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German submarine operates under NATO command in the Eastern Baltic Sea – Defence Blog


German submarine U33 has just concluded a several-week-long assurance measure deployment under NATO in the Eastern Baltic Sea. It arrived back to the naval base and home port of Eckernförde on Monday, 25 May 2020.

The submarine, under the leadership of Lieutenant Commander Tobias Eikermann, in the past few weeks has operated under NATO Maritime Command (MARCOM).

The patrol was part of the NATO Assurance Measures focused on monitoring the activities of the Russian fleet. U33 is one of the first German submarines detached to MARCOM for this purpose in the Baltic Sea.

Assurance measures are a sign of the Alliance’s cohesion internally and of its strength and readiness externally; they are a pillar of the NATO Readiness Action Plan going back to the 2014 Wales Summit, where the Allies agreed to increase their presence at NATO’s eastern flank.

“Submarines are a key part of the NATO strategic maritime plan. Deployments like this contribute substantially to sustained assurance measures. We need to ensure that we are capable and ready to defend and protect,” said Rear Admiral Andrew Burcher, Commander NATO Submarines.



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NATO Imagines Future Warfare


Innovation is a key component of readiness when it comes to future threats. NATO’s Innovation Hub recently commissioned a short story from author August Cole, asking him to draw upon his writing and imaginative abilities to create a picture of what NATO operations could be like in the year 2040. The Cipher Brief is pleased to be able to bring you 2040: KNOWN ENEMIES, with permission from NATO.

CHAMPS-ÉLYSÉES — PARIS, FRANCE

The protestors’ braying air horns reminded Alain Durand of the feel of his father’s hand squeezing his as they watched the Tour de France peloton speed by on a verdant hill outside Chambéry, half a lifetime ago. Tonight on the Champs Elysees it meant drones. It meant gas.

He carefully pushed aside two old fashioned white cloth banners — “PAX MACHINA” and “NON AUX ARMEES, NON A LA GUERRE,” written in thick red brush strokes to better see. In a field of view populated with synthetic representations of the real world, the banners were anachronistic but also enduring. They spoke to the necessary spirit of dissent in one of Europe’s more temperamental democracies, Alain thought. Yet it was time to change again: France was the last NATO member, other than the United States, to maintain conventional combat forces. The other members had already robotized.

“A matter of not just tradition but national survival,” his father, a colonel in France’s 3e Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine, always insisted.

The horns stopped. The crowd of thousands hushed to better hear the whine of the oncoming Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité riot-police crowd-control drones, a sound like a frantically played piccolo. It was a child’s sound — that was why it intimidated. The flight of a dozen drones hovered in a picket formation in front of the crowd of more than 10,000 marching along the cobbled stones toward the Arc de Triomphe. On Alain’s augmented reality glasses, the bots were bright orange dots, tagged with comments from around the world guiding him on everything from how to download apps to jam their controllers to offers of legal representation. Alain reached into his satchel and cursed, as an ad for gas mask replacement filters popped into view.

A protestor’s drone, bright yellow and the size of an espresso cup, darted past him, then returned to hover in front of his face. It was filming. He could see the live feed it broadcast on his own glasses, identifying him as the son of a senior army officer. He looked around, feeling a need to disappear in the crowd even though that was impossible. He swatted at the yellow drone, and it darted off.

Was that a Catalyst design?, he wondered. The mysterious informal global network emerged on the public stage about three years ago, fomenting dissent and countergovernment action in the virtual realm. It started with what was essentially algo-busting or AI-enabled augmented-reality pranks to make a point about excessive Chinese and American influence around the world. But in the last six months, something had changed, and they were now moving from the online to the real world, supplying not only plans for printable grenades or swarm drones but also the fabs to make them. They had never tried to operate in Europe before, or the U.S. Was this drone a sign something was changing, literally before his own eyes?

Those same eyes began to itch. He had other things to worry about for the moment.

“Juliet, I don’t have my mask,” he said to his sister. She already had hers, a translucent model with a bubble-like faceplate that made her look like a snorkeler.

“And?” she said.

“I am certain I put it in there, but …” he trailed off.

She sighed angrily, condensation briefly fogging her mask. Four years younger, his 15-year-old sister could judge him harshly. She got that from their father.

“We stay,” she said, passing him a bandana and bottle of water. “Parliament votes tomorrow. Father is already deployed. If we leave now, when will we ever stand?”

