FPI Overnight Brief: July 5, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

On Monday, though, Mr. Pouyanné was comfortable enough with the risks to sign an agreement in Tehran committing his company to lead a natural gas project in the Persian Gulf that could open Iran’s huge petroleum reserves to international players. The decision has far-reaching implications, not least setting a path that other Western energy companies could soon follow, and possibly giving Total an inside track for future contracts in Iran. – New York Times
Mark Dubowitz writes: The administration should present Iran the choice between a new agreement and an unrelenting American pressure campaign while signaling that it is unilaterally prepared to cancel the existing deal if Tehran doesn’t play ball. Only six years after Ronald Reagan adopted his pressure strategy, the Soviet bloc collapsed. Washington must intensify the pressure on the mullahs as Reagan did on the communists. Otherwise, a lethal nuclear Iran is less than a decade away. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
U.S.-backed fighters have breached the ancient wall of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa, marking new progress in the battle to rout the militants from their most important strongholds, the U.S. military said Tuesday. – Washington Post
Even as the U.S.-allied forces advanced, schisms emerged, and it is unclear how much the infighting will delay the battle for Islamic State’s Syrian capital, where thousands of civilians remain trapped, or the larger fight to vanquish the group in Syria. – Los Angeles Times
After more than six years of atrocities in Syria that have been exhaustively documented by human rights investigators, a former French judge will take on the task of preparing evidence that may eventually lead to war crimes trials. – New York Times
A U.S. Marine artillery unit in Syria is using a highly specialized guidance kit for its ammunition, a video posted to a Pentagon-run website shows. It appears to be the first time the equipment has been spotted with U.S. forces in a combat zone outside of Afghanistan. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a private State Department meeting last week that the fate of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad now lies in the hands of Russia, and that the Trump administration’s priority is limited to defeating the Islamic State, according to three diplomatic sources familiar with the exchange. – Foreign Policy
Russia could begin deploying military police to security zones in Syria after the zones are finalized in two to three weeks, the country's TASS news service reported Tuesday. – Washington Examiner
Diplomats from Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the United States were continuing a fifth round of Syria peace talks in Astana on July 5 with the Syrian government and representatives of some Syrian opposition groups. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
David Ignatius writes: Cooperating with the Russians in Syria would be distasteful, given their past actions. But spurning them would keep this volatile country at the flash point and almost certainly make things worse rather than better for all sides. – Washington Post
Ignatius also writes: The United States and its partners are supplying potent Special Operations forces for training and air support. But the Syrian Kurds and their Arab allies are doing the fighting and the dying on the ground, and for better or worse, it’s their vision of governance that will take hold as the Islamic State falls. – Washington Post
Three years ago, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the existence of an Islamic State caliphate and proceeded to sweep his forces through northern Iraq and toward Baghdad, threatening the viability of the fragile country. Today, the leader declaring an end to the caliphate is someone few would have imagined in the position, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Iraqi forces edged through the final roads and alleyways of Islamic State territory in the city of Mosul on Tuesday as dazed and malnourished civilians were evacuated to safety. – Washington Post
Some 300 Islamic State fighters remain in the small patch of territory still controlled by the group in Mosul’s Old City, a senior Iraqi commander said Wednesday. – Associated Press
With American-backed ground forces poised to recapture Mosul in Iraq and Raqqah in Syria, Islamic State’s de facto capitals, U.S. commanders are confident they soon will vanquish the militant group from its self-declared caliphate after three years of fighting. But the White House has yet to define strategy for the next step in the struggle to restore stability in the region, including key decisions about safe zones, reconstruction, nascent governance, easing sectarian tensions and commitment of U.S. troops. – Los Angeles Times
Kimberly Dozier reports: U.S. special operations forces have removed roughly 50 top ISIS leaders off the battlefield since President Donald Trump took office, down from 80 killed in the last six months of the Obama administration, according to figures obtained by The Daily Beast. – The Daily Beast
Libya, the biggest jumping-off point for migrants trying to reach Europe, is now home to a thriving trade in humans. Unable to pay exorbitant smuggling fees or swindled by traffickers, some of the world’s most desperate people are being held as slaves, tortured or forced into prostitution. – Washington Post
