Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Tuesday, April 26, 2022, 5:14 PM

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Global military spending reached its highest level on record in 2021, reports the Washington Post. Despite economic fallout from the pandemic, military spending passed over $2 trillion for the first time last year. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S., China, India, the U.K. and Russia were among the world’s top spenders, which together accounted for 62 percent of global military expenditures. The report also found that Russia boosted military spending by 2.9 percent—or $65.9 million—in the months leading up to its invasion of Ukraine. 

Russian forces have taken control of the city council in Kherson, Ukraine, writes CNN. Kherson’s Mayor Igor Kolykhaev reported in a post on Facebook that on Monday night “armed men entered the building of the Kherson City Council, took the keys and replaced our guards with their own." While Russian forces only took control of the city council recently, they have occupied Kherson for weeks. 

The United States hosted defense talks with representatives from over 40 countries at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, according to Reuters. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reported that the talks were intended to “speed and synchronize” the delivery of military assistance to Ukrainian forces, specifically in the eastern region of the country. U.S. Army General Mark Milley told reporters at the talks that “Time is not on Ukraine’s side. The outcome of this battle, right here, today, is dependent on the people in this room. The Ukrainians will fight. We need to make sure they have the means to fight."

More than 17,000 individuals have been arrested in El Salvador since the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency in response to an uptick in gang violence, reports the Hill. El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele declared a state of emergency on March 27, which enacted presidential emergency powers that suspend constitutional guarantees for Salvadorans such as freedom of assembly. Some human rights groups suspect that the emergency powers led to the arrests of innocent people and enabled “arbitrary detentions by security forces.”

Elon Musk purchased Twitter for approximately $44 billion, writes the Washington Post. The Tesla CEO has recently emphasized his belief that Twitter serves as the “de-facto town square” in global dialogues and is central to the functioning of democracy. Musk has also reportedly focused on the necessity of “free speech” on the social networking app. And he has expressed frustration with content moderation efforts in the Twittersphere that he reportedly believes are an escalation toward censorship. The deal to sell Twitter to Musk is expected to close by the end of this year, after which Twitter will become a private company and shareholders will receive $54.20 per share. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation to create an “Office of Election Crimes and Security” which is intended to serve as an election crime police force focused on addressing voter fraud, according to Politico. In addition to the creation of the force, DeSantis also authorized $2.6 million to be set aside for 25 new election crime investigators at the Florida State Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Many Florida Democrats oppose the creation of the election police force and claim that it is harmful and unnecessary. Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson reported that the new election task force was “developed to solve a problem that does not exist” and that the implementation of the new legislation would “put up additional barriers to voting and target communities of color.” Hinson described the election crime force as a “bullying tactic” that will be used to “intimidate and immobilize workers, families, and everyday people.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Emily Hoge explained how organizations of Russian veterans of the Afghan War have played a central role in building domestic support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the  Lawfare Podcast in which Hoge spoke with Benjamin Wittes about the history of Russian veterans groups from the Afghan war and their evolution into a big part of Vladimir Putin's propaganda operations.

Evan Wallach argued that Russian leaders are knowingly committing war crimes. 

Steve Slick posted a call for papers for the “Inman Award” issued by the Intelligence Studies Project of The University of Texas at Austin. 

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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