“Ok, ok,” Alain muttered. He wet the bandana and braced himself for the gas.

Drones dashed just a few feet overhead, a disorienting swirl of straining electric motors and the machines’ childlike tone. The crowd sighed all at once and then individual shouting erupted around him. A moment later his eyes began to sting. Fumbling with the bandana he quickly wrapped the wet cloth around his mouth. But, eyes now burning, he struggled to tie it around his neck. With so much gas in the air, no one without a mask would be able any more to continue watching the eruption of digital dissent. He felt Juliet’s fingers on his neck, helping secure the bandana’s knot. Hands now free, he angrily pumped his fists in the air and blindly grasped to help hold his cloth banners aloft.

JULIUS NYERERE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — DAR-ES-SALAAM, TANZANIA

It was so hot, when the convoy stopped at the main gate to the joint United Nations-African Union compound, that the German and Italian battle bots broke formation. The NATO task force’s hundreds of small armored wheeled and tracked machines jerked and shimmied like ants as they fought over the shade beneath the bright blue revetments — towering stacks of shipping containers reinforced with blast-foam. That left the French para forces, what NATO classified as a light-effects company due to its mostly non-robotic composition under, in the crushing heat with nowhere to go. That was fine for the French unit’s commander, Luc Durand. His men and women could handle the heat; the bots were another story.

Captain Monika Toonce hopped off one of the oversized German Jaeger crawlers and jogged over to Durand’s open scout car. The French convoy included the jeep, six-wheeled troop carriers (each carrying 12 paratroopers as well as external racks of offensive and defensive smallbots), and four mules loaded with ammunition, spare parts, and assorted spider-like fixers.

“Colonel, we are still waiting for the clear codes before the task force can enter the compound,” Toonce said. She paused to wipe sweat from her nose. “Headquarters said they sent them. But they are not yet authenticated here …”

Durand cursed. The bots would not yet be cleared for self-defense, let alone offensive use. He forced himself to ease back and put his boot up on his jeep’s wheel well, a pose he could hold for hours on a high-speed cross-desert dash or pulling security at a vital intersection. This is an old problem in a new form, he thought. This is why the French army trains to fight with or without machines. “La victoire ne se donne pas!” was the motto adopted four years ago.

Deconflicting the newly arrived German and Italian anti-armor/aircraft and counter-personnel bots with the existing UN-AU peacekeeping forces — so that they didn’t automatically attack one another — was just another form of confusion and complexity. For all the advantage the machines offered, they also brought the onset of the fog of war forward that much earlier in a conflict. Ignoring Toonce, Durand drew with his finger on the dusty screen he wore at his waist, a series of arrows to sketch out a concept. He snapped a picture of the tracings with his glasses; it was something he would write up when he got back from deployment. You never know where inspiration will come from.

“Ok, you want to ride with us then? We are heading in. The machines can handle themselves, no?” Durand said.

Toonce looked torn between waiting with the disabled bots or accompanying Durand. Her responsibility for the German armored forces was a significant one, given the expense and competition for deployment-likely slots in the Bundeswehr. There were fewer soldiers in the German army today than there were postal carriers in Bavaria. Why they kept so many of the latter and so few of the former us was not something Toonce allowed herself to weigh too deeply. She loved the army, loved her comrades and their machines.

Toonce nodded. The maintenance techs were still on the way. She was the sole German representative, and she told herself she needed to be present when the NATO task force leaders finally presented themselves.

The two soldiers were in a narrow pause, a lull — in what had been fevered fighting — that the NATO task force had taken advantage of to deploy by air from a staging area outside Nairobi.

“Good choice,” Durand said. Toonce hopped on. Durand smiled at the master sergeant in the seat next to him, who tapped the jeep’s dash twice with the sort of gentle encouragement one might give a beloved horse. The vehicle advanced on its own at the gentle command.

They proceeded inside the compound under the watching guns of a pair of stork-legged Nigerian sentry turrets, each armed with a trio of four-barreled Gatling guns mounted on the mottled-grey fuselage pod.

Serge Martelle, the para master sergeant, handed Durand a palm-sized screen, a phone that used the local civilian networks.

“Seen this, sir?” Martelle asked.

A sigh. An image appeared of Alain’s face, jaw clenched and wide eyed, in the midst of a Paris protest. Again.

