Prelude to 3rd Korean summit; Putin, Erdogan meet; How to spread a conspiracy; 1-on-1 with NATO’s Stoltenberg; And a bit more.
What to expect at this week’s third inter-Korean summit. AP says South Korean President Moon Jae-in “will have two major tasks” when he meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: “He needs to keep Pyongyang’s talks with Washington on denuclearization from breaking down so that his own efforts at rapprochement can continue, and he needs to speed up a series of inter-Korean cooperation and engagement projects to keep frictions with the North low and his domestic critics at bay.”
But even South Korean officials are losing optimism: “Our people are beginning to learn that North Korea will not easily give up its nukes, something that many experts had already repeatedly predicted.” Read on, AP, here.
From Defense One
The Secret to Effective Foreign Aid? Sometimes, It's Giving Cash // Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus: For the first time, USAID compared a traditional intervention to a simple cash transfer.
On the Campaign Trail for NATO, With Secretary General Stoltenberg // Kevin Baron: The former Norwegian prime minister tells Defense One that dissent is good, questions are welcome, and they're making the alliance stronger than ever.
Listen: NATO’s Stoltenberg talks with D1’s Baron // Special episode of Defense One Radio.
Welcome to this Monday 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. On this day 99 years ago, Gen. John Pershing, commander of U.S. forces during World War I, led the National Victory Day Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and past the White House.
SecDef Mattis accused Russia of meddling in upcoming Macedonia vote. This morning Mattis was in the Macedonian city of Skopje speaking with the country’s prime minister and defense minister about ways “to expand cybersecurity cooperation with the small Balkan country,” Reuters reports traveling with the SecDef.
Meddling how? “They have transferred money, and they’re also conducting broader influence campaigns,” Mattis said of Russia’s work around the vote.
About this upcoming vote: “Macedonians will vote on Sept. 30 on a deal reached in June with neighboring Greece that would change the country’s name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia. Athens insisted on the change in return for lifting its opposition to Skopje joining NATO and the EU.”
Notes the Associated Press: “Mattis is the latest in a string of international leaders visiting Macedonia to voice support for the referendum, and he’s the most senior U.S. official to visit. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz have visited and made public endorsements of the name change, saying it’s critical in order for the country to join NATO after years of waiting.”
Speaking of NATO: catch Sec. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg in conversation with Defense One’s Kevin Baron — just after Jens spoke at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Friday. Grab your headphones because that 23-minute chat begins, here.
Turkish President Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin are in Sochi talking about Syria. Putin wants to advance his and the Syrian military’s men into the rebel-held Idlib province; but Erdogan says (Reuters) the last three days have been calm since Erdogan asked rebels that he likes in Idlib for a ceasefire.
Said one rebel commander to AP: “The whole world gave up on us, but Turkey will not.” Turkey wants Idlib to be calm and stable since it wants to eventually escort the 3 million of so Syrian refugees it hosts back south to Syria — and directly into Idlib.
For what it’s worth: “Among the estimated 60,000 opposition fighters in Idlib are at least 10,000 radicals affiliated with the al-Qaida-linked group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee),” AP writes. “Thousands of foreign fighters, from China, Europe and the Middle East, are the backbone of the radical groups.”
Other takeaways from Sochi are still developing. But Reuters has a tiny bit more, here.
Syria held its first municipal elections since 2011 on Sunday, and the Kurds said, “we’ll pass.” The Associated Press reports from the capital: “Candidates campaigned on promises to promote reconstruction after seven years of civil war left cities and towns in ruins... The Baath party, which has controlled Syria’s political and security apparatuses since the 1960s, was expected to sweep the elections.”
The region not voting: “the U.S.-backed self-administered Kurdish region in north Syria, which also includes Arab and minority populations. The region is governed by its own Syrian Democratic Council, which refused to allow the Damascus-organized elections to proceed on its territory.”
ICYMI, pt. 1: Gayle Lemmon recently returned from some of the SDC-run regions, and told us a bit about what security and the politics of the area is like in our Aug. 31 Defense One Radio episode.
ICYMI, pt. 2: Heiko Wimmen of the International Crisis Group told Defense One Radio on Sept. 7 that one of the main requests the Syrian Democratic Council has is formal autonomy from the Assad regime in Damascus.
And that request is still a big problem, AP writes this morning, since “Damascus insists it will assert its authority over the whole country.”
Back stateside: It turns out a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas was a serial killer. The man, Juan David Ortiz, "confessed to killing four women and assaulting a fifth who managed to escape" in a “10-day string of violence” around Laredo, Texas, AP reports this morning — with quite a few sad details on the victims’ surviving families.
And finally this morning, some food for thought: Want help spreading an extremist message or conspiracy theory? Here’s how to do it:
- Create a new phrase;
- get the media to spread it;
- and have your content be the first to pop up in the resulting YouTube or Google searches.
That, anyway, is the input from NYU researcher danah boyd — who described that technique and others in a Thursday presentation called “Media Manipulation, Strategic Amplification, and Responsible Journalism.” If — unlike one of your D Brief-ers — you couldn’t make it to that event, you can watch it here (boyd starts speaking at 0:16) or read it here.
What should the media do about this? Be wary. For one thing, be careful about spreading conspiracy-mongers’ phrases.
And whaddya know, Facebook says it will start fact-checking photos and videos with human reviewers and image-scanning software, The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend right here.