Today's D Brief: EU bans flights over Belarus; Biden-Putin meeting set; Tragedy at Nellis; NG leaving DC; And a bit more.

The EU has imposed a flight ban on Belarus and is promising economic sanctions after authorities in Belarus this weekend used an air force jet to force a Lithuania-bound passenger plane to land in Minsk so journalist Raman Pratasevich could be arrested and detained. Read the EU’s terms for the ban, here.

Worth noting: “Belarus, though not in the EU, borders three EU countries,” which are Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the BBC reports. “Many flights to and from Asia as well as within Europe use its airspace.” Singapore Airlines, e.g., has already diverted flights away from Belarus. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called for “an urgent international investigation into the dangerous forced landing,” adding that “journalist Raman Pratasevich & [his companion] Sofia Sapega must be immediately released.”

“Outrageous” and “a direct affront to international norms” is how U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday described the actions of Belarus authorities.

“I welcome the news that the European Union has called for targeted economic sanctions and other measures and have asked my team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organizations,” Biden said in a White House statement

Biden’s national security advisor spoke to Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya by phone Monday. NSA Jake Sullivan “strongly condemned the brazen and dangerous grounding of a Ryanair flight between two EU member states on May 23 and the subsequent removal and detention of journalist Raman Pratasevich,” the White House said.

For what it’s worth, “French President Emmanuel Macron said he would like the Belarusian opposition to be invited to meet Group of Seven leaders at a summit in Britain next month,” Reuters reports

New: A Biden-Putin summit is now officially set for June 16 in Geneva, the White House announced this morning, noting Biden’s desire “to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship.” 

In context: “The summit would come at the end of Biden’s first foreign trip as president, a weeklong swing through Europe that includes a stop in the United Kingdom for a Group of Seven summit of leaders,” before visiting NATO in Brussels, the Associated Press reports in a preview. 


From Defense One

Estimated Cost of US Nuclear Modernization Jumps 28 Percent // Patrick Tucker: The Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate puts the price tag at $634 billion as some lawmakers try to bring it back down.

How Pentagon Cash Helped Save Small Defense Companies During the Pandemic // Marcus Weisgerber: Business leaders are now calling on defense officials and lawmakers to keep a policy that pays contractors more money up front.

The Air & Space Brief // Tara Copp: Space Force vs. Army; Budget Day; Leaders testify; and more...

I Felt More Welcome in Combat Than I Did on Base // Jackie Munn, The Atlantic: A poor command climate can make women feel unsupported and alone.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1953, the U.S. conducted its only nuclear artillery test, known as Upshot-Knothole Grable, at the Nevada Test Site.


Crash at Nellis AFB kills Dassault Aviation Mirage F-1 pilot. A contractor-piloted aircraft crashed in Nevada on Monday, just outside the southern gate to Nellis Air Force Base at about 2:30 p.m., local KVVU news reported, after base officials and the National Transportation Safety Board acknowledged the incident in separate tweets. The pilot’s name has not yet been released, pending the next-of-kin notification process.
Involved: The Florida-based company Draken, which flies “red air” or “aggressor” missions while training Air Force pilots, Defense News reports. Read a bit more at The Drive, here, or at the USAF’s most recent release, here.

After more than four months of duty, the final 1,700 or so National Guard troops are at last set to depart the nation’s capital on Wednesday.
For the record, “The Pentagon hasn’t provided an updated cost estimate [for this assignment] since March, when it said it had spent $521 million,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
What next for Capitol security? The Washington Post tackles the likelihood of passage for the House’s $1.9 trillion security plan, including nearly half a billion for the National Guard. That bill, however, has a fairly uncertain path ahead in the Senate.

Afghanistan exit latest: The U.S. has completed somewhere between 16% and 25% of its “retrograde” process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, Central Command officials announced Tuesday morning. That includes “the equivalent of approximately 160 C-17 loads of material” and “more than 10,000 pieces of equipment.”
This time last week, CENTCOM’s estimate put the process at 13 to 20% complete with “five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.” That facility number has not grown since May 18.

The largest surveillance equipment manufacturer in the world, Hikvision, has “long-established links to China’s military, including conducting a study with Chinese weapons experts and supplying cameras and drones to the country’s air force,” the Wall Street Journal reports, citing the work of IPVM, a surveillance research company based in Pennsylvania.
One reason this matters: The Pentagon put Hikvision on its list of banned vendors with links to the Chinese military, a claim company officials have since disputed, according to the Journal. However, Hikvision’s own website even posted a study about how to improve the accuracy of weapons for the People’s Liberation Army. “The report was taken down from Hikvision’s website for several days this month after The Wall Street Journal contacted the company for comment.”
Another reason this matters: The U.S. military had been using some of Hikvision’s equipment in, e.g., a base in Missouri. Continue reading here.

And finally: Following AP’s reporting from the Arctic last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Thomas Grove has turned in a great companion report to help you better understand Russia’s military ambitions around the Arctic.
Included: A map of Russia’s dug-in and protected air-defense zones near the North Pole.
Another reason to watch this region: economic growth. “More than 1,000 ships plied the waters [north of Russia] last year with liquefied natural gas or cargo, [which was] 25% more vessels than in 2019.” Continue reading, here.

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