“No, not now, Martelle,” Durand said. A nod and he withdrew the screen. But Durand pulled up footage on his glasses, already tagged to his own and his son’s social media accounts. The final image was a bleary-eyed and red-faced Alain holding aloft the “PAX MACHINA.” It is Bastille Day after all, isn’t it. Durand smiled as they pulled up to a Kenyan general and his staff, standing at attention.

AU-UN HEADQUARTERS — DAR-ES-SALAAM, TANZANIA

“It’s not a mystery, as such, but we are not yet certain who is supplying the rogue Tanzanian army elements, as well as other local elements. But we can ascertain that they are currently involved in a rapid-equipping cycle using established and improvised fabrication sites that …”

“It’s Catalyst,” Durand barked. “Just call it out!” It was too easy to be rude to the UN Peacekeeping Office AIs; they were atrocious. Indecisive. Burdened with a politeness programmed to appease too many sensibilities. And that accent, unattached to any country’s native tongue, is an affront, he thought.

“Colonel Durand, analysis indicates a probability of certainty of—” the machine responded, now using a careful ethereal cadence to mollify Durand.

“General Kimani, with respect, how might we begin to engage an adversary that we refuse to identify?” Durand pressed the point. If the AU UN force acknowledged an “outbreak” of Catalyst coercive technologies, it would require an escalation of military presence that neither organization wanted to endorse at this point in the crisis.

“The last twenty-seven hours have seen no fighting,” Kimani responded. “We are hoping to use this window for dialogue.” He was the senior officer of the AUMIT, or African Union Mission in Tanzania. His charge included the military aspects of the peacekeeping mission, as well as coordinating with UN and quasi-governmental conflict-resolution groups trying to cool the conflict. “Right now, we’re running a Blue Zone dialogue with the dissident Tanzanian army, UN negotiators, Front Civil, and others. An invitation was extended to Catalyst, but no response.”

Durand nodded. Why would this highly disruptive and increasingly dangerous movement join in? It had no leaders. No clear strategy. He viewed French military intelligence’s take as sound: Catalyst sought to undermine US or Chinese economic, political, and military blocs of strategic influence to enable sub-national movements of self-determination.

The Blue Zones were private virtual environments managed by UN AIs to facilitate non-confrontational negotiations with machine-speed modelling and data. Some even talked of the platform’s AIs themselves being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. If Kimani really believed the UN could speed that diplomatic cycle up before the rearming of the Tanzanian coup forces then there was a chance this could resolve without further violence. Durand knew him by reputation and instinctively trusted him. Then he ground his teeth. He was being too optimistic. But what were the odds some Catalyst algos weren’t already spoofing that whole thing? It happened before, in Venezuela, in ’38. They never joined these kinds of hand-holding sims.

His watch buzzed. Toonce reported the clearance codes were finally being transmitted and would be uploaded shortly. Having the NATO mech forces inside the base would make him feel better as they could be re-checked, zeroed, and synched with the UN and AU bots already in the area of operations. NATO-reinforced UN and AU patrols could begin the next morning, he hoped. Leave the conciliation and negotiation to the UN. He had his mission.

On his glasses, Durand cued up his task force’s status reports, and began watching the downloading of the clearance codes. Details mattered, even more so with machines. As a leader you had to stay on top of it. He focused on the data and half-listened as Kimani spoke for another minute. A Rwandan officer began discussing the Belgian food fab facility near the port about to be brought online.

Blasting horns brought conversation to an abrupt stop. Half of the attendees around the table jolted upright, standing and holding the conference table with white-knuckled grips as if bracing for a bodily impact. Durand remained seated and sighed. He locked eyes with Kimani, who shook his head. An attack with a warning was one you would survive, they both knew. It’s the strikes that come without any heads up that get you.

His glasses blinked, a scratching and pixelated green snow, then returned to showing the download progress of the clear codes. Stuck at seventy-six percent. Martelle was already on his notepad, ensuring the French paras inside the compound were ready for what came next. Of course they would be, he knew. That also gave him calm.

The door burst open and Toonce paused to catch her breath. She wiped dust from her mouth and began to speak.

“The clear codes were hijacked,” she said. “Catalyst payload rode the packets, but it’s not a Tanzanian Army attack. They got partially hit, too — at least their Chinese systems, from what I can tell already. One of the local groups it looks like, based on analytics. Took the task force bots and mechs down. Same with the AU and UN already deployed here. They’re trying to bring the whole country to a stop, they say, to start real negotiations.”

