The Cable

SitRep: How Moscow Did It

Russia pushing back against U.S. arms sales to Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on Dec. 21. (Maxim Shipenkov/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on Dec. 21. (Maxim Shipenkov/AFP/Getty Images)


By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

How Moscow did it. The Washington Post goes deep on the intelligence community’s response to and shock at Russian meddling leading up to the 2016 election, uncovering the Obama administration’s bungled attempts to piece together a covert and overt response.

For its part, the Trump administration appears to have gotten bogged down in similar policy debates as National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert clash over turf and approaches to Russian propaganda.

Islamic State fights on. Doesn’t look like ISIS in Afghanistan is going anywhere. After dropping the biggest non-nuclear bomb in history on a Taliban position earlier this year, and promises from military leaders that the group’s Afgan franchise is taking a beating, the group is still going strong. The NYT takes a hard look at what the group is doing and how how difficult it will be to dislodge its fighters from some of the most remote corners of Afghanistan.  

No surrender. Meanwhile, there are still an estimated 3,000 Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, and the U.S. and its allies are fighting to restrict them to several small pockets.

American ISIS. A federal judge on Saturday ordered the Pentagon to allow a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union to meet with an American citizen who has been held in military custody for three months after surrendering in Syria. The Pentagon was also ordered not to monitor that conversation and told not to transfer the man — being held in Iraq — until the A.C.L.U. can meet with him.

Russia rips Trump arms approval for Ukraine. The Trump administration has agreed to allow the shipment of javelin anti-tank weapons and sniper rifles to Ukraine, a move billed as being purely defensive in nature. But the Kremlin doesn’t see it in quite the same way.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said over the weekend that the shipments could prompt Kiev to get more adventurous, while Franz Klintsevich, a member of the Russian Parliament’s security committee said, “Americans, in fact, directly push Ukrainian forces to war.”

Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to or via Twitter: @paulmcleary.

Coal for Christmas. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announces a $285 million cut in U.S. funding to the United Nations.

No competition. Russia has banned opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running in the 2018 presidential election to challenge President Vladimir Putin, leading to calls for a boycott of the election in March.

Anatomy of a fail. The New York Times gets a behind-the-scenes look at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s clumsy coercion of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri into resigning from the Lebanese government.

Sneak preview. A classified Russian military intelligence report intercepted by American spies shows how Russian spies used social media disinformation to try and sway global public opinion on Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, offering a preview of the tactics Russia would later use during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Getting closer. Assad regime and Iranian forces capture territory in the Golan Heights close to the Israeli border, ratcheting up tensions with Israel, which has pushed back against the prospect of an Iranian military footprint on its front door.

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