Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 12:41 PM

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The U.S. and NATO have not seen any sign of significant pullback of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border, writes the New York Times. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the partial withdrawal of Russian troops surrounding Ukraine. Despite Putin’s claims, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reported on Wednesday that there is no evidence that Russian troops are leaving the border. Blinken said, “Unfortunately there’s a difference between what Russia says and what it does …. And what we’re seeing is no meaningful pullback. On the contrary, we continue to see forces—especially forces that would be in the vanguard of any renewed aggression against Ukraine—continuing to be at the border, to mass at the border.” 

U.S. intelligence suggests that Russian state-sponsored hackers broadly infiltrated Ukrainian military, energy and other critical computer networks, according to the Washington Post. The motivation for the hack is reportedly to collect intelligence on the networks so that Russian forces have the ability to disrupt the systems in the event of an invasion of Ukraine. Russia could potentially use the information gathered on Ukrainian systems to disrupt critical infrastructure entities such as electricity, transportation, finance and telecommunications. A cyberattack on these systems could potentially be utilized to support Russian military operations or to create panic amongst the Ukrainian people and government to destabilize the country. 

China accused the United States of exaggerating the Russian threat toward security in Eastern Europe, reports Reuters. A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry told reporters that the United States is “playing up the threat of warfare and creating tension” between Russia and NATO. The spokesperson added that “Such persistent hyping up and disinformation by some Western countries will create turbulence and uncertainty to the world full of challenges, and intensify distress and division.” He also added that China hopes the U.S. will halt its “disinformation campaign” about Russian military aggression. 

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol issued six new subpoenas, reports the Washington Post. The subpoenas were issued to two advisors to former President Trump in addition to four current and former Republican officials in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan. In a statement announcing the subpoenas, Rep. Bennie Thompson explained that “The Select Committee is seeking information about efforts to send false slates of electors to Washington and change the outcome of the 2020 election.” 

President Biden rejected Trump’s claim of executive privilege in his effort to withhold White House visitor logs from the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to the New York Times. In a letter to the National Archives and Records Administration, Biden rejected Trumps’ claims of privilege and said that “in light of the urgency” of the House committee’s work, the National Archives should hand over the material to the committee within the next 15 days. 

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was arrested on drug charges, writes BBC News. Hernández was arrested at his home in Tegucigalpa in the hours following a request for his extradition by the U.S. government. The former president is accused of being involved in a “violent drug trafficking conspiracy” that transported 500 tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia to the United States via Honduras, according to the New York Times. Hernández also allegedly accepted millions of dollars in bribes for orchestrating the drug shipments and blocking traffickers from facing prosecution. 

Al Shabaab militants violently attacked police stations and security checkpoints in Somalia, reports Reuters. The attacks resulted in the deaths of five people, including two children. A spokesperson for the al-Qaeda linked militants reported that the attacks are intended to be a show of force in Somalia’s presidential election. The Al Shabaab group reportedly carries out attacks against the Somali government frequently, and just last week attacked a bus carrying election delegates. 

The European Court of Justice ruled that the EU reserves the right to withhold certain payments from member states that violate the rule of law, reports Washington Post. The ruling directly affects the governments of Hungary and Poland, both of which are accused of overseeing a decline in democratic standards. The two countries are longtime beneficiaries of major E.U. payments and received funding despite alleged government efforts to undermine independent judges and the misuse of E.U. funds. Both Hungary and Poland are now positioned to lose billions of euros if the E.U. chooses to adopt and implement the new rules.   

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Benjamin Wittes sat down with Alex Zerden and Scott R. Anderson to discuss the Biden administration’s decision to freeze $7 billion of Afghan assets. 

Jason Bartlett discussed ways to improve sanctions coordination between the U.S. government and humanitarian aid groups. 

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk which featured a discussion with Andrew Methven about the newest and most interesting Chinese internet slang from the previous year.

Lauren Kahn explained what we can learn about defense innovation from the Defense Department’s 2021 China Military Power Report. 

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.

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