“How did they attack, exactly?”“They used the clear codes to target our bots’ firmware, forcing a factory reset that requires hard keys that only exist back with the civilians at the defense ministries. We, as the deployed German army, don’t even hold those. Same with the Italians. As for the Tanzanian army systems they got from the PLA, I don’t know anything for sure, but seem to be down, too.”

That might seem fortuitous, but Durand immediately looked at it another way: If Catalyst elements could wipe out the Tanzanian army’s reliance on Chinese platforms, that would be a blank slate for a new dependence on easily downloadable and fabbable Catalyst systems. Tanzania would probably acquire the Doktor anti-armor system, a simple self-firing short-barreled launcher that could be concealed in a backpack or mounted with suction-grips to a driverless vehicle, and maybe Viper launchers, a short-range 64-shot swarm weapon about the size of a concrete block that could be held and aimed by two handles or prepositioned to strike on its own.

Nearby explosions — one, two, three — rocked the room and knocked out the lights. Sounds like mortars. In the darkness, as Durand began to taste dust in the air, he conferred with Martelle about what to do next. His paras might be the only truly friendly combat-capable force in the area right now.

CHAMPS-ÉLYSÉES — PARIS, FRANCE

Wringing out the handkerchief for a third time into the café’s brown-stained sink, Alain finally had the courage to look into the cracked mirror. Black splotches beneath the edges of the glass stained the edges of the reflective surface, framing a specter’s raw, red eyes peering back from an inky cloud.

“Oof,” he sighed. The neck of his black shirt was torn, by whom he could not remember. Claw-like scratches ran along his neck from his left ear down to his opposite clavicle. The blond girl who was shot in the legs? Or was it the CRS trooper who hit him with the mace?

A gentle knock on the door. “Everything Ok?”

That was his sister.

“A moment,” he said. He wiped his face with a coarse paper towel one more time, then put his augmented reality glasses back on. He tinted the lenses light blue. “I’m coming.”

Back out into the café, he rejoined his sister. A coffee waited, and he carefully touched its side with shaking fingers. Still warm. He closed his eyes and sipped the bitter espresso, grateful for the company of his sister and the tranquility of the café. Police drones raced by every few minutes, but no police were going to stop in here. They had other concerns right now responding to the attacks on the Champs-Élysées.

AU-UN HEADQUARTERS — DAR-ES-SALAAM, TANZANIA

Through thick black smoke, one of the tall two-legged defense turrets spun its gun mounts in lazy circles like a pinwheel. It did not fire as a swarm of bird-sized winged drones flew past in a corkscrew formation toward a far corner of the compound used for medevac flights. A series of blue strobe-like flashes followed by a sound like tearing paper meant that part of the camp would no longer be usable, Durand knew.

“Whose drones?” he asked aloud, looking around for Martelle.

“TA,” Martelle shouted, meaning “Tanzanian Army.” Normally, Martelle could look up with his glasses and get a read-out of the environment, seeing detailed information on everything from bandwidth to physical objects just as if he were going shopping. But since he had been on the base network during the attack, he saw nothing except fingerprint smudges and dust.

Yet after emerging from the bunker, the French officer knew where to find his soldiers. He sprinted at a low crouch toward a dispersed arrangement of vehicles set up in defensive positions. He greeted a soldier crouched near the rear flank of an AMX-3 armored vehicle. The paratrooper had set up a camoflage brown pop-up ballistic shield and was aiming a 10-year-old portable defense weapon skyward. These double-barreled shoulder-fired kinetic and microwave weapons were not connected to the base network or even the vehicles they were carried on, and so were still able to autonomously shoot down incoming shells and drones.

“Getting started a bit earlier than we wanted,” Durand said.

“Always ready, no?” said the soldier, whose chest armor name-plate read Orbach.

Durand held up the tablet he wore at his waist, and tapped it against the soldier’s forearm-mounted screen. Between the hastily broken up meeting and this physical connection, the mission-management AIs hosted on Durand’s tablet had created a plan of action based on years of training and real-world operations led by the colonel.

“There you go, Orbach. You have everything you need? Maybe I can fire up a fab for a nice coffee for you?”

Orbach smiled and nodded.

“Now get ready,” Durand said. “Let’s get out of this mess here and go start some trouble.”

