NATO celebrates its 70th anniversary this week in London, and it wouldn’t be a NATO event in the Trump era without interalliance drama. Turkish officials are taking swings at French officials; other alliance diplomats think Ankara is “taking eastern Europeans hostage” with an assertive transactionalism over defense of the Baltics. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is trying to “substantially cut its contribution to NATO’s collective budget”; and back home, the White House is ignoring the first House Judiciary Committee hearing in the president’s impeachment inquiry.
And through all this, President Trump insists the “trans-Atlantic relationship is in a very, very healthy place,” the Wall Street Journal reports in its London preview.
Atop Trump’s itinerary for the two-day event are scheduled meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, “as well as meetings with the leaders of Denmark and Italy,” the Journal writes.
By the way: Denmark came out early with messaging aimed in part at the U.S., the BBC reported Friday. That message: Denmark’s Defence Intelligence Service has “for the first time put mineral-rich Greenland top of its national security agenda, ahead of terrorism and cybercrime.” Recall that Greenland rose to international headlines on reports Trump wanted to purchase the island from Denmark sometime over the summer.
Said Greenland officials to your D Brief-er during an October trip to Copenhagen: “Greenland is open for business, but not for sale.” Review more takeaways for European security issues in our recent podcast on the subject, here.
About Turkey’s swing at France’s Macron: “You should get checked whether you’re brain-dead,” Turkish President Recep Erdogan said Friday, in remarks directed at Macron, according to the Associated Press. Erdogan continued, “Kicking Turkey out of NATO or not, how is that up to you? Do you have the authority to make such a decision?”
FWIW: It’s been nearly a week since Turkish officials announced the country would not support a collective defense plan for the Baltic alliance members (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) as well as Poland — unless all NATO members denounced the Kurdish YPG in Syria as terrorists.
Turkish officials told Reuters today they aren’t blackmailing the alliance with this demand about the Kurds; and furthermore, what of it since Ankara “has full veto rights, politically and militarily” within the alliance.
Regarding the U.S. decision to cut its contribution to NATO, CNN reported on Thanksgiving Day that the White House is trying “to reduce its contribution to about 16%” of NATO’s direct funding, which is only about $2.5 billion, and which is a pool of money “separate from national defense budgets that NATO recommends should stand at 2% of GDP.”
A second look: “The direct budget is calculated on two year cycles,” tweeted Julianne Smith of the German Marshall Fund. “NATO uses a cost charging formula that determines contributions based on GDP. We have traditionally hovered around 22%. Trump will drop it to 16%. [Which means the decision reported by CNN is] Largely smoke and mirrors meant to make this look like a big win, which it isn’t.”
AP’s prediction for London: “The United States is almost certain to demand again this week that its 28 NATO partners respect their pledges to boost defense budgets… toward spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense by 2024.”
Worth noting: “This is about national military budgets, not NATO funding,” AP writes.
For the record: “Nine countries are projected to meet the 2% benchmark this year — the U.S. with about 3.4%, Greece, Britain, Bulgaria, Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania — up from three nations in 2014. Germany will spend 1.35%, ranking it 17th, but it aims to hit 1.5% by the deadline. Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg spend less than 1%.”
Another few items very likely to be on Trump’s agenda this week in London: “the rising global influence of China and 5G network security,” the WSJ writes. Read more, here. Or check out the Washington Post’s preview, here.
From Defense One
Declaring Mexican Drug Cartels ‘Terrorists’ Is a Bad Old Idea // Jason M. Blazakis: Trump and Obama policymakers rejected it because it brings no new tools to bear — and quite a few drawbacks.
NATO Should End its Open-Door Policy // Daniel DePetris: Enlarging the alliance has caused more problems than it has solved.
Amid Rising Tensions: A Conversation with Pakistan’s Ambassador // Patrick Tucker: Asad Majeed Khan discusses the U.S. troop pullout in Afghanistan, the worsening situation in Kashmir, and efforts to fight extremism.
A Veteran’s Thanksgiving Pledge // Larry Sampler: I want to help rebuild an America that is worth the sacrifices of so many.
How North Korea Soured on Donald Trump // Uri Friedman, The Atlantic: Kim Jong Un only wanted to engage with the president. Now he’s turning on him.
The War-Crimes President // Adam Serwer, The Atlantic: When violence is directed at those Trump’s supporters hate and fear, they see such excesses not as crimes but as virtues.
DHS Wants Every Agency to Have a Vulnerability Disclosure Program // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: A draft directive would require civilian agencies to find and fix network vulnerabilities spotted by public security researchers.
Welcome to this Cyber Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. And if you haven’t already heard our three-part podcast series all about the past, present and future of cybersecurity, you can do that here, here and here, respectively. On this day in 1941, Japanese Rear Admiral Matome Ugaki was authorized to attack Pearl Harbor in five days’ time, a decision he transmitted in the coded message, “Climb Mount Niitaka.”