Frederic Wehery writes: We fight terrorism for the sake of the world, reads the billboard overlooking one of this strife-torn city’s upscale streets. It also bears the visage of a mustachioed, uniformed man—Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s most powerful and polarizing figure. Coming from him, the billboard’s message is a most striking assertion. – The Atlantic
Gulf States
The new heir to Saudi Arabia’s throne has launched a crackdown on dissent in recent weeks, attempting to silence activists and critical clerics as well as his deposed predecessor, according to U.S. and Saudi officials familiar with the events. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Qatar delivered its official response Monday to 13 demands made by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states engaged in a blockade against their neighbor, as President Trump again weighed in on the regional dispute. There was no immediate indication what the reply was or whether it would be sufficient to end the four-week-old crisis. – Washington Post
Iran’s leaders have been noticeably restrained in their response to the Qatar crisis, and for good reason, analysts say. Not only have they welcomed it, they would be happy to see it quietly drag on. – New York Times
When the Arab countries that have imposed an extraordinary embargo against Qatar gather to discuss the diplomatic crisis on Wednesday, the US will not be in the room but its presence will loom large. – Financial Times
Five months into the job, Trump is learning that enthusiasm, business acumen and family connections go only so far, and that a strong pro-Israel stance doesn’t mean Israeli leaders will see things his way. – Washington Post
Israel and India already share extensive defense ties, and India recently agreed to buy about $2 billion worth of Israeli missiles and air defense systems, the largest order in Israel’s history, experts said. The two countries are now looking to expand trade and cooperation in areas like agriculture and water management. – New York Times
Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog was routed in the first round of the Labor Party leadership election Tuesday, as the political movement that led the country for years continues its struggle to regain relevance. – Los Angeles Times
Jews around the world have been in an uproar in the week since Mr. Netanyahu yielded to pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners and suspended a plan to provide a better space for non-Orthodox men and women to worship together at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. – New York Times
It doesn’t look like much yet. The newest Jewish settlement, deep in the West Bank, is today just a scratch of road being clawed out of chalky hillside by earth-moving machines. But Avihai Boaron sees milk and honey here — and a new home for himself and the 40 families who were forcibly evicted from their illegal outpost by Israeli police in February. – Washington Post
The Trump administration is taking aim at a United Nations body that is trying to deny Israel's sovereignty over holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to a letter by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. – Washington Free Beacon
In a visit Monday to the USS George H.W. Bush – docked outside of Haifa after five months of combat against the Islamic State -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likened the state of Israel to a “mighty aircraft carrier” of the United States. – Defense News
In recent days, pictures of the growing crowds have been passed around on social media, attracting newcomers. The spectacle has provoked an increasingly venomous response from officials, who have started associating the protesters with terrorist groups — a sure sign the demonstration has touched a nerve, organizers said. – Washington Post
Turkey’s military and procurement officials are increasingly relying on various drone systems, most notably to boost the country’s asymmetrical fight against Kurdish insurgents and hostile Islamic groups fighting in the Syrian civil war. – Defense News


A bipartisan U.S. Senate delegation Tuesday called for more American troops and more-aggressive American military action in Afghanistan, as well as pressure on neighboring Pakistan, saying the United States needs “a winning strategy” to end the 16-year war here and prevent the spread of terrorism. – Washington Post
A delegation of United States senators visiting Afghanistan issued a stark warning on Tuesday to President Trump to fill vacant embassy and State Department positions here in order to better address the country’s mounting military and political crises. – New York Times
Leaders of Afghanistan’s three major ethnic minority political parties, all of whom hold senior positions in the government, announced from Turkey Saturday that they have formed a coalition to save Afghanistan from chaos, issued a list of demands for reforms by President Ashraf Ghani, and vowed to hold mass protests unless they are met. – Washington Post
Protesters returned to the streets of Kabul on Monday waving pink flags and demanding the resignations of top security officials in the wake of the deadliest month in Afghanistan in years. – Los Angeles Times
As the U.S. considers sending more troops to Afghanistan, Marines in Helmand province recently showed how U.S. advisers can help Afghan security forces take the fight to the Taliban. – Military Times
