U.S. pushing Taiwan toward other weapons in secret letters- POLITICO | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


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The Biden administration is rebuffing some of Taiwan’s requests for big-ticket weapons, instead urging Taipei to buy other equipment the U.S. believes will better deter and defend against China, according to U.S. and Taiwanese officials and documents obtained by Alex, LARA SELIGMAN and NAHAL TOOSI.

The Army told Taiwan in a March letter that it should buy an upgraded version of a mobile artillery system Taipei had requested years ago. In a separate March letter, the State Department told Taiwan that it would not respond to a request for a pricey helicopter designed for hunting submarines.

The moves are part of a push by the Biden administration as the threat of a Chinese invasion appears to become more urgent, officials say. They also come as Washington, Taipei and Beijing are watching for parallels in Ukraine’s existential fight against Russia.

Taiwan has made clear its interest in larger American-made weapons such as the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter. But the Biden administration is trying to convince Taipei that these expensive items, while fine for peacetime operations, would not survive an all-out assault from the mainland.

Instead, the administration is urging Taipei to learn from Ukraine and invest in smaller, mobile systems such as drone swarms, Stinger anti-tank missiles and Javelin anti-aircraft missiles, which are less vulnerable to China’s advanced weapons, officials said.

“We want to be a partner. Part of that is having those tough conversations,” said one U.S. official familiar with the issue, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. “A certain system may not be in their interest. If they are limited in resources they should be spending resources on ways to complicate invasions.”

But Taiwanese officials have recently expressed frustration about delays in delivery of the American-made weapons they have on order. A purchase of M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers has been held up due to a crowded production line, while an order of Stingers has also been delayed, Defense Minister CHIU KUO-CHENG said last week.

Regarding discussions about the MH-60R, a top State Department official told Taipei this spring that the administration “has decided not to respond” to the self-governing island’s request for the helicopters, according to a March 11 letter obtained by POLITICO.

The Pentagon and State Department believe the helicopters will not “enhance Taiwan’s ability to deter [China’s] aggressive actions and defend itself,” according to the letter, sent from JESSICA LEWIS, the assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, to Vice Minister HORNG-HUEI PO.

Instead, Lewis urged Taipei to invest in more “cost efficient” capabilities such as command and control systems, surveillance, short-range air defenses, and naval sea mines.

Read the full story here.

ODESA STRUCK HARD: The vital Ukrainian port city of Odesa came under heavy bombardment overnight, likely an effort by Russia to further disrupt military and economic supply lines.

“The Ukrainian military said Tuesday that Russian forces fired seven missiles a day earlier from the air at Ukraine’s largest port, Odesa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse. One person was killed and five were wounded, the military said,” per The Associated Press’ ELENA BECATOROS and JON GAMBRELL. “Images showed a burning building and detritus — including a tennis shoe — in a heap of destruction in the city on the Black Sea. At daybreak, Mayor GENNADY TRUKHANOV later visited the warehouse and said it ‘had nothing in common with military infrastructure or military objects.’”

Further damage to Odesa and its port will not only impact Ukraine’s resistance effort but also global food supplies, as the city is a key transit point for grain shipments.

TEAM BIDEN THINKS UKRAINE HELPS ASIA PIVOT: The Biden administration is increasingly confident that Russia’s faltering invasion in Ukraine will help the U.S. turn its attention to China, Bloomberg News’ PETER MARTIN reported.

“US officials see the conflict’s toll and the slew of sanctions placed on Moscow as leaving Russia hobbled for years to come. Combined with bolstered European defense spending, that means the US may have a freer hand to accelerate its long-term shift toward China, viewed as America’s biggest future challenge, according to several officials,” he wrote.

Simply put: A weakened Russia, a stronger Europe and a world more convinced of America’s resolve will make President JOE BIDEN’s Asia policy easier to execute. “That would likely mean a range of actions, including shifting troops and weaponry and expanding economic and political ties across the Indo-Pacific,” two U.S. defense officials told Martin.

