The D Brief: Climate emergency worsens; Russia’s Ukraine buildup; QAnon, weaponized; ‘Do not travel’ warning expanded; And a bit more...
The climate emergency is getting worse, the UN reports. Some highlights from “State of the Global Climate 2020,” released on Monday:
- “2020 was one of the three warmest years on record. The past six years, including 2020, have been the six warmest years on record.”
- “The trend in sea-level rise is accelerating. In addition, ocean heat storage and acidification are increasing, diminishing the ocean’s capacity to moderate climate change.”
- Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is at a 3-million-year high, and is still rising, despite the pandemic’s economic slowdown.
- The 2020 North Atlantic hurricane season was exceptionally active.
- Weather and climate events displaced an estimated 9.8 million people in the first half of 2020.
Dozens of nations have commited to Biden’s climate virtual summit, but many are skeptical, given the previous U.S. administration’s efforts to undermine climate action, the Washington Post reports. The two-day meeting will convene on Thursday.
What to expect: The Biden administration’s “expected aggressive plan to cut U.S. emissions — probably around 50 percent by the end of the decade, compared with 2005 levels — has been telegraphed by officials for weeks. It would basically double the goal first put forward by President Barack Obama as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.”
Also: the world’s two biggest carbon polluters have agreed to talk separately. The United States and China “agreed to address climate change with ‘seriousness and urgency’ during talks last week between Biden’s climate envoy, John F. Kerry, and a counterpart from China,” the Post writes.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres asked countries on Monday “to commit to a target similar to the one Biden will probably endorse: a cut in global emissions of 45 percent by 2030.”
From Defense One
Afghanistan Will Know No Peace Without Pressure on Pakistan // M. Ashraf Haidari: Inconsistent global powers, foreign politics, and indifference to Pakistan’s Taliban sponsorship continue to frustrate Afghans and spoil peace efforts.
Biden Should Sink This Proposed Nuclear Weapon // Kingston Reif and Monica Montgomery: None of the arguments for the nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile hold water.
The USAF’s Bad Bets on Pilot Retention Show It Needs Outside Help // Brian Kruchkow and Tobias Switzer: Service leaders think the same old tactics can reverse a pilot shortage in a resurging economy.
Release the Last ‘Low-Value’ Afghanistan POW Held at Gitmo // Mark Maher and Tara J. Plochocki: International law required the U.S. to release Asadullah Haroon Gul five years ago. Now there is truly no reason to hold him.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. OTD1898: Congress passes a joint resolution for war with Spain, beginning a fight that will make the United States a Pacific power.
Russia’s buildup near Ukraine is huge, satellite photos reveal. The Pentagon on Monday called it the largest since the 2014 invasion. And it’s bigger than has been previously known publicly, according to commercial imagery posted on the WSJ, which “show Su-30 fighters lined up on a runway at an air base in Crimea. The aircraft, which are shown in a satellite photo from April 16, hadn’t been there in late March.” They join “the stationing of Su-34, Su-30, Su-27, Su-25 and Su-24 aircraft elsewhere in the region”
How big? “According to one U.S. military official, the Russian force currently includes 48 battalion tactical groups, which consist of several hundred soldiers and officers each.”
“Other Russian military units on the Crimean peninsula include airborne troops, motorized rifle and armored units, attack helicopters, smoke generators, reconnaissance drones, jamming equipment and a military hospital, the photos indicate.”
The Pentagon is preparing options, including directly arming Ukraine with defensive weapons, but none have been presented to President Biden, they report. More here. And more on the ground response from the New York Times, here, which notes, “Few analysts believe that Moscow intends to invade.”
Putin’s purpose? Said press secretary John Kirby in a press briefing, “We certainly heard the Russians proclaim that this is all about training. It's not completely clear to us that's exactly the purpose. So we are — we remain seriously concerned about this build up, and we call on Russia to be more transparent about their intentions.”
‘Do Not Travel’ warning expanded to 80% of countries. The State Department on Monday dramatically increased the list of no-go locations for Americans, due to COVID surges. It comes as the “World Health Organization (WHO) warned the world was ‘approaching the highest rate of infection.’” Canada is particularly hard-hit, at the moment, with new lockdowns in Ontario. Your three options for “normal” travel left on Earth: Macau, Taiwan and New Zealand.
By the numbers: COVID killed around 750 people each day in the past two weeks in the United States — and more than 567,000 people since the pandemic began. (NYT)
A bit of progress in Iran nuke talks. Washington Post: “Negotiators in Vienna have begun drafting proposals for the United States and Iran to return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, officials involved in the talks said Monday. “Practical solutions are still far away,” Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian delegate to the talks, said on Twitter. “But we have moved from general words to agreeing on specific steps toward the goal.”
Russia, China, and others pushed QAnon lies in bid to weaken the U.S., the Soufan Group writes in a new report. The document is based partly on analysis by Limbik, a company that studies the course of information online.
A world leader was killed in combat. Idriss Déby, the 68-year old, 30-year leader of Chad — who allegedly won reelection last week with 79% of the vote — died Monday. He was “injured in a battle with rebels advancing on the capital from the country’s northern border with Libya,” a government spokesman announced, per the Wall Street Journal.
Déby “was a long-time ally of France and other Western powers in the battle against jihadist groups in the Sahel region of Africa,” the BBC said, noting that came to power in his own armed uprising.
His 37-year old son will rule for the next 18 months, the government declared.
Today on the Hill:
- Live, now: STRATCOM and SPACECOM are testifying to senators. Read the written testimony from Gen. Charles Richard and Gen. James Dickinson, and watch the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing here.
- 11 a.m. ET: House hearing on MENA. CENTCOM’s Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, and AFRICOM’s Gen. Stephen Townsend will testify to the House Armed Services Committee with Amanda Dory, acting defense undersecretary for policy (who is sitting in while Colin Kahl’s nomination remains blocked). Watch that, here.
Two groups that directed emergency responses to hacks will stand down. Convened by the Biden White House to help agencies and companies recover from the SolarWinds and Microsoft hacks, the unified coordination groups have served their purpose, Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology, said Monday.
“Due to the vastly increased patching and reduction in victims, we are standing down the current UCG surge efforts and will be handling further responses through standard incident management procedures,” Neuberger said in a statement.
Lessons from the groups, which included representatives from the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, will be applied in future efforts, she said. (The Hill)
Lastly today: Guard, Army tire of DC requests for help. AP: “In the wake of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, states around the nation sent about 26,000 Guard troops to D.C. to help secure Biden’s inauguration. But as weeks went by, divisions over the treatment of some Guard members — including complaints about food, resting areas and overcrowding amid COVID-19 fears — began to fester, and state leaders started pulling their troops home or openly opposing additional extensions.” The city wrangled an extension in March for a few of those troops.
But Guard officials say they’ll fill only one-quarter of the latest request by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser for help as a jury begins deliberation in the murder trial of a Minneapolis policeman. “Defense officials said the long-term commitment has created funding issues and made it harder for Guard units to meet other commitments. In addition, Guard members must take time off their regular jobs to perform their military missions, and officials said employers are becoming weary of the lengthy time off,” AP writes.