Russia’s invasion deepens global hunger crisis- POLITICO | #emailsecurity | #phishing | #ransomware


With help from Nahal Toosi and Daniel Lippman

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The world’s biggest security crisis may be the food that won’t appear on millions of plates from war-torn Somalia to rural America.

“Hunger is soaring to terrifying levels & the global situation just keeps on getting worse. Conflict, the climate crisis, Covid and surging food & fuel costs have created a perfect storm—and now the #Ukraine war is piling catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” DAVID BEASLEY, head of the United Nations’ World Food Program, tweeted Monday.

Around the world, but particularly in parts of Africa and the Middle East, food prices are soaring amid wheat and grain shortages exacerbated by Russia’s invasion. The accompanying inflation has only made matters worse, even though the year already began in crisis with millions starving in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover.

“The cost of living is high nowadays, making it difficult for families even to afford flour and oil,” AYAN HASSAN ABDIRAHMAN, a mother of 11 in Mogadishu, Somalia, told the Associated Press in the story Beasley linked on Twitter. The African Development Bank said the price of wheat has risen 45 percent on the African continent, the AP reported, making life harder for regional countries that import nearly half of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

We asked U.S. and foreign officials about the hunger crisis and the unanimous response we got back was: It’s bad. It’s very bad.

“I just can’t wrap my head around the scale of human suffering,” a State Department official told NatSec Daily.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, the U.N. secretary general, two weeks ago offered stark details: “Global hunger levels are at a new high. In just two years, the number of severely food insecure people has doubled, from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today,” he said at a meeting on the crisis convened by the Biden administration. “More than half a million people are living in famine conditions — an increase of more than 500 percent since 2016.”

President JOE BIDEN and his team are seeking to address the issue, with the State Department announcing billions in food aid and the White House reducing burdens on American farmers.

But the worry is millions will suffer — and thousands will die — in the weeks and months ahead due to malnutrition. “If that’s not a national security crisis, I don’t know what is,” another State official said.

FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY — AMERICA’S NEW ‘WESTMINSTER’ MOMENT: We got an exclusive peek at the 27-page report set to be published Wednesday by the Ronald Reagan Institute’s Westminster 2.0 Working Group. The document is titled, “A Campaign for Freedom: Cultivating Democracy in the 21st Century,” and its release is timed to the 40th anniversary of Reagan’s Westminster address before the British Parliament in June 1982 — when he famously declared that “the march of freedom and democracy … will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history.”

Now, as the Western world remains riveted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the working group’s report features a suggested “Presidential Westminster 2.0 Speech,” offering a proposal “for a future presidential speech on developing a Westminster approach for the 21st century.” One of the key parts of that updated address reads as follows:

“The time has come to modernize our toolkit to advance freedom in the context of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. And what must that include? 

America must find ways to make technology work for democracy activists seeking to wrestle power from dictators. We must deliver support to embattled independent voices in closed countries, especially civil society activists and journalists. And we must provide activists fighting repression and corruption with more tools to expose corruption and show that democracy is a bulwark against the abuse of political power for illicit gains. 

New technologies can also be used in emerging democracies to advance efforts by elected leaders and citizens to promote government transparency, accountability, and responsiveness.”

The working group — co-chaired by MARK GREEN and KENNETH WOLLACK — goes on to list five recommendations for “modernizing the toolkit” needed to preserve freedom and democracy, as well as to counter authoritarian rulers who are taking “a more muscular posture” on the world stage: develop targeted technology tools; launch an International Platform for Freedom; underscore connection between anti-corruption and democratization efforts; inject additional resources and create a new grant-making entity to support independent media and journalism; and build flexible coalitions around specific pillars of free societies.

The report ultimately argues that “in the face of the growing specter of transnational oppression and evidence of a global democracy recession, the United States has an opportunity to reinvigorate, strengthen, and modernize our approaches and expand our efforts.” You can download the report Wednesday morning here, on the Westminster 2.0 Working Group’s landing page.

Working group members include HOWARD BERMAN, JONATHAN BURKS, SCOTT CARPENTER, LIZ CHENEY, ERIC EDELMAN, EVELYN FARKAS, JAMIE FLY, RICHARD FONTAINE, JEFF GEDMIN, KENT LUCKEN, ELAINE LURIA, MICHAEL MCFAUL, DEREK MITCHELL, NICOLEBIBBINS SEDACA, JIM TALENT, ROBERT TUTTLE and DANIEL TWINING.

ROCKETS HEADED TO UKRAINE: The U.S. plans to send precision-guided rockets to Ukraine that can hit targets upwards of 40 miles away, The Wall Street Journal’s MICHAEL GORDON and NANCY YOUSSEF reported.

“The Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System the U.S. plans to send has roughly twice the range of the M777 howitzers that the U.S. has provided to Ukraine,” they wrote. “Officials said late Monday that the goal in sending the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System—or GMLRS—is to boost Ukraine’s firepower against Russian troops who have invaded the country’s Donbas region, without enabling Kyiv to expand the war deep into Russian territory.”