NEW DPRK PLAN SAME AS OLD PLAN: South Korea’s new president, YOON SUK-YEOL, outlined his new plan to entice North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal — and it’s a plan we’ve all heard before.

“If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearization, we are prepared to work with the international community to present an audacious plan that will vastly strengthen North Korea’s economy and improve the quality of life for its people,” he said Tuesday as he took office for his single five-year term.

Let’s be clear: American and South Korean leaders have offered cash for nukes for decades now. Former President DONALD TRUMP took that idea further, directly pitching North Korean leader KIM JONG UN that the end of his nuclear program would eventually lead to beachfront hotel properties full of tourists.

It’s therefore unlikely that Kim will accept Yoon’s offer, especially since the North Korean despot wants the weapons to safeguard his hold on power. Even so, Yoon said “the door to dialogue will remain open so that we can peacefully resolve this threat.”

Yoon will host President JOE BIDEN in Seoul near the end of the month.

FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY — CNAS REPORT ON MANAGING IRAN’S WMDS: Iran is unlikely to use nuclear weapons even if Iran obtains one, per a new report from the Center for a New American Security obtained exclusively by NatSec Daily.

The authors, BECCA WASSER and JENNIE MATUSCHAK, conducted three tabletop exercises to examine what Tehran would do with such power. Instead of deploying the bomb, Iran “may be more likely to use chemical and biological weapons to escalate conflict.” That opens the space for the U.S. to prioritize other regions, namely the Indo-Pacific, instead of spending so much time on security issues of the Middle East — even if relative disengagement will anger allies like Israel, they wrote.

Alumni of CNAS, as the think tank is known in Washington, D.C., fill the highest echelons of the Biden administration’s national security team. It’s therefore possible, if not likely, that the analysis and recommendations could reach a top-level audience inside the U.S. government just as Washington continues to negotiate its reentry into the abandoned Iran nuclear deal.

Among the recommendations: The U.S. interagency should change assumptions about when and why Iran would use nuclear weapons; U.S. intelligence officers should view chemical and biological weapons use by Iran as “an asymmetric step on Iran’s escalation ladder”; and the U.S. government “should recognize that it is unlikely to influence Iran’s redlines.”

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SRI LANKAN MILITARY GIVEN EMERGENCY POWERS: Sri Lanka’s military and police can now detain people without warrants after deadly protests led Prime Minister MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA to resign.

The demonstrations have so far killed seven people and injured more than 200, Reuters’ ALASDAIR PAL and UDITHA JAYASINGHE reported. “As the Indian Ocean nation battles its worst economic crisis in history, thousands of protesters had defied curfew to attack government figures, setting ablaze homes, shops and businesses belonging to ruling party lawmakers and provincial politicians,” they wrote.

To fend off the protesters, “[t]he military can detain people for up to 24 hours before handing them to police, while private property can be searched by force, including private vehicles,” Reuters reported.

There’s growing concern that authorities will abuse their power in the name of calming the unrest, potentially catalyzing more violence in the days ahead.

EU, U.K. FINGER RUSSIA FOR CYBERATTACKS: The European Union and United Kingdom said that Russia was responsible for the “unacceptable” cyberattack on satellite communications provider Viasat in February, POLITICO’s LAURENS CERULUS reported.

The attack happened just an hour before Moscow started its invasion of Ukraine, the EU said in a statement, adding it was “yet another example of Russia’s continued pattern of irresponsible behaviour in cyberspace, which also formed an integral part of its illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”

The bloc is “considering further steps to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to such malicious behaviour,” it said. Countries can agree to slap sanctions on cyberattackers, and the EU has previously done so with the Russian intelligence services that were behind some of the most devastating cyberattacks in the past years.

“The European Union will continue to provide coordinated political, financial and material support to Ukraine to strengthen its cyber resilience,” it added in the statement.

