With help from Paul McLeary and Daniel Lippman
MADRID — Turkey isn’t the only “problem child” of the NATO family at this year’s annual summit.
The Hungarian government is the lone objector blocking the establishment of a Center for Democratic Resilience within NATO, a yearslong effort by Rep. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-Va.), who serves as president of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly.
It can sound like a tale out of the U.S. Senate, where one member can grind the chamber’s business to a halt. In NATO, all member-nations must consent to a decree in the Strategic Concept or expansion of the alliance. The center, as billed, would advise governments on best practices for maintaining and building a 21st-century democracy.
Hungary’s anti-democratic slide is no secret, so it’s not necessarily a surprise that its government is objecting to the creation of such an entity within NATO. VIKTOR ORBÁN, Hungary’s DONALD TRUMP–endorsed prime minister, has engineered crackdowns on the press and undermined election laws and the independent judiciary, leading critics to dub him an authoritarian.
“With the horror we’re witnessing in Ukraine, how could you not want to build democratic architecture within NATO to counter what we are experiencing in Ukraine?” Connolly told NatSec Daily here on day one of the summit. “You can’t argue the two aren’t related. Of course, they’re related. What do you think Putin is fighting against?”
Connolly, who leads what is effectively NATO’s legislative body, is pleading with Hungary to harken back to its roots — specifically, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which was an effort to push back against Soviet influence.
“1956 was in some ways eerily like Ukraine in the aspirations being represented in the revolt of Soviet occupation in Hungary. There had been an uprising in East Germany prior to that, but that was the first big break in the Soviet bloc,” said Connolly, who once worked for then-Sen. JOE BIDEN on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “So my hope is Hungary will remind itself of its own history [and] return to its own struggle for freedom over many generations.”
The purpose of a Center for Democratic Resilience is “to serve as a resource and a clearinghouse of best practices and cross-fertilization on democratic benchmarks available to member, partner, and aspirant states, upon request,” according to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Connolly has referred to it as NATO’s “sin of omission,” and has cited the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and efforts by pro-Trump forces to overturn the 2020 election as evidence that democracy is fragile.
Back home, Connolly and Rep. MIKE TURNER (R-Ohio) led House passage of a resolution supporting the establishment of such a center within NATO, though 63 Republicans opposed the effort. But in order for it to actually happen, Hungary needs to drop its opposition. Connolly declined to describe the nature of Budapest’s objections, but noted that the rest of NATO’s members were skittish about his proposal when he first unveiled it and eventually came around.
“I’m ever the optimist. But I’ll tell you this, we will not give up,” Connolly said. “We will stick with this and pursue this until it comes to fruition.”
DEAL ON SWEDEN AND FINLAND JOINING NATO: Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement that would allow the two Nordic nations to join NATO, ending Ankara’s weekslong threats to block the accession process.
“[O]ur foreign ministers signed a trilateral memorandum which confirms that Türkiye will at the Madrid Summit this week support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO. The concrete steps of our accession to NATO will be agreed by the NATO Allies during the next two days, but that decision is now imminent,” Finnish President SAULI NIINISTÖ said in a statement.
Sweden and Finland agreed not to provide any support to Kurdish-led fighters in Syria and that they recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization, as well as confirming there are no arms embargoes against Turkey. That was enough to get Ankara to relent for now, though former U.S. Ambassador to NATO IVO DAALDER isn’t convinced Turkey got much. “[C]ommitments are in line with past statements” by Sweden and Finland, he wrote to us.
This was a result of a flurry of diplomacy since Turkish President RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN initially said he would prevent Sweden and Finland from becoming the alliance’s 31st and 32nd members.
Just today, per our own JONATHAN LEMIRE and NAHAL TOOSI, “Biden spoke with the Turkish leader by phone Tuesday, and ‘he looks forward to seeing President Erdogan’ at the summit, according to a White House readout of the call. National security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN later confirmed the two leaders will meet in Spain on Wednesday,” they wrote. “U.S. officials have signaled that Biden would only meet with Erdogan if a deal was likely, and if there was renewed optimism among NATO members that Turkey would eventually sign off.”
Hours before the trilateral memorandum was signed, our own PAUL McLEARY spoke to Swedish Defense Minister PETER HULTQVIST who said to come this far and not make it, “would be a waste of time for NATO … I think that from a military-strategic point of view, it’s a huge step to take Finland and Sweden into NATO.”
Sweden’s military has trained and operated with NATO countries for years, and most of its military gear is interoperable with NATO’s, including Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets and CV90 infantry fighting vehicles (152 of which were told to Slovakia on Tuesday.) “We have a lot of resources that are top class and NATO and all of the countries we’re cooperating with, they know it,” the minister added.
