Defense & National Security — Long-awaited National Security Strategy released
The White House has released its national security strategy, outlining President Biden’s priorities at the start of what officials are calling a “decisive decade” for global challenges like climate change and competition among major powers.
We’ll share what’s in the plan plus what the U.S. military’s top officer has to say about Russia’s latest missile strikes on Ukraine, and what will be the focus of the final public hearing before the midterms for the House committee investigating the violent rampage at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.
White House releases national security strategy
The White House on Wednesday released its national security strategy, focusing broadly on investing domestically so the U.S. has a modern military and is not dependent on foreign supply chains. It also puts an emphasis on building alliances abroad to counter the influence of adversaries like China.
“The world is at an inflection point, and the choices we make today will set the terms on how we are set up to deal with the significant challenges and the significant opportunities faced in the years ahead,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.
Two major challenges: Sullivan said the administration highlighted two major challenges that the national security strategy needed to address:
- The first is “competition between major powers,” he said, pointing to both economic competition and Biden’s long-running warnings about democracies versus autocracies.
- The second key challenge is dealing with “transnational challenges” like climate change, food insecurity and infectious diseases, Sullivan added.
Underlying issues: Underlying it all is the growing competition between the U.S. and China, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine sparked by Russia’s invasion in February.
“We will effectively compete with the People’s Republic of China, which is the only competitor with both the intent and, increasingly, the capability to reshape the international order, while constraining a dangerous Russia,” the national security strategy states.
Making it work: The administration said that the U.S. is willing to work “with any country, including our competitors, willing to constructively address shared challenges,” but officials will simultaneously pursue deeper ties with other democracies to prove that they can deliver results.
Also included: The strategy calls for investments in emerging technologies and modernizing the U.S. military. It also calls for a focus on trade and shared technology among allies in the Indo-Pacific and Europe.
Lastly, the strategy calls for “affirmative engagement” across the world. It highlights the U.S. interest in the Indo-Pacific to counter Chinese influence; notes the importance of engagement in Africa to address global problems; and it calls greater integration in the Middle East critical to advancing peace efforts.
A delay: The release of the national security strategy was delayed from earlier this year in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with officials unsure how that development might shift the administration’s priorities and planning.
The strategy is largely used for budgeting purposes and for national security agencies to get their priorities in line with the current administration. The White House last year released interim guidance that pivoted away from the Trump administration’s “America First” strategy and focused instead on global cooperation to take on China and fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
NATO WILL ‘STEP UP AND SUSTAIN SUPPORT’ FOR UKRAINE
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the organization’s defense ministers will meet on Wednesday and Thursday to “step up and sustain support” for Ukraine as Russia launches a barrage of missiles at the country.
Stoltenberg gave a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the meeting, saying that the defense ministers will also review their progress in strengthening NATO’s defense and deterrence and work to increase their protection of NATO’s “critical infrastructure.”
Ensuring Ukraine’s defenses: He said NATO wants to ensure that Ukraine can continue to defend itself and liberate territory that Russia has captured during the war, noting its counteroffensives that have seen Kyiv retake thousands of square kilometers of territory in the past month.
Stoltenberg said Putin is failing in his attempt to conquer Ukraine while Russia is “increasingly resorting to horrific and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure.”
Also from The Hill:
- Biden calls Putin a ‘rational actor who has miscalculated significantly’
- Putin raises ‘concern’ about Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant during meeting with UN watchdog
- Kirby: No indication that Putin has decided to use nuclear weapons
- G-7 leaders promise ‘severe consequences’ if Russia uses chemical, nuclear weapons
Milley: Attack on Ukrainian civilian sites a ‘war crime’
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday called Russia’s most recent attacks on Ukrainian civilian sites a “war crime.”
“Russia has deliberately struck civilian infrastructure with the purpose of harming civilians,” Milley told reporters following a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels.
“They have targeted the elderly, the women and the children of Ukraine. Indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilian targets is a war crime in the international rules of war,” he said.
Some background: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday sought to escalate Moscow’s attack on Ukraine through a barrage of air strikes that continued into Tuesday and hit more than a dozen cities, killing at least 19 people and injuring more than a hundred. The United Nations human rights office has described the attacks as “particularly shocking” and amounting to potential war crimes.
