With help from Daniel Lippman, Andrew Desiderio and Connor O’Brien.
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As we were heading into the weekend, three Republican senators filed legislation to exempt India from sanctions it would’ve incurred after buying a Russian-made missile-defense system. One of those lawmakers was Sen. TED CRUZ, the Texan that national security-focused Democrats are furious with over his hold on President JOE BIDEN’s diplomatic nominees.
Critics say he co-signed a bill that lets Moscow (and New Delhi) off the hook. And Democrats let NatSec Daily know about it.
“For a guy who is willing to rob the entire State Department of having any senior staff in place over his faux-Russia hawkishness, this waiver advocacy is as offensive as it is hypocritical,” a Senate Democratic aide said. The waivers, written into the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in 2018, remain “incredibly contentious” on Capitol Hill, the staffer continued. “How many exceptions are we going to make before other countries simply assume the U.S. is not serious about preventing [VLADIMIR] PUTIN from suckering others into buying Russian over American?”
ERIN PERRINE, Cruz’s communications director, pushed back against the criticism. “Democrats are desperate to distract from Joe Biden’s inexplicable and catastrophic cave on Nord Stream 2, which was a use of CAATSA that it was designed for and actually worked,” she told NatSec Daily. “So they are pretending to have vapors over giving India, a critical ally against China, temporary breathing room instead of counterproductively pushing them to Russia. These people should grow up and learn foreign policy is not a political game.”
India has a long history of buying weapons from Russia. But now that India is a member of “the Quad” — alongside the U.S., Japan and Australia — it’s a bad look for New Delhi to remain cozy with Moscow. Plus, a better-armed India does help it to counter China, which is also in America’s interest.
To waive or not to waive is clearly a concern on Capitol Hill. Pentagon staffers in recent weeks provided a classified briefing to staffers of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee on the waiver issue, a person familiar with the situation said. The person didn’t provide details on what the briefers said exactly, but the Defense Department’s stance for years has been that it’s better to keep India happy in its relationship with the U.S.
Cruz — along with Sens. TODD YOUNG (R-Ind.) and ROGER MARSHALL (R-Kansas) — isn’t out on a limb in search of 10-year waiver for Quad members, namely India. A Republican Senate aide said the party is pretty united on that front. And Sen. MARK WARNER (D-Va.), the Senate Intelligence Committee chief and a co-chair of the India Caucus, wrote a letter last week to Biden with Sen. JOHN CORNYN (R-Texas) in support of one.
A SASC staffer hinted that this whole issue likely will be solved in the latest NDAA, which Biden will have to sign into law whenever it reaches his desk.
The question now is whether Democrats will put up a fuss. Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER was against waivers in the past, and Senate Foreign Relations Chair BOB MENENDEZ (D-N.J.) has displayed some skepticism before.
5M DEAD FROM COVID-19: The world reached a somber milestone today: The global death toll from Covid-19 has reached 5 million.
“Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil — all upper-middle- or high-income countries — account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. The U.S. alone has recorded over 740,000 lives lost, more than any other nation,” the Associated Press reported. That total, which comes from John Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center, is roughly equivalent to the populations of Los Angeles and Austin combined.
Leaders of the G-20 nations who gathered in Rome over the weekend pledged to send more vaccines to poorer nations, but so far there’s no real movement to close the gap between the vaccine haves and have-nots.
“While wealthy nations are offering people third vaccine doses and increasingly inoculating children, poor countries have administered an estimated four doses per 100 people, according to the World Health Organization,” the New York Times’ KATIE ROGERS, JIM TANKERSLEY and JASON HOROWITZ noted.
U.S. SUBMARINE HIT SEA MOUNT: An investigation found USS Connecticut, the nuclear-powered submarine sailing in the South China Sea, hit an uncharted sea mount on Oct. 2, USNI News’ SAM LAGRONE reported. The review, which finished last week, will be looked over by Vice Adm. KARL THOMAS — the U.S. 7th Fleet commander — to determine what kind of punishments are required (if any).
Last month, NatSec Daily reported that the submarine hit a stationary object, with one person saying it was likely a sea wall.
103 NGOS TELL SULLIVAN TO SEND MORE AID TO AFGHANISTAN: In an Oct. 28 letter released today, 103 non-governmental organizations pressured national security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN to organize a high-level meeting to discuss the best way to support thousands of at-risk Afghans.