U.K. Foreign Secretary LIZ TRUSS said the cyberattack was a “deliberate and malicious attack by Russia against Ukraine.”

Hours later, Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN released his own statement in agreement with the assessment but also went further than his colleagues. “The United States has assessed that Russian military cyber operators have deployed multiple families of destructive wiper malware, including WhisperGate, on Ukrainian Government and private sector networks. These disruptive cyber operations began in January 2022, prior to Russia’s illegal further invasion of Ukraine and have continued throughout the war,” he said.

SPAIN’S INTEL CHIEF FIRED OVER PEGASUS: The infiltration of top Spanish politicians’ technology by Pegasus surveillance software has led the government to fire National Intelligence Center Director PAZ ESTEBAN, Spain’s EFE news outlet reported.

Estaban is the first victim of the scandal enveloping the highest levels of the Spanish government.

As POLITICO’s Cerulus wrote: “The Spanish government last week said that Prime Minister PEDRO SÁNCHEZ was hacked with Pegasus software, an Israeli-made digital hacking tool for snooping on phone communication. Sánchez as well as Defense Minister MARGARITA ROBLES fell victim to the malicious software in 2021, in what Madrid called an ‘illegal and external’ intrusion of government communication.”

CANADA TO JOIN U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE? Defense Minister ANITA ANAND said today that Canada is examining the possibility of joining the United States’ ballistic missile defense system, an openness that comes nearly two decades after Ottawa first rejected an invitation to participate, per our own ANDY BLATCHFORD.

“We are certainly taking a full and comprehensive look at that question as well as what it takes to defend the continent across the board,” Anand said in response to an audience question that followed her speech in Ottawa to the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“We are leaving no stone unturned in this major review of continental defense,” she said, promising there will be more to say “in the months to come.”

Any step by Canada toward joining the system would mark a major policy shift. In February 2005, then-Liberal Prime Minister PAUL MARTIN announced Canada would not take part in the U.S. ballistic missile defense, a move met with disappointment in Washington.

SOLVING THE M-CODE: The Pentagon has been trying to develop a more jam-resistant, military GPS signal called M-code for nearly two decades. But “widespread operational use will take several more years, due to developmental challenges and delays with the user equipment that will receive the signal,” according to a new review by the Government Accountability Office, per our friends at Morning Defense (for Pros!).

A major obstacle is completing the necessary testing because of the failure to accurately track when receivers and other ground equipment will be ready and how much components will cost.

“Delays to test plans place timely fielding of M-code capability on priority systems at risk,” GAO says.

DNI WARNS OF BLOODY NEXT CHAPTER IN UKRAINE: Director of National Intelligence AVRIL HAINES warned senators of a more volatile phase of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine over the coming months, saying that Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN intends to expand the offensive beyond the Donbas and readies for a “prolonged conflict,” our own CONNOR O’BRIEN writes in.

“The uncertain nature of the battle, which is developing into a war of attrition, combined with the reality that Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities likely means the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory,” Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “At the very least, we believe the dichotomy will usher in a period of more ad hoc decision making in Russia.”

Putin could seek “more drastic means” on the home front and abroad to achieve his objectives, Haines said, including imposing martial law, shifting industrial production to sustain the war effort and “potentially escalatory military actions.” She cited Russia’s nuclear rhetoric, and said Putin could authorize fresh nuclear drills as a warning to the West as the U.S. and allies continue to arm Ukraine.

‘A temporary shift’: The assessment from Haines, made during the committee’s worldwide threats hearing, comes as Russia focuses its offensive on Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland region after failing to seize the capital of Kyiv.

That move, Haines said, was likely just “a temporary shift.” The DNI assessed that “Putin’s strategic goals have probably not changed” in Ukraine.

“Even if they are successful, we are not confident that the fight in the Donbas will effectively end the war,” she said. “We assess President Putin is preparing for prolonged conflict in Ukraine during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas.”

