Today's D Brief: NATO's Stoltenberg on the Hill; Changing views of China; Russia's new hypersonic test; And a bit more.

NATO in DC, day two. NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will meet with U.S. lawmakers today on Capitol Hill, and he’ll drop by Georgetown University’s campus for an event hosted by the Brookings Institution at 12 p.m. ET.

Day one: Stoltenberg dropped by 1600 Pennsylvania for an in-person visit with President Biden on Monday, their second such meeting since June when Biden visited Brussels. According to the White House, the two men on Monday discussed “Transatlantic defense,” “strategic competitors,” “transnational threats,” and “developing a new Strategic Concept.” (The last such concept was designed in 2010, and listed “three essential core tasks” for the alliance—quite focused at the time on Iraq and Afghanistan while America’s financial crisis reverberated around the world—which NATO listed as “collective defence, crisis management, and cooperative security.”)

Comparatively speaking, NATO’s readout went into more detail about the topic of Afghanistan, with Stoltenberg’s office noting “that Allies had taken the decision to leave together after many rounds of consultations,” and that Stoltenberg himself “stressed the mission had not been in vain, as for 20 years, no terrorist attacks have been launched on our countries from Afghanistan...He [also] concluded that the difficult decision on Afghanistan does not change the need for Europe and North America to stand together in NATO.” Read more here, or register for today’s event with Brookings, here.

About Afghanistan: Refugee flights have resumed at last following a delay to inoculate travelers against measles, the Associated Press reported Monday. 

One more thing: America’s war in Afghanistan ended without anyone “missing in action behind enemy lines, and no nameless, unidentified bones to be solemnly interred in the Tomb of the Unknowns,” the New York Times reports this morning, calling it a “stunning change” from past wars. 

From Defense One

What’s Next for the Quad? // Sheila A. Smith, Council on Foreign Relations: This year’s summit has demonstrated the leaders’ ambitions. Regular leaders’ summits will be needed to maintain the pace and focus.

America Should Help Iran Get COVID Vaccines // Sina Toossi: There are at least two national-security reasons Biden should seize this opportunity.

Lockheed Opens New Hypersonic Weapons Factory In Alabama // Marcus Weisgerber: The manufacturing plant is the third digital factory opened by the world’s largest defense contractor this year.

Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1950, the U.S. military’s Eighth Army received orders to cross the 38th parallel demarcating North and South Korea. Four days later, the soldiers marched north toward Pyongyang to end the conflict. But in less than two months’ time, China would intervene and turn the entire direction of the war. Read over the U.S. Army’s five-phase chronology of the conflict, here. The Eighth Army has still more, here.

New polling on sharpening U.S. views of China. Most Americans now think trade with China weakens U.S. national security, according to a recent survey published by the Chicago Council. Fifty-eight percent felt this way, compared to 38% in 2019. And that’s “a dramatic shift from 2019,” according to the Council’s Craig Kafura. “By contrast, two years ago—in the midst of the US-China trade war—two-thirds of Americans believed that US-China trade strengthened US national security (64%, now down to 38%),” Kafura wrote on Monday, after China’s air force buzzed Taiwan in record numbers over the weekend.
Also changing: A “plurality of Americans (40%) say that China is stronger than the United States economically, up from 31 percent who said the same in 2019,” according to Kafura. However, “while pluralities of Republicans (41%) and Independents (43%) see China as the stronger economic power, Democrats are divided between seeing China as stronger (35%) and seeing the United States and China as about equal (34%).” Read on, here.
Recommended reading: The End of China’s Rise,” by Michael Beckley of Tufts University and Hal Brands of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, writing in Foreign Affairs on Oct 1.
Related viewing: A new Chinese action movie called “The Battle at Lake Changjin” was just released on Sept. 21. The New York Times calls it “very much a movie of the moment” for Beijing, whose government sponsored the film. The movie is about the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, the battle that “drove the Americans and their allies out of North Korea in the winter of 1950, setting the stage for the stalemate that ended with a cease-fire three years later,” the Times’ Steven Lee Myers and Amy Chang Chien write. “It has entered Communist Party lore as an unvarnished triumph in the infancy of the People’s Republic of China,” and it has now set new box office records for the Middle Kingdom. Read on, here

ICYMI: Another new survey shows two-thirds of young Americans aren’t itching for a fight with China. That covers adults in the 18-29 age group who (emphasis added) “believe the United States should respond to China’s rise by decreasing the US troop presence in Asia, [which is] a seven percent increase from last year,” according to results published last week by the Eurasia Group Foundation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that demo prioritizes climate change and COVID-19 over humanitarian aid and military assistance in its list of ways the U.S. should help the world.
Other notable findings regarding Americans’ views on U.S. foreign policy: 

  • More than 40% want to reduce deployed troops overseas, compared to just over 30% who want to keep current levels; and about a quarter who want to increase the number of U.S. troops abroad;
  • Fewer Americans have a stomach for a war to protect human rights, with a 14% decline since 2020;
  • “Twice as many Americans want to decrease the defense budget as increase it,” according to EGF. And this might seem mildly puzzling since the U.S. has exited Afghanistan, yet House lawmakers just passed a defense policy bill with $25 billion more than the White House requested, for a total of $768 billion. Meanwhile for Americans polled by EGF, “The most cited rationale for decreasing the defense budget is a desire to redirect resources domestically.”

Read more about EGF’s U.S. public opinion polling on other foreign policy concerns—like Afghanistan, NATO and Russia, e.g.—here.

Speaking of Russia: Moscow says it tested a submarine-launched version of its new “Tsirkon” hypersonic missile. “The missile was launched from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine from a depth of 131 feet and hit a test target in the Barents Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement accompanied by a grainy video showing missile flares lighting up the night sky,” CBS News reported Monday. Russia’s defense chief said he expects the weapon will be commissioned across the navy sometime next year. Read on, here

The two Koreas have decided to reactivate their cross-border hotline in a test of diplomatic relations that follows several different test launches from both nations over the past few weeks. The BBC has more here.

Lastly today, and in a new first, the U.S. just landed two F-35Bs on a Japanese ship. It happened on Sunday aboard Tokyo’s ship Izumo. The capability now gives Japan “an additional option for air defense in the Pacific Ocean in the near future,” said Japanese Rear Admiral Shukaku Komuta in a U.S. military news release published Tuesday. More here.