For the second time in less than a year, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is putting India through a revolution in the way the country does business….On Saturday, a nationwide sales tax replaces the current hodgepodge of business taxes that vary from state to state and are seen as an impediment to growth. It is expected to unify in a single market 1.3 billion people spread over 29 states and seven union territories in India’s $2 trillion economy. – New York Times
Sadanand Dhume writes: In Parliament Friday, Mr. Modi praised the GST as a “good and simple tax.” This may be far from current reality, but it remains a laudable aspiration. His administration deserves credit for taking a big step on a long journey. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A Chinese hospital treating the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has invited cancer experts from the United States, Germany and other nations to join his team of doctors, judicial officials said in a brief statement Wednesday. – New York Times
Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents marched through the streets in defense of their cherished freedoms Saturday, in the face of what many see as a growing threat from mainland China exactly two decades after the handover from British rule. – Washington Post
China’s president has warned Donald Trump of “negative factors” emerging in their bilateral relationship just hours after Beijing lashed out at Washington for sending a navy destroyer near a disputed island in the South China Sea. – Financial Times
Editorial: Britain is too afraid of China, or too concerned for its commercial interests, to protest violations of the Joint Declaration and stick up for the citizens of its former territory. But the self-governing citizens of Taiwan will surely notice how Beijing has disavowed the autonomy promised to Hong Kong and dishonored the “one country, two systems” formula that Deng once offered as a model for Taiwan’s eventual return to the motherland. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Korean Peninsula
Tensions over North Korea’s July 4 missile test mounted Wednesday, with the U.S. and South Korean forces conducting military exercises and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appearing to personally taunt the president of the United States. – Washington Post
The Trump administration on Tuesday confirmed North Korea’s claim that it had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, but it told Pyongyang that the United States would use “the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat.” – New York Times
North Korea’s latest test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile marks a direct challenge to President Trump, whose tough talk has yet to yield any change in Pyongyang’s behavior as the regime continues its efforts to build a nuclear weapon capable of striking the mainland United States. – Washington Post
North Korea’s announcement of an intercontinental-ballistic-missile test intensifies pressure on Beijing to penalize Pyongyang or risk further tensions with Washington as the U.S. and Chinese presidents prepare to meet this week. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Trump, frustrated by China’s unwillingness to lean on North Korea, has told the Chinese leader that the United States is prepared to act on its own in pressuring the nuclear-armed government in Pyongyang, according to senior administration officials. – New York Times
Experts believe that North Korea has several paths to a viable nuclear-tipped ICBM, each of which uses a separate design. North Korea has twice successfully launched a satellite from a three-stage ballistic rocket that has sufficient power to reach the U.S. west coast and could form the basis of an intercontinental ballistic missile. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The top American general in South Korea said Wednesday that self-restraint was all that kept the United States and South Korea from going to war with North Korea, as the South’s defense minister indicated that the North’s first intercontinental ballistic missile had the potential to reach Hawaii. – New York Times
Five North Koreans crossed into South Korean waters in a boat on Saturday, sailing across a heavily guarded maritime border between the two nations in what appeared to be an attempt to flee the North, South Korean Coast Guard officials said. – New York Times
In the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, and the Rose Garden, U.S. President Donald Trump had a message for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and for the American public: the trade deal between the United States and South Korea is unfair and is going to be renegotiated. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
The United States should have "no illusions" that Russia and China will end the threat of North Korea's missile program, a senator who heads a nuclear weapons subcommittee said Tuesday. – Washington Examiner
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed Wednesday his nation will “demonstrate its mettle to the U.S.” and never put its weapons programs up for negotiations, a day after test-launching its first intercontinental ballistic missile. The hard line suggests more tests are being prepared as the country tries to perfect nuclear-armed missiles capable of striking anywhere in the United States. – Associated Press