Orders given, the information would spread rapidly from soldier to soldier, vehicle to vehicle, by direct or indirect laser transmission. Reliable, tightband, and perfect for a situation like this. Somebody might intercept it, but that was true with everything, wasn’t it?

At once, half the French paras moved to their vehicles, as the other half began climbing the shipping containers. Thanks to the task force’s own orbital sensors, unaffected by the attack so far, Durand had targets. Conventional doctrine emphasized machine vs. machine engagements, but he was going to be doing something far riskier. And more important: targeting the individuals who were the contacts, or nodes, for the Catalyst technologies. There was no time to waste staying inside the protection the base afforded. The Catalyst systems were learning and improving, from the first wave of attacks. Iterative warfare required ferocious speed and more initiative than most leaders were comfortable with.

A text message from Toonce appeared on Durand’s glasses. The UN base’s network was back up. Wait. Based on the auburn-colored text and the blue triangle icon, this was a message being sent via an encrypted consumer messaging app.

“I’m printing new logic cores for the defensive bots first, then the offensive systems. We have 213,” Toonce said.

“Of course,” Durand responded, a subvocal command converted to text. “How long?”

“Six hours.”

“And if you alternate printing, say, one defensive then one offensive, so there is … balance in our capability? I will not wait for the AU forces to regenerate. There is a window here we have to take before another round of upgrades by Tanzanian Army forces, or whoever else is equipping with Catalyst systems. We are moving out now.”

He closed out the conversation. Six hours would become 12, which would become a day delaying until the machines were ready. Durand’s paras were primed to fight now. La Victoire ne se donne pas.

Inside and atop the trucks and jeeps, the soldiers began cueing up virtual representations of their targets. The drivers took manual control, the safest option at a time like this. Less than a minute later, Durand and Martell were back in the scout car, with the commander buckling on his armor. The convoy rolled forward at a walking pace toward the base’s main gate. Some of the paras cast wary glances at the glitching Nigerian defense bots, which swayed back and forth atop their stork-like legs. Other soldiers looked for the two para sniper teams protectively watching from atop the shipping containers. As the vehicles advanced, the snipers flew a quartet of Aigle reconnaissance drones to scout routes established by Durand’s AIs.

The French soldiers were not the only ones rushing to action. Holding a water bottle in his lap, Martelle watched a squad of Kenyan infantry worked carefully to clear the medevac flight pad, guiding a pair of eight-legged explosive ordnance disposal bots as they cleared the area of micro-munitions left behind by the Catalyst swarm. The “confetti mines” were the size of an old postage stamp, paper-like explosives that detonated when their millimeters-thin bodies were bent or cracked. Coiled tight around titanium spools stored inside the bird-like drones, the mines fluttered to the ground by the hundreds, arming as they fell. One mine alone might not be enough to injure a person or even a machine. But if one detonated, it triggered other nearby mines.

“Martelle, hey,” Durand said.

“Sir,” Martelle responded, nodding. He took a drink of water.

“They have their job. We have ours.”

“Always ready. Onward,” Martelle said.

A tap on the pad at his waist and Durand urged the column forward. The base’s thick-plasticrete barrier-gates at its main entrance swung outward like arms extending for an embrace. Durand held his breath as his jeep was the first through, out into the open area beyond the base. With a feeling of regret, he passed intricate human-sized pyramids of dust-covered German and Italian bots, looking like cairns on a forgotten desert trail. It was as if in their final moments they sought to join together out of fear. He did not need those machines to complete this mission, but he would be lying to himself if he did not admit that they could make a life-or-death difference for his soldiers.

“Faster now,” said Durand. “We have our objectives, now we—”

His glasses vibrated painfully.

“MISSION ABORT,” read the message, a bright red scrawl of flashing characters.

This was no time to stop. He swiped it aside, and motioned for Martelle to keep driving.

Then General Kimani broke through with a direct audio feed.

“Colonel, you need to return to base. Mission abort. Confirm?”

There was no way to lock the officer out. Unlike with a fully autonomous formation, there was no “kill switch” for Durand’s troops. He led them, fully.

“We are en route to the objectives, general. You can see our target set; it has been approved by the task force command.”

The jeep slewed to the right, around a broken-down Tanzanian Army T-99X tank, a self-driving Chinese model that was exported throughout Africa, complete with stock PLA green-and-brown digital camo.

“No longer. PKO and AU leadership just made the call. They do not want your troops hunting down individuals in the city. Their models say it will just worsen the situation for civilians, everybody.”

