Trump imposes tariffs on allies, deepening Western rift. In March, the president cited “national security” as the reason for imposing surcharges on steel and aluminum imported from EU nations, Canada, and Mexico. A temporary waiver allowed negotiations, which failed, and on Thursday, the tariffs went into effect.
Immediate impact: “America’s allies are stunned, stocks slid on Wall Street as trade-war fears returned, and economists are warning that Americans will soon face higher prices on a wide variety of products,” wrote Washington Post’s Heather Long, adding that “A slew of Republican lawmakers immediately trashed the move as bad for the economy and foreign relations.”
Trump has now put more tariffs on U.S. allies than on China, Long notes.
Industry reax: Aerospace Industries Association CEO Eric Fanning told reporters Thursday that his group’s companies employ 2.4 million people, that those jobs rely heavily on exports, and that they might be affected by retaliation for the tariffs.
Buy Un-American? Analyst Byron Callan told via Defense News that European militaries will continue to buy American-made arms when there’s no good replacement, like heavy-lift helicopters or C-130J cargo aircraft. “But if Europe has options, I would expect the U.S. will be its second choice,” Callan said.
Pentagon is quiet: “Since his early days on the job, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has maintained that one of his major lines of effort is the strengthening of U.S. alliances abroad,” writes Inside Defense. But when the tariffs came down, DoD spox Dana White had little to say. “We need some time to take a look at it...It's just too early to say.’”
From Defense One
The US Defense Industry Wants an Arms-Export Czar // Marcus Weisgerber: AIA proposes the appointment of a single official or government body to shepherd deals through the Defense, State and Commerce Departments — among other changes.
The Status Quo Killed 17 US Sailors. The Navy Must Change. // Lt. Cmdr. Jon Paris: The surface warfare community should embrace, not reject, a congressional mandate to divide new line officers into two specialties.
What Would Denuclearization Look Like in North Korea? // Eleanor Albert: Success will start by closing the gap between what the U.S. and North Korea mean by the term.
Did Congress Just Shut Down Trump's War Plans for Iran? // Jamal Abdi: The Senate would do well to follow the House's lead — and go even farther to shut all the backdoors to war.
The Global Business Brief, May 31 // Marcus Weisgerber: The 'biggest risk' to defense firms; An AI take on US-China relations; Patriot club set to grow; and more.
Welcome to this June 1st 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. Here’s a June 1944 color photo of U.S. Army Rangers marching through Weymouth, England. The image recalls one of your D-Brief-ers’ favorite “Saving Private Ryan” scenes — about the proper way to complain within the U.S. military’s chain of command. Catch that over on YouTube, here.
South Korea wants to crash the Trump-Kim summit. Or maybe just the after-party, if the summit still takes place as planned the week after next, the Washington Post reports from Seoul.
The gist: President Moon Jae-in “has said he hopes for such a meeting, which perhaps could take place immediately after the scheduled June 12 summit in Singapore. A meeting of the three countries’ leaders could provide an opening for Moon to advance a long-sought goal: a peace accord that formally ends the Korean War.”
The rub: The “Trump administration is currently divided on whether agreeing to a peace treaty at the outset of the talks would give away a significant concession too early in the negotiations... That concern could create a potential rift with Seoul, which wants to remain involved in the negotiations in the long term but doesn’t want to be seen as inserting itself improperly too early."
And the sticking point hanging over it all: the question of what “denuclearization” means to North Korea and the U.S. Continue reading, here.
Moving toward a middle? U.S. officials have generally talked about “complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” of Pyongyang’s nuke program — CVID for short — while North Koreans talk about “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” On Thursday, SecState Mike Pompeo mashed them up, saying “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” In normal diplomatic process, this tweaking of a formula would have real implications, perhaps indicating progress toward a compromise. But now?
Read the transcript of Pompeo’s remarks to press, via Joshua Pollack, here.
Just ordered: Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles: more than 250 of them at a cost of $171.2 million for the U.S. Navy and Australian Air Force, SeaPower Magazine reported in a short hit on Thursday. Details, here.
Fightin’ words. “The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands. So that's a core competency of the US military that we've done before; [you] shouldn't read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact,” Director of the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said Thursday, CNN reports.
But of course there was a bit more packed into that statement, coming just days after another U.S. Navy freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea — a move China’s foreign ministry continued to question Thursday as though it has not heard the answer before (keeping sea lanes open for international trade).
Said China’s FM on Thursday: "Why does the US choose to sail every now and then close to Chinese South China Sea islands and reefs? What is the US trying to do?"
McKenzie’s reply: "[W]e will continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations as is allowed by international law. [find a review of that, via Harvard’s Belfer Center, here] And we're going to continue to do the things that we're doing." Read on at CNN, here.
Related: China may have been disinvited from that upcoming RIMPAC exercise, but it’s military still wants to stay friends with the U.S., the Associated Press reported Thursday from Beijing.
And Beijing is feeling a bit more confident about the capabilities of its lone aircraft carrier strike group, Reuters reported from the capital.
For the record: Chinese “State media have quoted experts as saying China needs at least six carriers. The United States operates 10 and plans to build two more.” Read on, here.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad went on Russian state media to say U.S. troops have to leave his country — or they’ll face the threat of military force, the Washington Post’s Liz Sly reported Thursday from neighboring Beirut.
The quick bottom line: “It was not the first time that Assad has threatened to attack U.S. troops, but it was his most explicit expression yet of his determination to rid Syria of American forces,” Sly writes.
In Assad's own words: “The Americans should leave somehow. They are going to leave.” The Syrian president also dinged the U.S. for allegations it supported al-Qaeda in Syria — a common refrain of Russian propagandists.
Pentagon reax: “Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking U.S. forces or our coalition partners would be a bad policy,” U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff, told reporters when asked about Assad's words.
Two big open questions for the U.S. military in Syria: “under what circumstances the troops eventually will leave and what will happen to their Kurdish allies.” Read on, here.
THAAD anti-missile system to Germany’s Ramstein Air Base? Reuters reports today “The U.S. military has held preliminary discussions about moving a powerful missile defense system to Germany to boost European defenses.” The Pentagon wouldn’t respond to a request to confirm the discussion, using the “we don’t talk about future plans” exemption, Reuters writes.
The benefit of such a move: It “could plug a radar gap caused by a two-year delay in completion of a second Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Poland that was initially due to open this year.”
The somewhat obvious downside: Plopping down THAAD systems in Germany “could trigger fresh tensions with Moscow.” Read on, here.
And finally this week: If you haven’t heard by now, the sequel to “Top Gun” has begun filming on San Diego’s Naval Air Station North Island, Military Times reported Thursday — after “Capt. Maverick” Tom Cruise tweeted out a teaser photo Thursday morning.
So what is known about production and the plot of the film? Task & Purpose’s Jeff Schogol can fill you in on all that, here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!