Trump threatens Kim; NATO’s AI experiments; Haspel’s in; USAF is sorry; and just a bit more…

Trump threatens N. Korea’s Kim. In impromptu remarks at the White House, the U.S. president said, “If you look at that model with Qaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now, that model would take place if we don’t make a deal.” But if a deal is made, he said, “Kim Jong Un is going to be very, very happy.”

Noted The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda: “One big reason North Korea (and decades earlier, China) acquired nuclear weapons? Concern about US nuclear coercion and nuclear threats. Trump just gave Kim a reminder of why he needs to hang on to his ‘treasured sword.’”

How we got here. The week started with somewhat contradictory statements by top Trump administration officials on last Sunday’s talk shows. If you’ve had trouble following its twists and turns, go read Panda’s latest.

All this puts the June 12 summit in some doubt. To be blunt, says Arms Control Wonk Jeffrey Lewis, the gap “is that the United States thinks denuclearization means North Korea giving up nuclear weapons and North Korea thinks it doesn’t.”

Tweeted Pusan National University’s Robert “BBC Kid” Kelly:  “Why are we going into a summit of this magnitude w/ so many doubts @ the outcome? Shouldn’t such a weighty summit be far more mapped out than this one? So that a good outcome is the overwhelmingly likely outcome, rather than just one, low-to-middling possibility among others?”

One recommendation, via Panda: “At this point, it would be wise for American and North Korean officials to meet in Singapore on June 12, but not Trump and Kim themselves. Sweat the details, do the hard work, and do this right—no need for a dangerous leap of faith built on false expectations.”


From Defense One

Trump Touts Increased NATO Spending, But That Sort of Misses the Point, Experts Say // Caroline Houck: Experts say that the conversation’s been too focused on how much allies are putting toward defense, not on what they get for it.

How NATO’s Transformation Chief Is Pushing the Alliance to Keep Up in AI // Patrick Tucker: Experimental robot medics and autonomy-driven base protection highlight NATO’s race to keep up with China, Russia, and the U.S. in emerging technology.

How to Sell a COIN Aircraft in a Great-Power Era // Marcus Weisgerber: Even as the Pentagon shifts its focus from low-intensity conflict to full-spectrum war, the U.S. Air Force might finally buy a prop-driven light attack plane.

Calm Down, Folks: Enemies Still Fear US Military Tech Innovation // Harvey M. Sapolsky and Eugene Gholz: Where most countries focus on one or two areas, America has a huge, well-funded R&D infrastructure that pushes the envelope everywhere.

The Pentagon Has a Big Plan to Solve Identity Verification in Two Years // Joseph Marks: The plan grew out of efforts to modernize the Defense Department’s ID cards.

The Global Business Brief, May 17 // Marcus Weisgerber: Selling COIN in a great-power era; Former NSA chief’s startup gets funded; Marines’ brawny new helo, and more.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free.
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Gina Haspel is officially the first woman to lead the CIA, with the Senate voting 54 to 45 in favor of her nomination. Drama over her confirmation — largely hinging on her involvement in the agency’s torture program in the days after the 9/11 attacks — involved “six Democrats voting yes and two Republicans voting no,” the Washington Post reported.
Worth noting: “She appears to have been helped, too, by some last-minute arm-twisting by former CIA directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta, who contacted at least five of the six Democrats to endorse her bid to join President Trump’s Cabinet, according to people with knowledge of the interactions.” Read on, here.

Can outing an intel source help the WH stop the Mueller train? “The president of the United States has joined an effort to expose the identity of a confidential government informant, while the FBI is taking steps to protect the life of that informant, and associates, in case they’re outed,” the Washington Post reported Thursday.
According to WaPo, “The source is a U.S. citizen who has provided information over the years to both the FBI and the CIA… and aided the Russia investigation both before and after Mueller’s appointment in May 2017.”
By the WH’s way of thinking, “outing the source and revealing details about his or her work for the FBI could help them challenge the investigation and, potentially, provide cause for removing Mueller or his overseer, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.”
Replied the President of the United States, via Twitter: “Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBISPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT.’ Andrew McCarthy says, ‘There’s probably no doubt that they had at least one confidential informant in the campaign.’ If so, this is bigger than Watergate!” Continue reading, here.  

