Today's D Brief: How Russia's war is reshaping global energy; Putin's worldview; DCIA Burns to Kyiv; F-15s out of Okinawa; And a bit more.
Russia’s autocratic leader is delivering his “annual speech on world politics,” as The Telegraph describes it. And he wasted no time blaming Western nations for Moscow’s Ukraine invasion, saying paradoxically—as he alleged when his troops began the invasion eight months ago—that it is the West who is really “fanning the flames of war in Ukraine.” The title of this latest address? “The World After Hegemony: Justice and Security for All.”
According to Putin, the West is “blinded by colonialism,” and “tries to contain the development of other civilisations”—even though it is Putin’s military that has vowed to crush the democratically elected leadership in Kyiv. And so much of what he’s said in the ongoing address appears to be taken from the same book of victimhood and grievance that Putin’s deployed for the past several years.
According to Andrew Roth of The Guardian, “So far this speech coming off heavily as an appeal to Asia, Africa, the Middle East. ‘We’re the majority, West is the minority.’ [Putin] Has barely mentioned war in Ukraine.” He has, however, managed to quote from Dostoevsky—even thanking staff for finding the allegedly relevant passages. Follow along via a liveblog from al-Jazeera, here; or via the UK’s Independent, here.
New: The Pentagon has sped up its upgraded nuclear weapons storage plans for Europe, Politico reported Wednesday, citing a diplomatic cable and a closed-door meeting in Brussels earlier this month.
Involved: “[T]he upgraded B61-12 air-dropped gravity bomb,” which was “originally slated for next spring.” That’s now been moved up to December.
Caveat: “This exchange could happen over many months,” Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists warned on Twitter, noting that training and certification processes would also have to be accelerated under this revised plan.
CIA Director William Burns dropped by Kyiv in an unannounced visit earlier this month, CNN reported Wednesday in a terse update. Around this time last year, Burns visited Moscow to “warn Russia” against invading Ukraine, CNN reported at the time. Burns also visited Kyiv two months later, this past January; but the New York Times noted Thursday that it’s unclear how many trips to Ukraine he’s made since he is, after all, America’s spy chief.
News of his visit comes during a time when Russia’s top officials, including Vladimir Putin himself, are spreading unsupported allegations that Ukraine is planning some sort of attack using a dirty bomb, which could spread radiation across a wide area after detonation. Putin repeated the claims Wednesday evening in a video address to intelligence officials. But many Kremlin-watchers believe Putin’s countrymen are the main audience for the allegations, both the Times and the Wall Street Journal reported separately on Wednesday.
Developing: “The global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is causing profound and long-lasting changes,” the International Energy Agency announced in a new report published Thursday—extending some of what we unpacked atop Tuesday’s newsletter after IEA chief Fatih Birol spoke this week at an event in Singapore. “Energy markets and policies have changed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not just for the time being, but for decades to come,” the IEA’s new report says. That’s because “Russia’s actions have turned a rapid economic recovery from the pandemic—which strained all manner of global supply chains, including energy—into full‐blown energy turmoil.” The subsequent “crisis has stoked inflationary pressures and created a looming risk of recession,” according to the IEA.
Action: Russia’s “curtailments of natural gas supply to Europe and European sanctions on imports of oil and coal from Russia are severing one of the main arteries of global energy trade,” the report says.
Reaction: Faced with rising prices around the world, “Some [governments] are seeking to increase or diversify oil and gas supplies, and many are looking to accelerate structural changes,” the agency notes, flagging recent climate-conscious legislation passed in the U.S. and the EU, in addition to goals declared and changes recently implemented across Japan, Korea, India, and China.
That’s why Russia’s “invasion of Ukraine is prompting a wholesale reorientation of global energy trade, leaving it with a much-diminished position,” according to the report, which predicts a decline in Russia’s share of internationally traded energy—from 20% in 2021 to 13% in 2030, “while the shares of both the United States and the Middle East rise” in that same period.
Looking more closely to the future, “the winter of 2023-24 could be even tougher” than the upcoming cold season for Europe and much of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. “But in the longer term, one of the effects of Russia’s recent actions is that the era of rapid growth in gas demand draws to a close,” IEA predicts. In the meantime, protecting global supply chains for “volatile critical minerals” will be paramount in the two decades to come.
So the IEA has shared “10 principles that can help guide policymakers through the period when declining fossil fuel and expanding clean energy systems co-exist, since both systems are required to function well during energy transitions in order to deliver the energy services needed by consumers.” Read over those principles on page 59 of the wider report (PDF), here.
The view from the White House: “As we made clear in the National Security Strategy, this is a decisive decade, not because of any one of us; [but] because the world is changing,” President Joe Biden told Pentagon leaders in a meeting Wednesday in Washington. “We’re going to continue to lead with our diplomacy and build coalitions and tackle global challenges backed by the unquestionable strength of—and this is not hyperbole—the finest fighting force in the history of the world.”
As for what lies ahead, the president said, “We’re going to continue to support Ukraine, together with our Allies and partners around the world, as it defends itself against Russia’s brutal aggression…We’re going to continue to deepen our core alliances in the Indo-Pacific and build new coalitions committed to a world that is free, open, prosperous, and secure.”