Analysis: Mr. Kim’s repeated tests show that a more definitive demonstration that he can reach the American mainland cannot be far away, even if it may be a few years before he can fit a nuclear warhead onto his increasingly powerful missiles. But for Mr. Trump and his national security team, Tuesday’s technical milestone simply underscores tomorrow’s strategic dilemma. – New York Times
Analysis: The standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program has long been shaped by the view that the United States has no viable military option to destroy it. Any attempt to do so, many say, would provoke a brutal counterattack against South Korea too bloody and damaging to risk. That remains a major constraint on the Trump administration’s response even as North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, approaches his goal of a nuclear arsenal capable of striking the United States. – New York Times
Editorial: The U.S. has held out hope that China’s leaders would see that a nuclear-armed North Korea isn’t in its interests. But Beijing’s behavior suggests that it hopes the North Korean threat will drive the U.S. out of Northeast Asia. Only a much tougher strategy aimed at toppling the Kim regime, with or without China’s help, has a chance of eliminating a threat that puts millions of American lives at risk. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Robert Joseph writes: President Trump should insist that our policy be based on the solid ground of containment and regime change from within, and not on the quicksand of “denuclearization.” Twenty-five years of failed policy makes clear that regime change is a prerequisite to ending the North’s nuclear and missile programs. – National Review Online
Uzi Rubin writes: Judging by previous North Korean practices, another test of the revised HS-14 can be expected in the not too far future. Pending success, Kim Jong Un might consider his country fully nuclear capable against the U.S. and behave accordingly. It will be wise for the U.S., Japan, and ROK to shape their policy according to this tight schedule. – Real Clear Defense
Joseph Bosco writes: President Trump should carefully review, and summarily reject, the recommendations laid out in a letter from six self-described “experts with decades of military, political, and technical involvement with North Korean issues.” – Real Clear Defense
Patrick Cronin writes: Pyongyang likes to rattle the nuclear saber but remains ready to use biochemical and cyber weapons. Nuclear weapons are useful insurance policies against intervention, but their use would be suicidal. The more surreptitious use of biochemical and cyber weapons, however, risks creating a grave new world by seeking to strike below the threshold of nuclear deterrence and catalyzing war. – The National Interest
As recently as this spring, Shinzo Abe looked as if he was on track to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, no small feat in a country where the leadership sometimes seems to be equipped with a revolving door. But a local election in Tokyo has put Mr. Abe’s longevity in doubt. Voters for the capital’s metropolitan assembly on Sunday resoundingly rejected candidates from Mr. Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats, while electing all but one of 50 fielded by an upstart party founded by Tokyo’s popular governor, Yuriko Koike. – New York Times
A series of recent missile tests has added new urgency to Japan’s debate about how it can defend itself from Pyongyang’s increasingly sophisticated arsenal. – Financial Times
East Asia
President Trump hardened his treatment of allies and adversaries in Asia [last] week, pressing South Korea’s visiting leader to overhaul a landmark trade agreement with the United States a day after announcing a series of steps that angered China. – New York Times
The collision off Japan that claimed the lives of seven sailors on the U.S. Navy destroyer Fitzgerald punched a hole large enough to drive a tractor trailer through, leaving the service with the considerable task of putting the crippled destroyer back together again. – Defense News
William Bikales writes: The office of Mongolia’s president has limited powers, but it can exert influence over policy. Whoever wins the election Friday should seize this opportunity to encourage the country to face up to its perilous debt situation and accept the need to live within its means and return to sustainable FDI-led growth. At the very least, the president-elect should abide by Hippocrates’ words, “First, do no harm” and not advocate populist steps that will make the likelihood of a crisis even greater. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Southeast Asia
The Philippine Supreme Court upheld on Tuesday President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in the southern Philippines, which he says is needed to crush an uprising by militants linked to the Islamic State. – New York Times
In authoritarian Vietnam, the internet has become the de facto forum for the country’s growing number of dissenting voices. Facebook connections in particular have mobilized opposition to government policies; they played a key role in mass protests against the state’s handling of an environmental disaster last year. Now, the government is tightening its grip on the internet, arresting and threatening bloggers, and pressing Facebook and YouTube to censor what appears on their sites. – New York Times