The U.S. Air Force says it’s sorry for that Taliban-taunting Yanny-Laurel-BRRRT tweet earlier this week (see Thursday’s D Brief). Said the service of that tweet on its account Thursday: “It was made in poor taste and we are addressing it internally. It has since been removed.”

Ebola emerges in the Congo — and in Mbandaka, home to some 1.2 million people, the BBC reports this morning.
To date, “At least 45 people are believed to have been infected in the current outbreak and 25 deaths are being investigated.” Said a World Health Organization official: “This is a major development in the outbreak. We have urban Ebola, which is a very different animal from rural Ebola. The potential for an explosive increase in cases is now there.”
The big fear: Mbandaka “is a transport hub on the River Congo, prompting fears that the virus could now spread further, threatening the capital Kinshasa and surrounding countries… The 2014-16 West Africa outbreak was the most deadly outbreak of the disease because it spread to the capitals of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.”
However, in contrast to the 2014 outbreak, within mere days of notification this month, “On Wednesday more than 4,000 doses of an experimental vaccine sent by the WHO arrived in Kinshasa with another batch expected soon.” Hear a bit more about the response this year, via NPR’s All Things Considered — speaking with WHO Deputy Director General of Emergency Preparedness and Response Peter Salama — here.
Public service reminder: “Ebola can be introduced into the human population through contact with the blood, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. These can include chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, antelope and porcupines.”
And some trivia: “This is the ninth outbreak of Ebola in DR Congo,” the BBC reports, adding “it was named after the country’s Ebola river.” Read on, here.
ICYMI from May 10: “The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded under a reorganization by national security adviser John Bolton,” reported the Washington Post.

Happening today in Washington: the Future Strategy Forum, a series of discussions from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which center around “a new initiative to connect women scholars who research national security with its leading practitioners.”
The pitch: “Open to all, the inaugural conference, ‘The Future of Force,’ will feature all women-panels devoted to the changing character of warfare and potential new strategies for the United States and its partners.”
Talks began shortly before the ordinary military working day (8:30 a.m. ET), and extend through the afternoon. Line up, itinerary and more details, here.

Happened Thursday in Moscow: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a “surprise trip” to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the New York Times reported from the Russian capital.
Said Putin, leaving unclear exactly what or whose forces he’s referring to: “With the start of a political process in its more active phase, foreign armed forces will be withdrawn from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.” A tiny bit more, here.

Decision time looms in Iraq. With the rise of anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr in Baghdad following this past Saturday’s elections, the New York Times reports, “Now, President Trump and the Pentagon must decide whether the United States can move ahead with plans to leave a residual force of about 4,500 American troops in Iraq after the war against the Islamic State.”
The tension there: “Mr. Trump has already expressed his desire to bring American troops home soon from Syria; officials said the president has given the Defense Department six months to wrap up its mission there. Military officials had hoped that an American troop presence in Iraq could keep in contact with allied forces across the border in Syria. And what would Mr. Trump do if Mr. Sadr again demands an American troop withdrawal from Iraq?” Read the rest, here.

And finally this week: Attn. Pentagon workers: “a tightening of security policy governing military and civilian personnel bringing cellphones into classified workspaces in the Pentagon” could be coming as soon as today, CNN reported Thursday.
The biggest change — which seems kinda obvious: “Cellphones, and other devices that could lead to eavesdropping or location tracking, will have to be put into small lockers in corridors outside classified areas, [defense] officials said, and will not be permitted in portions of the building where classified discussions are held or classified material is stored.”
There will also be a crew of enforcers “potentially use electronic scanning equipment to ensure there are no devices in banned areas,” CNN adds.

That’s it for us this week, gang. Have a safe weekend, and we’ll catch you again on Monday!

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