Today's D Brief: Biden’s COVID summit; Vaccine diplomacy, cont.; Milley in Helsinki; Lithuania’s Chinese phone warning; And a bit more.
Two days after COVID-19 became America’s deadliest pandemic in recorded history, U.S. President Joe Biden is hosting a virtual COVID summit of world leaders. According to White House officials, Biden will announce that the U.S. is buying another 500 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines and will send them to low- and lower-middle income countries. “They’ll start shipping out in January,” which brings “our total to over 1.1 billion vaccines donated to the world…free of charge, no strings attached,” officials told reporters in a preview.
One stumbling block: Many of those developing nations often don’t have the infrastructure needed to handle a sudden influx of refrigerated vaccines from the U.S. The Pentagon has even stepped up and provided “$8.6 million in cold-chain storage containers…to 16 countries,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. But otherwise, “A Unicef spokesman said around 80% of countries that have asked for ultracold freezers should receive them by the end of September.”
In case you were wondering: The U.S. is ahead of China when it comes to donated vaccines, having already “donated and delivered more than 114 million doses…to around 80 mostly developing nations across Asia, Africa, and Latin America,” CNBC reported on Sept. 9. China follows with 34 million donated doses, trailed closely by Japan with just over 23 million.
Recall that in August, China’s Xi Jinping made headlines promising to provide 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of the year, though he left unclear how many would be donated and how many China would continue selling to other nations. As the New York Times reported in early August, “China is the world’s top exporter of Covid-19 vaccines and has sold 952 million doses worldwide, according to Bridge Consulting, a Beijing-based research company.”
Bigger picture: “So far, one-third of the world’s population has been fully vaccinated, but that falls to less than 1 percent of people in low-income countries,” according to the South China Morning Post. Read on for more about China’s global vaccine ambitions, and how some nations—like Thailand, e.g.—are “mixing Sinovac doses with AstraZeneca jabs” over worries about its efficacy amid the Delta variant’s rise, here.
And back stateside: You gotta be vaccinated if you’re gonna visit AUSA this year, according to a policy update from event officials posted last week. Due in part to the spread of COVID-19’s Delta variant, “attendees will be asked to upload proof that full vaccination was completed at least 14 days prior to arriving in Washington, D.C.,” AUSA announced last Tuesday.
“There will be no exceptions to the requirement to be vaccinated,” AUSA officials reminded members in an email Tuesday. Otherwise, everything should all look quite familiar, including more than 650 exhibits across five halls and two levels of the Convention Center. Details here.
From Defense One
Biden Counters China’s Allegations Of A New ‘Cold War’ In UN Speech // Jacqueline Feldscher: The president’s remarks on human rights, freedom of navigation, and authoritarianism were a thinly veiled message to Beijing.
Trump’s Red, White & Blue Air Force One Paint Job is Not Final, General Says // Marcus Weisgerber: The concept image is “just something that’s on a paper,” according to Air Force acquisition official.
Why France Is Getting No Sympathy for Its Lost Sub Deal // Elisabeth Braw: Its European neighbors have long bristled at Paris’ self-dealing and aggressive sales tactics.
AFA Conference Wire: China Warnings and B-21 Numbers // Defense One Staff : News and notes from Day 2 of the 2021 Air Force Association's Air-Space-Cyber conference.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1995, an Air Force E-3 Sentry crashed, killing all 24 on board after two of its four engines hit several geese shortly after departure from Alaska's Elmendorf Air Force Base.
America’s top military officer is meeting with his Russian counterpart in Helsinki, the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold reports from Finland, where “U.S. military officials declined to provide any details of the meeting, except to issue a brief statement saying the two discussed ‘risk reduction and operational de-confliction.’”
This makes the fourth European stop in three days for Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley. NATO chiefs of defense met Monday in Athens before later stops in Berlin and London on Monday and Tuesday. More behind all that from Lubold, here.
The Taliban say they want to speak at this week’s annual UN meeting in New York, which still lists the former Afghan government’s representative to the UN, Ghulam Isaczai, as a speaker on the final day. The Tuesday request highlights the awkwardness of the Taliban’s abrupt ascent to power in Kabul nearly five weeks ago and it throws into greater uncertainty Ambassador Isaczai’s role on the itinerary.
The process could take a bit longer than the Taliban wish since, according to Reuters, the relevant UN credentialing committee “traditionally meets in October or November to assess the credentials of all U.N. members before submitting a report for General Assembly approval before the end of the year.”
By the way, an Air Force F-16 intercepted a single-engine plane that violated UN flight restrictions over New York on Tuesday after its departure from West Point, CNN first reported.
The intercepted aircraft was piloted by an Army instructor as part of a civil and mechanical engineering class, Military Times writes. “Once they realized they had violated the airspace, they immediately left the area and returned to the airport,” a West Point spokesperson said.
Lithuania’s Defense Ministry is urging citizens to avoid buying Chinese mobile phones from Xiaomi Corp, and to throw away any they may have now “after a government report found the devices had built-in censorship capabilities” covering more than 400 different words, Reuters reported Tuesday from Vilnius.
What’s more, “the Xiaomi phone was sending encrypted phone usage data to a server in Singapore,” and a related “security flaw was also found in the P40 5G phone by China's Huawei.”
About Xiaomi: According to the BBC, “The smartphone maker has soared in popularity with affordable models, seeing a 64% rise in revenue in its second quarter compared to a year earlier.”
BTW: Zoom wants to buy a San Jose-based software company, Five9, so the Department of Justice has stepped in to investigate “citing potential national-security risks posed by the U.S. videoconferencing giant’s China ties,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
This week in tricky cyber defense news, the FBI spent three weeks trying to snoop on ransomware operatives after agents obtained a decryption key this summer for the group known as REvil. However, “The planned takedown never occurred because in mid-July, REvil’s platform went offline—without U.S. government intervention—and the hackers disappeared before the FBI had a chance to execute its plan,” the Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima and Rachel Lerman reported Tuesday.
And finally today: RIP, Bob Reisman of Stars and Stripes. He recently passed away after complications from surgery, Chad Garland tweeted Wednesday morning. “You won't have seen his byline. For decades, he was part of another crucial part of our mission: getting newspapers to deployed troops. Colleagues call him ‘the ultimate ‘paperboy.’”
See Bob describe his own work out of Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base in a recent documentary entitled, “The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route,” here.