Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Thursday, March 24, 2022, 4:46 PM

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Russia and Ukraine have agreed to establish seven humanitarian corridors near the capital city of Kyiv and in the eastern Donetsk region, reports the Washington Post. One of the corridors would reportedly help to evacuate civilians currently trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol and bring them to the city of Zaporizhzhia. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister also reported that in addition to food and medicine, gasoline supplies would be made available upon arrival in the city of Berdyansk for those fleeing in their own vehicles. Despite agreements between Ukrainian and Russian officials, many previous attempts to establish humanitarian corridors have been squashed by Russian forces in their refusal to abide by cease-fire agreements. 

The U.S. established an expert team working to establish contingency plans in the event that Russia opts to use its stockpile of powerful chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, writes the New York Times. The Tiger Team is a group of national security officials assembled by the White House to flesh out different possible scenarios for how the U.S. should respond if Russian President Vladimir Putin should choose to deploy Russia’s most dangerous weapons. The team reportedly meets three times a week in classified sessions and also discusses how to respond appropriately to the growing refugee crisis and how to address the possible scenario of Russia attacking other neighboring eastern European countries in addition to Ukraine. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy reportedly asked President Biden to hold off on sanctions to punish Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, according to the Wall Street Journal. In a phone call, Zelenksyy allegedly asked Biden to avoid issuing sanctions on Abramovich because he believes Abramovich may be an integral figure in helping to negotiate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine. 

In a press conference amid several meetings with world leaders, President Biden said that Russia should be expelled from the G20, reports the New York Times. He also added that if the member nations do not agree to expel Russia, Ukraine should be allowed to participate. Biden and other leaders met at the NATO summit today to determine whether and how to provide stronger, more powerful weapons to Ukraine and also how to bolster defenses along NATO borders in Poland. Biden also attended the Group of 7 (G7) roundtable to discuss the Ukrainian refugee crisis and how to further punish Putin for his military aggression. After the G7 meeting Biden attended the European Council summit as a guest to determine how to expand and enforce sanctions imposed on Russia. 

Israel allegedly rejected requests from Ukraine and Estonia to buy and use a powerful spyware tool in fear of angering Russia, writes the New York Times. The Israeli government reportedly barred Ukraine and Estonia from purchasing Pegasus spyware because Israeli officials believed the two countries would use the spyware to hack Russian mobile phone numbers and Israeli did not want to damage its relationship with the Kremlin. Pegasus spyware is a zero-click hacking tool that can secretly and remotely extract data such as photos, contacts, messages and video recordings from a target’s mobile phone that does not require user interaction—such as a phishing link—to be installed onto the device. Pegasus can also remotely enable a phone to secretly track and record its owner. 

North Korea tested a banned intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday, according to BBC News. Japanese officials reported that the missile—designed for nuclear arms delivery—flew approximately 684 miles before falling into Japanese waters. Officials believe that the test is a major military escalation by North Korea, as the intercontinental ballistic missile could extend North Korea’s strike range as far as the U.S. mainland. 

Human rights investigators determined that Myanmar’s military junta created a special command to carry out lethal attacks on unarmed civilians, reports Reuters. Human rights group Fortify Rights and Yale Law School’s Schell Center conducted a joint investigation that found that the junta deployed snipers to assassinate protesters to repress political dissent and also instructed soldiers to commit crimes. The junta also reportedly gave soldiers a “fieldcraft” manual that provided zero guidance on rules of war. 

Madeleine Albright—who served as the first female U.S. secretary of state during the Clinton administration—died Wednesday of cancer, writes the Wall Street Journal. Albright led U.S. diplomacy in the aftermath of the Cold War. She renegotiated the country’s relationship with Russia and also advocated for the expansion of NATO to include former Soviet States. Albright was 84. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Stephanie Pell sat down with Thomas Rid to discuss the kinds of cyber operations and attacks we have seen in Ukraine and how we might compare and contrast them. 

Michael J. Glennon explained how the NATO treaty does not give Congress a bye on World War III. 

Katherine Pompilio announced next week’s Lawfare Live which will feature a discussion with Andrew Mines about Department of Defense efforts to counter extremism within its own ranks.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast in which Baker, Dave Aitel, Matthew Heiman and Jordan Schneider discussed topics ranging from possibilities of Russian cyberattacks to how China and Schneider explores how China and Chinese companies are responding to sanctions on Russia. 

Margaret Lewis examined the lingering effects of the Justice Department’s China Initiative. 

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security in which Alan Rozenshtein, Quinta Jurecic and Scott R. Anderson discusses the week’s big national security news such as potential Russian cyberattacks on the U.S. and Congress’ decision to cut the Biden administration’s request for pandemic resources by $15 billion. 

Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk in which he and Tom Wright discuss the fall of a Malaysian defense contractor known as Fat Leonard. 

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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