What if Biden wins?; GOP’s about-face on Covid masks; DOD says 9,500 troops will ‘redeploy’ from Germany; Russia paid the Taliban, US intercepts show; And a bit more.
SPECIAL REPORT: What if Joe Biden Wins? Defense One interviewed dozens of the former vice president’s aides, surrogates, and Obama administration officials to find out what the world should expect if he beats President Donald Trump in November. Read the results in a four-part series going up this week, to find out what would change for national security.
Teaser: “What they said is that Biden may not radically change the nation’s military, deviate from the era’s so-called great power competition, or even slash the bottom line of the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget. But how that money is spent, how the United States competes, and how the military is deployed to advance American interests certainly would.”
- Part 1: “The world does not organize itself,” Biden wrote in January. Focus on that line, and Biden’s promise to have the United States reconvene democracies in a big way and introduce a new foreign policy for the middle class (read: don’t call it globalization), writes Executive Editor Kevin Baron. But will anyone follow?
- Part 2: Biden promises to be tougher China than Trump -- but is that a good thing? Katie Bo Williams writes how Democrats are hoping to balance rhetoric with policy that seeks to compete with China by worrying less about them and more about us: building a better America.
- Part 3: Biden’s version of great power competition will look different than Trump’s go-it-alone approach. But his intent to rejoin, reaffirm, or create new multilateral agreements is no sure thing. Essentially, defense strategy — and the Pentagon’s investments in technology to execute it — may not change all that much, writes tech editor Patrick Tucker.
- Part 4: How a Biden administration would change defense spending… stay tuned: coming Thursday.
Trump threatens to veto entire defense bill over Confederate base names. Two minutes before midnight, the president tweeted a veto threat over lawmakers’ roughly $700 billion defense authorization bill if it includes a provision to strike Confederate names from military bases. Bonus target for Trump: the measure is sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
“If Trump does veto the defense bill,” Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron writes, “he'd be putting Confederate base names ahead of, let's see: troop pay, healthcare and benefits for military families, nuclear weapons, readiness for beloved great power competition, Space Force uniforms.... so, let's see how far this goes.”
Here’s the tweet, including his racist nickname for Warren: “I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!”
"The amendment was approved on a bipartisan basis," CNN's Phil Mattingly tweeted this morning, adding, Senate Majority Leader Mitch "McConnell has already said he doesn't have a problem with it." Which means, "We'll see what happens on the floor, but the President is on a sparsely populated island here."
From Defense One
SPECIAL REPORT: What if Biden Wins? // Kevin Baron: Part 1: Here’s what the world should expect from Joe Biden.
Biden’s China Policy Starts With Building a Stronger America // Katie Bo Williams: Part 2: The candidate’s surrogates are outlining a plan to beat China’s leaders, not change them.
How Biden Would Wage Great Power Competition // Patrick Tucker: Part 3: While Trump chooses go-it-alone, Biden wants allies and partners “at the forefront” of U.S. foreign policy. But his options to renew old agreements are limited.
Political Fight Over Russian Bounty on US Troops Appears to Warp Intel Debate // Katie Bo Williams: Democrats suspect the White House is trying to paint the assessment as less solid than it is.
What Putin’s New Constitution Means for Russia and the West // Patrick Tucker: A series of constitutional amendments will cement Putin’s hold on power, change Russian life, and give the West fewer options for dealing with him.
I Am Vanessa Guillen// Erin Kirk-Cuomo: I, too, was harassed, belittled, groped, touched, rubbed, threatened, assaulted, and demeaned. I was raped. Military justice needs to change.
Deepfake Threats Would Get Annual DHS Look Under Proposed Law // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: The Deepfake Report Act would require the Homeland Security Department to study the threats posed by manipulated and synthetic text and imagery.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Kevin Baron and Ben Watson. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1520, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés capped an abysmal seven-month visit to the Aztec empire with an allegedly desperate night escape from the island city of Tenochtitlan, while his men carried as much gold as they could under the cover of a rainstorm. Cortés would return to crush the Aztec empire at Tenochtitlan once and for all the following year.
In eastern Syria, Russian troops are waging “a deliberate campaign to squeeze the U.S. military out of the region”. U.S. troops are interacting with them “multiple times a week, if not daily,” Politico reported Tuesday — with particular attention on Russian pressure on U.S. positions in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region. “So far, the two sides have been able to defuse these incidents without violence, said one U.S. military officer.”
Trump quietly approved plans to “redeploy” 9,500 troops from Germany after being briefed on options by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Monday. Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman delivered the news Tuesday afternoon via screengrab on Twitter. But nobody knows what’s in the plan, and Pentagon leaders don’t seem keen to share it with the public any time soon.
“When? How? Where to?” - Reuters’ Phil Stewart tweeted.