Two years after his death, no memorials, statues or streets in Singapore are named after Lee Kuan Yew, who established this city-state as a modern nation and built it into a prosperous showcase for his view that limited political freedoms best suit Asian values. Now a bitter and public family dispute over the fate of his modest house has shattered Singapore’s image as an orderly authoritarian ideal and hinted at deeper divisions about its political future. – New York Times
Singapore has repatriated two Indonesian maids who were radicalised on social media, as authorities in the city-state maintain a heightened level of vigilance against threats from Islamist terrorism. – Financial Times
South China Sea
China’s military vowed Monday to step up air and sea patrols after an American warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea in what Beijing called a “serious political and military provocation.” – Washington Post
An American guided-missile destroyer sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea on Sunday, a U.S. defense official said, marking the second such operation since President Trump took office. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
The Navy has kicked off naval drills with Vietnam, just days after sending a guided-missile destroyer near a South China Sea islet claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. – Stars and Stripes


Defense Budget
House and Senate lawmakers advanced a flurry of defense funding legislation this week, but are still far away from an actual military budget. That’s because of a host of unresolved issues in the bills, including how to get a divided Congress to settle on how much should be spent on national defense. – Military Times
Despite reported differences, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees propose almost identical toplines for national security spending. In an apples to apples comparison, after correcting for discrepancies in what the two committees count, HASC’s total is $704 billion, SASC’s is $708. That’s a difference of just 0.6 percent, presenting a strong united front against Tea Party budget hawks and the Trump Administration, which proposed $668 billion. – Breaking Defense
The House and Senate Armed Services committees took significantly different approaches in their annual Pentagon policy bills on everything from space operations to Army manpower, lining up what could be a tough conference negotiation later this year. – Roll Call
The Trump administration is pushing back the purchase of a reactor core for an overhaul carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), savings on amphibious ship modernization and deferring a radar for a destroyer upgrade to pay about $500 million for second Littoral Combat Ship hull in the second budget. – USNI News
Excess bureaucracy is holding the U.S. Army back from efficiency and technological development, experts and defense leaders said at an Association of the U.S. Army forum on Thursday. – Defense News
The Pentagon Inspector General’s office has found shortfalls in the funding and training of pilots for the latest version of the H-60 Black Hawk helicopter (also called the UH-60) that began being introduced into the Army’s fleet in 2005. – Military.com
The Air Force is accelerating development of a special, high-tech, on-board threat library for the F-35 designed to precisely identify enemy aircraft operating in different high-risk areas around the globe - such as a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA 5th Gen fighter, service leaders said. – Scout Warrior
Against terrorists in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, US forces are firing smart weapons like Hellfire missiles as fast as industry can build them — or faster. Against a well-armed adversary like Russia or China, we might run out.  That’s why the military is making a major multi-year investment in precision weapons, one that the Army’s chief logistician estimates at $45 billion for his service alone. – Breaking Defense
The Army and Northrop Grumman are exploring new sensors and interceptor weapons able to destroy enemy drones using ground-based systems designed to track and knock out approaching enemy fire from Forward Operating Bases. – Scout Warrior
Interview: Defense News spoke with Stefanik before the HASC voted June 28 to send its defense policy bill, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, to the House floor for a vote. From there, it’s due to be reconciled with the SASC version of the bill, which expected to see a Senate floor vote in the coming days. – Defense News
Strategic Issues
The Pentagon has thrown a cloak of secrecy over assessments of the safety and security of its nuclear weapons operations, a part of the military with a history of periodic inspection failures and lapses in morale. – Associated Press
Michaela Dodge writes: There is no doubt that the United States would be capable of deploying space-based missile defense. It’s time for the U.S. to think broadly about its ballistic missile defense requirements. The Pentagon’s ongoing Ballistic Missile Defense Review presents the perfect opportunity to do so. – The Cipher Brief
The War
Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, and Turkish Airlines said on Wednesday that they were the latest carriers to have been exempted from an American ban on laptops and other electronic devices in the passenger cabins of flights from eight Muslim-majority countries. – New York Times
A Navy prosecutor said unauthorized, unidentified people "unintentionally" overheard detainees consulting with their attorneys at a special, irregular meeting site in the latest controversy over attorney-client privacy at the prison. – Miami Herald
