Biden’s known unknowns- POLITICO | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack | #cybersecurity | #infosecurity | #hacker


With help from Lara Seligman

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Programming Note: We’re off Monday for Juneteenth, but we’ll be back in your inboxes on Tuesday.

President JOE BIDEN and his team have faced an extraordinary number of foreign policy and national security emergencies, from white supremacist terror within U.S. borders to the fall of Afghanistan to a land war in Europe. Amid the crush of crises, some topics tend to fade off the radar if not repeatedly raised by journalists, analysts and readers like yourself.

So today, we’re compiling a few questions to help prevent some critical topics from falling down the memory hole:

Where are the strategies? The National Security Strategy still hasn’t been released, and neither has an unclassified version of the National Defense Strategy.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has understandably affected the timing (and re-writing) of these documents, especially the National Security Strategy, as have staffing changes at the National Security Council. But the administration’s intelligence on VLADIMIR PUTIN’s belligerence and the impending invasion goes back to at least last fall, and the classified version of the National Defense Strategy was sent to Congress in March. Defense officials have been saying for months that the NDS will be released in weeks.

How long does it take to rewrite these strategies? We ask out of genuine curiosity, not snark.

In theory, such papers should be sound enough to withstand a certain level of change on the geopolitical scene, but the more time that passes, the more the odds are of another major episode forcing another delay. (An administration official told us the goal is to release the documents sometime this summer and pointed out that past administrations have also seen their strategy releases be delayed.)

Is the U.S. going to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism? This is a move many Ukrainians would like to see, especially given the reports of atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. The Biden administration, however, has held off — offering refrains along the lines that it’s “taking a close look at the law.”

In some ways, placing Russia on this list would be symbolic considering the already heavy sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Moscow. At the same time, the administration may view the designation as holding another card it can still play against the Kremlin (a questionable assumption).

While we’re at it, is the administration going to keep Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list? Havana’s addition to that register — a last-minute move by the Trump administration — was controversial and has fed suspicions that the list has become a politicized tool.

What will happen to the Americans held prisoner in Iran if the nuclear deal dies? The Biden administration’s efforts to revive the Iran nuclear agreement appear to have hit a stalemate. This is deeply troubling for the handful of Americans being held prisoner in Iran, especially amid hopes that a restored nuclear deal could be coupled with their freedom.

When the nuclear deal was first implemented under the BARACK OBAMA administration, several Americans held in Iran were released. U.S. officials insisted at the time that the two episodes were not linked.

The Biden administration still insists today that the fate of the prisoners should not be linked to the nuclear deal. Still, the administration also has said it would be difficult to re-enter the nuclear agreement if the prisoners aren’t released. With the deal on life support, the U.S. has seemingly lost some leverage.

Asked about this argument, a senior State Department official responded: “It should not require a deal for the Iranians to do the right thing and cease this despicable practice.”

What is the U.S. doing to help seek justice in the death of Palestinian-American journalist SHIREEN ABU AKLEH? Abu Akleh, a veteran correspondent for Al Jazeera, was shot dead on May 11. Various investigations have found that the evidence points to Israeli soldiers as the perpetrators. Israel insists a proper probe is necessary, but neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians trust each other enough to cooperate on an inquiry.

U.S. officials have called for such cooperation, and they say they’re pushing both sides to figure out what happened. It’s just not clear how far verbal requests will go with either the Palestinians or the Israelis.

The reality is that when it comes to cases like this, U.S. attention fades over time. Other topics become more important, and priorities like the death of an American citizen fall lower on the list until they fall off. Biden is due to visit Israel next month. Will he raise Abu Akleh’s death?

Will Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN make a formal determination related to atrocities committed in Ethiopia? The war in Ethiopia, which pitted central government forces against fighters from the Tigray region, has calmed considerably since last year. Diplomatic efforts have helped pave the way for a potential negotiated settlement.

Last year, as the conflict raged, Blinken indicated that the U.S. had seen evidence of acts of ethnic cleansing. Yet he never formally issued any declaration of such a finding or any other type of atrocity, such as war crimes or genocide.

Asked if such claims were still under consideration, the senior State Department official said only that U.S. diplomats are always on the watch for such crimes, and that “any solution to the crisis must involve accountability for those responsible for atrocities.”

Will Biden visit Ukraine? OK, in fairness, this is not a fading topic, but we couldn’t help but bring it up. British Prime Minister BORIS JOHNSONjust visited Kyiv (again). And earlier this week, the leaders of France, Italy, Germany and Romania also met there with Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY.

For any number of reasons — not least of which is the tremendous security risk— the White House has indicated that the president is not currently planning to visit Ukraine. But he is scheduled to attend the G-7 summit in Germany later this month. He’s also facing low poll numbers and other political challenges at home. Might a quick side trip to Ukraine be a possibility — and a potential image booster for the beleaguered commander in chief?





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