Land bridge: The intelligence chief testified that Russia seeks to create a land bridge from Crimea to Transnistria, in neighboring Moldova, but cannot do so without further military mobilization.

UKRAINE AID VOTE TEED UP: The House is slated to vote late tonight on a nearly $40 billion security and economic assistance package for Ukraine.

The bill, just made public, shows Congress is stepping on the gas after Biden warned that the stream of U.S. weapons to Ukraine would run dry in just over a week. The legislation is expected to easily pass both chambers.

The bipartisan deal is a boost to Biden’s $33 billion Ukraine proposal, a sum administration officials had hoped would bolster Ukraine over the next five months of the war.

Despite the boost to Biden’s proposal — and while they’ll likely support the current deal — Republicans argue more is still needed to adequately help Ukraine beat back the Russian invasion.

“Defeating Putin is priceless,” said Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.), the top Republican on the Senate panel that funds the State Department and foreign aid programs.

“From what I understand, it’s not enough,” Sen. JIM INHOFE of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told POLITICO.

BOLTON BACKS ESPER AGAINST TRUMP: JOHN BOLTON, Trump’s third national security adviser, wrote a WSJ op-ed today backing former Defense Secretary MARK ESPER in his quest to reveal the former president’s conduct as commander in chief.

Esper’s book, “A Sacred Oath,” is “another important brick in the wall of evidence that Mr. Trump should never again be president,” Bolton wrote. “Time and again, he shows how presidential inattention, ignorance, incuriosity, duplicity and unwillingness to take responsibility for hard decisions all put the United States at risk.”

In his own book, Bolton came out swinging against Trump, saying he was a dangerous leader whose mercurial nature made it hard to govern. With Esper, Bolton now has a comrade in arms, warning Republicans and the broader American public that reelecting Trump into the White House would be an egregious mistake.

— FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY: TREY LYONS has joined the National Security Council as a director for Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He is a 20-year veteran of the Foreign Service and spent the last three years as a senior adviser to the chair of the OSCE.

— KEMBA WALDEN has been appointed the first principal deputy national cyber director, and NEAL HIGGINS and ROB KNAKE have been appointed deputy national cyber directors. Walden previously worked at Microsoft as an assistant general counsel in the company’s digital crimes unit. Higgins previously served as the CIA’s associate deputy director for digital innovation. Knake previously was a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a fellow at the Harvard Belfer Center’s Cyber Project and an adviser to cybersecurity startups and Fortune 500 companies.

— JANE ARRAF, The New York Times: “Crowdfunding a War: How Online Appeals Are Bringing Weapons to Ukraine”

— ALINA SELYUKH, ALYSON HURT, CONNIE HANZHANG JIN and NICK UNDERWOOD, NPR: “The Ripple Effects of Russia’s War in Ukraine Are Changing the World”

— FREDRICK KUNKLE, The Washington Post: “In Ukraine, Gas Shortages Further Complicate Daily Life”

— The United States Institute of Peace, 9 a.m.: “Previewing the U.S.-ASEAN Summit — with KURT CAMPBELL, LISE GRANDE and EVAN MEDEIROS

— House Foreign Affairs Committee, 9:30 a.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Improving the United States’ Ability to Prevent and Stabilize Conflict: Global Fragility Act Implementation — with ROBERT JENKINS, JAMES SAENZ and ANNE A. WITKOWSKY

— The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10 a.m.: “Peace, Security and Conflict in the Middle East — with CORNELIUS ADEBAHR, RICCARDO ALCARO, FEDERICA BICCHI, ASSEM DANDASHLY, MARIA LUISA FANTAPPIE, BENEDETTA VOLTOLINI and MAHA YAHYA

— House Appropriations Committee, 10 a.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for the United States Agency for International Development — with SAMANTHA POWER

— House Armed Services Committee, 10 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Fiscal Year 2023 Defense Budget Request from the Department of the Navy — with DAVID H. BERGER, MICHAEL M. GILDAY and CARLOS DEL TORO