Hultqvist wouldn’t comment on the talks with Turkey, but he did say his country is already moving toward spending the much-debated 2 percent of its GDP on defense as the alliance calls for. The Swedish military currently eats up about 1.5 percent of Stockholm’s GDP, so the increases will be significant.
Hulqvist said it’s too early to pinpoint exactly where the extra cash will go, but the country is looking at upgrading its homemade Gripen fighter planes, beefing up its defensive and offensive cyber capabilities, and growing the size of its armed forces from 60,000 to 100,00 in the coming years, mostly through conscription.
WITNESS: TRUMP KNEW RALLY GOERS HAD WEAPONS: Trump wanted rally-goers on Jan. 6, 2021, with deadly weapons to pass security because they weren’t there to hurt him and also assaulted a Secret Service agent when he was told he couldn’t join insurrectionists at the Capitol, a former Trump administration staffer testified under oath.
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, the right hand of chief of staff MARK MEADOWS, painted a picture of a president and administration aware of the dangers posed by the rallygoers but either did nothing to stop them or encouraged them to attack the Capitol. “Things might get real, real bad,” Hutchinson recalled Meadows telling her on Jan. 2, 2021, after recounting how the administration knew of the direct threat to the legislature.
Hutchinson also said that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive Trump to the Capitol in “The Beast,” citing security concerns. Trump then allegedly lunged to take control of the steering wheel and grabbed the agent, ROBERT ENGEL, near the clavicle.
Hutchinson also testified that Meadows said Trump believed then-Vice President MIKE PENCE “deserves” a hanging for not following through on a conspiracy theory to overturn the 2020 election results.
NEW U.S. SANCTIONS TARGET RUSSIA’S MILITARY: The Biden administration released a new tranche of sanctions Tuesday, targeting Russia’s ability to equip its military and punishing pro-Moscow breakaway regions of Ukraine.
The Treasury Department designated 70 entities and 29 individuals, including targets linked to State Corporation Rostec — which the agency says will “strike at the heart of Russia’s ability to develop and deploy weapons” — as well as the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and its leaders.
Treasury also said the State Department took separate actions of its own today: “the designation of Russian Federation military units and the re-designation of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which have been credibly implicated in human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law in Ukraine. The Department of State further announced steps to impose visa restrictions on officials believed to have threatened or violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence, including on more than 500 Russian Federation military officers and on Russian Federation officials involved in suppressing dissent.”
“Targeting Russia’s defense industry will degrade Putin’s capabilities and further impede his war against Ukraine, which has already been plagued by poor morale, broken supply chains, and logistical failures,” Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN said in a statement.
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SCOTLAND SETS INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM: Scotland is once again asking its residents if they want to be independent from the United Kingdom, Scotland’s First Minister NICOLA STURGEON announced Tuesday.
The second such referendum will take place on Oct. 19, 2023, giving both separatists and loyalists over a year to make their case and preparations. As of now there’s no indication that the British government will give its consent to the vote.
That complicates matters, as Sturgeon doesn’t have the authority to withdraw Scotland from the 315-year union. “That’s because the law setting up the Scottish Parliament specifically reserved decision-making over that part of the UK constitution to Westminster,” the BBC’s GLENN CAMPBELL reported.
The “no” to independence side won a similar referendum in 2014, beating out the “yes” side by roughly 2 million to 1.6 million votes (55 to 45 percent). But the situation is different now that Britain left the European Union, a decision the majority of Scots voted against in 2016. Sturgeon specifically cited Brexit (and Covid-19 and U.K. Prime Minister BORIS JOHNSON’s leadership) two weeks ago as reasons for wanting a second independence referendum.
“At this critical juncture, we face a fundamental question: Do we stay tied to a U.K. economic model that constrains us to relatively poor economic and social outcomes, which are likely to get worse not better outside the European Union? Or do we instead lift our eyes with hope and optimism and take inspiration from comparable countries across Europe?” she said.
There’s a defense angle to all this, too: There are British nuclear weapons in Scotland. Per the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C., there’s a nuclear submarine base at Faslane in Scotland and nuclear-arms depot in nearby Coulport. Should Scotland become independent — still a big if — it would surely give those bombs back to the U.K. within a few years.
RUSSIAN HACKERS TARGET LITHUANIA: The Russian hacker group Killnet told Reuters Tuesday it was continuing to target Lithuania over the NATO member state’s decision to stop sending some goods into Kaliningrad.
Lithuania stopped the transit of items in adherence to European Union sanctions on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.
Lithuania’s Prime Minister INGRIDA SIMONYTE said her government will “fix problems as they found,” adding: “This is not the first attack. We have experienced many cyber attacks beginning with Feb. 24.”
‘MESS WITH ISRAEL, YOU’LL PAY A PRICE’: Just one day after a large cyberattack on three Iranian steel plants, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister NAFTALI BENNETT told an audience in Tel Aviv that “Our policy is, if you mess with Israel, you’ll pay a price.”
