Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Monday, January 24, 2022, 2:07 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

President Biden is considering deploying thousands of U.S. troops to NATO allies in the Baltics and Eastern Europe in response to mounting concern over a potential Russian incursion into Ukraine, reports the New York Times. The decision to deploy the troops, warships and aircrafts would be a major shift away from the Biden administration’s more cautious approach toward Ukraine in fear of provoking Russian aggression. Biden is weighing various options, including sending over 1,000 to 5,000 troops and then potentially sending more if the situation escalates. The president is expected to make a decision as early as this week. 

The State Department has advised family members of U.S. embassy personnel in Ukraine to leave the country, writes the New York Times. While the embassy remains open, family members were instructed to leave the embassy in Kyiv because of increasing concerns about Russian invasion. State Department officials reported that the advisory was made “out of an abundance of caution” but also that the U.S. would  “not be in a position” to evacuate U.S. citizens if Russia were to invade Ukraine. 

The Biden administration has threatened to use novel export control to damage strategic Russian industries, says the New York Times. The export control threatened by the administration is known as the foreign direct product rule and has only been used once before. If Russia invades Ukraine, the foreign direct product rule could be weaponized to damage Russian industries such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, civilian aerospace and may even be able to potentially deprive Russian citizens of some smartphones, tablets and video game consoles. 

The U.K. has accused Vladimir Putin of planning to install a pro-Kremlin ally to lead the Ukrainian government, according to BBC News. The U.K. Foreign Office has named former Ukrainian member of parliament, Yevhen Murayev, as Moscow’s potential candidate. U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss reported that the information “shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking.”

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has spoken to former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, writes the Hill. In an interview, the select committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, was asked if investigators were going to speak to Barr about an executive order issued by the Trump administration that would have deployed the National Guard to seize voting machines. The chairman reported that, “We've had conversations with the former attorney general already … We are concerned that our military was part of this big lie on promoting that the election was false.”

The State Department has announced sanctions on Chinese companies accused of “missile technology proliferation,” according to the New York Times. The companies sanctioned are the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation First Academy, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation Fourth Academy and Poly Technologies Incorporated. China has rebuked the sanctions and called them “hegemonic.”

U.S. backed Syrian fighters struggled to retake control of a prison attacked by the Islamic State in Syria, writes the Wall Street Journal. The prison attack was reportedly motivated by the Islamic State’s attempted to replenish its ranks with freed prisoners and utilized sleeper cells, suicide bombers and a planned insurrection inside the prison. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported that it killed 112 Islamic State fighters and prison rioters since the start of the attack. The SDF is reportedly still trying to clear out Islamic State militants hiding among civilians.

Mutinous soldiers have detained the president of Burkina Faso and reportedly executed a coup d’etat, says the Washington Post. More than a dozen soldiers announced on state television that a military junta now controls the country, reports the AP. The new regime said that it had suspended Burkina Faso’s constitution and National Assembly and closed the country’s borders. President Roch Marc Kaboré is the third head of state overthrown in the region in the past eight months. Kaboré tweeted from an undisclosed location that “At this precise moment, we must safeguard our democratic achievements. I invite those who have taken up arms to lay them down in the higher interests of the nation.”

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear challenges to race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, reports the Wall Street Journal. The court’s decision on the policies will require the review of decades of precedent allowing affirmative action in higher education. The challenges to the admissions policies were filed by a group known as Students for Fair Admissions. Students for Fair Admissions allege that the schools violated federal civil-rights law by using quota-like racial-balancing tactics to raise the standards of admission for Asian-American applicants. 

Protestors marched along the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to protest government mandates for coronavirus vaccinations, reports the Wall Street Journal. Organizers of the protests reported that they were strictly protesting the mandates, not the vaccines themselves. One organizer wrote, “Since the vaccines do not stop people from getting sick, why should we impose them as a requirement to keep one’s job or to enjoy the freedoms that we have always enjoyed such as eating at a restaurant, going to a concert, or attending school or the university?”

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Anna Borshchevskaya discussed Russia’s strategic success in Syria and the future of the Kremlin’s middle east policy.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.

Subscribe to Lawfare