Our own PAUL McLEARY and LARA SELIGMAN reported last week that the U.S.-made Multiple Launch Rocket System and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, some versions of which can launch rockets farther than any weapons Ukraine currently possesses, could be part of the package” the U.S. plans to send to Ukraine.

On Monday, President JOE BIDEN said, “We are not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia.”

AUSTIN TO MEET CHINESE COUNTERPART: Secretary of Defense LLOYD AUSTIN is close to securing a meeting with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of a June conference in Singapore, The Wall Street Journal’s KEITH ZHAI and ALASTAIR GALE reported.

“The people cautioned that a meeting between [Chinese Defense Minister] Gen. WEI [FENGHE] and Mr. Austin had not been fixed and plans could still change,” they wrote. Wei just confirmed his participation at the Shangri-La Dialogue hosted by the U.K.-headquartered International Institute for Strategic Studies, increasing the likelihood that he and Austin will have a chat.

It’s common for high-level officials to hold bilateral meetings during the event. As WSJ noted, “Gen. Wei, who was the commander of China’s strategic missile force and was appointed defense minister in 2018, held talks with then acting Defense Secretary PATRICK SHANAHAN during the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2019.”

IT’S TUESDAY: 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 [email protected], and follow us on Twitter at @alexbward and @QuintForgey.

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.

CHINA THREATENS DOWNGRADE OF ISRAEL TIES: China is “gearing up a military threat against Taiwan,” the democratic island’s Foreign Minister JOSEPH WU told the Jerusalem Post’s YAAKOV KATZ, saying that Beijing has learned the wrong lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wu added that China’s authoritarianism should give Israel cause to reassess its relationship with the mainland.

Shortly after posting the story, Katz tweeted: “Got call from Chinese embassy. Apparently I’m supposed to take down the story or they will sever ties with the @Jerusalem_Post and downgrade relations with the State of Israel. Needless to say, story ain’t going anywhere.”

The original piece remains online and in the print version of the Jerusalem Post. It’s unclear if Beijing actually plans a serious reprimand over the story.

EU BANS RUSSIAN OIL: The European Union struck a deal to partially ban Russian oil as punishment for the invasion of Ukraine.

“This immediately covers more than 2/3 of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine. Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war,” European Council President CHARLES MICHEL tweeted Monday evening.

As POLITICO Europe’s JACOPO BARIGAZZI and BARBARA MOENS reported, the Council of the European Union must still agree to the deal. But “[t]he compromise will allow Russia’s pipeline oil exports to the EU to continue temporarily, while seaborne shipments are blocked by the end of the year.” About 90 percent of oil imports will be blocked by the end of the year.

Hungary, which delayed a deal for weeks over its own energy concerns, secured “an emergency provision to ensure the security of supply if their pipeline deliveries are cut off.”

EXPECT MORE HACKS OF POLITICIANS’ PHONES: Our own MAGGIE MILLER has a sobering story this AM: Surveillance of politicians’ phones will continue namely because no government wants to forgo the capabilities that can help catch criminals and terrorists.

“It is a very tricky area, because we want to protect people’s privacy, but on the other hand, we want to be sure we have the tools to find terrorists and those kind of things,” Sen. ANGUS KING (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an interview.

Asked how he approaches the danger of his own phone getting hacked, Sen. MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.) said: “I tell everybody you should assume anything you do on a mobile device or that is connected to the internet is vulnerable. And no matter how many steps you take, these people, their full-time job is to figure out how to get into things they are not supposed to see.”

Pegasus, the software made by Israel’s NSO Group, has become the poster child for an industry that is among the most secretive in the world, but is increasingly widespread. Governments will rarely confirm using spyware against targets, but a spokesperson for NSO claimed to POLITICO this month that Pegasus had been key to a number of governments stopping “big terror attacks.”

Last November, the Biden administration put NSO Group on a blacklist.

DUTCH SPENDING SPREE: The Netherlands will purchase six Lockheed Martin F-35As and four General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drones, sources confirmed to De Telegraaf on Monday, as our friends at Morning Defense (for Pros!) noted.

The Dutch newspaper also reported the military will expand the number of Patriot air defense units.

The Netherlands already has 46 F-35s on order and four MQ-9s. It is unclear whether the drones will be armed. The government announced this month an additional €5 billion ($5.3 billion) annually for defense. Defense Minister KAJSA OLLONGREN is expected to provide more details on Wednesday.

FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY –– HOUSE GOP ON VISA DELAYS: The State Department is taking too long to process routine visas, hindered in part by many employees working from home, two House Republicans will argue in a statement today.

“We are frustrated that the State Department continues to blame the COVID-19 pandemic for not reopening every possible domestic and international facility. Our offices and many others on the Hill are repeatedly contacted by American citizens with friends or family members around the world, with pressing cases in many countries including Nigeria and Kenya, who have been waiting patiently for certain visa services that remain suspended,” said Reps. ANDY BARR (R-Ky.) and MICHAEL McCAUL, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

In text preceding the quote, the lawmakers note “For certain classes of visas, routine appointments are sometimes taking a year to a year-and-a-half to be scheduled, passport processing has still not returned to pre-pandemic rates, and as of March, only 42 percent of the D.C. area workforce was coming to the office for as little as one day a week.”