And the U.S., Biden said, must “responsibly manage the increasingly intense competition with China” while the U.S. works to “maintain our military advantage by making clear that we do not seek conflict.” And with that, Biden sent the press away and began speaking privately with those Pentagon leaders and service chiefs ahead of today’s public launch of the White House’s new unclassified National Defense Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review, and Missile Defense Review. Stay tuned to Defense One later today for related coverage.
- “Russia warns West: We can target your commercial satellites,” Reuters reported Thursday after a foreign ministry official shared this perspective with the United Nations;
- “U.S. Officials Had a Secret Oil Deal With the Saudis. Or So They Thought,” the New York Times reported Tuesday;
- See also “U.S.-Saudi Relations Buckle, Driven by Animosity Between Biden and Mohammed bin Salman,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Monday from Riyadh;
- And “Discontent Rises in Europe as Economic War With Russia Pushes Up Cost of Living,” the Journal reported separately on Thursday.
From Defense One
Ash Carter’s Lasting Legacy // Matt Spence: The former defense secretary leaves behind a much stronger Pentagon-Silicon Valley relationship.
Every State But One Uses Federally Banned Foreign Tech, Report Says // Edward Graham: More than 1,600 state and local government entities have purchased products or services from blackballed Chinese companies, CSET report finds.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Caitlin Kenney. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1954, Benjamin Davis, Jr. became America’s first Black general in the Army and the Air Force.
New: The U.S. Air Force will retire all 18 of the F-15s it had permanently stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa and replace them with a rotational force, Financial Times reported Thursday. The first rotation to replace the aging fighters will be Alaska-based F-22s, but the service hasn’t hammered out the details of future rotations.
A second opinion: The move sends “the wrong message to China,” and “will encourage the Chinese to take more dramatic action,” retired F-15 pilot and former vice commander of U.S. Pacific Forces David Depula told FT. Story, here.
Also: China wants to continue military communications with the U.S., but there are “red lines” that must be respected, a defense ministry spokesperson said Thursday. Reuters has a little more from the capital, here.
Blockade/invasion watch: China would need to move quickly and decisively if it decides to invade Taiwan; and the three new generals selected to the Central Military Commission during the recent congress of the Chinese Community Party would help with that, Reuters reported Thursday. That’s because the officers were chosen for their political loyalty to Xi Jinping, who just secured an unprecedented third term as leader.
“If Xi Jinping is going to pull the trigger on Taiwan, then he can’t afford any dissent in the Central Military Commission,” which would create and execute a plan for any invasion, strategic advisor Alexander Neill told the news service. "To secure any kind of advantage they would have to move fast, lightning fast."
- “Taiwan Braces for ‘Grim’ Times After China’s Xi Extends Power,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday from Taipei;
- “A sprawling pro-China propaganda campaign is targeting U.S. midterms, researchers warn,” NBC News wrote Wednesday off two new reports from the cybersecurity firm Mandiant and the analytics firm Alethea;
- And don’t miss from last week: “U.S. vs. China: Military Bases and Commercial Ports Reveal Strategies to Extend Global Reach,” via the Wall Street Journal’s video team, with a more than seven-minute minidocumentary.
The U.S. just sanctioned a dozen Iranians for their alleged roles in breaking up protests across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who’d been arrested for not wearing a hijab properly and was later found dead on 16 Sept. The newly-sanctioned include 10 prison, “cyber,” and administrative officials, as well as “two Iranian intelligence actors” from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Find a full list, here.
New: U.S. says Russia is sharing crackdown tips with Iran. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed Wednesday that “Moscow may be advising Tehran” on ways to break up protests sweeping across the country, which seem to involve Iranians of nearly all ages.
This allegation of a Russian advisory role is the latest development in the relationship between the two countries after Russia allegedly acquired Iranian-made lethal drones for Putin’s Ukraine invasion. Iran also sent personnel to train Russians in Crimea on how to use the drones, which have been used extensively over the past six weeks to destroy critical infrastructure across Ukraine. Jean-Pierre said the two countries “are growing closer the more isolated they become,” and called on Iran to stop killing its own citizens and providing Russia weapons to kill Ukrainians.
Alert: U.S. embassy officials in South Africa and Nigeria say a terrorist attack could be in the works targeting either location, according to notices published this week at both locations. For Johannesburg, the attack could come on Saturday “targeting large gatherings of people…in the greater Sandton area,” which is the city’s financial center.
For Nigeria, the capital city of Abuja is facing “an elevated risk of terror attacks” across a wide range of possible locations, including “government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, athletic gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, and international organizations,” according to the U.S. embassy. Tiny bit more, here.
Lastly: Back stateside, three men were convicted Wednesday of terrorism charges that involved trying to kidnap Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer back in 2020, and efforts to incite a civil war inside America. “Joe Morrison, his father-in-law Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar were found guilty of supplying ‘material support’ for a terrorist act as members of a group known as the Wolverine Watchmen,” the Associated Press reported after the verdict was reached Wednesday at a courtroom in Jackson, Mich. AP notes “Whitmer, who is seeking reelection on Nov. 8, was never physically harmed,” since “Undercover agents and informants were inside Fox’s group for months,” and “The scheme was broken up with 14 arrests in October 2020.” Continue reading, here.