“We call on the Biden Administration to prioritize their safe evacuation before it is too late,” wrote leaders in the groups, including Amnesty International, the Black Veterans Project and Freedom House. “All are now bound by their shared fear for their safety. If the White House does not move to evacuate them with haste, it will leave an indelible stain on this Administration’s stated commitment to a foreign policy centered on human rights and its repeated commitments to support at-risk Afghans.”
The group provided Sullivan and his team six recommendations to improve the situation, such as sending more staff to “lilypad” countries with U.S. military installations and providing a “virtual and expedited screening process for all at-risk Afghans.”
The letter is another sign of the anger in Washington and elsewhere over the handling of the Afghanistan evacuation.
A White House official wouldn’t comment on whether or not Sullivan had seen the letter, but did say “we have welcomed more than 68,000 Afghans to the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome following the biggest airlift in U.S. history. Of that population, nearly 50% are eligible for SIVs.”
Around 400 American citizens remain in Afghanistan now, per the Pentagon, with about 200 of them wanting to leave now.
XI TO WRITE IN HIS COP26 REMARKS: Chinese President XI JINPING doesn’t want to call, FaceTime or Zoom. He wants to do the geopolitical version of texting: sending in a note with his comments about how to address the climate crisis.
“The leader of the country responsible for almost one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions will address the Glasgow conference by written submission, which the U.N. said it would upload on the conference website,” POLITICO’s KARL MATHIESEN reported.
This is par for the course, as Xi reportedly hasn’t left China for 21 months mainly due to the pandemic. But the inactive participation of the leader of the world’s biggest carbon emitter puts a damper on the COP26 conference in Glasgow.
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FORCES FIGHTING ETHIOPIA CLAIM THEY CAPTURED 2 CITIES: Two rival groups fighting a brutal war against Ethiopia’s government claim they captured two towns — both on a highway leading to the capital Addis Ababa.
A spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) told Reuters they seized the town of Kombolcha and its airport. And insurgents in Oromiya, the country’s most populous region, said they took the town of Kemise, which is only 33 miles south of Kombolcha. However, Kemise is still about 200 miles away from the Ethiopian capital.
In a Sunday night Facebook message, Ethiopian Prime Minister ABIY AHMED ALI called on his people to “destroy and bury the terrorist TPLF.” Further, Ahmed’s government accused the TPLF of killing over 100 “youth residents” in Kombolcha, saying they were “summarily executed.”
Due to conditions on the ground and a communications blackout, it’s hard for any journalistic or humanitarian organization to verify such claims.
U.S. AWAITING RUSSIA HACKER ARRESTS AFTER LATEST TALKS: In the aftermath of Biden’s June summit with Russia’s Putin, senior administration officials have made three trips to Moscow since July, and there have been other meetings between U.S. and Russian officials in Finland and Switzerland, according to The New York Times’ ANTON TROIANOVSKI and DAVID E. SANGER.
ANNE NEUBERGER, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, also has been huddling virtually with her Kremlin counterpart about cybersecurity issues, and several weeks ago, the United States made the decision to hand over the names and other details of a few hackers actively launching attacks on America, per Troianovski and Sanger.
Now, they report, “the United States is waiting to see if the information results in arrests, a test of whether Mr. Putin was serious when he said he would facilitate a crackdown on ransomware and other cybercrime.” But despite increased communication, “[o]fficials in both countries say the flurry of talks has so far yielded little of substance but helps to prevent Russian-American tensions from spiraling out of control.”
DEFENSE INDUSTRY PUSHES BACK AGAINST “BUY AMERICAN”: Defense News’ JOE GOULD has a fascinating story about how the defense industry isn’t overly keen on the Biden administration’s “Buy American” initiative.
“The defense industry is pushing back, wary the protectionist policy will trigger a backlash that shuts out American-made weapons and gear from overseas markets,” he reported.
“My colleagues and some of the other trade organizations are actually more concerned for the U.S. industry, because if you don’t allow Germany or Sweden to sell to the U.S., it will be difficult for the U.S. to sell to the very same countries,” Norwegian-American Defense and Homeland Security Industry Council President EIRIK TORD JENSEN told Gould. “It’s going to be very bad for trade.”
