Stories We’re Watching
US Confirms Withdrawal from Syria—Leaving Iran, Russia, & Turkey Unchecked
President Trump has confirmed a full withdrawal of US forces from Syria amidst growing criticism from defense officials, US allies, and members of his own party. Military analysts warn that ISIS, Assad, Russia, and Iran are likely to benefit if the US withdraws now. The withdrawal comes as President Erdogan threatens to launch an operation against America’s Kurdish allies in Northern Syria. This week, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the approval of a $3.5B arms sale to Turkey, which would include up to 80 patriot missiles. Local monitoring groups have reported that the Syrian Democratic Forces are discussing the release of 3,200 Daesh prisoners.
- The Atlantic: Trump Just Messed Up the One Thing He Did Better Than Obama
- Bloomberg: Trump’s Syria Pullout Is a Grave Mistake
- New York Times: Kurdish Fighters Discuss Releasing 3,200 ISIS Prisoners
- Defense One: ISIS Not Defeated and Pulling US Troops Now Would Jeopardize Everything
Putin’s Marathon AMA: Throws Shade at the Dollar, Sanctions, & Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from Syria and warned of reigniting an arms race in his annual end-of-year news conference delivered earlier today. President Putin sympathized with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit impasse, and called on the UK to uphold the results of the 2016 referendum. Putin also lamented the “breakdown of the international order of arms control”. Russia faces mounting criticism over aggression in the Azov Sea, US election interference, and alleged INF treaty violations. After the three hour conference, President Putin participated in a Q&A session where he claimed that Russia doesn’t recycle since “there are islands of waste in the Pacific Ocean.”
- Reuters: HIGHLIGHTS-Russian President Putin’s end-of-year news conference
- Bloomberg: Putin Says US Syria Pullout ‘Right Thing to Do’: Russia Update
- Quartz: How to watch Putin’s marathon year-end press conference
- The Guardian: Putin tells May to ‘fulfil will of people’ on Brexit
- The Atlantic: The ‘Global Cybercrime Problem’ Is Actually the ‘Russia Problem’
Markets React to Fed Interest Rate Hike
World equity markets were down following yesterday’s Federal Reserve interest rate hike. Major indices in Asia and Europe were at a two year low, and oil prices hit their lowest point in more than a year. Despite OPEC’s agreement to cut production, industry analysts warn that oversupply and fears of peak demand will continue to put downward pressure on prices. In a sign of investor panic, the (relatively safer, less lucrative) bond market saw an uptick. Economists warn that disappointing economic data has fueled fears of slowing global growth and is likely to lead to a recession next year.
- Reuters: Oil slumps to lowest in a year as stock markets sink
- Wall Street Journal: US Stocks Extend Drop as Nasdaq Nears Bear Market
- Bloomberg: The $48 Billion Sell-Off That Sent Japan Stocks Into Bear Market
- Seeking Alpha: The Stock Market Doesn’t See What Bonds And Currencies See
- MarketWatch: 2-year and 10-year yield curve – a key recession gauge – hits flattest
NATO Releases 2019 Civil and Military Budgets
NATO has released the civil and military budgets for 2019: €1.395 billion has been approved for the military, and €250.5 million has been set aside for the civilian programs. It’s not yet clear what share the US would be responsible for under the new budget—last year the US was responsible for funding 22% of the alliance’s operations. President Trump has repeatedly pressured NATO members to increase their contribution to the collective defense alliance. NATO just wrapped up the Trident Juncture 2018 exercises—the largest war game since the end of the Cold War.
- Business Insider: Here’s how NATO’s budget actually works
- Government Accountability Office: US Advising of Afghan National Army Has Expanded since 2015
- NATO: NATO agrees 2019 civil and military budgets for further adaptation Official
- Atlantic Council: 2018: A Snapshot
DOJ Indicts Chinese Intelligence Officers for Theft of US Technology
The Department of Justice has indicted two Chinese intelligence officers for conspiracy to commit fraud, identity theft, and espionage. The two men are part of Advanced Persistent Threat 10 (APT 10), a state-sponsored hacking group. Prosecutors say that APT 10 conducted a massive campaign from 2006 to 2018 to steal US technology, personal data, and other proprietary information from health care, biotechnology, finance, and manufacturing firms. Earlier today, the FBI and the Justice Department made clear that “this is not the first time” that state-sponsored hackers have been responsible for stealing information from American companies.
- CBS: Rod Rosenstein, Chris Wray announce indictment of Chinese hackers
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Chinese Hackers Indicted press release
- Wall Street Journal: US Charges China Intelligence Officers Over Hacking
- NPR: Rosenstein: 2 Chinese Nationals Indicted On Charges Of Hacking US
From Deep State Radio
NATIONAL SECURITY MAGAZINE: “A CLOUD HANGING OVER OUR COUNTRY”: 1 ON 1 WITH GEN. JAMES CLAPPER
The latest edition of Deep State Radio’s National Security Magazine offers up an in-depth interview with one of the most distinguished leaders the U.S. intelligence community has produced, General James Clapper. Culminating his 54 year career in the military and intelligence communities with a six and a half year term as Director of National Intelligence, Clapper considers the current state of the relations between the intelligence community and the president as well as profound consequences of Russia’s massive on-going efforts to interfere in America’s democratic processes. Clapper, author this year of Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, also discusses the efforts to brief Trump on Russia, the Mike Flynn case, the decision to pull out of Syria and other concessions to Vladimir Putin from Team Trump. Tune in. It’s an engrossing and important discussion. TUNE IN
ICYMI: BLOG: SO THE WORD IS TRAITOR
A federal judge today asked a prosecutor whether President Trump’s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, might be charged with treason. He stated that Flynn had sold his country out and openly lied to the FBI while on the grounds of the White House. He was angry at Flynn and candidly, he should have been. As a general, as a senior intelligence official, and as a citizen Flynn should have known better. The chorus of partisans who have somehow argued that he was trapped or mistreated by the FBI, were shut down today. CONTINUE
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