Worsen? Durand thought. Isn’t it already bad enough?

“So,” said Durand. “That’s it?”

“I am going to propose another target set. Only bots, fabs, and cyber targets. No humans. We can deploy the task forces systems in six hours, I understand. Your paras can be on standby.”

Machines targeting machines, said Durand. That’s all they want any more.

He braced his leg and leaned back in his seat as his vehicle accelerated onto a deserted artery flanked by half a kilometer of torched and roofless four-story buildings. He looked back over his shoulder at the trailing convoy. His troops were there, following.

August Cole is co-author of Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution

Read also How NATO is Innovating Toward the Future only in The Cipher Brief

Read more expert-driven national security insights, perspective and analysis in The Cipher Brief.

 

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Avenging the Death of Qassem Soleimani


This unique national-security focused expert insight can’t be generated for free.  We invite you to support this kind of quality content by becoming a  Cipher Brief Level I Member .  Joining this high-level, security-focused community is only $10/month (for an annual $120/yr membership). It’s a great and inexpensive way to stay ahead of the national and global security issues that impact you the most.

 

 

The post Avenging the Death of Qassem Soleimani appeared first on The Cipher Brief.



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NATO’s Most Elite Operators and their Biggest Challenges


This unique national-security focused expert insight can’t be generated for free.  We invite you to support this kind of quality content by becoming a  Cipher Brief Level I Member .  Joining this high-level, security-focused community is only $10/month (for an annual $120/yr membership). It’s a great and inexpensive way to stay ahead of the national and global security issues that impact you the most.

 

 





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‘That’s no joke’: Taking aim at Trudeau, Trump’s campaign chief compares U.S. job numbers to Canadian losses


For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it seems the fallout from his Buckingham Palace video slip-up is set to run and run.

In the days since the PM’s unguarded remarks showed him cracking a joke at U.S. President Donald Trump’s expense at a NATO summit in England, he has found the clip being used both by Trump’s allies and foes to further their own needs.

At a reception on Tuesday evening, Trudeau was caught on camera with France’s Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands laughing at Trump’s long press appearances. “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” said Trudeau. Trump said the clip showed Trudeau was “two-faced.”

In a news conference after the summit, Trudeau said his “jaw drop” comment had been referring to Trump’s unexpected announcement that the next G7 summit will take place at Camp David and he had meant no offence.

However, that doesn’t seem to have appeased the Trump side, and on Friday Trudeau was taken to task by Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale.


Brad Parscale, campaign manager for the Trump 2020 reelection campaign, attends a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump in Bossier City, LA, U.S., November 14, 2019.

REUTERS/Tom Brenner

On Friday Bloomberg reported that Canada’s job market weakened, unexpectedly, for the second month in a row. Citing Statistics Canada figures, Bloomberg reported that Canada shed 71,200 jobs in November — the biggest drop since 2009. In total, Canada has added 285,100 jobs in 2019.

Pouncing on the November drop Parscale, citing Bloomberg reporting run online by the Financial Post, highlighted the fact that American job gains under Trump compare favourably to Canada’s numbers. The most recent U.S. Labor Department figures show the U.S. gained 266,000 jobs in the same month.

“Let’s see,” Parscale wrote in a post on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, the latter of which was shared by Trump’s own Facebook page.

“President Trump is fighting for America and our economy just ADDED 266,000 jobs. Justin Trudeau was laughing it up in London and the Canadian economy just LOST 71,200 jobs. That’s no joke. Trump wins. Again.”

Parscale’s stinging rebuke came soon after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had chimed in on the Trudeau clip, posting a campaign video to Twitter in which he used the video to take down Trump, suggesting he is a laughingstock to other world leaders.

“The world is laughing,” read the text over that clip and others of Trump’s trips abroad. “We need a leader the world respects.”

As of Thursday evening, Biden’s Twitter video had garnered more than nine million views. The campaign soon posted it to Facebook and told Reuters it was also promoting it to likely caucus-goers in the early presidential nominating state of Iowa on Instagram, YouTube and Hulu.

The Biden campaign also used the video in a fundraising pitch on Thursday, asking supporters to help turn the online ad into a TV spot.

— with files from Reuters and Bloomberg



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NATO’s New Mission


There is little argument that the 70-year-old NATO Alliance today finds itself in one of the most complicated security environments it has ever seen. China and Russia continue to pose significant challenges, the fast-paced development of new technology is adding borderless perimeters that must be defended and the organization is managing internal strife from its own members including Turkey and the United States.

