Allies, US industry blast Trump’s tariffs; Pentagon accelerates hypersonic work; $47m in arms to Ukraine; Taliban cool to Kabul’s amnesty offer; and just a bit more…

Allies, U.S. defense industry blast Trump’s tariffs. On Thursday, the president surprised a host of visiting business leaders and his own government by announcing a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.

Who’s the target? The president did not name a specific target for the tariffs, but as a candidate routinely lambasted China for maintaining a trade surplus with the United States. But China is not among the top 10 exporters of steel to the U.S., according to a Trump administration report from December. (Via Daniel Dale.) So will there be exemptions for the allies who are?

Here’s a good Q&A from AP on the news, the national-security provision being using to impose the protectionist measures, and their potential impact.

Reactions came swift and furious:

  • Canada, the largest foreign supplier of steel to the U.S., said that any trade restrictions on Canadian steel and aluminum would be “absolutely unacceptable.”
  • German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel: “The EU must respond decisively to US punitive tariffs, which endanger thousands of jobs in Europe.”
  • Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo: “An imposition of a tariff like this will do nothing other than distort trade, and ultimately…will lead to a loss of jobs.”
  • Remy Nathan, vice president of the Aerospace Industries Association, on the aluminum tariffs: “Anything that is going to disrupt the global supply chain that our industry accesses and potentially raise costs creates a great deal of concern.”
  • And the stock market. Global stocks dropped 2.5 percent, while the “Dow Jones Industrial Average initially dropped over 500 points (more than 2%) on the news before closing down 420 points,” Quartz reported. (The turmoil was not notably calmed by Trump’s Friday tweet that “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.”)

McMaster staying put? On “Fox and Friends” this morning, Sarah Sanders disputed reports that national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is planning to leave. Says he’s “not going anywhere.

From Defense One

The US is Accelerating Development of Its Own ‘Invincible’ Hypersonic Weapons // Patrick Tucker: Russia isn’t the only country looking to build invincible hypersonic weapons. Here’s the latest on the U.S. efforts to send missiles and even aircraft five times faster than sound.

Putin Just Gave Trump the Arms Race He Sought // Joe Cirincione: ‘Let it be an arms race,’ Trump said, two years ago. Now we have one. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Space Corps Is At Least ‘Three to Five Years Away,’ Its Congressional Champion Says // Caroline Houck: A bipartisan team of House lawmakers slams the Air Force for pushing back on the idea of a separate service for space operations.

The Global Business Brief, March 1 // Marcus Weisgerber: Will Trump weigh in on latest F-35 talks?; New seats for C-17s; Intel spending rises; and a lot more.

CYBERCOM Leader Offers Advice for His Successor // Heather Kuldell: U.S. Cyber Command’s mission has already outgrown its capacity.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free.

New lethal U.S. support to Ukraine, quantified: Yesterday the U.S. formally announced it will sell Ukraine 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 37 launchers worth $47 million, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Christopher Miller reported Thursday.  
According to a Pentagon statement, “The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements.”
And checking in on the underlying conflict in Ukraine: “Since April 2014, more than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting between Kyiv’s forces and the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” Miller writes. Read on, here.

U.S.-Russia relations watch: Moscow reportedly postponed the next round of U.S.-Russian bilateral/strategic stability talks scheduled for March 6-7, Arms Control Today‘s Kingston Reif noticed while scanning Russian state media headlines this morning.

The Taliban did everything but say “no” to Kabul’s offer of peace talks. Reuters called the group’s response Thursday a “cool” one, which is to say: “The movement has not yet given any formal answer to [Afghan President Ashraf] Ghani’s invitation.”
The Taliban’s chief spokesman, however “did reply to an ‘Open Letter’ published this week in the New Yorker magazine… [urging] the Taliban to accept talks with the Kabul government.” His reply: engaging in Kabul’s desired peace plan amounts to the Taliban’s “surrender.”
Then the spox descended into somewhat tinfoil territory: “The crux of the matter is, what is the vital concern of America, is it really terrorism? Or is it extracting the mineral wealth of Afghanistan, imposing a self-styled government, preventing establishment of an Islamic system and pursuing imperial ambitions in the region from this land? In such circumstances, we do not care about America, neither do we want to talk, nor end resistance, nor will we get tired.”
A bomb detonated in Kabul this morning, killing one civilian and wounding four others, the Washington Post reports from the capital. “Afghan officials said the blast originated inside a vehicle, and that it damaged numerous buildings nearby. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.” A tiny bit more about that attack — and more still on peace talk negotiations — here.
Found in Afghanistan: “A man believed to be a German national [was] caught with a group of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s restive southern Helmand province,” Stars and Stripes reported Thursday. “Germany’s Die Welt newspaper reported that the man could be ‘Thomas K.,’ a radical Islamist convert originally from Rheinland-Pfalz. The German province is home to about 50,000 U.S. military personnel and family members, the majority of whom live near Ramstein Air Base. According to the paper, Thomas K. was radicalized in 2009 and left Germany in 2013. In 2014, Germany’s federal police warned that he could carry out attacks in Afghanistan.” More here.

