called on the European Union to advance climate reforms to switch the bloc’s energy production to renewables and reduce vulnerabilities resulting from dependencies on Russia and other foreign fossil fuel suppliers.

Headlines:

— The New York Times: “Civilians Flee Eastern Regions as the West Ramps Up Sanctions on Russia”

— The Wall Street Journal: “Ukraine Urges Civilians to Flee Looming Russian Offensive in Eastern Regions”

— The Washington Post: “Pentagon: Russia has fully withdrawn from Kyiv, Chernihiv”

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LAWMAKERS DON’T WANT SANCTIONS LIFTED: Evidence that Russian troops murdered hundreds of Ukrainian civilians is leading some congressional lawmakers to insist that the U.S. and its allies keep sanctions on Moscow so long as Putin remains in power — even if he withdraws from Ukraine, reports our own NAHAL TOOSI.

The lawmakers want to punish Putin for what he’s done to Ukraine and innocent civilians, in particular. They also recoil at the idea of allowing Russia’s economy to be revived with Putin still in power — in part because they don’t trust him not to re-invade Ukraine later.

But White House aides are leery of following Congress’ lead on sanctions, fearful that lawmakers are prone to respond to the political whims of the moment without having to manage the longer-term fallout. Sanctions relief can be a useful instrument in the diplomatic toolkit. And administration officials have signaled — vaguely — that they’re willing to relieve economic pain on the Kremlin if it pulls its troops out of Ukraine.

Read more here about the box Biden’s being put in.

STOLTENBERG SAYS WAR COULD LAST YEARS: NATO Secretary General JENS STOLTENBERG warned that allies must plan for the possibility that the war in Ukraine could last months or even years, as a meeting of the member states’ foreign ministers convened in Brussels, LILI BAYER“,”_id”:”00000180-0086-dbc2-a7c6-69e751c10000″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>reports our own LILI BAYER.

“We have to be prepared for [the] long haul, both when it comes to supporting Ukraine, sustaining sanctions and strengthening our defenses,” Stoltenberg said. He also said that NATO officials “have seen no indication” that Putin “has changed his ambition to control the whole of Ukraine.”

National security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN similarly told reporters at the White House on Monday that “the next stage of this conflict may very well be protracted,” while Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. MARK MILLEY told Congress on Tuesday that the war could be “measured in years.”

ISRAEL’S RULING COALITION IMPERILED: After coming into power last June, Israeli Prime Minister NAFTALI BENNETT’s coalition government is facing a possible collapse after disagreements with one of its lawmakers caused her to defect from the ruling party.

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IDIT SILMAN, a right-wing member of the Knesset, wrote in a letter to Bennett today that disagreements on “key values” with the majority coalition’s worldview in favor of a more “national, Jewish, Zionist government” would be the reason for her resignation.

Silman’s move erases the majority’s lead and drops the ruling coalition’s member count to 60 out of 120 total members. If just one more coalition member steps down, then a possible no-confidence vote in parliament could ensue and may also result in the country’s fifth election since 2019.

U.S. SINKS SANDWORM’S BOTNET: Our own MAGGIE MILLER offers some more detail on one of the Russia-related actions announced today by the Justice Department: the court-ordered operation last month that took down a Russian government-linked botnet.

The botnet, under the control of a GRU-backed hacking group known as “Sandworm,” had been used to infect thousands of devices around the world for command and control purposes. The operation disconnected the devices from Sandworm control, and came after U.S. agencies and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre issued an alert earlier this year about Sandworm’s use of malware known as Cyclops Blink.

Sandworm is one of the most prolific Russian hacking groups, and has been linked to the 2017 NotPetya attack — which is estimated to have cost $10 billion losses for companies impacted — and an attempted cyberattack during the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, among many other incidents. More recently, cybersecurity group Mandiant warned last month that the Russian government was likely to use Sandworm to target Ukraine with cyberattacks.

The takedown has significant implications for securing U.S. organizations against Russian cyber threats, which have been heightened since the invasion of Ukraine. JOHN HULTQUIST, Mandiant’s vice president of intelligence analysis, on Thursday described Sandworm as “the premier Russian cyberattack capability and one of the actors we have been most concerned about in light of the invasion.” He elaborated: “We are concerned that they could be used to hit targets in Ukraine, but we are also concerned they may hit targets in the West in retribution for the pressure being placed on Russia.”

SATELLITE COMPANIES HUNT RUSSIAN WAR CRIMES: The nation’s commercial satellite companies have an urgent new mission in Ukraine: scouring the battlefield for evidence of war crimes, BRYAN BENDER“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/06/satellite-russian-war-crimes-00023386″,”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa860001″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa860002″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>our own BRYAN BENDER reports from the Space Foundation’s National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

“Buildings getting blown up, holes dug for graves, those kinds of things are being tracked and recorded and documented in a way we think is very important,” said DAN JABLONSKY, CEO of Maxar Technologies, which has been tracking Russian military movements for months for all the world to see.

The growth of Earth observation satellites in recent years offers higher resolution images and more frequent coverage of areas of interest, helping international authorities and human rights groups investigate atrocities much more quickly and build war crimes cases.

“The prosecutions may come in the future, but the investigation doesn’t come in the future anymore,” said ANDREW ZOLLI, chief impact officer of Planet Labs. “The investigation comes right now. This is about getting real-time information and deploying war crimes prosecutors in the moment when the conflict is still raging.”

The global nature of the industry — and relative independence from Western governments — also helps combat Russian propaganda, said STEVE BUTOW, director of the space portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit, the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley outpost. “It is not propaganda from the West. The global community is seeing this for what it is.”

