Inside the new National Security Strategy; US blames North Korea for ‘Wannacry’; Houthis allegedly target Riyadh again; 33rd US airstrike in Somalia this year; and just a bit more.

A return to great-power competition. On Monday, the White house released the new National Security Strategy, the first of the Trump administration. “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, are attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence,” says the 68-page document.

But, as Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports, the NSS appears to give up on the idea that American ideals are themselves a competitive advantage. “Through omission, it signals U.S. retreat from the tradition of democracy promotion with an overt criticism of the theory of ‘democratic peace,’ the idea that democratic governments are more akin, and therefore more likely to act peacefully toward one another,” Read on, here.

Trump’s NSS, by the numbers: Economy, 151 mentions; Terror, 73; Nuclear, 54; Trade, 45; China, 23; Korea, 18; Europe, 14; Iran, 12; Syria, 7; NATO, 2; Russia, 17; Ukraine, 1. (Here’s the mention of that last one: “With its invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Russia demonstrated its willingness to violate the sovereignty of states in the region.”) And so:

Russia’s pretty mad about the new strategy. Its “imperialist” character shows “an unwillingness to give up the idea of a unipolar world, moreover, an insistent unwillingness, disregard for a multipolar world,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, via Reuters.

China’s none too happy, either. Via NPR: “This is pretty much a direct about-face from where they were in the Obama plan, where they were talking about welcoming China’s rise in a certain way,” Graham Webster, a U.S.-China relations researcher at Yale Law School. This “cautious approach” had sought cooperation and a friendly rivalry, and had yielded agreement on climate change, disaster response, and public health, Webster said. “China is mentioned 23 times, nearly twice as many times as it was in the Obama administration’s last report. “[Not] once was China framed in a positive light,” Rob notes. That’s also a change from Trump’s own presidential statements about the relationship. Read on, here.

Contrarian’s view of one talking point, from WaPo‘s Josh Rogin: “Trump says building up the military will create ‘millions and millions of jobs.’ Actually, defense spending creates less jobs than spending on healthcare, clean energy or education. Much less.” See, for example, this May 2017 report from Brown University.

What’s ahead: “The NSS is the broadest of a series of upcoming strategic documents. Following the release of the National Security Strategy will come the National Defense Strategy, then in some order the Nuclear Posture Review, National Biodefense Strategy and Missile Defense Review, all of which are expected to be released in early 2018.” That roundup and more from Defense News, here.


From Defense One

New National Security Strategy Sees Rising Russia, Retreat on ‘Democratic Peace’ // Patrick Tucker: Donald Trump’s first strategy talks about threats and nation-state competition but also signals a reluctance to compete philosophically or morally.

For NATO, True Interoperability Is No Longer Optional // Hans Binnendijk and Elisabeth Braw: Here are nine ways to ensure That alliance members could fight together to defend Europe.

The Lessons of ‘American War’ // Shadi Hamid: What holds a society together in the absence of common ideas?

Air Force Pays Out Government’s Biggest Bug Bounty Yet // Jack Corrigan: White-hat hackers and military cyber specialists teamed up for the latest Hack the Air Force program.

New free eBook on us. The topic: Cyber Warfare // Defense One Staff: This book will look at the Pentagon’s cutting-edge cyber tools and capabilities for defending and attacking networks in the age of the zero day. It will explore how new tactics and hacks are changing defense for leaders and even soldiers in conflict zones. (Note: Registration is required, but it’s painless and, like we said, it’s free.)

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free. OTD1944: Elements of the 101st Airborne arrive at Bastogne.


U.S. says North Korea was behind the massive “Wannacry” hack. At last, the U.S. government has officially declared what has been suspected and then reported for months: the ransomware attack that paralyzed British hospitals, Spain’s largest telecommunications company, and hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 100 countries earlier this year was executed by “cyber affiliates of North Korea.” That’s from Thomas P. Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, who published the allegations in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Monday.
Bossert is expected to have a public statement this morning, reports the Washington Post.
For background, reporting, and the wider impacts of Wannacry, here’s what Defense One has written about it.

The U.S. Navy’s top officer has a wish list for dealing with the rising threat from North Korea, Stars and Stripes reported Monday. What’s included: “A bigger, more networked Navy,” the CNO said, featuring “directed energy. Things like high-powered microwave … a lot of systems that are right around the corner.”
CNO Richardson also said “vessels from eastern Pacific could be brought forward to reinforce U.S. naval power in Asia as Washington contends with increased threats in the region,” Reuters reports.

