Trump vows nuclear buildup; Exclusive look at Space Force plan; CIA chief in Istanbul; CyberCom DMs Russian agents; And a bit more.

By Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston

October 23, 2018

Trump: U.S. will enlarge its nuclear arsenal. “Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,” the president told reporters outside the White House on Monday, one day before his national security advisor John Bolton was due to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to discuss the planned U.S. withdrawal from a key nuclear-arms treaty. CNN, here.

Bolton was asked whether the withdrawal would make the world more dangerous. “I think that rhetoric is overheated,” he told a BBC reporter after meetings with Russian officials.“I was here 17 years ago for the withdrawal from the ABM treaty, and we’re safer now because of it.” Watch a two-minute video clip, here.

About those treaties. Here’s Ploughshares’ Joe Cirincione, writing in Defense One: “Killing the INF treaty is a gift to Moscow. Issues of compliance with arms control treaties are common, and we have reliable methods for resolving them. Leaving the treaty removes all pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin and allows him to race ahead with new nuclear weapon deployments while severely divided the NATO alliance.” Read on, here.

From Defense One

Here’s The Pentagon’s Initial Plan For Creating a Space Force // Marcus Weisgerber: Parts of the Air Force, Navy and Army would move into a sixth branch, but the NRO will likely remain independent.

US: Afghan Security Strategy Is ‘Working,’ Despite Insider Attacks // Katie Bo Williams: A Pentagon spokesman cites a two-thirds decrease in attacks since the war’s peak eight years ago.

NASA Chief Lifts Sanctions on Russian Space Boss, Russia Says // Paulina Glass: Russian state media says the Trump administration will temporarily ease Crimea-related sanctions to allow a visit to Houston. NASA officials can’t — or won’t — say if that’s true.

Three Questions from Last Month’s Giant Vostok Exercise // Peter Zwack: What should American strategists take away from China’s participation in Moscow’s biggest annual wargames?

Russian Intel Chief: Internet Should be Controlled By ‘Proper Authorities’ // Patrick Tucker: The FSB says it’s trying to curb extremism online — but it’s also muting foreign and dissenting voices.

A Serial Killing Spree That Threatens Us All // Joe Cirincione: Can John Bolton be stopped before he further undermines U.S. national security?

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you find this useful, please consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. 35 years ago today, 241 U.S. Marines, sailors, and soldiers died in a suicide attack on their barracks near the Beirut airport that also wounded another 128 American personnel. Nearly 60 French soldiers died in a separate, similar attack a short while later.

CIA Director Haspel is in Istanbul today where Turkish President Erdogan continues to sound the alarm on the apparent extrajudicial killing by Saudis in Istanbul nearly two weeks ago. Haspel flew to not-Constantinople on Monday, the Washington Post reported Monday evening.  
In Turkey this morning, Erdogan talked tough about Riyadh before his parliament in Ankara — alleging the Saudis had planned the assassination days in advance, the Associated Press reports. Before lawmakers, Erdogan (whose own men are no strangers to roughing up people they don’t like when traveling abroad) vowed to continue Turkey’s investigation into the matter “until all questions were answered and Turkey was told the identity of a local collaborator Riyadh says disposed of the body,” Reuters writes.
In Erdogan’s own words: “All evidence gathered shows that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a savage murder. To cover up such savagery would hurt the human conscience… From the person who gave the order, to the person who carried it out, they must all be brought to account.”
Track the Saudis’ changing stories on Khashoggi’s death in an infographic from Agence-France Presse, here.
Meanwhile in Riyadh, Saudi officials are planning on signing some $50 billion in new deals with companies like Trafigura, Total, Hyundai, Norinco, Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes during this week’s “Davos in the desert”  

Inbox warfare. The U.S. military’s Cyber Command is direct-messaging alleged Russian operatives that the U.S. thinks is trying to influence the midterm elections, The New York Times reports in what it calls “the first known overseas cyberoperation to protect American elections.” What exactly was done and how the direct messaging happened is not known just yet.
Targeted: “oligarch-funded hacking groups and Russian intelligence operatives who are part of Moscow’s disinformation campaign.”
These cyber actions are deliberately small and conservative, the Times writes. That’s because the U.S. is trying not to piss off the Russian bear. Or, as the Times puts it, the U.S. wants “to keep Moscow from escalating in response by taking down the power grid or conducting some other reprisal that could trigger a bigger clash between great powers.” Read on for a bit more about the wider U.S. government effort in this arena, as well as some of the countermeasures put in place by tech companies like Twitter and Facebook.

ICYMI: The infamous Russian troll farm in St Petersburg doubled its budget in early 2018, Quartz reported Friday off the latest U.S. Department of Justice criminal complaint against the group.

For your ears only: “Why Veterans Are Targeted By Spreaders Of Misinformation,” via NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered in conversation with Kris Goldsmith, assistant director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America.
Said Goldsmith: “The ultimate goal here is not veterans. It is to make the United States in a permanent condition of paralysis. They want for us to not be able to function as a democracy, and the way that they do that is they sabotage any idea of bipartisanship…” The four-minute conversation begins, here.

The NATO soldier killed in an apparent insider attack Monday in Herat, Afghanistan, was a member of the Czech army, Defense Post’s Joanne Stocker confirmed in the afternoon.
BTW: This marks the fourth Czech soldier killed in Afghanistan in two months, Stocker reported shortly afterward.
Recall it was also an insider attack that killed most of Kandahar province’s security officials on Thursday. The Taliban claimed both of these attacks.

The world’s longest sea-crossing bridge linking Hong Kong to mainland China opens today. It’s 34 miles long, cost $20 billion and took almost a decade to build. AP has more — including obligatory photos — here.
Context via AFP: “Beijing is tightening its grip on its semi-autonomous territories.”

And finally today: The world’s oldest “intact” shipwreck has been discovered in the bed of the Black Sea, Agence-France Presse reports today.
Estimated age: More than 2,400 years old, or around 400 BCE. Believed to have been a trading ship, the thing is about 75 feet long, and its masts and rudders are amazingly still intact. A bit more, here. Or here from the BBC.

By Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston // Ben Watson is news editor for Defense One. He previously worked for NPR's “All Things Considered” and “Here and Now” in Washington, D.C. Watson served for five years in the U.S. Army, where he was an award-winning combat cameraman and media advisor for southern Afghanistan's special operations command during the 2010-11 surge. // Bradley Peniston is deputy editor of Defense One. A national security journalist for two decades, he helped launch, served as managing editor of Defense News, and was editor of Armed Forces Journal. His books include No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf, now part of the Chief of Naval Operations' Professional Reading Program.

October 23, 2018