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Biden And The EU Call A Truce In A 17-Year Trade Fight To Focus On Threats From China

Franco Ordoñez / NPR

President Biden on Tuesday announced a truce in a long-running trade war with the European Union, saying it was time to put aside the fight and focus together on the growing trade threats posed by China. His Brussels stop at EU headquarters was the latest part of his mission to mend ties with allies that were strained by the go-it-alone approach of his predecessor before he sits down with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva. “I’ve been making the case that the U.S. and Europe—and democracies everywhere—are stronger when we work together to advance our shared values like fair competition and transparency. Today’s announcement demonstrates exactly how that can work in practice,” Biden said in a statement. Biden also launched a trade and technology council during his session with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, president of the European Council.

President Biden arrives in Geneva for Putin showdown after shoring up western support

Kevin Liptak / CNN

President Joe Biden arrived in Geneva on Tuesday ahead of lengthy and contentious talks with Vladimir Putin, the capstone on a European tour designed to show western solidarity ahead of the momentous summit. Biden has spent the past week consulting fellow leaders, national security aides and political advisers, reading through extensive preparation materials and thinking about what exactly he will say to the Russian President when they sit down in an 18th century lakeside Swiss villa Wednesday. At meetings of the Group of 7 and NATO, he discussed the upcoming summit with at least two dozen foreign leaders, from the Chancellor of Germany to the leaders of the tiny Baltic states to the right-wing President of Poland. He was even quizzed on the meeting by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II over tea at Windsor Castle. “He’s bright, he’s tough, and I’ve found that he is, as they say when I used to play ball, a worthy adversary,” Biden told reporters of Putin on Monday during a press conference at NATO headquarters. The event was delayed nearly three hours as Biden met with an onslaught of fellow leaders eager for an audience with the new American leader.

American Competitiveness

Key inflation indicator records biggest jump on record

Anneken Tappe / CNN Business

Another key inflation indicator flashed a warning sign in May: Producer prices jumped a record amount last month. The economy is reopening fully and soaring demand, together with supply chain issues and materials shortages, is pushing prices higher. That trend, which has been taking place all year, continued in May. Between May 2020 and May 2021, prices increased 6.6% — the biggest jump recorded since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started collecting this data in November 2010. The price index has risen consistently since September last year. Stripping out more volatile prices for food, energy and trade services, prices rose 5.3% in the 12 months ended May. That was also the biggest jump on record, though that data series started in August 2014. For May alone, prices rose 0.8% on a seasonally adjusted basis, a slightly faster pace than in April.

UK agrees post-Brexit trade deal with Australia

Holly Ellyatt / CNBC

The U.K. has agreed a free trade deal with Australia, saying it marked a “new dawn” in their relations. The free trade agreement means it will cost less for British businesses to sell products like cars, confectionery and Scotch whisky into Australia, the U.K. government said Tuesday. The move will boost U.K. industries that employ 3.5 million people across the country, it added “Today marks a new dawn in the UK’s relationship with Australia, underpinned by our shared history and common values,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. “Our new free-trade agreement opens fantastic opportunities for British businesses and consumers, as well as young people wanting the chance to work and live on the other side of the world.” The deal was flagged late Monday when Australia’s minister for trade said Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison had agreed the broad terms of the agreement over dinner in Downing Street in London.

Retail Sales Dropped 1.3% in May as Pandemic Shopping Habits Shifted

Sarah Chaney Cambon / The Wall Street Journal

Retail sales dropped in May as shoppers shifted more of their spending from goods to services amid business reopenings, supply-chain disruptions and higher prices. Consumers cut spending by 1.3% last month, reducing expenditures on autos, furniture, electronics, building materials and other items, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. People spent more on these items throughout the pandemic, but are now pulling back. With pandemic restrictions fading, consumers are spending more on services, which account for the bulk of economic output but aren’t captured in the retail-sales report other than restaurants and bars. Spending at restaurants and bars rose 1.8% last month, sending sales for this service beyond pre-pandemic levels. Americans also shelled out more on clothing in May, a category of goods they had shunned for much of the pandemic but are likely turning to as they go out again. Online sales dropped as well, signaling a pivot to in-person shopping.

