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Early Edition: February 7, 2023

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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.

TURKEY, SYRIA EARTHQUAKE

The death toll in Turkey and Syria following yesterday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake has risen to over 5,000. This number is expected to rise as freezing weather conditions, along with power cuts and blocked roads, continue to hamper rescue efforts. Safak Timur, Raja Abdulrahim and Ben Hubbard report for the New York Times

The only crossing between Syria and Turkey that is approved by the U.N. for transporting international aid to Syria is closed due to earthquake damage to the roads around it. Syria, which is under sanctions because of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, cannot receive direct aid from many countries, making the crossing from Turkey one of the only ways Syria can receive international aid. Natasha Frost and Raja Abdulrahim report for the New York Times

The U.S. Agency for International Development is deploying two specialized search and rescue teams to assist with the response to the deadly earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The two county-level urban search and rescue units, based in Virginia and California, are the only U.S. teams that work internationally. The U.S. is one of several countries that said it would dispatch rescue teams to the earthquake zone, including Britain, India, Israel and several nations from the E.U.. Mike Ives reports for the New York Times

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING 

Ukraine expects Russia to mobilize up to half a million additional soldiers in the coming months. This is according to Vadym Skibitskyi, deputy head of Ukrainian Defense Intelligence. “Those 500,000 are in addition to the 300,000 mobilized in October 2022,” Skibitskyu said, adding that this “proves that Putin’s Kremlin has no intention of ending this war.” Tim Lister and Maria Kostenko report for CNN

Russian forces in eastern Ukraine appear to be stockpiling ammunition and building up troop reserves.  Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region’s military administration said that Russian forces are doing so in preparation for a renewed offensive that could begin in weeks. Maria Kostenko and Mick Krever report for CNN

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE 

The E.U. could host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a summit in Brussels this week, according to people briefed on the plans. During the visit, which would be his second outside Ukraine since the war began, Zelenskyy is expected to address a special session of the European parliament. However, it is unclear whether the visit will take place given the significant security challenges such a trip would pose. Henry Foy and Sam Fleming report for the Financial Times

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned yesterday that Russia’s war in Ukraine could lead to a “wider war.” Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, Guterres said that the “prospects for peace” between Russia and Ukraine continue to diminish, as the chances of further escalation grow. Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will arrive in Washington today for a two-day visit. During his visit, he will meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, among others. North Atlantic Treaty Organization News reports. 

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was scheduled to arrive in Mali late yesterday, making his third trip to Africa in about six months. Lavrov’s visit to the West African country is aimed at strengthening defense and security ties, the Malian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. According to the Russian news agency Tass, Lavrov is also scheduled to travel to Mauritania and Sudan. Elian Peltier reports for the New York Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation yesterday exempting Russian lawmakers from a previous requirement that they disclose details of their income, expenses and property. The new law, which was adopted by Russia’s lower house of parliament by a large majority, is another indication of expanded state secrecy in wartime Russia. Francesca Ebel reports for the Washington Post

U.S. RELATIONS – CHINESE SURVEILLANCE BALLOON 

The military command in charge of U.S. air defenses failed to detect previous intrusions by Chinese surveillance balloons and learned about them later from intelligence agencies. This is according to Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of Northern Command and North American Aerospace. In a media briefing, VanHerck contrasted those previous lapses with the military’s response to the balloon it tracked and shot down Saturday. He acknowledged a surveillance gap and said the U.S. is trying to determine why the earlier flights went undetected. Vivian Salama, Doug Cameron and Gordon Lubold report for the Wall Street Journal

Sightings of Chinese high-altitude balloons in Hawaii and Florida in 2019 were mentioned in a U.S. military intelligence report from last year, according to an excerpt of the report reviewed by CNN. The 2022 report, titled “People’s Republic of China High-Altitude Balloon,” found a Chinese surveillance balloon “circumnavigated the globe” in 2019- during former President Trump’s presidency – and “drifted past Hawaii and across Florida.” The Air Force intelligence report is the first indication that the U.S. military was aware of Chinese surveillance balloons well before the latest incident. Zachary Cohen reports for CNN

House lawmakers are preparing a bipartisan resolution to condemn China, following the shooting down of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the weekend. Though Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for not responding sooner once the balloon had been identified, the resolution is not expected to focus blame on the president. “We want it to be a bipartisan resolution about China, not about us fighting each other,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters. Mychael Schnell and Emily Brooks report for The Hill

OTHER U.S. RELATIONS 

The E.U.’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has said that reviving the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal is the only way to stop Tehran’s nuclear program. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Borrell said that critics of his efforts to revive the pact “don’t value enough” the dangers of a nuclear Iran. His comments come as the Biden administration seemingly shifts its focus away from rescuing the deal. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal

Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday announced almost $1 billion in new pledges by private companies to support communities in Central America.  The pledges form part of the Biden administration’s strategy to keep migrants from fleeing toward the U.S. border. Among the companies that have pledged are Nestle, Target and Columbia Sportswear. Michael D. Shear reports for the New York Times

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS 

Federal law enforcement agencies have arrested two people accused of conspiring to demolish the Baltimore power grid. In what law enforcement described as a racist plot, Sarah Clendanial and Brandon Russell planned to inflict “maximum harm” on the majority black city by targeting five gas and electricity facilities serving 1.2 million customers. Glenn Thrush and Michael Levenson report for the New York Times

COVID-19

COVID-19 has infected over 102.592 million people and has now killed over 1.11 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 671.747 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.84 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post

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