Estonia’s FM wants more support for Ukraine- POLITICO | #emailsecurity | #phishing | #ransomware


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KYIV, Ukraine — Western nations must significantly ramp up sanctions and military support for Ukraine to help it weaken Russia before the brutal winter comes, Estonia’s foreign minister told NatSec Daily on Wednesday, just minutes before meeting with Ukrainian President VOLODYMR ZELENSKYY.

In an interview during his first official visit to the Ukrainian capital as Estonia’s top diplomat, URMAS REINSALU spoke with our own CHRISTOPHER MILLER about what more the United States and its allies could do to thwart Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN’s designs.

What’s provided now “is not enough,” he said during a sit down at 100 Rokiv Tomu Vpered restaurant, the smell of borscht wafting through the air. “The price tag of aggression now is not high enough.”

“The war will not end by itself. The war will only end if Putin ends the war. And Putin ends the war not because he somehow feels a sentiment about [what has changed in the] international order or his reputation,” Reinsalu continued. “It happens only because the price tag is going to be threatening his power mechanisms.”

Reinsalu said the longer the West waits to transfer weapons and impose stronger sanctions and penalties, the worse it may get for Ukraine and its partners.

“We are facing very tough times ahead in autumn and winter,” he said, noting that Russia is choking gas supplies to Europe and Russian missiles have destroyed Ukrainian heating stations and other critical energy production infrastructure. “Now we have to show the aggressor our determination and the fact that our willpower is stronger than Putin’s.”

“My message is indeed that there is an immediate need for an additional package of sanctions, or several packages,” Reinsalu said, noting he made that case to Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN during a Tuesday phone call.

Tallinn is talking the talk, but it has also walked the walk. Estonia has provided Kyiv with more than €220 million in assistance, equating to roughly 0.8 percent of the country’s GDP. It also provided Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine a week before the invasion started on Feb. 24. As a bit of a memento, Reinsalu said he hoped that Zelenskyy would give him parts of a Russian tank destroyed by an Estonian-provided missile.

Last month, Estonia announced that it would stop issuing visas to Russian students and some Belarusians. Yes, Reinsalu admitted, that would harm everyday Russians — many of whom may not support the war — but the conflict has turned from a geopolitical struggle into a conflict between right and wrong.

“I think this is a large-scale moral mistake and we need to correct that approach … we are going to make on the European Union level some proposals because children are dying under rockets on Ukrainian soil,” he said. “Genocide has been committed.”

“The only people now we should feel compassion for is, indeed, the victims, innocent martyrs in Ukraine. We should make things more inconvenient for Russian society, the citizens of the aggressor state, so they know there is a certain price tag that they are accepting when they support a regime which is committing atrocities,” Reinsalu said.

NATO VOTE UNDERWAY: The Senate is currently working through debates and amendments before voting to let Finland and Sweden join NATO. At least 90 senators are expected to vote for accession. Both countries need all 30 NATO members to approve, and it’s expected all will do so before the end of the year.

TAIWAN, SURROUNDED: China is pushing ships and aircraft into the skies and waters surrounding Taiwan as it prepares to launch a series of major live fire exercises around the island that will take place over the rest of the week. The exercises could include conventional missile launches over Taiwan for the first time ever, and Beijing’s two aircraft carriers — which have put out to sea in recent days — could also play a role, LARA SELIGMAN and PAUL MCLEARY reported today.

Washington is watching the preparations anxiously as China readies the provocative drills set in motion in response to House Speaker NANCY PELOSI‘s visit to Taiwan this week. The Chinese defense ministry released a map of six zones surrounding the island where it plans to conduct the drills, some of which potentially overlap with Taiwan’s territorial waters. For now, the U.S. military is keeping its distance, with the USS Ronald Reagan and several destroyers and cruisers staying well back — at least for now.

“The Chinese are looking deliberately to do something that they’ve never done before,” said Bonnie Glaser, an East Asia analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

PELOSI LEAVES, CHINA ROARS: Pelosi’s departure from Taiwan on Wednesday ends a brief-but-intense saga that has spiked tensions in the Strait.

Pelosi landed on Tuesday and spoke to the Taiwanese parliament and held a joint press conference with President TSAI ING-WEN. “When you say that I am a good friend of Taiwan, I take that as a great compliment, but I receive it on behalf of my colleagues,” Pelosi said in a news conference. “We commend Taiwan for being one of the freest societies in the world.”

She also took a parting shot at Chinese leader XI JINPING: “Whether it’s certain insecurities on the part of the president of China as to his own political situation that he’s ratting his saber, I don’t know.”