Asymmetric Operations

Biden Administration Forms Blueprint to Combat Domestic Extremism

Zolan Kanno-Youngs / The New York Times

The Biden administration is aiming to bolster information sharing with technology companies, potentially expand hiring of intelligence analysts and improve screening of government employees for ties to domestic terrorism as part of a much-anticipated plan expected to be released on Tuesday detailing how the federal government should combat extremism. President Biden ordered the review of how federal agencies addressed domestic extremism soon after coming into office, part of an effort to more aggressively acknowledge a national security threat that has grown since the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The 32-page plan synthesizes steps that have been recommended by national security officials — including bolstering relationships with social media companies and improving information sharing among law enforcement agencies — into one blueprint on how to more effectively identify extremists in the country after years of heightened focus on foreign terrorists. “We cannot ignore this threat or wish it away,” Mr. Biden wrote in the strategy document. “Preventing domestic terrorism and reducing the factors that fuel it demand a multifaceted response across the federal government and beyond.”

Ten Captives Freed by Islamist Militants in Northeast Nigeria: Sources

Lanre Ola / US News and World Report

Ten people who had been held captive by Islamist militants were freed this week in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, three security sources and two close associates of those released told Reuters. The people, including aid workers, had been taken by Boko Haram over the past year, the sources said. They were released at around noon (1100 GMT) on Monday and were taken to a hospital in Borno state capital Maiduguri. The sources said the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a rival militant group to Boko Haram, had released the hostages after finding them in a Boko Haram camp, but it was not immediately clear why they released them.

Myanmar releases US journalist Nathan Maung, who was allegedly tortured in prison

Helen Regan and Sandi Sidhu / CNN

American citizen Nathan Maung, who has been detained in Myanmar since March 9, was released and deported to the United States on Tuesday after charges against him were dropped, his lawyer said. Nathan Maung is co-founder and editor -in-chief of the Myanmar online news site Kamayut Media and had spent more than two months incarcerated in the country’s notorious Insein Prison, north of Yangon. He was arrested alongside co-founder and producer Hanthar Nyein, a Myanmar national, as security forces raided their offices in early March. Sources close to the pair previously told CNN Business they suffered two weeks of torture while held in an interrogation center after their arrest. The US State Department has expressed concern over the detention of US citizens in Myanmar following the military’s February coup and subsequent violent crackdown on opposition and media workers.

Climate Security

Climate activists launch fresh legal challenge to Norway’s Arctic drilling

Richard Milne / Financial Times

Environmental activists are pushing a European court to rule that Norway’s drilling for oil in the Arctic breaches their and future generations’ human rights in the latest legal challenge to fossil fuel exploitation. Norwegian courts found three times that the government had not broken the country’s constitution and its right to a healthy environment by opening up large parts of the Barents Sea, north of the Arctic Circle, to oil exploration for the first time. Six young activists and two environmental groups have now filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), arguing the exploration breaches their rights to life and privacy. “We have to do everything we can to stop the climate crisis... For Norway, it’s important because we have an economy that’s based on oil. We have a problem that the politicians won’t sit down and make a plan for stopping drilling for oil,” Mia Chamberlain, one of the Norwegian activists, told the Financial Times.

Energy Security

Italgas boosts spending to prepare gas grid for green energy drive

Reuters
Italgas (IG.MI) pledged to spend more on its gas distribution network to prepare it for hydrogen and renewable gas and cut leakages as a transition to cleaner fuels gathers pace. Italy’s biggest gas distributor said on Tuesday it would spend 7.9 billion euros ($9.6 billion) up to 2027 to upgrade and grow its core network, promising to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. “The largest number of investments is allocated for the repurposing of the 73,000-km (45,360-mile) network and its further extension to unreached territories,” Chief Executive Paolo Gallo said. Gas network operators across Europe are increasingly looking at ways to blend natural gas with cleaner gases such as hydrogen as the transition to cleaner fuels speeds up.

