Trump tries damage control; Russia ‘ready to move on new agreements’; Researchers pledge no lethal AI work; China’s quantum advances; and just a bit more...

Damage control. President Trump, reportedly shocked at how badly his performance in Helsinki went over, tried some damage control Tuesday, telling reporters that he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election — but he immediately undermined that by continuing, “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

Who he’s blamed: Here’s a list of the non-Russian people and organizations Trump has blamed for the attack — when he hasn’t denied that it occurred at all.

What agreements? Russia says it’s ready to move ahead with the agreements Trump reached with Vladimir Putin on Monday. Wait, what? Let Moscow enlighten you: “The Russian Defense Ministry is ready for practical implementation of the agreements in the sphere of international security reached by Russian and US Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, at their Monday’s summit in Helsinki," said ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, according to Tass. "The Russian Defense Ministry is ready to enliven contact with the US colleagues, between our General Staffs and via other communication channels, to discuss extension of the START Treaty, cooperation in Syria, and other topical issues of military security.”

Reminder: Trump took no other American into the meeting save his interpreter, and no known recordings were made by the U.S. side. A group of Democratic senators wants to know what was said, and what was promised by the American president to Russia: “Did you make any commitments regarding the future of the U.S. military presence in Syria?” the Democrats wrote in a list of 13 questions. “Did you discuss NATO military exercises scheduled for this fall? Did you agree to roll back or change the nature of those exercises?” Today’s Daily on Defense has more, here.

The problem, of course, is that Trump is an unreliable source about what happened, while Putin no doubt has recordings that he can selectively release.

What are top Pentagon leaders making of all this? “They’re probably questioning the salience and relevance of the National Defense Strategy” rolled out in January, says Mara Karlin, a former deputy assistant defense secretary-turned-SAIS professor. “There’s effectively one big bumper sticker in that National Defense Strategy: ‘We’re really worried about future conflicts with China and Russia,’” Karlin said on this week’s episode of the Defense One Radio podcast. “Well, what the president said [Monday] calls into question whether that’s still relevant...Personally, I believe it should, but if the president’s arguing publicly against it, I think there’s some hard questions that need to happen inside the Pentagon.”

Evidence of uncertainty? Watch for the cancellation of already-too-rare public appearances by top Pentagon leaders. There’s one already, D1’s Kevin Baron notes: STRATCOM commander Gen. John Hyten’s long-scheduled keynote talk at this week’s Aspen Security Forum has been scrubbed from the schedule.

More reaction:

  • Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a 25-year CIA officer now at Harvard’s Belfer Center, writes at Just Security: “If there is a silver lining in this disastrous trip, surely NATO, as well as leaders in Germany and the United Kingdom, must now realize that they cannot trust what the US President says, appears to do, or promises. This lesson will be useful for our allies in forging a more independent pathway moving forward, until this American nightmare is over.”
  • Kori Schake, a DoD-NSC-State veteran now at IISS, hopes “that the president’s overt alignment with a murderous dictator proves a turning point for Republicans in Congress. The president has moved beyond disgraceful. He’s now genuinely dangerous.”
  • And AEI’s Danielle Pletka pleads for calm: “Yes, Trump is a shallow, vain, not terribly bright, lazy president of the United States. He might even have been interested in dirt Moscow scraped up on Hillary Clinton. And he will do some damage—which is to be expected, as our last few presidents have also done some damage. Maybe he will do more. But he can also do some’s Trump’s words that are terrible. His policies are, in the main, not.”

From Defense One

US Air Force Wants More Commercial Companies Working AI Projects // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense leaders issue a new call to industry after a study finds just two of 100 top AI firms have Pentagon contracts.

NATO Already Vastly Outspends Russia. Its Problems Are Not About Money. // William D. Hartung: The alliance’s security issues can’t be fixed by a traditional military buildup.

Trump’s Meeting With Putin Draws Alarm at Home and Abroad // Natasha Bertrand: The president’s remarks casting doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 election drew rebukes both implicit and explicit from those close to, and within, his own administration.

Spooky Action: Sorting Hype from Reality in China’s Quantum-Tech Quest // Elsa B. Kania: Beijing is talking a big game. The US need not overreact — but it should act.

Coming soon: Pentagon’s new AI strategy. Nextgov: “The department plans to release a report detailing its long-term plans for artificial intelligence ‘within weeks’ as leaders increasingly stress the technology’s potential to strengthen national security, said Thomas Michelli, the department’s acting deputy chief information officer for cybersecurity.”

DOD wants to move some cyber defense to the cloud, according to a contracting document posted Monday. Nextgov’s Joseph Marks: “The proposed contract would create a cloud-based expansion of the Pentagon’s Acropolis program, which collects terabytes of cybersecurity data from the Defense Department’s own computers and external systems, processes and analyzes that data and delivers the result to subscribers inside and outside the Pentagon.” More, here.

And finally: The Army has another chipper press release out about a father and son who have served in Afghanistan, and Marine-turned-reporter Paul Szoldra is depressed about it. From Task & Purpose: Roughly two months from now, we will mark the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And in the days and months after, there will be new recruits to the U.S. Army that were not even born when it occurred, perhaps fighting and dying in the Afghan war that came in its aftermath. I wonder: Will we be reading upbeat stories about them, too?”