“North Korea is working to ensure its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities cannot be destroyed by military strikes, U.N. monitors said ahead of a meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials to prepare a second denuclearization summit,” Reuters reports.
“Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have transferred American-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen, in violation of their agreements with the United States,” CNN reports.
“The weapons have also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels battling the coalition for control of the country, exposing some of America’s sensitive military technology to Tehran and potentially endangering the lives of US troops in other conflict zones.”
President Trump “is expected to tap Treasury Department official David Malpass as the U.S. pick to lead the World Bank, a clear sign the administration wants to rein in the international financial institution,” Politico reports.
“The U.S. has historically been allowed to choose the head of the World Bank, although that dynamic has more recently faced pushback from other nations. Nominating someone who has been so openly critical of the bank could intensify that resistance.”
Iraqi President Barham Salih said that President Trump did not ask Iraq’s permission for U.S. troops stationed there to “watch Iran,” as he told CBS News in an interview over the weekend, Reuters reports.
“U.S. troops in Iraq are there as part of an agreement between the two countries with a specific mission of combating terrorism, Salih said, and that they should stick to that.”
Washington Post: ““It’s been more than a year since senior Palestinian officials have agreed to meet or even speak with representatives of the Trump administration, but now President Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, appears to have adopted a new diplomatic channel: Twitter.”
“During the past few weeks, Greenblatt has been tweeting his thoughts, requests and criticisms to those Palestinian leaders who are active on the popular social media platform.”
Notes Greenblatt: “And who says the U.S. and the P.A. aren’t talking? The only difference now is that we are speaking about these matters in public via twitter so the public can understand everyone’s positions. Transparency is better for all.”
“Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a decision that was widely expected, suspended his country’s observance of a key nuclear arms control pact on Saturday in response to a similar move by the United States a day before,” the New York Times reports.
“But adding to a sense that the broader architecture of nuclear disarmament has started to unravel, Mr. Putin also said that Russia would build weapons previously banned under the treaty and would no longer initiate talks with the United States on any matters related to nuclear arms control.”
“A Belarusian model who claims to have information on the ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s election campaign says she has turned it over to Russian billionaire businessman Oleg Deripaska,” the AP reports.
“Anastasia Vashukevich has claimed she had 16 hours of audio and video of Deripaska, who is close to President Vladimir Putin, talking about interference in the U.S. election. She has also posted videos of Deripaska discussing U.S.-Russia ties with a senior government official.”
Australian diplomats have reportedly visited Julian Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London to hear firsthand about his health, the Sydney Morning Herald Reports.
Assange’s attorney “said he and his colleagues will now directly appeal to Foreign Minister Marise Payne to petition the UK government to let Assange leave the embassy for urgent medical care without being arrested.”
“The United States is suspending one of the last major nuclear arms control treaties with Russia after heated conversations between the two powers recently failed to resolve a long-running accusation that Moscow is violating the Reagan-era treaty,” the New York Times reports.
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision on Friday as the Trump administration maintained that the Russian government has been unwilling to admit that a missile it has deployed near European borders violates the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Mr. Pompeo and his deputies have insisted that Moscow destroy the missile.”
Washington Post: “The demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty raises fears of a new nuclear arms race, although U.S. officials discount the risk.”
President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “are planning on meeting in Vietnam in late February,” CNN reports.
“Trump’s agenda during the summit is still not clear.”
“The vast majority of Republican senators voted to support a measure declaring that the Islamic State and al-Qaeda remain serious threats in Syria and Afghanistan — directly contradicting the president’s assessment and his justification for seeking to withdraw U.S. troops from both countries,” the Washington Post reports.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Trump supporter who seldom openly crosses the president, drafted the amendment to a larger Middle East policy bill.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t push back when asked if she actually thinks the Kremlin has compromising information on President Trump.
Said Pelosi: “I’ve been asking that question for two years – almost as long as you’ve asked me, ‘Is there any money for the wall in the bill?’ I’ve always said that. What is this? What is this? Something is wrong with this picture.”
“President Trump interviewed Heidi Cruz for the job of World Bank president although he’s not offering the post to the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive and wife of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas,” Bloomberg reports.
“Treasury Undersecretary David Malpass remains the clear frontrunner for the job, but Trump has continued to consider others.”
Financial Times: “The discussions between the US and Russian presidents occurred at the 19th-century Colón theatre in the Argentine capital, as world leaders and their spouses or guests were streaming out of the building. Mr Trump was accompanied by Melania Trump, his wife, but no staff, while Mr Putin was flanked by his translator. The four of them sat at a table and were among the last to leave.”
“Mr Trump’s aides characterized the Putin encounter as one of several ‘informal’ conversations that Mr Trump had with his counterparts that evening… The accounts of people familiar with the conversation said it appeared longer and more substantive than the White House has acknowledged.”
“Russian officials made a secret proposal to North Korea last fall aimed at resolving deadlocked negotiations with the Trump administration over its nuclear weapons program,” the Washington Post reports.
“In exchange for dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Moscow offered the country a nuclear power plant.”
Axios: “This marks yet another example of an emboldened Russia intervening publicly and privately in key global hotspots, often times in direct conflict with U.S. interests.”
“A new American intelligence assessment of global threats has concluded that North Korea is ‘unlikely to give up’ all of its nuclear stockpiles, and that Iran is not ‘currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity’ needed to make a bomb, directly contradicting two top tenets of President Trump’s foreign policy,” the New York Times reports.
“Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, also challenged Mr. Trump’s insistence that the Islamic State had been defeated, a key rationale for his decision to exit from Syria. The terror group, the annual ‘Worldwide Threat Assessment’ report to Congress concluded, ‘still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,’ and maintain eight branches and a dozen networks around the world.”
The Trump administration announced sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company to try to force President Maduro to step down, the Washington Post reports.
Jonathan Swan: “The Trump administration is trying to use economic and diplomatic pressure to push for regime change in Venezuela. The White House is hoping that if they deprive Maduro of cash the Venezuelan military will have no reason to stay loyal to him.”
New York Times: “Administration officials indicated that Mr. Trump was still not ruling out military intervention in his efforts to pressure Mr. Maduro to step down.”
“American and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the framework of a deal in which the insurgents would guarantee to prevent Afghan territory from being used by terrorists, and that could lead to a full pullout of American troops in return for larger concessions from the Taliban,” the New York Times reports.