Today's D Brief: US-Russia talks grind on; Weather delay in Ukraine?; N. Korea's fast missile; New FBI unit; And a bit more.
American and Russian officials concluded their first day of talks in Geneva on Monday, known formally by U.S. officials as a bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue. Meetings with the NATO-Russia Council, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are still expected by the end of the week.
Day one takeaways: Not much, according to a White House fact sheet released Monday evening.
Here's a quick review of top headlines:
- “In Talks on Ukraine, U.S. and Russia Deadlock Over NATO Expansion,” the New York Times reports;
- “Russia says it's not optimistic on U.S. talks, won't let them drag on,” Reuters reports;
- “Kremlin: Not much optimism after Russia-US talks on Ukraine,” the Associated Press reports.
In the meantime, Russia is reportedly preparing to move helicopters around, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the New York Times on Monday. However, the Times doesn’t specify the aircraft concerned, their quantity, or their current location. But the Times notes that the U.S. Air Force has been sending RC-135 “electronic-eavesdropping planes over Ukraine since Dec. 27,” as well as “E-8 JSTARS ground-surveillance planes to track the Russian troop buildup and the movements of the forces.”
A note on tactical openings: “The hard winter freeze that typically comes to Ukraine by January has not happened in many areas of the country,” the Times adds. And that would seem to suggest that “As long as the ground remains muddy, senior administration officials said, Mr. Putin might be forced to push back a ground offensive until February at the earliest.” Read on, here.
For what it’s worth, Ukraine claims it’s detained a Russian saboteur actively planning attacks in “the Odessa region,” Buzzfeed News’s Christopher Miller noticed Monday on Twitter. Watch Ukrainian video of the news, here.
This week in big ideas: “Globalization Was Supposed to Prevent War; Russia May Be Showing the Opposite,” the Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib argued Monday, leaning heavily on “already-high inflation” as a quiet motivator in Russia’s current calculations.
One last thing: Kazakhstan’s embattled president insists Russian troops will begin leaving on Thursday. He also elaborated somewhat on wealth inequality across his country, which was one of the larger issues animating protests and unrest last week. Reuters has more from the Kazakh capital, here.
From Defense One
US 'Unequivocal’ to Russia on Right of Ukraine, Others, to Join NATO // Patrick Tucker: U.S. diplomats rejected Moscow's demand that Kiev be forever barred from the Western alliance.
Marine Amphibious Combat Vehicles Returning to the Water // Caitlin M. Kenney: A tow mechanism problem led to a three-month suspension from waterborne operations.
The Metaverse Offers Much Potential For Terrorists and Extremists // Joel S. Elson, Austin C. Doctor, and Sam Hunter, The Conversation: The coming immersive virtual reality version of the internet will bring all the problems of today's 2D version.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson, with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1923, French and Belgian troops began occupying Germany’s Ruhr Valley industrial region because Berlin had defaulted on reparations established in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. The troops would stay for about two and a half years, exacerbating Berlin’s economic woes and invigorating the country’s far-right ahead of the Nazis’ rise to power.
North Korea launched another apparent ballistic missile into the water, which makes two separate launches in a week. South Korea’s military says the missile was launched from the northern province of Jagang again (like last week, and this past September) and into the East Sea.
But this launch was slightly different than North Korea’s previous ones. It seems to have flown “more than 700 kilometers at a maximum altitude of 60 km and at a top speed of Mach 10, ten times the speed of sound,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap News agency. The previous test had only been known to reach Mach 6, according to Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“We assess that this is more advanced than the missile North Korea fired on Jan. 5, though South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities are conducting detailed analysis,” Seoul’s Joint Staff said in a statement Tuesday. Read more from AP, here; or Reuters, here.
India’s navy says it just successfully test-fired a medium-range missile at sea. View an alleged photo of the BrahMos “Supersonic Cruise missile” launch, here.
BTW: India’s military chief just tested positive for COVID, but fortunately he’s showing only mild symptoms so far, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh announced on Twitter Monday.
China just appointed a new “hard-line” police chief in Hong Kong. The new guy is named Major General Peng Jingtang, and the Wall Street Journal reports he comes off several celebrated years of service in Xinjiang, where the Communist government is believed to have detained nearly one million mostly Muslim minorities in detention camps for the past several years.
In Xinjiang, Peng “was tasked with counterterrorism, [and] helping train an elite squad known as the Mountain Eagles,” the Journal reports. And perhaps relatedly, “Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping honored an unspecified antiterrorism squad in Xinjiang that officials said killed 91 terrorists.” But little else is known about that particular squad.
Fine print: “Hong Kong doesn’t have its own military,” the Journal reminds us, “and its mini-constitution says the military forces stationed by Beijing in the region shouldn’t interfere with local affairs, though local authorities can ask for assistance from the garrison in maintaining public order or providing disaster relief.” More here.
Afghanistan’s now-former Ambassador to China officially left his post on New Years Day, he tweeted Monday.
Out: Ambassador Javid Ahmad Qaem, who said on Twitter “There are many reasons, personal and professional,” for leaving; “but I don’t want to mention them here. I have handed over everything smoothly through a handover note.”
The new guy is known only as “Mr. Sadaat,” but Reuters reported Tuesday that no one knows yet who Mr. Sadaat is.
For the record, “International governments, including China, have not recognized the Taliban's government as legitimate,” Reuters writes. A bit more, here.
The White House says it will provide $308 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan as the country “edges toward a humanitarian crisis,” AP reported Tuesday morning.
According to the White House, “This brings total U.S. humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in the region to nearly $782 million since October 2021,” Emily Horne of the National Security Council said in a statement Tuesday morning.
The money is not headed to the Taliban; rather, Horne says, it “will directly flow through independent humanitarian organizations.” The idea is to assist with “winterization assistance, emergency food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene services in response to the growing humanitarian needs exacerbated by COVID-19 and healthcare shortages, drought, malnutrition, and the winter season,” according to Horne.
Panning out: “Nearly 80% of Afghanistan’s previous government’s budget came from the international community,” AP reports. Today, according to the UN, “22% of Afghanistan’s 38 million people are living near famine and another 36% are facing acute food insecurity.” More at AP, here.
The FBI is creating a new domestic terrorism unit to help tackle a growing number of cases “across the Department of Justice and across the country,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen told lawmakers at a senate hearing this morning.
“The threat posed by domestic terrorism is on the rise,” Olson said Tuesday morning. “The number of FBI investigations over the past two years, since March 2020, have more than doubled,” he added. Hear more from Olsen’s ongoing testimony, via ABC News, here. The Washington Post has a tiny bit more, here.
And lastly: This afternoon, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday will keynote the 34th Surface Navy Association National Symposium, which is held at the Hyatt Regency in northern Virginia’s Crystal City. Gilday is scheduled to speak at 4 p.m. ET. Details, here.