— House Science, Space and Technology Committee, 10 a.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Securing the Digital Commons: Open-Source Software Cybersecurity — with BRIAN BEHLENDORF, LAUREN KNAUSENBERGER, AMÉLIE ERIN KORAN and ANDREW LOHN

— The Hudson Institute, 10 a.m.: “NATO and Russia’s War on Ukraine: A Conversation with NATO Deputy Secretary General MIRCEA GEOANA — with KENNETH R. WEINSTEIN

— The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, 10:15 a.m.: “Leveraging American Innovation to Counter Beijing and Protect U.S. National Security — with BRADLEY BOWMAN, H.R. MCMASTER, MARK MONTGOMERY and TODD YOUNG

— House Appropriations Committee, 10:30 a.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Fiscal Year 2023 Department of Defense — with LLOYD AUSTIN, MICHAEL MCCORD and MARK MILLEY

— House Appropriations Committee, 2 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection — with CHRIS MAGNUS

— House Appropriations Committee, 2 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Impacts of VA’s Research Efforts on Veterans — with PATRICIA HASTINGS and RACHEL RAMONI

— House Armed Services Committee, 2 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Fiscal Year 2023 Strategic Forces Missile Defense and Missile Defeat Programs — with JON HILL, DANIEL KARBLER, JOHN PLUMB, JOHN D. SAWYER and JOHN E. SHAW

— House Foreign Affairs Committee, 2 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Accountability and Justice for War Crimes Committed in Ukraine by the Russian Federation — with MICHAEL R. CARPENTER

— House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, 2 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Reviewing President Biden’s Strategy to Reduce Veteran Suicide by Addressing Economic Risk Factors — with NICK ARMSTRONG, PEGGY BAILEY, MARQUIS BAREFIELD, SUSAN L. BLACK, JUDY CLAUSEN, EMILY DEVITO, CHRISTOPHER JONES, BETSEY MERCADO, MATTHEW A. MILLER, LAURA OTIS-MILES and JAMES D. RODRIGUEZ

— House Appropriations Committee, 2:15 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Fiscal Year 2023 Budget: National Nuclear Security Administration and Environmental Management — with MARVIN ADAMS, JAMES ‘FRANK’ CALDWELL, COREY HINDERSTEIN, JILL HRUBY and WILLIAM ‘IKE’ WHITE

— Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 2:30 p.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Review of the Fiscal Year 2023 USAID Budget Request — with SAMANTHA POWER

— The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, 3 p.m.: “Schriever Spacepower Forum: Space National Guard — with STEVEN J. BUTOW and MICHAEL A. VALLE

— Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, 3 p.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Examining Quality of Care in VA and the Private Sector — with CAROLYN M. CLANCY, KRISTINE GROVES, JULIE KROVIAK, GREGG S. MEYER, MICHAEL J. MISSAL, JONATHAN B. PERLIN and ERICA M. SCAVELLA

— House Foreign Affairs Committee, 4 p.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Public Briefing with U.N. World Food Program Executive Director DAVID BEASLEY

— House Armed Services Committee, 4:30 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for Military Readiness — with DAVID W. ALLVIN, WILLIAM K. LESCHER, JOSEPH M. MARTIN, ERIC M. SMITH and DAVID D. THOMPSON

— Senate Armed Services Committee, 4:30 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: The United States Space Force Programs in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2023 and the Future Years Defense Program — with FRANK CALVELLI, JOHN PLUMB and DAVID THOMPSON

— AFCEA Washington, D.C., 6 p.m.: “15th Annual Military IT Awards — with DENNIS A. CRALL

Have a natsec-centric event coming up? Transitioning to a new defense-adjacent or foreign policy-focused gig? Shoot us an email at [email protected] or [email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.

And thanks to our editor, John Yearwood, who wishes we made “a temporary shift” away from this newsletter.





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