Update: Seven U.S. troops were injured by that collision with the Russian military in Syria on Tuesday, the Defense Department announced Thursday.
The Russians “breached our deconfliction arrangement in Syria and injured U.S. service members with their deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. “We have advised the Russians that their behavior was dangerous and unacceptable. We expect a return to routine and professional deconfliction in Syria and reserve the right to defend our forces vigorously whenever their safety is put at risk.”
Russia says it notified the U.S. before its patrol; but CENTCOM says that’s not true, CNN reported Thursday. Read over the Russian Defense Ministry’s claim alongside a statement from U.S. Central Command spokesman Capt. William Urban, here.
BTW: Russia just carried out its biggest war games near Alaska “since Soviet times,” AP reports from Moscow. "More than 50 warships and about 40 aircraft were taking part in the exercise in the Bering Sea, which involved multiple practice missile launches," according to Russia’s navy chief, Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov.
For the record: “the Russian military exercise is taking place in international waters, well outside U.S. territory,” U.S. Northern Command spokesman Bill Lewis told AP.
The ostensible purpose for the drills: Arctic development. “We are getting used to the Arctic spaces,” Yevmenov said. “We are building up our forces to ensure the economic development of the region.” Read more, including the surfacing of an Omsk nuclear submarine, here.
Meanwhile, in Nevada: Feds have charged a Russian man with attempting to bribe Tesla employees to inject malware into the electric-car company’s network. Officials announced the charges on Tuesday without naming the company. On Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed it was his. (Ars Technica)
China launched several ballistic missiles at targets in the South China Sea during military exercises this week, the U.S. military confirmed Thursday. A defense official initially told Reuters four medium-range ballistic missiles were involved and they landed “between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands.” The Pentagon’s Thursday statement, however, referred only to “the firing of ballistic missiles, around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on August 23-29.”
The U.S. military’s bigger issue is with those exercises rather than just the launches; and the Pentagon’s statement describes the drills as “the latest in a long string of [People’s Republic of China] actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper apparently watched missile launches of his own during his trip to the Pacific region this week. His public affairs team posted a video of that Thursday evening on Twitter; then apparently deleted it sometime overnight — quite possibly because Chief Pentagon spox Jonathan Hoffman tweeted it out already with a slightly different message.
FWIW: The U.S. Navy has exercised in the South China Sea twice since July; Reuters covered those latest drills with a short report, here; and the July drills, which involved two aircraft carriers, here. “We urge all parties to exercise restraint and not undertake military activities that could threaten freedom of navigation and aggravate disputes in the South China Sea,” the Pentagon said in its Thursday statement, which made no mention of its Navy’s July and August exercises.
For the record: “Missiles are not just ballistic anymore, even many of the ones that are called ballistic,” researchers from the Aerospace Corporation's Center for Space Policy and Strategy write in a new report (PDF).
Why this problem of definitions is a bigger issue than it may seem: “Using old classifications, we risk mischaracterizing the threats missiles pose and pursuing incorrect and ineffective ways to mitigate them," they warn. (h/t Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
One last China-related thing: Chinese energy companies used a money-laundering network in Stockholm to buy Iranian oil, according to a report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project this week. Find that deep dive, here.
From Defense One
Can AI Solve the Rare Earths Problem? Chinese and U.S. Researchers Think So // Patrick Tucker: A research effort funded by China and the U.S. could speed up the discovery of new materials to use in electronics.
US Shipyards Lack Needed Repair Capacity, Admiral Says // Marcus Weisgerber: And that’s just in peacetime.
Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Palantir draws back the veil, Drone maker layoffs, New START’s expiration costs, and more
US Navy Turns to Drones, AI to Monitor Rust // Patrick Tucker: The service has hired a Google partner to apply technology that has already changed cancer treatment and road repair.
Vindman Twin Alleges Retaliation To DOD IG // Katie Bo Williams: Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman says he reported “legal compliance and ethics violations” by NSA Robert O’Brien.