“Just like there’s nuclear deterrence, there’s going to be cyber deterrence. … If anyone attacks us on cyber, we’re going to attack back,” Bennett added.
An anonymous hacking group took responsibility for the cyberstrike, though it’s widely believed the Israeli government played a role.
“Israeli military correspondents, who are regularly briefed off-the-record by senior Israeli officials, hinted that Israel was directly responsible for the assault in retaliation to a suspected cyberattack that caused rocket sirens to be heard in Jerusalem and Eilat last week,” the Times of Israel’s EMANUEL FABIAN reported.
F-35 ENGINE FIGHT: Less than a day after the House Armed Services Committee markup of the fiscal 2023 defense policy bill, lawmakers began going to war over whether to replace the engine of the most expensive weapons program in Pentagon history — and who gets to build it, per our own CONNOR O’BRIEN and LEE HUDSON (for Pros!).
In a letter to colleagues last Thursday, Rep. JOHN LARSON (D-Conn.) — whose state is home to fighter engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney — expressed concern over the Air Force’s proposed plan to replace the F-35 engine. The letter says that at least $6 billion is needed to get the new engine through development and into production. The new engines are being built by GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney.
“We had this fight back in 2011 when Congress voted to cancel a second engine for the F-35 and save the taxpayers upwards of $3 billion,” Larson said in a statement, arguing for a modernization of existing engines. “Now, some want to pursue a costly and risky new alternate engine for the Air Force’s F-35. Modernizing the [F-35 engine], the safest and most capable fighter engine ever produced, will deliver significant improvements while saving $40 billion over the life of the program.”
Meanwhile, General Electric lobbyist JONATHAN RAYNER sent an email last Thursday to House staffers urging them to advise their bosses to not sign Larson’s letter. The email from Rayner, a former senior policy adviser to Rep. ANTHONY BROWN (D-Md.), notes that the House Armed Services and Appropriations committees “have expressed strong support” for the service’s adaptive engine program.
DOD TO CONTINUE WITH ‘COVERED ABORTIONS’: The Defense Department will continue to perform “covered abortions” even after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness GILBERT CISNEROS, JR. wrote in a released memo.
“The Supreme Court’s decision does not prohibit the Department from continuing to perform covered abortions, consistent with federal law,” which the Cisneros says allows the Pentagon to perform abortions or pay to have them performed if “the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term” or “the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.”
“It is the Department of Justice’s longstanding position that States generally may not impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who perform their duties in a manner authorized by federal law,” the memo continued.
So the U.S. military will for now continue what it’s been doing, but that policy could be changed by a different administration, former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness BRAD CARSON told NatSec Daily.
“Tricare could choose what services to cover or not. So I’d imagine a new administration could simply say, no more abortions at bases,” he texted us. “DoD doesn’t have a mechanism to insulate policies like this from administration changes. Only if Congress were to enact such a requirement — say, military treatment facilities must offer abortion in some cases — would it then be impossible for a new SecDef to change things.”
RUSSIA BANS 6 SENATORS: Russia today banned Sens. MITCH McCONNELL (R-Ky.), SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine), BEN SASSE (R-Neb.), KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-N.Y.), MARTIN HEINRICH (D-N.M.), CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-Iowa) from entering the country, saying they were “responsible for formulating the Russophobic policy.”
Some of the lawmakers clapped back. “Ive been to Russia 4 times while in the Senate I dont hv plans to go again so Putin sanctioning me is no big deal I wear it as a badge of honor,” Grassley tweeted in his shorthand-heavy style. “Free BRITTNEY GRINER. It’s no big deal when Putin throws a tantrum and bans Americans from Russia — but we’ve got a problem when he takes an American prisoner,” Sasse said in a statement.
The lawmakers were among 25 newly banned Americans, including First lady JILL BIDEN, presidential daughter ASHLEY BIDEN and prominent scholar FRANCIS FUKUYAMA.
FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY –– ACLU BLASTS DOD ON NATURALIZATION POLICY: The Pentagon has yet to rescind a Trump-era policy that forces immigrants to serve longer in uniform before naturalizing, the American Civil Liberties Union reminded Biden in a Tuesday letter, urging his administration to follow new Court orders and longstanding federal law.
Before a non-citizen serving in the U.S. military can apply for citizenship, the Defense Department has to first say they’ve served honorably. “The Defense Department’s longstanding practice was to issue certifications to recruits once they arrived at basic training so they could become U.S. citizens by graduation and prior to deployment, just as Congress intended,” wrote the ACLU’s SCARLET KIM and ACLU of Southern California’s JENNIE PASQUARELLA.