Critics argue that, while the Pentagon has many loopholes it can jump through, “stiffening U.S. domestic content requirements could alienate the allies Biden hopes to woo in America’s competition with China. They say it could give ammunition to protectionists in European countries who want to lock down their own markets, punishing U.S. companies,” Gould wrote.
HAWLEY WANTS WOMEN OUT OF THE DRAFT: Sen. JOSH HAWLEY (R-Mo.) will push to strip a bipartisan provision requiring women to register for a military draft when defense policy legislation comes up for a vote in the coming weeks, our own CONNOR O’BRIEN reports.
Hawley, who vocally opposed a vote in SASC to expand the Selective Services System in the National Defense Authorization Act, announced he’ll file an amendment to remove the change and argued it’s “wrong to force our daughters, mothers, wives, and sisters to fight our wars.”
“Our country is extremely grateful for the brave women who have volunteered to serve our country with and alongside our fighting forces. They have played a vital role in defending America at every point in our nation’s history,” Hawley said in a statement. “But volunteering for military service is not the same as being forced into it, and no woman should be compelled to do so.”
It’s not clear yet whether Hawley’s amendment, and others, will receive a vote when the NDAA eventually comes to the Senate floor, but it almost certainly won’t have enough votes to win adoption.
The Senate’s overhaul, sponsored by SASC Chair JACK REED (D-R.I.), was adopted handily by the committee in July. Eight of the committee’s 13 Republicans supported requiring women to register.
The version of the NDAA passed by the House also broadens a potential military draft beyond just men. If the measure survives the Senate intact, it’s highly likely it would become law in a final compromise bill.
The last U.S. draft call was in December 1972, during the Vietnam War.
RISCH WANTS U.S. TO INVEST IN SOLAR PANELS MADE OUTSIDE OF CHINA: Sen. JIM RISCH (R-Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to the acting head of a U.S. development agency urging that none of its funds go to support solar panels made in China.
The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, known as the DFC, “should turn its focus to boosting manufacturing for solar panels, components, and equipment outside of China, and I expect to see a pipeline of these projects,” Risch wrote to DEV JAGADESAN on Friday. “The fact that 18 of the DFC’s 21 current solar projects source panels from China shows how great of a challenge this is, and how urgently we must address it. The United States, and specifically the DFC, must act quickly and decisively to secure supplies from elsewhere.”
Risch argues withholding such funds punishes Beijing for its human rights abuses and use of slave labor.
“The DFC should be looking for viable projects across the region to advance private sector-led development and provide alternatives to state-directed Chinese investment. I need to see tangible proof in the coming year that the DFC is seeking a broad array of opportunities in both renewable and nonrenewable energy,” he wrote.
MACRON: AUSTRALIAN PM LIED ABOUT AUKUS: Meeting for the first time since Australia cut France out of a nuclear-powered submarine deal in favor of the U.S. and U.K., French President EMMANUEL MACRON accused Australian Prime Minister SCOTT MORRISON of lying to him.
“I don’t think, I know,” Macron said in response to a question from Australian reporters about whether or not Morrison fibbed. “I have a lot of respect and a lot of friendship for your people. I just say when we have respect, you have to be true and you have to behave in line, and consistently, with this value.”
Morrison denied the accusation, saying at a news conference that he hadn’t lied and told Macron why France’s conventionally powered subs would not meet Australia’s future defense needs.
Earlier, Australian Deputy Prime Minister BARNABY JOYCE quipped, “We didn’t steal an island, we didn’t deface the Eiffel Tower. It was a contract. … Contracts have terms and conditions, and one of those terms and conditions and propositions is that you might get out of the contract.”
— FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY: ALLISON PETERS is now senior adviser to the undersecretary of State for civilian security, democracy, and human rights. She previously was senior adviser to the assistant secretary of State for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.