China responded by launching live-fire drills around the island and sending 27 warplanes into the Taiwan Strait, with indications that they flew over the meridian line separating the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

“This action is a solemn deterrent against the recent major escalation of the negative actions of the United States on the Taiwan issue, and a serious warning to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces seeking ‘independence,” a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

The White House has expressed concern that China could ratchet things up even further over the next few days.

“[T]hese potential steps from China could include military provocations such as firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan; operations that break historical norms such as large-scale air entry into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone — ‘ADIZ’ — I think you all know that acronym; air or naval activities that cross the median line; and military exercises that can be highly publicized,” National Security Council spokesperson JOHN KIRBY told reporters Monday.

IRAN DEAL TALKS TO RESUME: Indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran will resume on Thursday in Vienna, a senior U.S. official confirmed to NatSec Daily. POLITICO’s STEPHANIE LIECHTENSTEIN got the same intel from three European sources.

The official told your host that there’s a “very modest” prospect for a positive outcome — read: not great. Still, the hope is that this meeting can help breathe life into the dying nuclear accord.

The U.S. and the European Union have put deals on the table for Iran to accept, but for the moment Tehran has refused to consider them. Patience is running out in the West, especially as Iran inches toward having enough nuclear fuel to make a bomb. Meanwhile, ALI BAGHERI KANI, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, tweeted Wednesday that “The Onus is on those who breached the deal,” meaning the United States. “[B]all is in their court.”

The Eurasia Group’s HENRY ROME, who has followed the negotiations closely, said in a “quick take” sent to subscribers that there’s a 35 percent chance the nuclear agreement gets revived this year. NatSec Daily will take the under.

IT’S WEDNESDAY: Thanks for tuning in to NatSec Daily. This space is reserved for the top U.S. and foreign officials, the lawmakers, the lobbyists, the experts and the people like you who care about how the natsec sausage gets made. Aim your tips and comments at [email protected], and follow me on Twitter at @alexbward.

While you’re at it, follow the rest of POLITICO’s national security team: @nahaltoosi, @woodruffbets, @politicoryan, @PhelimKine, @ChristopherJM, @BryanDBender, @laraseligman, @connorobrienNH, @paulmcleary, @leehudson, @AndrewDesiderio and @JGedeon1 — plus our summer interns, @Lawrence_Ukenye and @nicolle_liu.

DEADLY CLASHES IN N-K: Clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh have resumed, leading to the deaths of two Armenian soldiers from the breakaway region and 14 others injured.

“According to the Artsakh Defense Army, Azerbaijani forces used mortars, grenade launchers and UAVs to attack their forces near the line of contact. Video reportedly from the Azerbaijani military showed a Bayraktar drone carrying out a strike on a position of Armenian forces in the northeast of the region,” The Jerusalem Post’s TZVI JOFFRE reported. “Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that Armenian militants fired at Azerbaijani positions in the Lachin district on Wednesday morning, killing one Azerbaijani soldier.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a second war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, and a tenuous peace has held after Baku’s forces seized a lot of the territory. But reporter NEIL HAUER and others note that Azerbaijan appears once again to be on the offensive, leading Karabakh authorities to order a partial mobilization.

DOD PHONES WIPED: The Pentagon wiped the phones of departing Trump administration officials, leaving no trace of any texts that might have been sent on Jan. 6, 2021 during the Capitol insurrection.

“The acknowledgment that the phones from the Pentagon officials had been wiped was first revealed in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit American Oversight brought against the Defense Department and the Army. The watchdog group is seeking January 6 records from former acting Secretary of Defense CHRIS MILLER, former chief of staff KASH PATEL, and former Secretary of the Army RYAN MCCARTHY, among other prominent Pentagon officials — having filed initial FOIA requests just a few days after the Capitol attack,” CNN’s TIERNEY SNEED and ZACHARY COHEN reported.

The Department of Homeland Security also lost access to Jan. 6 texts sent by the Secret Service. The Jan. 6 committee in the House continues to investigate what the Pentagon heard and did as an armed mob stormed the Capitol.

CEASEFIRE FOR WEAPONS?: On Tuesday, the U.S. approved the sale of a massive $5 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — $3 billion in Patriot missiles to Riyadh and $2.2 billion in high-altitude missile defense for Abu Dhabi.

The deal itself is noteworthy enough, but it was also announced the same day Saudi and UAE agreed to a two-month extension of the Yemen war ceasefire. It got us at NatSec Daily thinking: Did Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have to agree to an extension in order to have the U.S. provisionally approve the defensive-weapons transfer?