But in October 2017, the Pentagon issued a new policy that mandated a service member seeking citizenship had to complete basic training and honorably serve 180 days consecutively before moving quickly through the naturalization process.
“As a result, the Defense Department denied thousands of immigrants in uniform the path to citizenship promised to them under federal law. Statistics show that in the year following the 2017 policy’s implementation, military naturalization applications dropped 72 percent from pre-policy levels,” per the letter.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit that in August 2020 led a federal court to enjoin DOD from executing the 2017 policy. The problem, though, is that the Pentagon has yet to end that policy even with Biden in office, leading to some troops struggling to receive their honorable-service designation to apply for expedited naturalization. The ACLU wants Biden to act — now.
“We urge you to prioritize this issue and to work with the Defense Department to urgently improve service member access to military naturalization. The White House’s intervention is necessary at this point to set the Defense Department on the correct course,” Kim and Pasquarella wrote.
— FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY: ROBERT BAIR has left the White House, where he was director for cybersecurity and operations policy at the National Security Council. Bair, an active-duty Navy officer who has served for 18 years, is returning to military duties as assigned. He’s also pursuing an executive MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management as he prepares for military retirement and the transition to civilian life.
— LUKE COFFEY has joined the Hudson Institute as a senior fellow. Coffey previously served as director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.
— ED GONZALEZ has withdrawn his long-stalled nomination to serve as director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He is the sheriff of Harris County, Texas.
— THOMAS GIBBONS-NEFF and NATALIA YERMAK, The New York Times: “On Front Lines, Communication Breakdowns Prove Costly for Ukraine”
— DAN STRUMPF, The Wall Street Journal: “China’s Xi to Visit Hong Kong, a City of Dashed Democracy Dreams 25 Years After Handover”
— MARÍA LUISA PAÚL, The Washington Post: “Venezuela Tapped 1.5 Million Phone Lines. It’s Just the Start, Experts Warn.”
— At the NATO summit in Madrid, Biden will participate in an official greeting with NATO Secretary General JENS STOLTENBERG and Spanish President PEDRO SÁNCHEZ. He also will participate in a family photo with allied heads of state and government. He will then attend two sessions of the meeting of the North Atlantic Council, followed by the Transatlantic Dinner.
— First lady JILL BIDEN will attend a portion of the Program for Partners of Leaders participating in the NATO summit. She will then depart Madrid for Joint Base Andrews and return to the White House.
— The Business Council for International Understanding, 8:30 a.m.: “In-Person Breakfast Roundtable with Hon. DEBORAH ROSENBLUM, Acting Assistant Secretary, Defense Industrial Base Policy”
— The United States Institute of Peace, 9 a.m.: “A Holistic Approach to Preventing Violent Extremism — with UBAH HASSAN ABDI, CHRIS BOSLEY, MEGAN CORRADO, SARAH GIBBONS and LISA INKS”
— The Business Council for International Understanding, 10 a.m.: “Virtual Roundtable: The Economic and Supply Chain Impact of the Russia-Ukraine War Through an Agriculture Lens — with JOSEPH GLAUBER and ERIC TRACHTENBERG”
— House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, 11 a.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Privacy in the Age of Biometrics — with CHARLES H. ROMINE, ARUN ROSS and CANDICE WRIGHT”
— Washington Post Live, 11 a.m.: “EU Parliament President Discusses the War in Ukraine, EU Membership and the EU’S Role in the Conflict — with ROBERTA METSOLA and MISSY RYAN”
— The Business Council for International Understanding, 12 p.m.: “In-Person Luncheon Roundtable with Major General BORYS KREMENETSKYI, Defense Attaché of Ukraine to the United States”
— The Cato Institute, 12 p.m.: “What Will Be the Impact of the War in Ukraine for the Future of European Security? — with NICOLE KOENIG, JUSTIN LOGAN and BARRY R. POSEN”
— The Hudson Institute, 12 p.m.: “Winning the Airwaves: The Future of DoD Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations — with ANNMARIE K. ANTHONY, BRYAN CLARK, DAVID TREMPER and WILLIAM YOUNG”
— The United States Institute of Peace, 12 p.m.: “Protecting Gender and Sexual Minorities in Peacebuilding — with KATHLEEN COOGAN, NEELA GHOSHAL, JAY GILLIAM, LISE GRANDE, JESSICA STERN and DAVID W. YANG”
— Global Zero, 1 p.m.: “The Real Cost of ICBMs: U.S. Economic Development Beyond Defense Spending”
— House Judiciary Committee, 2 p.m.: “Subcommittee Hearing: Oversight of Immigrant Military Members and Veterans”
— The Institute of World Politics, 4 p.m.: “The Strategic and Economic Implications of Anti-Russian Sanctions — with GARY BRODE”
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 also doesn’t “hv plans” to go to Russia.