- “The Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed the President yesterday [that is, Monday] on plans to redeploy 9,500 troops from Germany. The proposal that was approved not only meets the President’s directive, it will also enhance Russian deterrence, strengthen NATO, reassure Allies, improve U.S. strategic flexibility and U.S. European Command’s operational flexibility, and take care of our service members and their families. Pentagon leaders look forward to briefing this plan to the congressional defense committees in the coming weeks [emphasis ours], followed by consultations with NATO allies on the way forward. We will be providing timely updates to potentially affected personnel, their families and communities as planning progresses.”
“Put another way,” FP’s Jack Detsch tweeted, “President Trump has OK'd plans to draw down more than a quarter of US troops from Germany, NATO ally & the foreign nation that hosts the 2nd-most US forces of any country in the world, with no press conference, no announcement & no statement from the White House.” …or the defense secretary or the Joint Chiefs.
Congress may block: The “House Armed Services is likely to consider an NDAA amendment [today] to hinder the Germany withdrawal,” Politico’s Connor O’Brien noted.
Speaking of Germany and Trump, its special forces have a right-wing extremism problem. And so Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer “plans to disband a company of its elite KSK special forces in [an] effort to purge them of a persistent problem of far-right extremism,” Reuters reported after obtaining a defense ministry document. “...KSK operations will be moved to other units as far as possible and the commando unit’s exercises and international cooperation endeavours will be suspended until further notice.”
In case you were wondering, “The KSK aims to be 1,000-strong but has never been that big due to tough selection tests.” A bit more, here.
Meantime, back in the states: “Facebook Has Been Profiting From Boogaloo Ads Promoting Civil War And Unrest,” Buzzfeed reported Tuesday.
U.S. data intercepts show that (1) Russia paid the Taliban and (2) a key intermediary fled to Russia — and that was information the White House kept from its briefing with GOP lawmakers on Monday, the New York Times reported Tuesday, updating a story that’s been plaguing the Trump administration since it broke on Friday.
Why this matters: “The disclosures further undercut White House officials’ claim that the intelligence was too uncertain to brief President Trump,” the Times writes. “In fact, the information was provided to him in his daily written brief in late February, two officials have said.”
Trump denies: in an 0707 ET tweet “...Do people still not understand that this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level”
SecState Pompeo on Tuesday, via Twitter: “Spoke yesterday with the Taliban chief negotiator to press the Taliban to live up to their commitments under the U.S.-Taliban Agreement, including not to attack Americans.”
Also on Tuesday: Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Russia should "absolutely not" be allowed to join the G7.
And look what was just released today by the Defense Department: its semiannual report, “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” which covers December 1, 2019, through May 31, 2020. We haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but you can look it over for yourself, (PDF) here.
Later today, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe is scheduled to meet privately with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
A meeting with the so-called “Gang of Eight” lawmakers could happen on Wednesday, too, Politico’s Jake Sherman tweeted Tuesday.
111 days after the coronavirus pandemic was declared, GOP leaders are finally saying Americans should wear a mask, the Washington Post reported Tuesday evening.
Here’s AP’s headline for this public health about-face: “Republicans, with exception of Trump, now push mask-wearing”
New record: “The United States reported more than 47,000 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday - the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic,” is Al Jazeera’s lede.
Why this is an issue, per Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on Tuesday: “Unfortunately, this simple, lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do.”
Even McConnell said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday: “Put on a mask — it’s not complicated.”
Already a worst case scenario? According to Lawrence Gostin, public health expert at Georgetown: Wearing masks “might be too late...The public has received such mixed messages from the administration. I fear we may be stuck with coronavirus until it burns through the American population and leaves hundreds of thousands dead.” More from AP, here.
More than 127,000 Americans have died from coronavirus complications so far, according to Johns Hopkins University.
High anxiety: eight in 10 Americans are worried about the spread of COVID, “the highest level in more than a month,” Reuters reports, from a poll conducted June 29-30.
Congress to review troops in Black Lives Matter protests: SecDef Esper and CJCS Milley are being called before the House Armed Services Committee next Thursday, 1 p.m. ET, to discuss “Department of Defense Authorities and Roles Related to Civilian Law Enforcement.”
In case you missed it last weekend, “Cops in Arizona flew a drone over protesters and then used its surveillance footage to track down and arrest them,” Vice reported Tuesday.
And here’s some domestic drone-as-law-enforcement trivia: “The first known instances where a drone led to arrests both occurred in North Dakota,” Vice writes. “In 2012, Rodney Brossart was surveilled using a Department of Homeland Security Predator drone and then was raided by police. In 2014, North Dakota police used a smaller drone to track down four DUI suspects when they ran through a cornfield.” More, here.
Pompeo asked the UN Security Council for an indefinite arms embargo on Iran, but no one followed, the New York Times reported Tuesday. The current UN embargo on Iran ends on Oct. 18, and includes exports of “most kinds of weapons, including aircraft and tanks,” the Times writes, adding, “Some limits on missile and nuclear technology will remain in place for a few more years.”
Say what, Russia? Here’s FP’s Colum Lynch: “Heated U.N. meeting on Iran arms embargo today in which Germany basically accused the US of violating international law and Russia's ambassador said U.S. sanctions on Iran were akin to ‘putting a knee to one's neck.’” Um.