Please be patient with me this week and possibly the following week, too. I've been reading less and looking inward more. I'm grieving the unexpected death of someone very dear to me, and I'll release a shorter version of the newsletter until I'm back on my feet. In the meantime, please hug your loved ones. Tell them how much you need them. Let them know how special they are. You never know how much time you have.
I'll be OOO through Monday.
Sending you all so much love,
What I'm writing:
• With Russia amassing around 175,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, a question remains over whether the U.S. and its allies would counter Russian aggression through economic measures, offensive military support, or both.
Undersecretary of State for political affairs Victoria Nuland briefed the Senate twice this week, once in a classified setting and once publicly, and outlined the numerous policy options that the Biden administration is considering as it seeks to prevent war in Eastern Europe. Sources say the administration is considering a sweeping set of sanctions to wipe out the Russian banking sector.
What I'm reading:
• U.S. intelligence found that the Kremlin is planning a multi-front offensive into Ukraine, involving up to 175,000 troops, as soon as early next year, according to U.S. officials and an intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post.
• President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday in a two-hour secure video conference that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would result in heavy economic penalties for Moscow and lead NATO to reposition its troops in Europe, The New York Times reports.
• The Russian government said Putin warned Biden that Western military activity in and around Ukraine was approaching a “red line” threatening Russia’s security. The Kremlin statement said Putin had stressed that Russia should not be held responsible for tensions because NATO was making “dangerous attempts to take over Ukrainian territory and increasing its military potential” on Russia’s borders, according to the BBC.
• Joe Biden made a diplomatic concession to Moscow designed to prevent an invasion of Ukraine by signaling he wants to convene meetings between Nato allies and Russia to discuss Putin’s grievances, the Financial Times reports.
• Ukraine accused Russia of deploying tanks and additional sniper teams to the frontline of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reports.
• The Russian government-linked group behind the SolarWinds hack has intensified its hacking efforts in the year since, according to the cybersecurity group Mandiant.
• Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government reportedly granted a Schengen visa to Belarus Football Federation chief Vladimir Bazanov, a close ally of authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, after he was deported from the Czech Republic.
• Balkan Insight has a fascinating investigation into drug trafficking ties between Colombia and the Balkans. Ties between organized crime groups in Colombia and the Balkans go back years, based not just on mutual interest but similar backgrounds and, sometimes, military or paramilitary experience, according to the article.
• Germany’s Angela Merkel handed over the chancellery to her successor Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the New York Times reports.
• A 14-year-old Palestinian girl stabbed an Israeli woman near a contested East Jerusalem neighborhood, in the fourth lone wolf attack to take place in Jerusalem in the past several weeks, the Washington Post reports.
• A court in Myanmar sentenced ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years on charges of inciting public unrest and breaching Covid-19 protocols, the New York Times reports. Myanmar's military later cut the sentence in half, CNN reports.
• Dozens of Rohingya refugees have sued Meta (formerly Facebook), accusing the social media company of allowing hate speech against them to spread, the BBC reports.
• Classified U.S. intelligence reports suggest that China intends to establish its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean in Equatorial Guinea, raising the prospect that Chinese warships would have the ability to rearm and refit opposite the U.S. East Coast, the Wall Street Journal reports.
• The U.S.-backed political opposition movement in Venezuela is on the verge of breaking up after Julio Borges, a leading figure in the anti-regime coalition, called for an end to the leadership of Juan Guaidó, whom the U.S. and dozens of allies have backed as Venezuela’s legitimate president since 2019, the Wall Street Journal reports.
• Russia and India reinforced their defense ties during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India, the Wall Street Journal reports.
• Associates and relatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have developed a multibillion-dollar operation making and selling captagon, an illegal, addictive amphetamine, the New York Times reports.
• Thousands are enlisting with the Ethiopian armed forces to counter rebels from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front who are advancing toward the capital, fueling fears of a full-blown civil war in the country, the Wall Street Journal reports.
• Officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security advised in August against deporting Haitians back to Haiti, fearing the deportations could violate U.S. human rights obligations, BuzzFeed reports.