— KATE KELLY, The New York Times: “At Saudi Investment Conference, Trump Allies Remain Front and Center”
— RYAN HEATH, POLITICO: “The G-20’s democratic leaders were upstaged by royals”
— SAMYA KULLAB and BRAM JANSSEN, The Associated Press: “In Afghan hospital, unpaid doctors and rigid Taliban clash”
— The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, 8 a.m.: “Shrinking Freedom in the Russian Media and Internet Sphere: What are the Consequences of Repression? — with GALINA ARAPOVA, MIKHAIL KLIMAREV, VEERA LAINE and JUSSI LASSILA”
— The Aspen Institute, 9 a.m.: “The 2021 Aspen Security Forum — with RICHARD CLARKE, ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, MARK MILLEY, PAUL NAKASONE, CONDOLEEZZA RICE and more”
— The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 9 a.m.: “Report Launch: Revitalising Arms Control: The MTCR and the HCoC — with WILLIAM ALBERQUE and BASTIAN GIEGERICH”
— The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 9:30 a.m.: “The Capital Cable: Live From Kia D.C. Office — with VICTOR CHA, MARK LIPPERT and SUE MI TERRY”
— The Atlantic Council, 10 a.m.: “Middle East Security in a Changing World: Building a Sustainable Regional Security System — with OMAR AL-UBAYDLI, TURKI AL FAISAL, AISHA AL SARIHI, JOEY HOOD, TOM WARRICK and more”
— House Homeland Security Committee, 10 a.m.: “20 Years After 9/11: Examining Emergency Communications Part 2 — with BILLY BOB BROWN, ANTWANE V. JOHNSON and EDWARD PARKINSON”
— The Middle East Institute, 10 a.m.: “Master of the Game: A Book Talk with MARTIN INDYK — with PAUL SALEM”
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 10 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Nominations — with THOMAS BARRETT, JAMIE L. HARPOOTLIAN, SCOTT MILLER and ERIK D. RAMANATHAN”
— The Wilson Center, 10 a.m.: “Hindsight Up Front: Implications of Afghanistan Withdrawal for the Middle East — with MARK GREEN, JAMES F. JEFFREY, RAMI KHOURI, MERISSA KHURMA and NADIA OWEIDAT”
— The Heritage Foundation, 11 a.m.: “Policy Pulse: The Expansion of the Opium Trade in Afghanistan — with LAWRENCE BAUMEISTER and PAUL J. LARKIN JR.”
— The National Bureau of Asian Research, 11 a.m.: “Taiwan’s Coordinated Response to Disinformation — with SHIH-SHIUAN KAO and MELISSA NEWCOMB”
— The Rand Corporation, 11 a.m.: “The Growing Role of Europe in Asia: Connecting the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific — with ASH CARTER, MATHIEU DUCHÂTEL, VEERLE NOUWENS, ALEXANDRA SAKAKI, MICHITO TSURUOKA and more”
— The Center for Global Development, 1 p.m.: “Life Out of the Shadows: Impacts of Amnesties in Migrants’ Lives — with THOMAS GINN, SANDRA V. ROZO and YANG-YANG ZHOU”
— The Wilson Center, 1:30 p.m.: “Ethnographies of Hope, Despair, and Resistance in Brazil — with DEBORA DINIZ, BENJAMIN JUNGE, MOISÉS KOPPER, PATRICIA PINHO and PAULO SOTERO”
— The Foreign Policy Centre, 2 p.m.: “Media Freedom in Malta: Murder, Disinformation and Legal Intimidation — with LANA ESTEMIROVA, PAUL CARUANA GALIZIA, CAOILFHIONN GALLAGHER, CAROLINE MUSCAT and REBECCA VINCENT”
— The Israel Policy Forum, 2 p.m.: “The Coalition’s West Bank Divide — with TAL SHALEV”
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 2:30 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Training the Department of State’s Workforce for 21st Century Diplomacy — with JOSHUA MARCUSE, DAVID MILLER JR. and JOAN POLASCHIK”
— Senate Intelligence Committee, 2:30 p.m.: “Closed Briefing: Intelligence Matters”
— The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 3 p.m.: “Looking Ahead: The Quad’s Strategic Approach to China, Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific — with MICHAEL J. GREEN, BONNY LIN, SUSANNAH PATTON and RICHARD M. ROSSOW”
— The Middle East Institute, 3 p.m.: “The Afghan Crisis in Regional Context: Amb. ZALMAY KHALILZAD in conversation with RICHARD A. CLARKE”
— Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 4:30 p.m.: “Arms Control in a Divided America –– with NANCY PELOSI, CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, SUSAN BURK, STEVEN PIFER, ANTHONY WIER, ALEX WELLERSTEIN, REBECCA HERSMAN, and more”
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And thanks to our editor, Ben Pauker, who occasionally grants us waivers when we do something wrong.