The recently-released Taliban hostage, Australian Timothy Weeks, said U.S. Navy SEALs tried to rescue him on six different occasions, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Sunday. Weeks was abducted along with American Kevin King back in 2016 from Kabul. The two men “were moved around various locations in Afghanistan and Pakistan but never gave up hopes of being rescued,” the Herald writes.
Weeks spoke to the paper on Thursday, describing one apparent rescue attempt where he was pushed down a tunnel and knocked unconscious. Weeks said he wasn’t fearful in many of those moments “because this wonderful thing of shock that our body has.” Read on, here.
North Korea fired its big multiple rocket launcher again over the holiday. Two short-range KN-35 missiles fired into waters off the peninsula’s east coast on Thanksgiving Day showed off its crew’s increasing speed and served as a “reminder to the United States of a year-end deadline Kim has set for Washington to show flexibility in their stalled denuclearization talks,” Reuters reported.
Analysis: The Trump administration is trying to restart those talks, but Pyongyang isn’t rushing to accept the offer. The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman explores why, here.
Keeping track of the North’s missile tests. The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies keeps a timeline of launches of strategic rockets: ones that can loft a 500-kg payload at least 300 km. Last updated in mid-November; as the site says: “The aftermath of a test is usually filled with contradictory reports that must be reconciled and examined in order to ensure that 1) the missile tested meets the minimum threshold necessary to be entered and 2) that the information entered best reflects the events that actually occurred.”
No more Hong Kong R&R for U.S. sailors. China announced the change in “an act of retaliation against President Trump’s signing of a bill intended to show support for Hong Kong’s antigovernment protesters,” the WSJ reports.
The U.S. law China is responding to “mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong,” AP writes. “The legislation was backed by U.S. lawmakers who are sympathetic to the protesters and have criticized Hong Kong police for cracking down on the pro-democracy movement.”
“We urge the U.S. to correct the mistakes and stop interfering in our internal affairs,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying today in Beijing (Reuters). “China will take further steps if necessary to uphold Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity and China’s sovereignty.”
“In more normal times,” Reuters writes, “several U.S. naval ships visit Hong Kong annually, a rest-and-recreation tradition that dates back to the pre-1997 colonial era which Beijing allowed to continue after the handover from British to Chinese rule. Visits have at times been refused amid broader tensions and two U.S. ships were denied access in August.” A bit more, here.
Xi, Putin link pipes. The leaders of China and Russia just attended the launch of a “landmark Russian gas pipeline to China,” Reuters reports separately today from Sochi. “The start of gas flows via the Power of Siberia pipeline reflects Moscow’s attempts to pivot to the East to try to mitigate pain from Western financial sanctions imposed over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea,” Reuters writes. “The 3,000-km-long (1,865 mile) Power of Siberia pipeline will transport gas from the Chayandinskoye and Kovytka fields in eastern Siberia, a project expected to last for three decades and to generate $400 billion for Russian state coffers.” Read on, here.
Leaked docs allege Chinese tech companies “are shaping new facial recognition and surveillance standards at the UN,” the Financial Times reported this weekend behind a paywall we can’t seem to access this morning. Fortunately the South China Morning Post picks up some of the pertinent details, including the alleged involvement of “ZTE, security camera maker Dahua Technology and the state-owned Chinese telecommunication company China Telecom” as a few groups pitching “new international standards in the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for facial recognition, video monitoring, city and vehicle surveillance.” Read on, here.
Related: China just mandated facial recognition inside its borders. “China on Sunday put into effect new regulations that require Chinese telecom carriers to scan the faces of users registering new mobile phone services, a move the government says is aimed at cracking down on fraud,” Reuters reports today from Shanghai.
Australia is creating a new intelligence task force to track and thwart foreign interference. Why? Because China. The Wall Street Journal has the (paywalled) story, here.
Officials in Ohio “detected and thwarted an election-related cyber attack earlier this month” that “ originated in Panama but was traced to a Russian-owned company,” the Associated Press reported this weekend. The Columbus Dispatch had the original report from an interview with Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and you can find that here.
Did you know: It’s Way Too Easy to Get a .gov Domain Name. And cybersecurity researcher Brian Krebs explains why in that previous link.
Ousted Navy Secretary Richard Spencer wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, in which he argues that President Trump “has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.”
And lastly today: Apple rethinks policies after calling Crimea part of Russia. The tech giant is “taking a deeper look at how we handle disputed borders” after it was widely slammed (and mildly praised by Russian officials) for referring to the illegally seized Crimean Peninsula as part of Russia in its Maps and Weather apps for Russian users, a company spokeswoman told Reuters on Friday.
To be clear, the changes showing Crimea as belonging to Russia appear only if you are using the apps inside Russia. “Users elsewhere — including in Ukraine’s capital Kiev and in Crimea itself — see locations in Crimea displayed without specifying which country they belong to,” Reuters writes. Read on, here.