As part of a joint statement issued Wednesday, leaders said, “We, as an Alliance, are facing distinct threats and challenges emanating from all strategic directions.  Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security; terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a persistent threat to us all.  State and non-state actors challenge the rules-based international order. Instability beyond our borders is also contributing to irregular migration. We face cyber and hybrid threats.”

Alliance leaders have been focused this week on developing a strategy to address security concerns with China for the very first time, and considering the implications of Beijing’s global investments and growing military. They were also aiming for agreement on a defense plan for the Baltics and Poland, as well as considering new approaches to common threats like terrorism.

Internally, the Alliance has been challenged by Turkey’s seeming lean in toward Russia and with a consistent demand from the U.S. to address burden sharing among NATO members.

“Since 2016, Canada and European allies have added 130 billion more to their defence budgets. And this number will increase to 400 billion U.S. dollars by 2024. This is unprecedented. This is making NATO stronger and it shows that this Alliance is adapting, responding when the world is changing,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the opening of the two-day conference. “NATO is the most successful Alliance in history because we have been able to change when the world is changing. That is exactly what we are doing again. And the fact is that we are doing more together in this Alliance now then we have done in many decades.”

While there has been no shortage of theatrics among leaders this week, The Cipher Brief tapped two of its experts, both former NATO Supreme Allied Commanders Europe (SACEUR) to help cut through some of the rhetoric to understand the Alliance’s strategic importance today to both the U.S. and its allies.

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove served as the 17th Supreme Allied Commander, NATO.  Prior to his position as SACEUR, General Breedlove served as the Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe; and Commander, U.S. Air Forces Africa.

Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) served as the 16th Supreme Allied Commander, NATO and is currently an Operating Executive at The Carlyle Group.  His is the author of, Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character.

Background:

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established in April 1949 with 12 initial nations signing on.
  • The Alliance was founded on three basic goals: to deter Soviet expansionism, to form a strong partnership with the United States to deter nationalist militarism in Europe and to encourage political integration throughout Europe.
  • U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower became NATO’s first Supreme Allied Commander (a role always held by an American) in 1950.
  • On September 12, 2001, NATO invoked its mutual defense clause in support of the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Today, NATO is comprised of 29 member countries including: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, The United Kingdom, and The United States.

 

Why is NATO so important right now?

General Philip Breedlove (Ret.), Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe

“The bottom line is we’re living in some of the most uncertain times of our history. We used to understand our opponents, who they were and where the lines on the ground and the lines in the sand were. Now, there are no lines out there for us to understand. There are all kinds of gray zone conflicts going on. Russia is attacking us in cyber every day. They’re engineering social media against the West every day. They’re interfering in elections, every single one of them including the French, German, U.S., and British elections. Where and how we draw lines and understand what our opponents are doing to us is critical. More than ever, we need NATO. In the last five years, Russia as a major world power, has used its military to cross internationally recognized borders into Crimea and into the Donbass and has changed internationally recognized borders by using their military. I don’t know what more we need to look for in order to understand how important NATO is.”

 

Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), Former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

“I’ll give you three reasons. One is the challenges that we collectively face with Russian adventurism. I think there’s still a significant role for NATO in deterring Russia and by the very nature of its invasion of Ukraine, we see that Vladimir Putin is a gambler. He’s a risk taker and I think will continue to put pressure on the Alliance. Number two, cyber security. We are increasingly at risk in the world of cyber where the level of threat far outpaces the level of preparation. And I think it’s an area in which we would be collectively much, much stronger if we operated together. Third, and finally I think the Alliance matters because of its potential impact in the Middle East and here whether we’re working on counter terrorism, helping to calm the situation in Syria, or in working over-time to deter Iran from bad behavior. And I think there are still significant missions ahead for NATO. I just mentioned three. We also have a continuing mission in Afghanistan and we have challenges in the Arctic. There’s plenty for NATO to do and it’s still great value for the United States.”

 

What needs to happen in London?

Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), Former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

“I think we need the Alliance to take a deep breath and work on the overall center of gravity for this Alliance, which is political coherence. At the moment, you have the French pulling in one direction, you have the Turks distinctly pulling in a different direction to the South, you have questions about where Afghanistan is going and you have the American side, which continues to constantly talk only about funding and who’s paying what. So right now, the Alliance doesn’t feel like a synchronized political Alliance, although its military capability remains strong. So, I would say the number one thing we need is more coherence out of the leadership assembling in London.”

