Today's D Brief: Ukrainian DM at the Pentagon; Afghan evacuee update; '3 Amigos' at the WH; Taiwan's new squadron; And a bit more.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosts his Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, in a meeting at the Pentagon this afternoon around 1 p.m. ET.
In case you were curious: “We’re not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to,” SecDef Austin told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon when asked about Russian equipment apparently left in place some 160 miles from Ukraine’s northern border, near Yelnya. The Associated Press has a tiny bit more from that exchange in Washington, here.
And ICYMI: Ukraine’s president signed a naval agreement with the UK on Tuesday, the British Ministry of Defence announced in a statement. “We are concerned by Russia’s military build-up and activity around the borders of Ukraine,” the MoD said after that meeting in Kyiv, and noted, “Our governments have no desire to be adversarial, or seek in any way to strategically encircle or undermine the Russian Federation.”
You may remember the last time UK and Ukrainian defense officials met back in June… The Royal Navy’s HMS Defender and the Royal Netherlands Navy’s HNLMS Evertsen had both pulled into port in Ukraine’s Odessa—but an unknown entity seemed to have spoofed their maritime tracking signals, which suggested the ships were next to Ukraine’s Sevastopol naval base, a base that’s been illegally occupied by Russia since its invasion in 2014. U.S. Naval Institute News recounted that dodgy event, here.
POTUS46’s national security advisor rang up his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, the White House announced in a brief readout afterward. The two men spoke “in a frank and constructive manner” and “discussed several issues in the bilateral agenda and regional and global matters of concern.”
From Defense One
Pentagon Scrambles to Defend ‘Juicy Targets’ After Rivals’ Space Tests // Tara Copp: U.S. Space Force is taking Russia’s destruction of its own satellite as a warning.
Are Naval Forces on the Right Path? Leaders Run Wargame to Check // Caitlin M. Kenney: Analysis of the classified, Pacific-focused “Global 14” will continue for weeks or months, a Navy official said.
As Pentagon Fails 4th Audit, Officials Have ‘No Doubt’ It Will Eventually Pass // Courtney Bublé: The inspector general and independent public accounting firms conducted this year's audit of DoD's $3.2 trillion in assets and $3 trillion in liabilities.
The US Must Turn the Tables on Russia’s Psyops // Ivana Stradner: A post-Cold War fixation on hard power has sapped us of the 21st century’s most potent force.
Welcome to this Thursday 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 1978, the F/A-18 Hornet flew for the first time at Maryland’s Naval Air Test Center. The aircraft entered active duty about four years later, in January 1983.
Homeland Security officials say Virginia’s Fort Lee has resettled all of its Afghan evacuees, which numbered around 2,500, according to the Defense Department. And overall, “more than 25,000 Afghan evacuees have been resettled in communities across our country,” DHS said in its statement Wednesday.
About 45,000 Afghans await resettlement at seven other military posts, including Indiana’s Camp Atterbury; New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst; Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico; Fort Bliss in Texas; Fort Pickett, which like its Confederate namesake Lee, is also in Virginia; Marine Corps Base Quantico, about 40 miles south of D.C.; and at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy. Read more via DHS’s Operation Allies Welcome, here.
ICYMI: Here’s a glimpse at the screening process for Afghan evacuees, shared by the Defense Department’s Inspector General Wednesday and flagged on Twitter by Jeff Seldin from Voice of America.
- “U.N. envoy says Islamic State now appears present in all Afghan provinces,” via Reuters, reporting Wednesday;
- And “Bill honoring 13 service members killed in Afghanistan heads to Biden's desk,” via The Hill, reporting late Wednesday evening.
President Joe Biden welcomes the Mexican and Canadian president and prime minister at the White House today for a North American Leaders’ Summit—the first since 2016, before POTUS45 abandoned the tradition, which began under POTUS43 in 2005. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau drops by 1600 Penn. Ave just after 1 p.m. ET, followed by Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador at 3 p.m. The “three amigos” then meet together in the East Room at about 5 p.m.
Leading Biden’s public agenda: “ending the COVID-19 pandemic”; stimulating “competitiveness and equitable growth” between the three countries; climate change; and plans to develop some sort of “regional vision for migration,” according to the White House.
This week we learned nearly all of America’s allies have experienced democratic backsliding since 2010, “and at rates far outpacing average declines among other countries,” according to Max Fisher of the New York Times reporting Tuesday after reviewing reams of new data from democracy-watchers at the Swedish nonprofit V-Dem.
One big event that shifted the post-Soviet democratic trajectories of the 1990s: America’s war on terror, beginning in 2001. On top of this, Fisher writes, “awareness of the United States’ domestic problems—mass shootings, polarization, racial injustice—has greatly affected [global] perceptions” of U.S. democracy abroad, as researchers at Pew have documented well here, for example.
Why it matters (emphasis added): It would seem to “suggest that much of the world’s backsliding is not imposed on democracies by foreign powers, but rather is a rot rising within the world’s most powerful network of mostly democratic alliances,” according to Fisher. Read on at the Times, here.
And lastly: Taiwan’s military blasted dance music basewide as it unveiled its first squadron of upgraded F-16V fighter jets at the Chiayi Air Force Base on Thursday. (Find photos of the event via President Tsai Ing-wen’s Twitter account, here.)
Context: At a cost of about $4 billion, “Taiwan has been converting 141 F-16A/B jets into the F-16V type, 64 of which have already been upgraded, and has additionally ordered 66 new F-16Vs, which have new avionics, weapons and radar systems to better face down the Chinese air force,” Reuters reports from Chiayi.
Taiwan could soon have the largest F-16 fleet in Asia (at more than 200) thanks to an $8 billion deal with the U.S. from 2019. A bit more from Reuters, here.
One last thing: For 19 consecutive days, China has sent aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ, or air defense identification zone, according to Taipei’s defense ministry. On Wednesday, fighter jets made the trip; today it was early-warning and electronic warfare aircraft.
FWIW: Nov. 6 was the last time double-digit numbers of Chinese aircraft reportedly entered Taiwan’s ADIZ. (But there’s so far been nothing like the waves of aircraft that swarmed the island’s edges back in early October, drawing international attention.)