Security researchers are increasingly looking in countries outside the West to discover the newest, most creative and potentially most dangerous types of cyberattacks being deployed. As developing economies rush to go online, they provide a fertile testing ground for hackers trying their skills in an environment where they can evade detection before deploying them against a company or state that has more advanced defenses. – New York Times
Practice makes perfect. For America’s cyber teams, the last stage of their validation and certification to achieving full operational capability occurs at the annual Cyber Guard and Cyber Flag training exercises. – Defense News
Editorial: There is no magic solution that can stop a threat such as this, one that crosses national boundaries and infects real-world systems. The attack shows once again that, for all the wonders of the digital revolution, bad actors are constantly innovating too, looking for ways to disrupt, thieve and destroy. There is no substitute for vigilance and defense, especially protecting all-important critical infrastructure, hopefully stopping the malware before it manages to turn off more than just pixels. – Washington Post


The Dutch Foreign Ministry says the suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine will be prosecuted in a Dutch court. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Ukraine's cybercrime police seized servers belonging to a small company at the center of a global outbreak of malicious software after "new activity" was detected there, officials said early on July 5. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Two of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchs face potential confiscation of multibillion-dollar assets after missing a deadline to voluntarily restructure related-party loans at PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest bank that was nationalised late last year. – Financial Times
Ukraine accused the Russian security services Saturday of planning and launching a cyberattack that locked up computers around the world earlier this week. – Associated Press
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman writes: We have a vision for making sure progress turns into further reform. Our persistence will be the key to making sure Ukraine continues to give our people a brighter future, our allies a stronger partner and our investors more valuable opportunities. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Daniel Valk writes: Contrary to the intent of US sanctions against Russia, which in the past few weeks the Senate has voted to tighten, the Trump administration's Department of Commerce decision could punish Ukraine while advancing the business interests of Putin’s close ally. If this administration goes through with its plans to restrict Ukrainian steel shipments to the United States and further weaken Ukraine’s economy, Trump would be handling Putin a great gift at Ukraine’s grave expense. – Atlantic Council
Vera Zimmerman writes: In a new comprehensive study, “The World Hybrid War: Ukrainian Forefront,” experts from Ukraine’s National Institute for Strategic Studies (NISS) examine the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the context of the global security crisis. In the monograph, they conceptualize hybrid war, trace its origins, look at the evolution of Russia’s revanchist ambitions, single out Ukraine’s vulnerabilities and its response, and advocate a new strategy. – Atlantic Council
Now nearly six months into his presidency, Trump is set to finally meet Putin at a summit this week in Hamburg after a stop here in Warsaw — severely constrained and facing few good options that would leave him politically unscathed. – Washington Post
U.S. and Russian officials are planning a series of high-level diplomatic meetings following the abrupt cancellation of a top diplomat's trip to Moscow, the State Department announced. – Washington Examiner
Russia will not be able to achieve strong economic growth unless ties with the West, which have been frozen by economic sanctions, begin to thaw, a longtime Kremlin economic adviser said on June 30. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Beijing is to extend nearly $11bn to two Russian state entities that are under western sanctions. – Financial Times
Editorial: Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union communicated with each other, and the need is no less today. A meeting will probably satisfy Mr. Putin’s desire to be seen as a global leader, and he will be probing Mr. Trump for signs of weakness. Mr. Putin suffers from long-standing misunderstandings about the West and the United States, and it can only help to speak to him directly, if the message is carefully prepared. – Washington Post
Editorial: The rule of law means, at its most fundamental level, that no one is above the law. The end of a trial in Moscow of five men accused of taking part in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov shows quite clearly that that rule does not apply in Russia. The five Chechen men were convicted of carrying out the assassination, but the people who ordered the killing were not pursued and not found. – Washington Post