Putin said the strikes were in response to an explosion that destroyed a section of the Kerch Strait Bridge, which connects Russia to annexed Crimea and has become a symbol of Moscow’s hold on the region.
Renewed resolve: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who spoke alongside Milley, said the newest Kremlin attacks “reveal the malice of Putin’s war of choice.”
He also called the strikes on civilians a “grim preview of a future in which the appetites of aggressive autocrats outweigh the rights of peaceful states.”
Austin added that Russian attacks have only worked to strengthen the resolve of allies and partners to help Ukraine and pledged to send weapons and air defense systems to the embattled nation “as fast as we can physically get them there.”
Also from The Hill:
- NATO chief says sending air defense systems to Ukraine a ‘top priority’ as ministers convene
Panel hearing to focus on Trump’s ‘state of mind’
The House committee investigating last year’s attack on the Capitol will assemble Thursday for what could be its final public hearing ahead of the midterms, promising to delve into former President Trump’s state of mind in a presentation designed to tie up a host of loose ends before the panel dissolves at the end of the year.
Through eight hearings in June and July, the committee had aired damning evidence revealing the extent to which Trump and members of his inner circle had sought to leverage the powers of the presidency to keep him in office despite his election defeat — a campaign that reached a crescendo in the violent rampage at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
A daunting task: But 16 months into the probe, investigators face the daunting task of crunching evidence gleaned from tens of thousands of documents and more than 1,000 witness interviews, packaging it into a concise closing argument and delivering it in the form of a compelling narrative capable of convincing voters that Trump and his supporters pose an ongoing threat to America’s democratic institutions.
For more than two hours on Thursday, they will begin that process.
“We’re going to bring a particular focus on the former president’s state of mind and his involvement in these events as they unfolded,” a committee aide told reporters Wednesday.
Key information: Such information could be key for Trump’s legal culpability, as many potential charges relating to the insurrection rely on demonstrating intent. As a separate matter, the committee still has to decide whether it will make criminal referrals based on its findings to the Justice Department, which is conducting its own wide-ranging investigation.
“We have not reached a conclusion on that at this point,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, told CNN on Friday.
A departure: In a departure from prior hearings where one or two members were primarily responsible for walking through evidence and witness questions, in Thursday’s hearing, each participant on the nine-member panel will have a role. The panel is also not planning to have any live witness testimony for the hearing.
“In June and July, we zeroed in for the most part on a particular topic as we laid out a multistep plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election and block transfer of power,” the aide said.
“Tomorrow what we’re going to be doing is taking a step back.”
What’s new: Among the details the committee is expected to share Thursday are new information gleaned from documents turned over by the Secret Service as well as clips from a documentary crew that followed Trump confidant Roger Stone.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will give short remarks before their bilateral meeting, at 2:25 a.m. at NATO Headquarters in Brussels
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a discussion on “Envisioning a Free and Prosperous Ukraine,” at 9 a.m.
- The Stimson Center will host a virtual talk on “Afghanistan Under the Taliban and its Regional Impact,” at 9 a.m.
- The Hudson Institute will hold a virtual discussion “Exploiting a Hidden Window of Opportunity to Deter a Conflict over Taiwan,” 10 a.m.
- The National Endowment for Democracy will host a talk on “Sustaining the Momentum: Countering Kleptocracy in Russia and Beyond,” at 2 p.m.
- Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies will hold a virtual discussion on “Finland, NATO, and the Lessons of History,” at 5:30 p.m.
- Axios will host a discussion on “Guarding Against and Responding to Cyberattacks,” with Deputy National Security Council Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger and former homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert, at 5:30 p.m.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- DHS expands Trump-era policy to Venezuelans while opening new pathway to US
- Griner worried she will have to serve out her 9-year sentence in Russia: lawyer
- US, allies call for halt to hostilities in northern Ethiopia
- Ukrainian nuclear power plant loses external power: watchdog
- 8 arrested in explosion on Kerch Bridge, Russia says
- IMF estimates Ukraine needs $4 billion a month to keep government operating
- Biden: Time to rethink US-Saudi relationship
- Biden says he has ‘no intention’ of meeting with Putin at G20 next month
- The Hill: Opinion: An end to US military support for Saudi Arabia is long overdue
That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!
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