Today's D Brief: Historic arms deal for France; Ukraine's Russian forecast; Shutdown averted; New Florida military?; And a bit more.
Kyiv’s defense chief thinks Russia could invade Ukraine again sometime near the end of January, Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliamentarians today in the capital. “Our intelligence analyzes all scenarios, including the worst,” Reznikov said, according to Reuters. “It notes that the likelihood of a large-scale escalation from Russia exists. The most likely time to reach readiness for an escalation will be the end of January,” Reznikov said, and later added, “We must make the price of escalation unacceptable for the aggressor.”
Russia’s reax: “It's nonsense, there is not any escalation. We have the right to move the troops on our territory,” Kremlin official Yury Ushakov told reporters Friday when asked about Reznikov’s prediction.
SecDef Austin’s Soviet slip of the tongue. When it comes to possible U.S. responses to new Russian military activity inside Ukraine’s border, “Whatever we do will be done as a part of an international community,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said to reporters during a trip to South Korea on Thursday. “The best case, though, is that we won’t see an incursion by the Soviet Union into the Ukraine.”
A Biden-Putin virtual summit could be coming soon, U.S. State Department officials said Thursday after the two countries’ top diplomats met in Helsinki. “We have a concrete date and time for this video conference,” Ushakov said separately on Friday, but cautioned, “I think it’s better to wait for final agreement from the Americans.”
BTW: The U.S. wants to keep surveillance tech away from authoritarians around the world, and so the White House is reportedly launching a new program next week to curb related exports, according to the Wall Street Journal.
President Biden is expected to pitch the program to allies during the White House’s virtual summit for democracy.
China and Russia jointly criticized that planned summit in a statement Thursday, saying it will “stoke up ideological confrontation and [cause] a rift in the world.”
It’s unclear who exactly may be involved in the effort; however, U.S. officials “indicated it could include members of the Wassenaar Arrangement, an existing export-control program for weapons and sensitive technologies,” according to the Journal. “That 42-member group includes the U.S.’s close allies in Europe, North America, and East Asia, as well as Russia.” Read on, here.
“In late October, the actor launched its most recent campaign, which shifted focus toward a previously undisclosed vulnerability in Zoho ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus software,” Palo Alto researchers wrote. “Given the actor’s success to date and continued reconnaissance activities against a variety of industries (including infrastructure associated with five US states), we anticipate the number of victims will continue to climb.”
What you should do (as always): Make sure your patches are up to date. Read on at Palo Alto, here.
From Defense One
Ending Strategic Ambiguity Won’t Help Taiwan // Eric Sayers: Here are three better steps to take.
Should Military Police Wear Body Cams? Congress is Asking // Jacqueline Feldscher: After BLM and Jan. 6, some say the tech is ‘long overdue,’ but others scoff that it’s ‘a solution in search of a problem.’
China Wants to Write the Tech Rules for 5G. Experts Say That’s a Big Problem // Patrick Tucker: Beijing is stacking international standards bodies with factions that care more about national loyalty than sound practice, experts say.
Widespread Problems at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Imperils National Security, Report Finds // Elizabeth Howe: The Academy didn’t seem to “really be aware of the changes that were going on in the shipping industry,” one investigator said.
China’s Hypersonic Test ‘Increases Tension in the Region,’ Pentagon Chief Says // Tara Copp: But Austin sought to downplay the new capability as just another concern.
Welcome to this Friday 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 1989, U.S. President George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War after three days of meetings on a Soviet cruise ship anchored off the Mediterranean island of Malta. “The world is leaving one epoch and entering another,” Gorbachev said on day three. “We are at the beginning of a long road to a lasting, peaceful era. The threat of force, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle should all be things of the past.”
Update: U.S. lawmakers appear to have averted a shutdown with a 69-28 vote in the Senate on Thursday evening, hours after the House passed their version of a stopgap spending bill in a 221-212 vote, with outgoing Republican Rep. (and Iraq war veteran) Adam Kinzinger providing the only across-the-aisle vote in the lower chamber. The bill, which President Biden is expected to sign, will fund the government only through Feb. 18.
That means debt ceiling talks will ratchet up next, since the U.S. is set to default as soon as Dec. 15 unless lawmakers act there, too. CNN has more, here.
Macron makes history with epic UAE arms deal. French officials say they will soon sell 80 fighter planes and a dozen combat helicopters to the United Arab Emirates, the Associated Press and Reuters report this morning from Dubai, where French President Emmanuel Macron dropped by Friday as part of a two-day visit to the region.
The 16 billion euro—that’s $18 billion—deal to sell upgraded Rafale planes to Dubai is the “largest-ever French weapons contract for export,” AP writes; and it’s likely even more welcome after Paris lost out to the U.S. in that recent submarine deal with Australia.
Bigger picture: The deal “will secure the industrial supply chain” for the Rafale for the next decade, as well as “directly support 7,000 domestic jobs,” according to Reuters. Read on here.
More than 60 organizations are asking the UN to investigate the UAE- and Saudi-led war in Yemen in part to “send a clear warning to perpetrators on all sides that they will be held accountable for war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.”
Both dominant participants in the conflict, the Saudis and the Iran-backed Houthis, “have committed atrocities with impunity, and there is seemingly no end in sight for this war,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Agnès Callamard. Amnesty is one of the groups pushing for the probe.
In terms of a precedent, the Associated Press echoes the letter’s contents to remind us that just three years ago, the UN’s Human Rights Council “established a similar investigative mechanism for Myanmar following a military crackdown against Rohingya Muslims.” Other efforts were also launched in response to ISIS atrocities across both Iraq and Syria the two years prior. Find the full letter, here; or read more at Amnesty, here.
By the way: ISIS is still attacking Iraqis, killing a dozen villagers in the north on Thursday, “including a number of Kurdish forces,” AP reports from Irbil. Tiny bit more, here.
And lastly this week: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants his own military, one that’s not “encumbered by the federal government,” according to CNN. He reportedly framed the idea as a way to help the Florida National Guard during hurricanes and other emergencies, and claimed it would give him “the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.”
Turns out, there is a precedent. Twenty-two other states already have active state guards, CNN writes, and that includes California, New York, and Texas. But Florida Democrats are still alarmed by the proposal, calling it a “handpicked secret police” and a “vigilante militia.” More at CNN, here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!