Michael McFaul writes: When I worked in the White House at the National Security Council from 2009 to 2012, I wrote briefers for President Barack Obama for his “bilats” with then-President Dmitry Medvedev and then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. I have written an (unsolicited) backgrounder deliberately for President Trump; short, simple and with his stated views on Russia in mind ahead of this week’s meeting between the U.S. and Russian presidents. – Washington Post
Anne Applebaum writes: For nearly two decades, in fact, the Russian government and Russian companies spent money systematically to create corrupt business relationships as well as to undermine democracies in both Eastern and Western Europe. During that period, no U.S. president or secretary of state ever took any threat from Russia seriously, all of them either overestimating the Kremlin’s goodwill or underestimating its capacity to do damage. – Washington Post
The European Union and Japan have signaled that they plan to announce a broad agreement on trade on Thursday, a pointed challenge to President Trump, who is scheduled to attend a meeting of world leaders in Germany the next day. – New York Times
German Chancellor Angela Merkel goes north this week to Hamburg, the port city where she was born, to defend principles of economic and political integration, whose critics include not just the leaders of Russia and Turkey but also the American president. – Washington Post
With Britain preparing to leave, Russia making threats and the United States giving it the cold shoulder, the European Union needs all the friends it can get. But the bloc turned on itself on Tuesday when Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, tore into another branch of the body, the European Parliament. – New York Times
United Kingdom
The White House and Downing Street poured cold water on Monday on news reports that President Trump was considering a quick visit to Britain next week, a possibility that had excited the many Britons eager to protest his presence in the country. – New York Times
Editorial: The larger political danger is this signal of early retreat from Mrs. May’s new coalition government. The spending interests will soon be back for more. If the Tories forget that they’re the party of economic growth, not government growth, their defeats have only begun. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
For Mr. Trump, the stop in Poland on Thursday is something of an appetizer before the main course, a visit to a friendly right-wing, populist government with a kindred approach on any number of key issues, from immigration to global warming and coal mining. Opponents worry that the visit will be seen as a tacit endorsement of a Polish government that has been criticized by its European Union partners for moves to co-opt the news media, its political opponents and, most recently, the courts. – New York Times
Poland's government would like visiting President Donald Trump to make assurances this week that the presence of U.S. and NATO troops in Poland will continue as long as the region's security is threatened by Russia, the foreign minister said Monday. – Associated Press
Interview: Tomasz Szatkowski serves as Poland’s deputy minister of national defense. He sat down with Defense News for an exclusive interview during a June 23 visit to Washington to discuss Russia, plans for joint procurement and his country's new defense strategy. – Defense News


United States of America
Thousands of State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development employees indicated in a survey they are worried about the future of their agencies, with some expressing particular concern about lack of support from the Trump administration and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The State Department is now quietly allowing dozens of young women and minority students to become full-fledged diplomats after threatening to rescind job offers that most of the students were given two years ago upon winning prestigious scholarships. – New York Times
While President Trump was hurling verbal napalm at Mexico and vowing to keep out Muslims during his campaign, he was also promising to look out for people from these men’s besieged corner of the world. They are Christians from Iraq — a land that they and their families fled decades ago because, they say, to live as a Christian in Iraq is no life at all, and sometimes means death. – New York Times
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has delayed a plan approved by the Obama administration a year ago to begin allowing transgender recruits to join the U.S. military, providing the Joint Chiefs of Staff with a six-month reprieve that they requested, the Pentagon said Friday night. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
Editorial: [S]teel-consuming companies in the United States, and many of his own more prudent advisers, are urging Mr. Trump not to act as if the U.S. national interest were equivalent to the narrow interests of the protection-craving steel industry. When it comes to trade policy, it’s easy to shout “America first,” but hard to define exactly what you mean by “America.” – Washington Post
Editorial: These girls embody the values the United States has championed around the world and sought, at great cost, to cultivate in Afghanistan. Their story is a testament to innovation, entre­pre­neur­ship, equality and grit. Given that the U.S. government has also invested substantially in promoting girls’ education and women’s empowerment in Afghanistan, the visa denial is inexplicable – Washington Post
Russian Election Interference