NDIA WANTS PENTAGON NOMINEE CONFIRMED: The National Defense Industrial Association is urging the Senate to quickly confirm WILLIAM LAPLANTE, Biden’s pick to be the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, as Congress careens toward a two-week recess, reports CONNOR O’BRIEN“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2022/04/industry-group-urges-speedy-approval-of-pentagon-acquisition-chief-00023391?source=email”,”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa870004″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa870005″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>our own CONNOR O’BRIEN (for Pros!).

In a letter to Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER and Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL, NDIA leaders argue that the position of undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment — which has been occupied on an acting basis since Biden took office — must be permanently filled to help the Pentagon boost production of weapons to Ukraine and to backfill U.S. and European stocks.

“His confirmation will help speed up the delivery of equipment and weapons to Ukraine and NATO partners and work to refill the stockpiles tapped for those donations,” NDIA Chair ARNOLD PUNARO and interim President and CEO JAMES BOOZER wrote of LaPlante. LaPlante was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, but there’s no clear timeline for a confirmation vote.

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HYTEN PEEVED BY PRIVATE SECTOR GENERALS: Our Bryan Bender also briefly caught up at the Space Symposium with retired Air Force Gen. JOHN HYTEN, who stepped down last November as vice chair of the Joint Chiefs.

Hyten, who has swapped his uniform for a business suit, is still in a “cooling-off period” that prevents him from directly engaging his former colleagues on behalf of private interests or to lobby Congress.

Asked what he might do in the future, Hyten said he plans to extend his cooldown for as long as possible. “I am not a fan of the retired generals who go into industry,” he said. “The hardest part will be saying no to so many friends.”

So, what is he doing with all his free time? Sleeping eight hours a night, he said, and caddying for his son on the PGA tour.

TOM DASCHLE, the former Senate majority leader, has been appointed the new chair of the National Democratic Institute’s board of directors. Former Secretary of State MADELEINE ALBRIGHT served in the role until her death last month.

JAMES B. STEINBERG has joined Dentons Global Advisors-Albright Stonebridge Group as senior counselor. He previously served as deputy secretary of State in the Obama administration and as deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration.

— JAMES GORDON MEEK, ABC News: “Accused ISIS ‘Beatle,’ on Trial for Brutal Kidnappings, Faces Mothers of American Victims”

— GABBY DEUTCH, Jewish Insider: “The American Diplomat Whose Latest Mission Is Tackling Global Antisemitism”

— CHOE SANG-HUN, The New York Times: “In South Korea, Ukraine War Revives the Nuclear Question”

— The National Defense Industrial Association New England Chapter, 8:30 a.m.: “Zero Trust & CMMC 2.0: Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity — with ROMAN HACHKOWSKI, BRIAN HERMANN, DAN KELLY, PETE KIM, SETH MOULTON and more”

— The Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, 9 a.m.: “Nuclear Deterrence Forum — with DAVID TRACHTENBERG

— The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 9 a.m.: “SYDNEY SEILER“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.csis.org/events/capital-cable-45-sydney-seiler”,”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa900005″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa900006″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>The Capital Cable with SYDNEY SEILER — with VICTOR CHA, MARK LIPPERT and SUE MI TERRY

— The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 9:30 a.m.: “Commercial Wireless Networks and National Defense: Emerging Requirements, Challenges, and Opportunities — with CALLIE FIELD, TERRY HALVORSEN, JAMES ANDREW LEWIS and ROBERT WHEELER

— Senate Armed Services Committee, 9:30 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: The Department of Defense Budget Posture in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2023 and the Future Years Defense Program — with LLOYD AUSTIN, MICHAEL MCCORD and MARK MILLEY

— House Appropriations Committee, 10 a.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: United States Special Operations Command — with RICHARD D. CLARKE and CHRISTOPHER MAIER

— Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 10 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Nominations — with MARYKAY LOSS CARLSON, PHILIP S. GOLDBERG, CAROLINE KENNEDY and MARC B. NATHANSON

— The Atlantic Council, 10:30 a.m.: “Pakistan’s Political Crisis: Implications and Scenarios — with SAFIYA GHORI-AHMAD, AMMAR KHAN, SHUJA NAWAZ and UZAIR YOUNUS

— The Washington International Trade Association, 11 a.m.: “The War in Ukraine and Global Food Security — with BETH BECHDOL, JOSEPH W. GLAUBER, JASON HAFEMEISTER and CAITLIN WELSH

— The Hudson Institute, 12 p.m.: “Book Talk: In the Centennial Footsteps of the Great War — with ARTHUR HERMAN and ATTILA SZALAY-BERZEVICZY

— New America, 12 p.m.: “Targeting Putin’s Wallets: Exploring the Impact of Sanctions on Russian Oligarchs — with MIKE ECKEL, LUKE HARDING, BRIAN O’TOOLE and CANDACE RONDEAUX

— The Potomac Officers Club, 12:30 p.m.: “The Future of Mission Partner Information Sharing Forum — with TINA BOYD, JACQUELINE ‘DENISE’ BROWN, PETE GALLAGHER, CHRISTINA HICKS, MICHAEL NAGATA, CHAD RADUEGE and STU WHITEHEAD

— The Atlantic Council, 2:30 p.m.: “Managing Strategic Competition to Avoid a U.S.-China War — with FREDERICK KEMPE and KEVIN RUDD

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]“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”mailto:[email protected]”,”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa920001″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa920002″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>[email protected] or [email protected]“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”mailto:[email protected]”,”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa920003″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”00000180-0113-d3c6-a9e7-633bfa920004″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>[email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.

And thanks to our editor Ben Pauker, who says he only dreams of sleeping eight hours a night.



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