Don’t stop us if you’ve heard this before, but Iraq is looking into a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday from Baghdad. The call came from Iraq’s parliament and just ahead of May elections. “A majority of lawmakers who attended a parliament session on Thursday voted in favor of a motion obliging Mr. Abadi to draw up a clear timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The motion isn’t binding but promises to become a campaign issue for Mr. Abadi, who is seeking a second term in parliamentary elections in May.” Story, here (paywall alert).

In case anyone needed a reminder: Iraq is hardly a secure nation, the Iraq Oil Report reminds us this morning. What you’ll learn in that piece, according to IOR’s Ben Van Heuvelen: Iraq’s security forces “have not fortified northern Iraq. Can’t patrol at night in some areas, [are] entirely withdrawn from others. IS insurgency has its foothold. Now targeting security forces and energy infrastructure. And trending in the wrong direction.” First two paragraphs of that one are free; the rest is behind a paywall, here.

Seoul plans to send its own special envoy to North Korea, South Korea’s President told President Trump in a phone call Thursday, according to South Korea’s Blue House.
The odd thing: The White House made no mention of this envoy in its read-out of the call between the two leaders earlier in the day, Voice of America’s Steve Herman noted. Story from Reuters, here.

In video: Measuring the prowess of North Korean missiles with open-source clues. PBS Newshour’s Miles O’Brien wrapped his three-part “tour of what’s publicly known about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program” Thursday evening. Closing out the series, Miles looked “at how those bombs might be delivered.”
Helping him in the process: Jeffrey Lewis, aka @armscontrolwonk. Some of what you’ll learn — e.g., how to flatten a test launch trajectory to learn more, how Lewis’s team reconstructed some of North Korea’s test facilities in 3-D software — you may have known already if you follow Lewis on Twitter. But if not, the nearly 9-minute segment begins, here.

The sounds and messaging of an aircraft carrier. NPR’s Anthony Kuhn recently visited the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier (CVN-70) as it was sailing through the South China Sea — north of the Spratly Islands and a bit east of Woody Island, 7th Fleet Commander, Capt. Douglas Verissimo, told Kuhn.
Coming up for the crew of CVN-70: docking in Vietnam later this month, “the first U.S. carrier to do that since the end of the Vietnam War 43 years ago.” Hear the rest, or read the transcript, here.
Related: Australia’s navy says it has increased its presence in the South China Sea, The Wall Street Journal reports this morning from Canberra. Very little substantive out of that, but we are reminded of this tense dynamic: “Late last year, six Australian warships led by a carrier sailed through the South China Sea, the country’s largest naval deployment in three decades. Chinese media said at the time Australia was aiding U.S.-led efforts to encircle China.” Read the rest, here.

Boeing will get $73 million to modernize the Navy’s Super Hornets to a Block III engine, SeaPower Magazine reported Thursday. The upgrades would extend the aircraft’s range “from 6,000 to 9,000-plus flight hours,” adding “another 10 to 15 years” of life, said Mark Sears, program director. That short hit, here.
Read a bit more on some of the background here with Boeing and its line of Super Hornets via our own Marcus Weisgerber reporting in December: “Boeing May Lose Canada’s Super Hornet Order, Yet Jet’s Outlook is Bright.

The power of reporting. In the space of 24 hours, the wife of one Green Beret veteran went from “likely to be deported” to having the Department of Homeland Security offer to drop the entire case. Helping tell this story is the reporter who brought it to light, Tara Copp of Military Times. Initial story, here. The follow-up, here.

So the Air Force wants about $10 billion more than it was given last year. What does that buy, and how does that stack up against known threats to the U.S.? The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) tackles quite a few issues surrounding all that in a new, illustrated analysis of the USAF’s $194 billion budget request for FY19.
Parting take: “With such substantial financial responsibilities for advanced capabilities in space, the nuclear forces, aircraft, and munitions, an increase of over $10 billion relative to the 2018 request doesn’t go as far as one might think.” Get smart, here.

Finally this week — Spotted in DC: one “missile.” Except not really; it was more like a fuel tank for extending the range of a military aircraft. But it sure looked like a missile to the folks outside Bobby Van’s Steakhouse on 15th and H St. in northwest Washington, D.C., Thursday evening. CNN’s Noah Gray helped spread the word about the whole episode — wrongly, at first; then he (somewhat) cleared things up in a follow-up tweet a little while later. Apparently, the driver of this military hardware accidentally ended up in D.C., and local law enforcement officials helped put the driver back on course.

Be safe this weekend, gang. We’ll catch you again on Monday!

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