Ten of the 12 lawyers on Mr. Mueller’s team have been revealed, and their political leanings have sparked early controversy. At least five have donated to Democratic campaigns. But analysts say the team is full of legal stars, including Mr. Weissmann, who have the skills and experience to handle the investigation fairly — wherever it leads. – Washington Times
Hillary Clinton, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have all stoked speculation that American insiders may have helped the Russians orchestrate their wide-ranging hacking and disinformation campaign — including with guidance on which political targets to exploit and what kinds of leaked information would most resonate with swing voters. - Politico
David Kendall writes: It’s quite possible that a fair and thorough investigation will confirm the president’s oft-stated belief that neither he nor his campaign was guilty of any improper activity. But for the present it’s simply irrelevant that Trump feels guiltless and persecuted. The rule of law, not the whim of an elected official, no matter how lofty, defines both what the applicable legal standards are and who gets to make decisions about those standards. And that includes firing a special counsel. – Washington Post
Latin America
Mexico’s government is being urged to push for an ambitious upgrade of the North American Free Trade Agreement ahead of a meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Enrique Peña Nieto at this week’s G20 summit in Hamburg. – Financial Times
Luisa Ortega would seem an unlikely figure to spearhead opposition to Venezuela’s unpopular president Nicolás Maduro…But this year, Ms Ortega has re-invented herself. Since the protests against the Maduro regime began in late March, she has become the single most potent voice speaking out against the government from within the ranks of “Chavismo”, the socialist movement founded by the country’s late leader Hugo Chávez. – Financial Times
The top commander of Colombia’s largest rebel movement was hospitalized Sunday following a stroke and remains in intensive care, just days after his group handed over the last of its individual weapons as part of a historic peace deal. – Associated Press
Editorial: The United States can’t rescue Venezuela, but there are things it can do to pressure the regime: more sanctions against individuals and entities involved in repression; dissemination of information about the involvement of regime leaders in drug trafficking and other corruption; démarches to those Caribbean states and to Cuba. Standing by while Mr. Maduro stokes “combat” should not be an option. – Washington Post


West Africa
President Emmanuel Macron of France on Sunday promised strong support for a new multinational military force to combat extremists in parts of West Africa, saying the “terrorists, thugs and assassins” needed to be eradicated. – Associated Press
East Africa
The United States military said on Monday that it had carried out a drone strike in Somalia against the Shabab, the Qaeda-linked insurgent group, in the second such strike since President Trump relaxed targeting rules for counterterrorism operations in that country in March. – New York Times
Genocide and war-crimes charges have long shadowed Sudan’s president, sometimes forcing him to scrap or alter travel abroad to avoid the risk of arrest and extradition to the International Criminal Court. Still, Sudan said Monday, he had accepted an invitation to visit Russia next month. – New York Times
Central/Southern Africa
The contest is heating up despite ANC tradition that prevents candidates from openly declaring their interest in the party’s top job. Ms Dlamini-Zuma, a veteran of the former liberation movement and former minister, is a frontrunner in a race that pits her against Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president and one of South Africa’s wealthiest black businessmen. – Financial Times
Ida Sawyer writes: There is still time to heed the dire warnings of the Catholic bishops and former African leaders and stop the escalation of violence, abuses and instability that threaten both Congo and the entire region. But this requires high-level engagement and sustained, targeted and well-coordinated pressure on Kabila and his government at the national, regional and international levels. Time is of the essence, with the situation on the ground spiraling out of control and the deadline for elections at year’s end fast approaching. – Washington Post

Trump Administration

Wilson’s approach — folksy at times, but with a background as a Rhodes Scholar — is a shift in a service that has 660,000 airmen and a $132 billion budget, but is struggling to keep up with its demands. While the Trump administration has promised to bolster the military, the Air Force is currently coping with an aging fleet of jets that have been used heavily in the air war against the Islamic State and what senior service officials have called a crisis-level shortage in fighter pilots. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
The top civilian positions in both the Navy and the Army remain unfilled under the Trump administration as the Senate heads into its final weeks before its summer recess. – Washington Examiner
Republicans are growing concerned that the staffs of Donald Trump and Mike Pence are starting to feud, the latest trouble to hit a White House that has spent months battling crisis after crisis. - McClatchy

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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