Today's D Brief: Border-Ukraine bill; CIA chief to Mideast; Big loss on B-21; Don’t name your HQ wifi “command post”; And a bit more.
Republican lawmakers appear to be paralyzed over how to forge a deal with Democrats on asylum law and border-related changes. Legislation that links the issue with security aid to Ukraine is languishing on Capitol Hill for at least the sixth consecutive weekend. The issues have been broadly frozen since the summer, when Senate Republicans gradually withdrew their support for Ukraine aid after their GOP colleagues in the House drafted particularly strict legislation that made no effort at compromise with Democrats, who hold a slim minority in the lower chamber and a slim majority in the Senate.
The latest: Former president Donald Trump has further stymied compromise efforts with his increasingly vocal dissent Thursday regarding any deals with Democrats out of fear that possible progress on the issue might give incumbent President Biden a political victory ahead of November.
According to Trump, “[W]e need a Strong, Powerful, and essentially ‘PERFECT’ Border and, unless we get that, we are better off not making a Deal, even if that pushes our Country to temporarily ‘close up’ for a while, because it will end up closing anyway with the unsustainable Invasion that is currently taking place,” he wrote on his Truth Social social media platform.
Trump also called for states to send their National Guard units to Texas “to remove [asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants] back across the Border,” and promised to “Begin the Largest Domestic Deportation Operation in History” if he is reelected.
As if the matter weren’t politicized enough, 24 Republican governors signed a letter Thursday declaring their support for their Texas colleague, Gov. Greg Abbott, who wants to re-install razor wire along the U.S.-Mexico border after the Supreme Court this week ordered the removal of such razor wire in a 5-4 ruling on Monday—and despite what the U.S. Constitution has to say about states, “invasions” and “war” as Steve Vladeck pointed out Thursday.
If you’re curious about the byzantine history of U.S. federal law concerning migrants and the border, Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council offers: “The Border Patrol has for years taken the position that once someone is on US soil, agents must go and arrest them—even if on the other side of a wall. And Congress gave them the authority to cut through private fences anywhere within 25 miles of the border.” Read more, here.
New: The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial board on Thursday chastised Republicans for deferring to Trump, and failing to act on both border security and future security aid to Ukraine. “[G]iving up on a border security bill would be a self-inflicted GOP wound,” they warn, because “President Biden would claim, with cause, that Republicans want border chaos as an election issue rather than solving the problem.”
“Trump may imagine he can strike his own border deal if he wins, but that’s highly unlikely,” the editorial board writes, explaining, “Democrats are willing to discuss asylum and parole changes now because President Biden and Democrats are suffering in the polls from the ugly scenes on television.”
But the future of Ukraine may have more lasting consequences, they warn, because, “If the GOP blocks the bill in either the Senate or the House, it will share responsibility for whatever happens next in Ukraine. Kyiv’s defeat will be signed with the party’s signature. Do Republicans want to sponsor the 2024 equivalent of Saigon 1975?” they ask.
“Both a tighter border and a vote for a stable Europe are in the American interest,” the board advises, because “The U.S. is careening into a moment of growing dangers around the world,” and from their perspective, it is “Better to act now [that is, to compromise with the Democrats] than to fail and live with the consequences.” Read the rest (gift link) here.
“I think the best thing for the Republican Party to do right now is try to work with Democrats where you can, to make the country safer and stronger,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, on Thursday (hat tip Chad Pergram of Fox).
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia: “If we don’t honor our commitment to Ukraine, there’s not a single nation—friend or foe—that will fully trust us again,” he said on social media. “Renewing our aid is essential to keeping our partnerships and maintaining our place in the world.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, via CQ Roll Call’s John Donnelly, on Tuesday: “We're not engaged in a theoretical conversation about Ukraine possibly losing the war. They will lose the war—very soon—if we don't get them aid.”
Expert forecast: “Ukraine likely will not have the resources for a strategic-level offensive in 2024, but could set the conditions for one in 2025 if critical decisions are made now,” Rob Lee writes in promotion of a new essay he’s co-written in War on the Rocks along with Dara Massicot and Michael Kofman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
With U.S. aid to Ukraine frozen, German officials are considering a possible arrangement with the Brits and French that would send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to the UK and France so London and Paris can send Ukraine more Storm Shadow and Scalp cruise missiles. Bloomberg has that story.
