24 nations boot Russian diplomats; Is Kim in Beijing?; Senators moot F-35 sales to Taiwan; 10 crude bombs sent to military installations near DC; and just a bit more…

At least 24 nations have now given the boot to Russian diplomats. CNN has a running list of the participants shaming or punishing Moscow over its alleged role in poisoning a former Russian spy in southern England about a month ago.
The list includes: Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Albania, Australia, Canada, Macedonia, Norway, Ukraine, and the United States.

Russia’s response: The expulsions are an “unfriendly step” that “will not pass unnoticed,” the Foreign Ministry said Monday, according to the Washington Post. “We already stated and reconfirm that Russia has never had any relation to this case,” Kremlin spox Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

Another Russian response, this one online only: Some fairly aggressive trolling of the nations that expelled Moscow’s diplomats. More on that from the Post, near the bottom, here.

A message to Moscow, from the White House: “Our relationship with Russia is, frankly, up to the Russian government, and up to Vladimir Putin and others in senior leadership in Russia,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters Monday afternoon at the White House. “We want to have a cooperative relationship. The president wants to work with Russia. But their actions sometimes don’t allow that to happen.”

Worth noting: The White House also ordered the closure of Russia’s consulate in Seattle, citing its proximity to Boeing manufacturing facilities nearby and submarine Naval Base Kitsap. However, WaPo’s John Hudson wrote on Twitter, “in the end, no Russians serving in Seattle were expelled (all expulsions were for DC and NYC).”

One more thing: Some 3,000 Russian troops and 300 vehicles of Moscow’s Strategic Nuclear Missile Forces mobile ICBM systems were put on combat alert Monday in the Orenburg region (near the border with Kazakhstan), according to the Defense Ministry.  


From Defense One

F-35 Sale to Taiwan Not Worth the ‘Risk,’ Experts Warn // Marcus Weisgerber: As the Trump administration takes an aggressive stance on China, senators push an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter deal with Taiwan.

Arms Sales Decisions Shouldn’t Be About Jobs // William D. Hartung of the Center for International Policy: Basic foreign policy principles should drive potential weapons exports, not pork-barrel politics.

How John Bolton Views US Allies and Adversaries // The Atlantic’s Krishnadev Calamur: His 2007 memoir lays out the incoming national-security adviser’s worldview.

John Bolton Is Misunderstood // National Review’s Reihan Salam: The actual track record of Trump’s next national-security adviser offers cause for cautious optimism.

Welcome to this Tuesday 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. OTD1945: U.S. begins Operation Starvation, the aerial mining of Japan’s ports and waterways.


Here’s a nostalgic read about North Korea’s armored green train, which typically transports Pyongyang’s leader and which is back in the headlines (CNN, Reuters, BBC) for the first time since 2011 — just days before North Korea’s last leader passed away.
Where the train headlines were coming from: This video of someone arriving in Beijing on Monday with an enormous motorcade.

Get a better handle on how the world’s sixth-largest tank army has been decimated in Syria, via a new report from the open-source sleuths at Bellingcat.
What you’ll learn: At least 2,037 of the Syrian military’s armored vehicles have been lost since the country’s civil war escalated in late 2011.

Don’t fake around in Malaysia, at least when it comes to news. A possible new penalty there for publishing fake news could be 10 years in jail, the Associated Press reported Monday. “The anti-fake news bill, which must be approved by parliament, calls for penalizing those who create, offer, circulate, print or publish fake news or publications containing fake news with a 10-year jail term, a fine of up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,000) or both.”
Malaysia’s definition of fake news: “any news, information, data and reports which is, or are, wholly or partly false whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.”
One possible reason why there’s such interest now: “Prime Minister Najib Razak has been dogged by a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal involving an indebted state fund, and rights activists fear the new law could be used to criminalize news reports and critical opinions on government misconduct.” Read on, here.

Alert training officers and NCOs: Changes could be coming to your annual mandatory training requirements. Stars and Stripes’ Chad Garland reports — from Kandahar, Afghanistan — on how bad the situation feels to a group of Army chief warrant officers who “listed some of the 23 mandatory computer-based modules they had to do before deploying here to train Afghan helicopter pilots.”
The big gripe: “None [of the 23 modules] had anything to do with their jobs as advisers,” Stripes reports. And while there’s been no formal guidance issued yet on reducing or streamlining this stuff, a few officers told Stripes they’ve noticed a slightly better process just since January. And more improvements are promised. Check in on where those stand by reading the rest, here.

More than 10 suspicious packages were recently sent to Washington-area military installations, including Fort Belvoir, Fort McNair and the CIA, CNN reported Monday.
What’s known so far: “All were very crude, involving black powder, and would not have caused fatalities had they gone off,” a U.S. official told CNN. And “[a]t least one package, sent to the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, contained explosive material and was ultimately rendered safe. That package arrived at 8:30 a.m. ET and the building was evacuated immediately,” an Army spokesman said. A bit more, here.

The old “classified government mission” excuse surfaces in Texas. What happened? “a 59-year-old Texas man [and his common law wife] man was caught with a massive weapons cache in a Tewksbury[, Mass.] hotel” on Sunday. The story is actually quite wild — featuring a personal surveillance camera in a hotel room and a call to the cops, which has led the 59-year-old and his wife in considerably hot water.
The two now face more than 40 criminal charges and some intense new attention from the FBI’s the Joint Terrorism Task Force. The story gets much more weird, as the Texas-based Lowell Sun reported Monday.

For your ears only: Take a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border where an anthropologist found a human arm, stripped of flesh, WNYC’s Radiolab reports in the first of a new three-part series.
The set-up: “In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migrant deaths shot up dramatically and have stayed high since. Jason traced this increase to a Border Patrol policy still in effect, called ‘Prevention Through Deterrence.’” The “Border Trilogy” begins, here.

Finally today: Here’s what the future of air combat might look like, if it were a new video released by the U.S. Air Force Research Lab. As noted by FlightGlobal’s Stephen Trimble, the final minute of the why-research-matters promo shows a few advanced concepts, including Loyal Wingman (described in 2016 by then-DepSecDef Bob Work as “You take an F-16 and make it totally unmanned…and pair it with an F-35, a fifth-generation battle network node, and have those two operating together”); Gremlins (UAV swarms); and even a sixth-generation fighter jet. Watch, here.

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