China’s defense ministry would like us to know they’re getting along very well with the Russians when it comes to missile defense, The Diplomat reports off a bit of Beijing messaging from a recent exercise — “Airspace Security 2017” — between the two countries in China’s capital.

Five Chinese military aircraft flew into airspace claimed by South Korea on Monday, lingering for about three and a half hours in a contested area known as the Socotra Rock, in the Yellow Sea, The Wall Street Journal reports. “The rock, known as Ieodo in South Korea and Suyan Rock in China, is about 180 miles from the Chinese mainland and about 90 miles from the nearest island in South Korean territory.”
Seoul’s defense ministry said it scrambled jets for “emergency sorties to the area until we confirmed the Chinese planes had exited the Korea air defense identification zone.”
Worth noting: “Although alleged violations of air defense identification zones aren’t uncommon, Monday’s incident came just days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s fence-mending visit to China,” the Journal writes. More here.

Japan is adding two ground-based Aegis missile defense batteries to protect against North Korean missiles, Reuters reports. However, the system isn’t expected to be operational for another almost six years.
In case you were curious, “Japan’s military planners also evaluated the U.S.-built THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system before deciding on Aegis Ashore.” Meantime, “Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera said this month Japan would acquire medium-range cruise missiles it can launch from its F-15 and F-35 fighters at sites in North Korea, in a bid to deter any attack.”

Today in America’s detractors say: Syria’s Assad says the U.S.-backed Kurds in the east are “traitors” who are open to dealing with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front disrupting his country since 2012, Reuters reported Monday.

And this week in Russian information operations: How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of a Russia-backed online propaganda machine, via The Guardian.
The skinny read: “The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars. It exposes just how rumours, conspiracy theories and half-truths bubble to the top of YouTube, Google and Twitter search algorithms.”

There’s a new report on Turkey’s ongoing descent into authoritarianism. It comes to us from the Center for American Progress’s Alan Makovsky.
The set-up: “Emergency rule has now been extended five times since the attempted coup in July 2016, with no end in sight… Following the next election, the prime ministry will be abolished. The president will stand alone atop the executive branch, his power of appointment unreviewable.”
As for a way out, “If the next elections are conducted fairly, there is a chance they could produce a system that is more open than generally anticipated.”
On the other hand, “If, however, a re-elected President Erdoğan presides over an AKP majority, as most now expect, Parliament is likely to be as sterile and as thoroughly dominated by Erdoğan as all of Turkey’s other institutions now appear likely to be.” Read on, here.

Another alleged Houthi missile launch toward the Saudi capital. ABC News: “The ballistic missile targeted the al-Yamamah royal palace in Riyadh, Houthi-affiliated TV al-Masirah said… This is the third missile the Saudis say they have intercepted in the past two months. Saudi air defenses intercepted missiles fired by the Houthis Dec. 1 and Nov. 4,” according to Saudi state media, SPA.
Supporting data: Track the wider missile war in Yemen via this tracker from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

And don’t miss this #LongRead from the region:How Iran, the Mideast’s new superpower, is expanding its footprint across the region — and what it means,” by Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson, filing from multiple locations between Iraq and Afghanistan. Some excerpts:

  • Iran has achieved milestones of leverage and influence that rival any regional power in the past half-century.”
  • “If there were no Iranian weapons, then ISIS would be sitting on this couch,” said Hashem al-Mousawi, a spokesman for pro-Iran militia, Nujaba, in Iraq.
  • “Iran saved us,” said an Iraqi analyst who worked for the defense ministry. “They later sent us the invoice, but they saved us. They literally sent us an invoice for the weaponry, the bullets, and the ammo that they gave us to fight ISIS, [which] proved that Iran does not look out for Shiite interests. Iran looks out for Iranian interests.”
  • “For stopping ISIS, the best alternative is the Taliban, so it is easy for Iran to support the Taliban,” said Daoud Naji, a leader of Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazara community in Kabul. Worth the click, here.

Update: AFRICOM on Monday claimed that alleged drone strike Friday that killed eight suspected members of al-Shabaab in southern Somalia. “The strike was the United States’ 33rd in Somalia in 2017, primarily targeting al-Shabab fighters as well as a small contingent of Islamic State-linked militants,” Stars and Stripes adds.  

And lastly today: Get your bids in now, drone contractors, because Iraq’s oil minister “has asked the ministry to seek out professional security companies that can supply Iraq with drones and sophisticated camera systems to protect its pipelines.”
For what it’s worth: This particular angle on protecting Iraq’s oil infrastructure is hardly new. See, for example, this May 2012 story from Reuters — way back when “the withdrawal of the last American troops” was a topic under discussion.

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