US threatens to ‘take out’ Russian missiles; Mattis in Paris; Chinese ship buzzes US destroyer; F-35 concerns persist as price declines; and just a bit more…

U.S. threatens “to take out” Russian medium-range missiles. On Tuesday, U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters in Brussels that the United States is prepared “to take out” medium-range missiles being developed by Russia in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Washington wants Russia to halt deployment. “We have been trying to send a message to Russia for several years that we know they are violating the treaty, we have shown Russia the evidence that we have that they are violating the treaty,” she said. “We are laying down the markers so that our allies will help us bring Russia to the table.”

Which missiles? The Reuters report did not specify, but the Trump administration has been concerned since last year about the SSC-X-8 cruise missile. In February 2017, the New York Times cited administration officials as saying that Russia had deployed two battalions of the cruise missile, whose range threatens America’s European allies and deployed U.S. forces.

“This may be the most dangerous thing you will see all year,” tweeted Jon Wolfsthal, formerly a nonproliferation and arms control director in Obama’s National Security Council. “I doubt that @USAmbNATO meant to state that we were prepared to strike at any time, but maybe she did. If she did, as part of orchestrated policy (doubtful given this team) it would be insanely dangerous and should be immediately concerned by allies and US community.”

Speaking of Russian missiles, The Drive calls our attention to a photo of a rather large one slung under the belly of a MiG-31. This may be the Kinzhal, the air-launched variant of the Iskander tactical ballistic missile. “The big rocket is likely to be either a space-launch system or an anti-satellite weapon, and maybe even both.” Read on, here.

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The US Is Prolonging an Unwinnable War in Yemen // Mohamad Bazzi: The Trump administration is allowing its policy to be dictated by Saudi Arabia’s rivalry with Iran.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague.

U.S. doubles Syrian diplomatic corps. In Paris, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that “the number of US diplomats in Syria has doubled as Islamic State militants near a military defeat,” Reuters’ Idrees Ali reports.

Mattis also said the U.S. has begun training Turkish troops, “marking the final step before the two countries begin conducting joint patrols likely later this month around the strategic northern Syrian city of Manbij,” AP reports.

Chinese warship comes dangerously close to U.S. destroyer. About 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, the USS Decatur was sailing past Gaven Reef in the South China Sea when a People’s Liberation Army Navy Luyang-class destroyer approached. The Chinese ship “conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart the area. The PRC destroyer approached within 45 yards of Decatur’s bow, after which Decatur maneuvered to prevent a collision,” a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman said in an email to USNI News, which has the story, here

45 yards is a hair’s breadth on the high seas; it is, for example, about half the distance that a U.S. destroyer and a supply ship maintain during tense but common replenishment-at-sea maneuvers.

What’s China’s play here? In 2016, naval analyst Jerry Hendrix warned that Chinese ships would eventually try to ram Americans who approach their fake islands. “China is attempting to create a situation wherein the United States, to uphold international law, will either have to accede to their territorial claims in the South China Sea or openly resort to the use of hostile force, allowing China to publicly portray the U.S. as an imperialist aggressor state.” Read, here.

F-35 cheaper, but concerns remain. In the wake of yesterday’s announcement of a Lot 11 deal between Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon, F-35 program director Vice Adm. Mat Winter told reporters that he has two big concerns. Washington Examiner reports: “The plane is costing too much and taking too long to build, due to inefficiencies on the production line that require too many things to be reworked, repaired or scrapped as the plane moves down the line” and the “cost of keeping the planes operating in the field and maintaining a high mission-capable rate” is too high. Read, here.

Two polls of interest. The first, a survey of Americans published Tuesday by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, shows that public support for international engagement has risen in the wake of Trump’s “America-first” policies. “The largest majority since 1974—except for just after the September 11 attacks—now support active US engagement in world affairs. A solid majority supports multilateral diplomacy, underscored by public willingness to accept international decisions that are not the first choice for the United States. A record number of Americans now acknowledge the benefits of international trade. Even though the United States withdrew from both the Paris Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, public support for these agreements has actually increased. And as the ultimate indicator of commitment to allies, increased majorities express support for sending US troops to defend both NATO and Asian allies if they are attacked.” The Washington Post has more, here.

Global poll: Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center survey of some 26,000 people across 25 countries shows that “Global opinion of U.S. President Donald Trump has sunk so low that the world now appears to have more confidence in the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.”

Who do you trust? Asked whether certain leaders would “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” 52 percent of respondents expressed confidence in Germany’s Angela Merkel, 46 percent in France’s Emmanuel Macron, 34 percent in Xi, 30 percent in Putin, and 27 percent in Trump.

China, rising. “As favorability of the United States under Trump dwindles, China’s power and prominence is on the rise. A median of 70 percent of the survey respondents said Beijing plays a more important role in the world than 10 years ago, while only 8 percent believed the United States does.”

That’s not what they want. Despite Trump’s low ratings, a median of 63 percent among all countries “preferred the United States as the world leader, while only 19 percent preferred China.” Foreign Policy has more, here.

And lastly today: Tired: little green Army men in yoga poses. Wired: little green terra cotta warriors. Just $41 from Hobbylink Japan. (Via BoingBoing, here.)

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