Today's D Brief: Quantum breakthrough?; CyberCom takedown; Iran vs. USN; Addis Ababa braces for war; And a bit more.

Ukraine’s military says there are still nearly 90,000 Russian troops staged about 160 miles from its border after recent exercises. “After the completion of these operational and combat trainings, units and subdivisions of the 41st Army remained deployed in the European part of Russia, particularly in the vicinity of the city of Yelnya, Smolensk region, at a distance of about 260 kilometers from the state border with Ukraine,” the defense ministry said Tuesday evening. 

And this could be for the purpose of exerting pressure on Kyiv, as has happened before, the ministry added: “It should be noted that the Russian Federation periodically resorts to the practice of transferring and accumulating military units in order to maintain tensions in the region and political pressure on neighboring states.” More here.

CJCS Milley’s reax: What’s happening is “nothing overtly aggressive,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley said Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington. “We’ve seen this before,” he continued, referencing the recurring Zapad drills Russia conducts with Belarus. Given publicly available information, Milley said it’s simply “Too early to tell” if Russia’s movements (or static activity, as with Yelnya) point to anything worrisome. “But we're continuing to monitor with all our capabilities,” Milley said.

From the region: Poland says armed people crossed into its territory from Belarus Monday evening, suggesting it bears the “hallmarks of a deliberate escalation” of Minsk’s alleged efforts to weaponize the flow of migrants to European Union countries. Now Belarus’s charge d'affaires has been summoned to Warsaw for an explanation. Tiny bit more from Reuters, here.

From Defense One

Quantum Sensor Breakthrough Paves Way For GPS-Free Navigation // Patrick Tucker: The main problem wasn’t weird subatomic physics. It was finding a simpler way to maintain a vacuum.

The Defense Policy Bill Is Late Again. This Year, the GOP Is Blaming Democrats // Jacqueline Feldscher: Four of the past 10 NDAAs passed the Senate in November or December.

Lockheed Martin and Verizon to Partner to Develop 5G Tech for the Military // Marcus Weisgerber: The companies recently connected a military communications network to a commercial 5G network.

‘Nine Eyes’? Bill Would Look at Adding Four Countries to Intel-Sharing Pact // Tara Copp: Lawmaker says current ‘Anglophile view’ is insufficient against China.

DISA Enlists AI to Fight Cyber Threats // Brandi Vincent: The agency is also creating a Chief Data Officer.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Caitlin Kenney. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1894, a boy who would become Canada's most decorated service member was born on a farm in central Manitoba. His name was William George Barker, and he would later join the military four months into the First World War, where his accuracy with rifles led him into service as a gunner and later as a pilot with the British Flying Corps. He officially shot down nearly three dozen aircraft but suffered several serious injuries before receiving Canada's Victoria Cross, as well as its Distinguished Service Order and Bar, the Military Cross and two Bars, two Silver Medals from Italy for valor, and even the French Croix de guerre. He later perished in a biplane crash near Ottawa 11 years after the war ended, at the age of 35.

U.S. Cyber Command teamed up with an unspecified foreign government to take down servers from the ransomware group REvil, the Washington Post reports this morning.
Background: “The Washington Post previously reported that REvil’s servers had been hacked in the summer, permitting the FBI to have access. The compromise allowed the FBI, working with the foreign partner, to gain access to the servers and private keys...The bureau was then able to share that information last month with Cybercom, enabling the hijacking.” Continue reading, here.

Iran alleges one of its oil tankers was briefly detained by the U.S. Navy in the Sea of Oman, but Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards then “carried out a heliborne operation on the detained tanker’s deck, gained control of the vessel, and directed it back toward Iran’s territorial waters,” according to state-run Press TV.
So far, Iran has given “no details of the date of the incident or the country where the vessel is registered,” Agence France-Presse reports.
FWIW, Reuters reached out to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain. Officials there said they “had seen reports of the incident but at present had no information to provide.”
Developing: “U.S. officials say multiple drones, believed to be Iranian, had unsafe and unprofessional interaction with the USS Essex warship in the Strait of Hormuz in the past 24 hours,” Reuters’ Idrees Ali tweets this morning. 

Ethiopia’s capital city could fall in a matter of weeks, rebels told AFP as they headed south toward Addis Ababa. “The comments came hours after Ethiopia declared a nationwide state of emergency Tuesday and ordered residents of Addis Ababa to prepare to defend their neighbourhoods,” AFP writes.
The nationwide state of emergency authorizes conscription for military-age citizens, and it gives the state the power to shutter media outlets it deems unfriendly.
BTW: The UN’s human rights chief just published an investigation into alleged executions and other atrocities between last November through June 2021. Several of them “may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes,” according to the report, which probed activity from both government troops and the main rebel force, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Meanwhile, “Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to verify independently,” AFP reports. Continue reading, here.

French officials are still steaming over that submarine row with Australia in September. France’s ambassador to Australia accused his host country of “intentional deceit” in remarks to reporters on Wednesday “because there was far more at stake than providing submarines, because it was a common agreement on sovereignty, sealed with the transmission of highly classified data, the way it was handled was a stab in the back.”
Australia’s prime minister deflected the ambassador’s frustrations in his own reply to reporters, saying Wednesday, “Claims were made and claims were refuted, what is needed now is for us to move on.”
ICYMI: French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday accused the prime minister of lying to him over the submarine deal, according to his remarks on the sidelines of this weekend’s G20 meeting in Rome.
“We didn’t steal an island, we didn’t deface the Eiffel Tower. It was a contract,” Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce told reporters on Monday. Reuters has more from that one, here
Apropos of nothing: Watch Parisian soldiers conduct jungle training in French Guiana via this 90-second dispatch (via Agence France-Presse) from the South American territory.

Taiwan says it’s increasing military training for reservists starting next year as the threat of a Chinese invasion looms over the democratic island. That raises the current training period from as many as seven days to 14. “The new programme will be applied to about 13% of the 110,000 reservists the ministry plans to train next year, before further decisions could be made on whether to broaden it,” Reuters reports from Taipei. 

  • Q of the day: Does the U.S. have to defend Taiwan if attacked by China? “Absolutely,” said Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley at the Aspen Security Forum today in D.C. (via AFP).

ICYMI: Reuters recently produced one of the best visual presentations we’ve seen in a long time when it tackled China’s recent aerial incursions into Taiwan’s perimeter back in October. It’s perhaps the best way to understand Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, or ADIZ.
One big consideration: “Although the number of Chinese aircraft probing Taiwan’s ADIZ increased dramatically in recent weeks, including 56 on Oct. 4, it does not mean the rate at which China’s military can launch an aircraft, get it back on the ground, get it ready for the next mission and launch it again—its ‘sortie generation rate’—has improved since that time.” Well worth the click, here.

And lastly: President Biden nominated a Navy officer to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Adm. Chris Grady from Norfolk-based U.S. Fleet Forces Command got the nod, the Defense Department announced Monday.
If confirmed, Grady will replace Air Force Gen. John Hyten, who is set to retire before the end of the month. The late nomination may mean a gap between Hyten’s retirement and his replacement.