We asked our colleague NAHAL TOOSI, who covers the inner-workings of the State Department, what she thought of this — and she didn’t hold back.

“They don’t offer much data or context. We’re still in the pandemic, for one thing. The visa issuance is slow compared to what? They’re throwing percentages and blurring stats in ways that make me uncomfortable. And if they think the State Department needs more staffing — I mean, whose fault is that?” she said, adding that she wants clarity on what the lawmakers mean by “whenever covid goes away for good” and precisely what classes of visas they’re worried about.

In response to Toosi’s concerns, McCaul’s office said Republican and Democrats have contacted State about what authorities it needs to solve the problem, only not to hear back. And while Congress provided new money in Covid supplements to alleviate the strain, the issue in their mind remains getting State employees back into reopened offices.

As for the visas they’re concerned about, they include immigrant visas for U.S. immediate family relatives and non-immigrant visas for multiple classes of people like researchers, such as an EB-1.

‘TURKEY WILL NOT CHANGE ITS POSITION’: Turkish President RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN wrote an op-ed for The Economist about why he opposes Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

“As all NATO allies accept Turkey’s critical importance to the alliance, it is unfortunate that some members fail fully to appreciate certain threats to our country. Turkey maintains that the admission of Sweden and Finland entails risks for its own security and the organisation’s future. We have every right to expect those countries, which will expect NATO’s second-largest army to come to their defence under Article 5, to prevent the recruitment, fundraising and propaganda activities of the PKK, which the European Union and America consider a terrorist entity,” he wrote.

The PKK, shorthand for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has waged a bloody fight for autonomy against Turkey since the 1970s. Erdogan argues that Sweden is providing financial and military support to Kurds, though Stockholm denies the charge. However, Sweden has maintained its ties to Kurdish-led forces fighting in Syria, which clearly bothers the Turkish leader.

Erdogan thus made his demand clear: “Turkey wants the candidate countries to curb the activities of all terrorist organisations and extradite the members of these organisations. We provided clear evidence to the authorities in these countries and waited for action from them. Also Turkey wants these countries to support the anti-terror operations of NATO members. Terrorism is a threat for all members and the candidate countries should recognise this reality before joining. Unless they take necessary steps, Turkey will not change its position on this issue.”

— FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY: AMELIA COLTON has left the National Security Council, where she was a policy adviser in the transborder directorate. She previously worked at the FBI.

BRIDGET BRINK has made it to Kyiv to serve as America’s ambassador to Ukriane, the first officially in that position for three years. She’s already been to the Maidan and visited Hostomel Airport, site of the destroyed Mriya plane.

— ANDY BLATCHFORD, POLITICO: “Behind Joly’s Plan to Modernize Canadian Diplomacy”

— TIMOTHY SNYDER, Thinking About…: “The folly of ‘off-ramps’”

— MICHAEL KIMMAGE and MARIA LIPMAN, Foreign Affairs: “Putin’s Hard Choices”

Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN delivers remarks in the first discussion of Foreign Affairs’ centennial event series celebrating the magazine’s 100th anniversary.

— The American Security Project, 10 a.m.: “War in Ukraine: A Conversation with Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General PHILIP BREEDLOVE

— The Wall Street Journal, 10 a.m.: “WSJ Pro Cybersecurity Forum — with TIM CALLAHAN, YVETTE CLARKE, ADAM FLETCHER and MATTHEW OLSEN

— The Heritage Foundation, 11 a.m.: “A Conversation on Readiness with Air Force Secretary FRANK KENDALL — with JOHN VENABLE

— The McCain Institute, 11 a.m.: “A 21st Century Iron Curtain? Looking at the Future of NATO — with ​​YORDAN BOZHILOV, PEDRO PIZANO and TIINA UUDEBERG

— The U.S. Coast Guard, 11 a.m.: “Change of Command Ceremony — with LINDA FAGAN, ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS and KARL SCHULTZ

— ​​The Atlantic Council, 12 p.m.: “Oil, the State, and War: Global Energy Security After the Russian Invasion of Ukraine — with EMMA ASHFORD, AMY MYERS JAFFE and ELLEN WALD

— The Wilson Center, 12 p.m.: “The Echo of Chechnya in Russia’s War with Ukraine — with ANNA NEISTAT, ANNA NEMTSOVA, WILLIAM E. POMERANZ and THOMAS DE WAAL

— The Ronald Reagan Institute, 3 p.m.: “A Discussion on the 40th anniversary of President Reagan’s Westminster Address — with JEFFREY GEDMIN, MARK GREEN, NICOLE BIBBINS SEDACA, KENNETH WOLLACK, ROGER ZAKHEIM and UZRA ZEYA

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

And thanks to our editor, John Yearwood, who would authorize the use of Pegasus on our phones to see what we say about him.





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