We first asked the State Department, and an unnamed spokesperson didn’t say “no” in their emailed response: “We are committed to continuing decades of U.S. partnership to help strengthen these countries’ defenses through security cooperation, arms transfers, and defense trade, exercises, training, and exchanges, alongside engagement on human rights and civilian harm mitigation.”

But when we asked a senior U.S. official, we got an unequivocal denial. “These were operating on separate tracks. And we have to start the process weeks before it becomes public,” the official said.

It may indeed have been a coincidence — these things happen! But officials we’ve spoken to readily admit the timing is not great.

HAWLEY’S ‘AMERICA FIRST’ MEANS EUROPE LAST: The ‘America First’ lane might be a bit crowded if Sen. JOSH HAWLEY (R-Mo.) joins the 2024 election fray, our own ANDREW DESIDERIO reports.

“Hawley has worked for months to distinguish himself from the Republican pack on national security, beginning with his blockade of Pentagon nominees in protest of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and his opposition to a $40 billion Ukraine aid package,” he wrote, noting that the lawmaker also opposes Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

Hawley’s case is that delving too deeply into Europe diverts attention from the true challenge: China.

“We must do less in Europe (and elsewhere) in order to prioritize China and Asia,” Hawley wrote in a Monday op-ed for The National Interest. “[E]ven absent armed conflict, NATO expansion would almost certainly mean more U.S. forces in Europe for the long haul, more military hardware devoted there, and more dollars spent — to the detriment of our security needs in Asia, to say nothing of needs at home.”

This view pits Hawley against more traditional Republican foreign policy advocates like Sens. TED CRUZ (R-Texas) and MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.), who both have their sights on a 2024 campaign.

SCHOLZ TO RUSSIA: TURN ON THE TAP: German Chancellor OLAF SCHOLZ on Wednesday accused Russia of deliberately reducing gas flows to Europe and shot down Moscow’s argument that sanctions were preventing the delivery of a massive turbine required for pumping gas, POLITICO’s HANS VON DER BURCHARD and WILHEMINE PREUSSEN reported.

During a visit to engineering company Siemens Energy in Mülheim an der Ruhr, where the turbine at the heart of the dispute is currently stored, the chancellor accused Russia of using bogus technical issues as an excuse for a politically motivated cut to gas deliveries, which is raising fears about EU supplies over the winter.

“The turbine is there, it can be delivered. All someone has to do is say I want it, and it will be there very quickly,” Scholz told reporters.

Since mid-June, Russia has curbed gas deliveries to Germany and other European states via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which is currently only running at 20 percent capacity. Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom argues that sanctions, which western countries imposed against Russia for invading Ukraine, are to blame for the dwindling energy flows. Specifically, Gazprom insists that one of the turbines required for gas transport, which was in Canada for maintenance, could not be delivered back to Russia due to the sanctions.

The German government, however, intervened in Canada to ensure the turbine could be sent back to Germany, where it is now currently awaiting transport to Russia.

FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY: SHANI SPIVAK is now director for emerging technology and secure digital innovation at the NSC. She most recently was a science and technology adviser at the FBI. (h/t DANIEL LIPPMAN)

— Biden announced three ambassadorial nominees today: BIJAN SABET to be ambassador to the Czech Republic, ERIC KNEEDLER to be ambassador to Rwanda and ELIZABETH ROOD to be ambassador to Turkmenistan.

NANCY JEAN-LOUIS,  ANGELA ODOM, PETER HOFFMAN, AND PETER CREAN were appointed as civilian aides in the Army. Jean-Louis previously led as president of the Association of the United States Army Potomac-Liberty Chapter; Odom served for 27 years in the Army and Army Reserve, Hoffman serves as on the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Retired Soldier Council; Crean served for 30 years in the regular Army.

MAGGIE FELDMAN-PILTCH joined the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security as a non-resident senior fellow. She is the founder of #NatSecGirlSquad and executive managing director of Unicorn Strategies.

BOB MENENDEZ, The New York Times: “This Is How the U.S. Will Stand with Taiwan”

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, The Wall Street Journal: “The West Needs to Call Russia’s Bluff on Peace in Ukraine”

ROBERT CHESNEY, Lawfare: “On the Legality of the Strike that Killed AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI

Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 10:30 a.m.: China’s Role in the Middle East

Institute for Policy Studies, 12:30 p.m.: Whatever Happened to the Peace Dividend, and Can We Get One Back?

The Heritage Foundation, 2:00 p.m.: A Matter of Survival: The Future of Taiwan Arms Sales

Have a natsec-centric event coming up? Transitioning to a new defense-adjacent or foreign policy-focused gig? Shoot me an email at [email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.

And thanks to my editor, Ben Pauker, who believes giving Alex control of this newsletter was a large-scale moral mistake.





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