China says radiation levels are normal around Taishan nuclear power plant after reported leak

Nector Gan and Zachary Cohen / CNN

China said Tuesday that radiation levels around the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant are normal, following CNN’s exclusive report the United States government was assessing a reported leak at the facility. “There is no abnormality in the radiation environment around the nuclear power plant. Its safety is guaranteed,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a news briefing in Beijing. On Monday, CNN reported that the French company which helps operate the nuclear plant in southern Guangdong province had warned Washington of an “imminent radiological threat.” The warning included an accusation the Chinese safety authority was raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the plant in order to avoid having to shut it down, according to a letter from French firm Framatome to the US Department of Energy, obtained by CNN.

National Security and Space

Russia, Once a Space Superpower, Turns to China for Missions

Andrew E. Kramer and Steven Lee Myers / The New York Times

Sixty-three years ago, the Soviet Union put the first satellite in space. Nearly four years later, it sent the first man into orbit, Yuri Gagarin. It fell behind NASA in the space race that followed, but even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia remained a reliable space power, joining with the United States to build and operate the International Space Station for the last two decades. Now, the future of the Russian space program rests with the world’s new space power, China. After years of promises and some limited cooperation, Russia and China have begun to draw up ambitious plans for missions that would directly compete with those of the United States and its partners, ushering in a new era of space competition that could be as intense as the first. They have teamed up for a robotic mission to an asteroid in 2024. They are coordinating a series of lunar missions intended to build a permanent research base on the south pole of the moon by 2030. The first of those missions, a Russian spacecraft with the revived Soviet-era name Luna, is scheduled to launch as soon as October, aiming to locate ice that could provide water to future human visits.

National Security and Strategy

Taiwan reports incursion by dozens of Chinese warplanes

Celine Castronuovo / The Hill

Taiwan on Tuesday said that China had sent dozens of aircraft into the island’s air defense identification zone as world leaders have ramped up warnings against Beijing over its actions across the Taiwan Strait. The reported Chinese mission on Tuesday, which included fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers, marks the largest incursion yet into Taiwan’s airspace. The island’s government has complained of repeated missions by the Chinese air force near the territory, according to Reuters. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said that the latest mission included 14 J-16 and six J-11 fighters as well as four H-6 bombers, which Reuters noted can carry nuclear weapons. The defense agency also said the 28 Chinese planes Tuesday included anti-submarine, electronic warfare and early warning aircraft.

China denounces NATO statement, defends defense policy

Associated Press

The Chinese mission to the European Union on Tuesday denounced a NATO statement that declared Beijing a “security challenge,” saying China is actually a force for peace but will defend itself if threatened. The Chinese news release said the NATO statement was a “slander on China’s peaceful development, a misjudgment of the international situation and (NATO’s) own role, and a continuation of the Cold War mentality and organizational political psychology.”

NATO allies joined the United States on Monday in formally scolding Beijing as a “constant security challenge.” Washington has singled out China as a particular threat, especially in the South China Sea, where it has built and militarized artificial islands, as well as over its attempts to intimidate self-governing Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory to be annexed by military force if necessary. The Chinese mission said Beijing’s spending on its military is considerably less than that of NATO members and it accused the organization of conjuring up a military threat from China in order to justify its own agenda.

Public Diplomacy

USAID to grant $115 mln in aid to El Salvador to stem migration

Reuters

The United States will grant $115 million in cooperation aid to El Salvador to slow migration from the Central American country, Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said on Monday. “We can work with local partners in Central America to expand opportunities for youth and help them get away from violence,” Power said at a conference on migration at the Central American University, where she announced the aid initiative. The money will include $50 million for security, $35 million for programs to counter violence against women and $30 million in job training, Power said. USAID says it will also contribute $12 million for small and medium-sized businesses in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that were affected by coronavirus-related lockdowns.