Developing: Turkey may be able to purchase $20 billion in U.S.-made F-16 jets very soon now that lawmakers in Ankara lifted their hold on Sweden’s request to join the NATO alliance. That request still needs Hungary’s support before finally advancing, but U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Jeff Flake said Thursday that Turkey might be able to close that F-16 deal “within days.” Reuters has more.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will visit the U.S. for about a week. His first formal day of meetings begins Monday, when he’s scheduled to chat with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, State Secretary Antony Blinken, and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. On Tuesday, Stoltenberg will head to Capitol Hill for talks with congressional leaders.
The NATO chief will drop by the isolationist Heritage Foundation think tank on Wednesday, followed by a visit to a Lockheed Martin missile factory in Alabama. And he closes his official schedule with a stop at U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa on Thursday.
- “Questions surround Russia's [Okhotnik-B] stealthy combat drone,” Forecast International reported this week;
- “In Ukraine's river war, drones mean nowhere is safe,” the BBC reported this week from Kherson;
- “The Quiet Transformation of Occupied Ukraine,” via Foreign Affairs;
- And U.S. “Marine veteran [Thomas Gray Harris] killed in Ukraine credited with saving teammate’s life,” Task & Purpose reported earlier this week.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1942, the first U.S. troops arrived in Europe for World War II when they landed in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
CIA Director William Burns is headed back to the Middle East soon in the hopes of brokering some sort of hostage negotiation between Israel and Hamas, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
New: More than 40 former Israeli senior national security officials and academics are demanding the immediate removal of far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling him an “existential” threat to the country, CNN reported Friday. “We believe that Netanyahu bears primary responsibility for creating the circumstances leading to the brutal massacre of over 1,200 Israelis and others, the injury of over 4,500, and the kidnapping of more than 230 individuals, of whom over 130 are still held in Hamas captivity,” they write. “The victim’s blood is on Netanyahu’s hands.”
Signatories include “former IDF chiefs Moshe Ya’alon and Dan Halutz, Tamir Pardo and Danny Yatom, who ran the Mossad intelligence agency, and Nadav Argaman and Yaakov Peri, who were directors of the domestic security service, Shin Bet,” CNN reports.
Developing: Chinese officials have reportedly asked Iran to get the Houthis to stop attacking ships in the Red Sea, which U.S. officials allegedly asked China to do, according to the Financial Times reporting earlier this week. It’s unclear when Beijing applied this alleged pressure on Iran, but the development followed reports Thursday (Wall Street Journal, e.g.) that U.S. officials secretly alerted officials in Tehran an a possible attack by ISIS before the group did indeed attack in early January, killing 84 people.
New: The Iran-backed Houthis fired another ballistic missile at a U.S. Navy vessel near Yemen on Friday. It was a single anti-ship ballistic missile, and the crew of the destroyer USS Carney shot it down in the Gulf of Aden, according to U.S. military officials. “There were no injuries or damage reported,” Central Command officials said in a short release.
Northrop to eat $1.2B on B-21 program. Lowball bidding on a fixed-price contract appears to have come back to bite another defense giant. It’s “probable” that the first five low-rate initial production lots for the Air Force’s new Raider bomber “will be performed at a loss,” Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden told investors Thursday during the company’s earnings call for the final quarter of 2023.
Moving forward, Warden says the company has learned its lesson and is already being more careful when bidding on fixed-price work. Defense One’s Audrey Decker reports.
- “U.S. military eyes Japan's participation in autonomous aircraft program,” Nikkei reported Friday;
- “Eric Schmidt’s Secret Military Project Revealed: Attack Drones,” Forbes reported earlier this week;
- “Defense Startups Risk Becoming ‘Failed Experiment’ Without More Pentagon Dollars,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday;
- And “Palantir’s Momentum Hurt by Slowing Growth in Government Deals,” the Journal reported separately this week.
Don’t name the WiFi station at your field HQ “Command Post” is just one of the lessons the opposition forces unit is teaching soldiers at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Johnson, Louisiana. Called Geronimo, the opfor unit has closely studied new tactics coming out of Ukraine—many having to do with cheap electronic devices that make it much easier to spot unwary military formations. Defense One’s Sam Skove, who traveled to the JRTC with Army chief Gen. Randy George, reports here.
See also: In a first, Army uses Slack-style battlefield software in field exercises.