In a Robot War, Kill the Humans // Zak Kallenborn: Even if advances in robotics mean fewer humans on the battlefield, the fight will increasingly focus on those that remain.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. 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 1955, Black teenager Emmett Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi. His death helped galvanize the American civil rights movement; his accuser would later confess she lied about the entire episode.
Arizona, Alabama, and Michigan National Guardsmen are deploying to Kenosha, Wisc., to help local law enforcement — and they could arrive as early as this evening, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Those National Guard members, much like the Wisconsin National Guard, are not federalized troops,” said Wisconsin National Guard Commander Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp. And that’s a key point, since President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he would send “federal law enforcement and the National Guard” to the city. However, the tri-state ensemble of Guard troops headed to Kenosha were dispatched thanks to an agreement between those states’ governors and not the president, the Journal notes.
The white teenage gunman who allegedly killed two protesters Tuesday evening was charged Thursday with six offenses by the Kenosha County District Attorney. Those charges include first degree reckless homicide; first degree recklessly endangering safety; first degree intentional homicide; attempted first degree intentional homicide; first degree recklessly endangering safety; and possession of a dangerous weapon.
Report: White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across the country. The Brennan Center report by Michael German, a former FBI special agent who has written about U.S. law enforcement agencies’ failures to respond to far-right domestic terror threats, finds that “US law enforcement officials have been tied to racist militant activities in more than a dozen states since 2000, and hundreds of police officers have been caught posting racist and bigoted social media content,” The Guardian reports.
Afghan officials say Taliban peace talks will start soon; the Taliban disagree. Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, as well as Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, are both saying publicly that the so-called "intra-Afghan" peace talks will happen at some point in "early September," according to Reuters. But the Taliban’s lead negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai said there are no such talks planned for that time.
As has been the case for several weeks now, “The Taliban has been demanding 5,000 prisoners be released before it moves to talks, but the Afghan government has stalled the release with 320 to go, a handful of whom foreign powers including France and Australia object to releasing.”
In addition, “The Afghan government is also demanding a small number of Afghan security force members it says the Taliban are still holding be released.” Read on, here.
Japanese PM Abe resigns because of declining health. Prime Minister Shinzo “Abe suffers from colitis, a non-curable inflammatory bowel disease, which was also a factor in his sudden resignation as prime minister in 2007, ending his first term after just over a year in office," CNN reports. "On Monday morning, Abe visited Keio University Hospital in Tokyo for what was his second hospital visit in a week.”
What now? “Japan is not a presidential system, instead the country's leader is chosen by parliamentarians, so the next LDP leader, whoever that is, should have an easy path to becoming prime minister. Abe said he will remain in office until a successor is chosen.”
Space Force picks a duty uniform. It’s camo — specifically, the Operational Camouflage Pattern introduced by the Army in 2015 to replace the pixelated Universal Camouflage Pattern and the blobbier Multicam. Setting aside the tactical advantages of wearing camo behind computer terminals, the new pattern should at least cost less than its predecessors. OCP was developed by government employees and is therefore not subject to licensing fees. An Air Force press release has a bit more on uniform guidance.
Apropos of nothing: A shark interrupted a Coast Guard swim call. Last Friday, members of the crew of the cutter Kimball were taking a dip in Oceania waters when a 6-foot shark arrived. Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Cintron, a maritime enforcement specialist who was standing shark guard, fired more than a dozen shots at or near the shark. — all caught on Coast Guard video. Watch, here.
Lastly this week: The Call of Duty franchise has a new game coming out in November. And in this newest iteration, The Verge reports “Ronald Reagan sends you to do war crimes,” according to the slow, dialogue-heavy events that play out in a three-minute trailer released this week on YouTube.
Check out the promo video for yourself, here. And, for the record, don’t count us as terribly surprised; the series isn’t exactly known for its characters’ strict adherence to the Geneva Conventions.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!