The D Brief: NATO summit wrap; Biden’s goals for Putin meeting; Korean border robots; Grim wildfire predictions; And a bit more...

NATO summit loud on Russia, quieter on China. Alliance leaders emerged from their Monday summit united in their determination to counter Russia, but American officials have yet to convince their alliance counterparts to oppose China with similar full-throatedness, Defense One’s Jacqueline Feldscher reported Monday. The communique from the summit mentions Russia 62 times, and China just 10.

Next up: Biden-Putin summit: President Joe Biden said he received nothing but support for his plans to meet with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva. “When asked if any international leaders worried that the meeting could be seen as rewarding the Russian leader for committing human rights abuses and invading another sovereign country, Biden said every NATO official he spoke with thanked him for his diplomatic outreach,” Feldscher wrote.

Biden’s Geneva aims: The president told reporters on his first international trip that “he intends to tell Putin that the two nations should find areas where they can work together. But Biden also said he will make clear ‘where the red lines are’ in areas such as cyber attacks,” Feldscher wrote.

That’s a good step, write Glenn Nye and James Kitfield at Defense One, noting that other Biden administration officials have said they hope the summit produces simply a more “stable and predictable” relationship between the two nuclear-weapons superpowers. “To grasp the difficulty for both sides to clear even that low bar, it’s important to understand just how unstable and dangerously unpredictable U.S.-Russia relations have become,” Nye and Kitfield write, offering a quick tour of how we got here and what might come next. Read that, here.


From Defense One

After Trump ‘Chaos,’ National Security Seeks a Return to ‘Regular Order’ // Jacqueline Feldscher: The Biden White House is reinvigorating an interagency process some argue had largely halted under the Trump administration.

NATO Condemns Russia’s ‘Aggressive Actions’ Ahead of Biden-Putin Meeting // Jacqueline Feldscher: President Joe Biden spent a full day consulting with NATO allies about countering Russia and China.

The Air & Space Brief // Tara Copp: F-35 production, post-COVID; Air Force One, late; Over the Horizon, explained...

NATO’s Nuclear Two-Step // Richard Lennane: An alliance that avows nuclear disarmament should not cling so dangerously to its weapons.

Is Climate Change America’s Greatest Security Threat? // John Conger: Hint: that’s not the right question.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1389, a Serbian army turned back Ottoman invaders at the Battle of Kosovo, sparking a mythos that has shaped Balkan society ever since.


NSC, defense leaders aim to restore orderly policy process. “Biden’s team is committed to returning national security-making to regular order, including giving agency heads regular access to the president, holding scheduled meetings, and in many ways recreating the panel’s place during the Obama administration,” Feldscher writes in a separate article. “It’s a mantra being echoed even by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon...”

“What the team inherited” from its predecessors, said John Gans, who published a book about the National Security Council in 2019, was “disused, it was dysfunctional, and it was completely totally disconnected from any of the traditions and processes and norms by which the National Security Council has functioned for 70-something years.” Read on, here.

New ICBM to test-launch in 2023. The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent is to achieve initial operational capability in 2029 and be fully deployed with 400 missiles in 2036, Air Force officials said Monday. 

The missile is currently “test-flying” in a “modeling and simulation environment,” Air Force GBSD program manager Col. Jason Bartolomei said at an AFA Doolittle Leadership Center virtual forum (watch it, here).

6 billion variants assessed. The missile and its associated systems are being designed fully digitally, which service officials said allowed them to envision, price out, and test a tremendous variety of ideas during the program’s technology maturation and risk reduction phase. From 2016 to 2020, program officials looked at “six billion different configurations” of the missile, showing the “cost versus capability of their design for every requirement,” Bartolomei said.

Minutemen are decaying; GBSD is the answer. Air Force leaders used part of the session to defend the decision to build new ICBMs and associated systems instead of (again) overhauling the existing Minutemen IIIs or dropping the land-based leg of the nuclear triad entirely. For example, the “brine chiller lines” that cool the launch support building are “severely corroded” at “all 400-plus sites,” said Col. Erik Quigley, director of the Minuteman III systems directorate. Air Force Magazine’s John Tirpak has more from the session, here.

Border guard robots and AI surveillance. South Korea’s arms procurement agency is spending $2.5 million on a border guard robot with a high-resolution camera that can “move along a rail at a speed of 5 meters per second,” and an AI-based surveillance system, also for the border, designed to “analyze sounds and moving patterns” from a CCTV feed. Details, here.

U.S. military arms go missing. At least 1,900 military weapons were lost or stolen in the 2010s, including a pistol linked to four shootings in Albany, N.Y., and a semi-automatic weapon used in an armed robbery in Boston, according to a new AP report. Military explosives—like a box of armor-piercing grenades found in a backyard in Atlanta—were also taken.

The weapons were taken from trains, supply warehouses, Navy ships, and more, and “disappeared because of unlocked doors, sleeping troops, a surveillance system that didn’t record, break-ins and other security lapses.” The losses spanned the globe, “touching installations from coast to coast, as well as overseas,” AP writes. Read more, here.

And finally today: record drought portends grim wildfire season. Last year was the worst year on record for wildfires in the American West. Nearly 16,000 square miles burned, killing at least 37 people and causing nearly $20 billion in property damage and firefighting costs. 

But 2021 might be worse, thanks to a drought that has the region drier than it has been in two decades, the New York Times reported over the weekend.

Needed: drought forecasting and planning that factors in climate change. “We’ve now had two dry years,” said Jeanine Jones, the interstate resources manager for the California Department of Water Resources, but “this is all occurring in the context of a longer period, a couple of decades, of generally dry and much warmer conditions.”

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