Today's D Brief: Shutdown looms; Cruz, Risch delay NDAA in the Senate; Latvia wants US troops ‘permanently’; Taiwan’s $16B sub program; And a bit more.
Will the U.S. government shut down on Friday? That’s the big question looming over Capitol Hill this week as lawmakers face down what could be one of the most challenging months of the year when December begins on Wednesday.
The latest: Whatever new “stopgap” spending bill lawmakers draw up, Roll Call reports that it “appears likely to run into late January at a minimum, with Republicans still trying to extend the duration into February or March.”
Debt ceiling next? If the shutdown question is resolved satisfactorily (and that’s still a big if), attention will shift immediately to extending the country’s debt limit, which is a can that lawmakers last kicked down the road in mid-October.
But the nearly $770 billion annual defense policy bill is still lingering in the Senate after Republicans blocked a motion to move forward with debate Monday evening. Several GOP lawmakers, including the Armed Services Committee’s Jim Risch of Idaho and Ted Cruz of Texas, are holding up the process as they try to add sanctions against a Russian company for its gas pipeline project into Europe known as Nord Stream 2.
That project bypasses Ukraine and would take away some $1 billion in Euros that Kyiv currently pockets each year as a host with the current arrangement. If you’re just now catching up, “Earlier this year, the Biden administration essentially threw in the towel on Nord Stream 2, lifting sanctions on the company building the pipeline and describing its construction as a fait accompli,” the Council on Foreign Relations’s Max Boot wrote in a policy proposal for NATO published just before Thanksgiving. “But now, a German energy regulator has refused to certify the pipeline, raising fresh questions about its future.” Meanwhile, the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed in September, includes Nord Stream 2 sanctions; the Senate’s version, however, does not. Politico has more drama from the Hill, here.
Since we mentioned Russia, its ally in Belarus just announced upcoming military drills with Moscow along its southern border with Ukraine. However, no date was given for the exercises, which Minsk Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin said Monday in Russian state-run media would probably happen in the “medium term.” More from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, here; or via Reuters, here.
From the region: Latvia wants Patriot missiles and a permanent U.S. military presence, Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said Monday at a Latvian base while standing beside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. That request was made public just before U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken dropped by Riga for a meeting with NATO members later today. Reuters has a bit more, here.
From Defense One
US Needs Indo-Pacific Force ‘Enhancements,’ Global Posture Review Finds // Tara Copp: Few details released from classified review, which arrives amid geopolitical shifts.
Inside the Data-Driven Operation that Moved Afghan Refugees from Dulles to Safe Havens // Erol Yayboke, Col. Matthew Strohmeyer, Grace Hwang, and Lt. Col. Michelle Macander: The main challenge was reconciling and processing disconnected, stove-piped, unavailable, or incorrect data.
A Low Bar for Success in Today’s Iran-Nuke Talks // Daniel DePetris: The Nov. 29 session between the U.S., Iran, the European Union, and the rest of the P5+1 has the air of a make-or-break moment.
DHS Reveals Next Research Interests // Alexandra Kelley: The Department of Homeland Security wants industry comment on AI, biohazard tracking, and more.
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 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland, but its troops didn’t get that far after more than three months of fighting, and Moscow promptly lost its seat at the League of Nations. The Russians’ unexpectedly poor performance helped convince Nazi leaders that a Soviet invasion would be a piece of kartoshka; but that plan, launched in late June 1941 and known as Operation Barbarossa, would be one of the war’s most spectacular failures, accelerating the eventual decline of Hitler’s Third Reich.
Big day for veterans policy changes at the White House. President Joe Biden is expected to sign four bills into law today, including:
- The Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021;
- The Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021;
- The Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act of 2021;
- And another (S. 1031) that authorizes “a study on disparities associated with race and ethnicity” regarding Veterans Affairs benefits.
By the way: “Veterans Affairs workers are among the least vaccinated against COVID-19 of all federal agencies,” Military Times’ Leo Shane III reported Monday, citing data from the Office of Management and Budget. Only the Department of Agriculture has a lower vaccination rate (86.1% for DA; 87.8% for the VA). More here.
New look at 2019 Syria strike. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a new investigation into a 2019 airstrike in Syria brought to light about two weeks ago by the New York Times. That strike is believed to have killed 80 people, many of them women and children, according to the Times.
The head of Army’s Forces Command, Gen. Michael Garrett, will investigate the strike itself and what the military did afterward, which the Times report alleges included military and civilian officials working to hide civilian casualties.
SecDef Austin called for the investigation after a conversation with the head of Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. Read on at the Times, here.
And lastly today: Defense firms and engineers from seven different nations are helping Taiwan “build a [$16 billion] submarine fleet to serve as a deterrent against a Chinese invasion,” Reuters writes in a follow-up to their special feature on possible ways China may invade the island.
China’s reax: The involved nations and individuals are “playing with fire, and those who play with fire will get burned themselves,” a foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters. Find the full report, here.