What’s next on nonproliferation and international security, in Washington and around the globe.
— August 17: The Proliferation Security Initiative’s PANAMAX 2013 exercise wraps up. The multinational drill focuses on defending the Panama Canal and implementing the PSI mandate to interdict and prevent the illegal trafficking in weapons of mass destruction. As the annual exercise marks its first decade, Panama recently stopped a shipment of Soviet-vintage jets, missile-control vehicles and other Cuban military equipment being transported through the canal — amid 100,000 tons of sugar — en route to North Korea. Havana authorities say the gear was being shipped to Pyongyang for repair and eventual return to the Caribbean island, despite the imposition of sanctions against North Korea that would bar such transfers.
— August 19: U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), his chamber’s minority leader, will tour the Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant at the Blue Grass Army Depot in his home state. Once construction is complete, the facility is expected to offer a state-of-the-art capability to safely “neutralize” the 523 tons of lethal nerve and blister agents stored at Blue Grass, along with a variety of associated munitions. The federal government last month began furloughing firefighters at the base, due to budget sequestration, which triggered warnings of potentially dire safety risks. Good thing, then, that “safety is of paramount importance” at the Army depot’s construction area, according to guidance issued to reporters who will accompany McConnell, and that “flame-producing devices (such as matches or cigarette-lighters) may not be brought onto the site.”
— August 19-August 30: The United Nations-sponsored “open-ended working group” on nuclear disarmament meets at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, for its third and final session of this year. Chaired by Manuel Dengo, Costa Rica’s envoy to U.N. office in Geneva, the group is to develop proposals for international negotiations on the global abolition of atomic weapons and the maintenance of a nuclear-free world.
— August 20: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is holding a Washington discussion on “Al-Qaida and its Affiliates: On Life Support or an Imminent Threat?” Speakers include three journalists and issue experts, who will explore whether the killing of Osama bin Laden more than two years ago has weakened al-Qaida — or if, instead, instability from Iraq to Syria to Yemen and beyond has bolstered the terrorist organization.
— August 22: As part of its “Cross-Straits Series,” the Atlantic Council is hosting a discussion called “The Coming Asian Arms Race?” The Washington event will feature Ely Ratner, the Center for a New American Security’s Asia-Pacific Security Program deputy director, and Randall Schriver, president and chief executive officer of the Project 2049 Institute, exploring mounting defense spending in the Asia-Pacific region, increased military activity by Japan and the possibility of associated tensions between China and Taiwan, North and South Korea, and other neighboring competitors.
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."