 

Gen. Philip Breedlove (Ret.), Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

“What needs to happen in London is the same thing that should happen every time NATO meets at the senior level. And that is to reinforce the commitment by all of the allies to the alliance, and what the alliance stands for, to its Western values, and to the military commitment that we make to each other. There is essentially a commitment to collective defense, but there are also 28 individual bilateral commitments to defend each other.”

 

Access your full Cipher Brief debrief with Admiral James Stavridis here

Access your full Cipher Brief debrief with General Philip Breedlove here

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NATO and EU Army Cannot Coexist



Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has warned that NATO and a future EU army cannot coexist.

Mr Farage said during a campaign event in Buckley, Wales, on Monday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has to choose the UK’s place inside or out the European Defence Union. He said that if the nation commits to the proto-EU army post-Brexit, then the North Atlantic Treaty Organization could collapse.

“NATO and a European Defence Union cannot coexist equally,” Mr Farage said in comments reported by POLITICO.

He continued: “No man effectively can serve both. We’ve got a decision to make.”

Highlighting the importance of British military might to Europe, the Brexit Party leader said: “If we leave the European Defence Union, it becomes valueless. Because without [the UK], it doesn’t have the muscle that it needs.”

“But if we stay, don’t be surprised if NATO falls to pieces and we leave the security and protection that America had for us, thank God, twice in the last century,” he added.

Mr Farage’s comments come as President of the United States of America Donald J Trump is in the United Kingdom for a three-day visit to mark the 70th anniversary of NATO. During his trip, President Trump is meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The President had criticised the commitment of NATO members when in 2015, just five of the then-28-member union had hit the two per cent GDP minimum spending on defence (those countries being the U.S., UK, Greece, Poland, and Estonia). The USA funds around 70 per cent of NATO, spending 3.4 per cent of its GDP on defence.

In the subsequent years and with the support of Secretary-General Stoltenberg, more European countries have heeded the criticisms of President Trump and have recommitted to the spending target. Even Germany, which was set to fail to meet its own reduced spending target, recently committed to increased spending. Expanded to 29 countries, seven nations are now hitting their two per cent target.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron, who along with Germany is a great proponent of an EU army, claimed last month that NATO was suffering a “brain death”. He alleged America was “turning its back on us [Europe]” and questioned the U.S.’s “commitment” to the defence union and its members.

Macron’s comments proved unpopular with his European allies, with Germany’s Chancellor Merkel saying with an uncharacteristic bluntness that the Frenchman had used “drastic words” and “NATO remains a cornerstone of our security.” The former German defence minister and the next president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also defended NATO as the “protective shield of freedom”.

President Trump started his NATO visit Tuesday by addressing Macron’s remarks, calling them “very insulting” and remarking that France had many problems of its own, stating: “Nobody needs NATO more than France.”

While the Germans and the French leadership may disagree fundamentally on the importance of NATO, they, along with Brussels, remain the cornerstone of support for an EU army, which Mr Farage fears will over-extend its reach and threaten the 70-year-old transatlantic alliance.

Mr Macron had said in November 2018 that the EU needs its own army to “protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia, and even the United States of America”. The call for a “real, true European army” was backed by Chancellor Merkel, the European Commission, and senior European Parliament politician Guy Verhofstadt.

Mr Farage warned in July that as president of the EU’s powerful executive arm, Mrs von der Leyen would advance plans for a European army, saying: “She’s a fanatic for building a European army, but she’s not alone. When it’s completed, NATO will cease to exist or have any relevance in Europe at all.”

In 2017, EU member states signed up to the Permanent Structured Cooperation process, or PESCO — a key element of the bloc’s Defence Union plans formulated by the outgoing European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who had said the EU needs an army by 2025.

Mr Farage told voters in Wales on Monday that is EU is “not just talking about building their European Defence Union; they are talking about flexing their muscles around the world”.

“I find that in itself very alarming talk. What is clear, what is absolutely clear, is they want NATO out of Europe. That’s what the politicians in Brussels want,” he continued.

“I would say that in a world where there are some major serious threats, we need that military relationship with America today as much as we have ever needed it,” Mr Farage added.





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Putin’s Perfect Cover


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