US-Russia Relations

Ahead of Biden-Putin summit, Ukraine leader tells Americans war with Russia could “be tomorrow in their houses”

Holly Williams / CBS News

When the President of Ukraine invited CBS News to visit the front line in his country’s war against Russian-backed separatists, we expected a quick trip in an armored motorcade to the muddy trenches that cut a bloody scar through the wheat fields of eastern Ukraine. We did not anticipate an informal breakfast — lard on rye bread, salmon sashimi, homemade cookies and shots of brandy — with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his elderly parents in their tiny, Soviet-era kitchen. The war in Ukraine has raged since 2014, when protests in the capital, Kyiv, toppled a government friendly to Moscow. Russia retaliated by sending troops across the border to seize control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and by backing a separatist insurgency in the east. The United Nations puts the death toll after seven years of war at more than 13,000. The U.S. has supported Zelenskyy’s government with money, weapons and training. But the president told us what he really wants is America to back his country’s bid to join NATO — a move that the U.S. fears could exacerbate tensions with Moscow.

Recent Reports

Briefing Note – The Case for an Engagement-Focused U.S. Strategy in Cuba
Savarni Sanka / American Security Project
The United States’ sanctions against Cuba were initiated in 1960 as a response to Fidel Castro’s nationalization of American assets on the island. In the more than sixty years since, the sanctions have made little progress toward the U.S.’ goals of realizing Cuba’s economic and political liberalization. Instead, the embargo has harmed American businesses, tourists, and farmers. It has also exacerbated poor living conditions on the island and threatened U.S. national security. A new U.S. strategy in Cuba is long overdue: to minimize the embargo’s adverse impacts and further U.S. objectives, the U.S. should reform its sanctions to be more targeted and allow for increased economic, touristic, and diplomatic engagement with Cuba.

Perspective – Preparing for the Consequences of Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Claire Brenner and Matthew Wallin / American Security Project
America’s longest war will come to a symbolic close by September 11th, 2021. Yet the departure of foreign troops does not signify an end to Afghanistan’s conflict. Intra-Afghan negotiations are still underway, fighting continues between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, and Afghan civilians nervously await the fate of their country. The Biden administration, with the realization that U.S. military presence is not the answer to achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan, has decided to make a clean break with previous strategy by implementing a non-conditions-based withdrawal deadline. The withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan will have profound implications on the fate of Intra-Afghan Negotiations, governance and security, terrorism, regional dynamics, great power competition, human rights, humanitarian issues, and development, which the United States, along with its partners and allies, must be prepared to deal with.

On Our Flashpoint Blog

Topics for Discussion in a Biden-Putin Meeting

Matthew Wallin

Biden’s indication that he intends to deliver a message to Putin raises a number of questions about what that message will be, and whether Putin will actually change his behavior as a result.

Nigeria: Boko Haram’s Leader Is Likely Dead, Now What?
Dominique Varier
Abubakar Shekau, infamous leader of the jihadist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, is rumored to finally be dead. Now what?

President Biden Should Press Erdogan on Turkey’s Nuclear Program
Gevorg Novshadyan
The June 14 meeting between Biden and Erdogan on the sidelines of a NATO summit presents Biden with an opportunity to bring up an issue not oft-discussed but which has the potential of becoming a serious threat in the future: Turkey’s nuclear program.

ASP in the News: Director of Strategic Communications Annie Aleman on Fox 5 DC
Emily Kachinski
ASP in the News: Director Strategic Communications and Development Annie Aleman on Fox 5 DC discusses the rise of cyber attacks on small businesses and other American companies.

Event Recap: Launch of the NCWES Report on Sustainable Peace & Security in a Changing Climate
Weston Weber
On June 1, the American Security Project (ASP) hosted the launching event for the North-Atlantic Civil-Society Working-Group on Environment and Security’s (NCWES) new report – “Sustainable Peace & Security in a Changing Climate: Recommendations for NATO 2030.” The report contains 116 policy recommendations to be considered during the NATO 2030 process to strengthen NATO as new environmental-related challenges emerge and promote sustainable peace and security. The launch of the report was organized ahead of World Environment Day (June 5) and the NATO Summit of Allied Leaders (June 14).

Event Recap: Maintaining A Strategic U.S. Presence in the Persian Gulf
Sarah Forland
On May 26, the American Security Project held a virtual event with Dr. Khalid Al-Hater, Director of Planning and Policy Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Lieutenant General Daniel Christman, USA (Ret), Colonel David Des Roches, and Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, USA (Ret.) to discuss the importance of remaining engaged with GCC states to meet the shifting security challenges in the Middle East.

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