THE TWIN CHALLENGE: At a weekend appearance at the Reagan Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin offered vague promises of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine and Taiwan while stopping short of specifying what the U.S. would do if either country is invaded.

The most immediate concern is the massive buildup of Russian forces, armor, and high tech weapons poised on Ukraine’s eastern border, which has every sign of an impending invasion, which could be launched as early as next month with up to 175,000 troops, according to a U.S. intelligence document obtained by the Washington Post.

“They've invaded before, and so as we look at the numbers of forces that are in the border region, as we look at some of the things that are occurring in the information space, as we look at what's going on in the cyber domain, it really raises our concern,” Austin told Fox News anchor Bret Baier. Noting that Ukraine is not a NATO ally, Baier asked, “What happens if Putin does invade Ukraine? What does the U.S. do?”

“I certainly won't speculate on different scenarios. We're certainly committed to ensuring that Ukraine has what it needs to protect its sovereign territory,” Austin said, “we have provided them with a number of different things over the years and most recently things including lethal capability, a lot of non-lethal capability.” But when pressed for specifics, Austin said that President Joe Biden is looking at a number of options. “I won't get out in front of my boss.”


BIDEN, PUTIN CONFER TOMORROW: The White House announced Saturday that Biden will hold a secure video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin of Russia tomorrow.

“President Biden will underscore U.S. concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” said press secretary Jen Psaki in a statement.

In remarks Friday, Biden said he has been in constant contact with Ukraine as well as U.S. allies in Europe and will confront Putin with a threat of severe economic consequences.

“What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be, will be, the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do,” Biden said.

WHAT’S PUTIN’S GAME? By positioning his troops for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, instigating Belarusian escalation against Poland, and leveraging Russia’s control of Europe’s energy supplies, Putin is pressuring the West on multiple fronts, says an analysis by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

“He may not launch the invasion he has prepared, but he is determined to use its threat along with his other tools of leverage to compel the West’s formal recognition of Russia’s suzerainty [control] over the former Soviet states,” the ISW says in its latest analysis.

A big part of the problem, the group concludes, was the Biden administration’s acquiesce to Germany in lifting of sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. “It is a threat to Europe’s security and to Ukraine’s independence. This pipeline will change the geopolitical landscape in Europe for years to come. It is worth renewing the fight to prevent Nord Stream 2 from starting operations.”


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THE TAIWAN QUESTION: In his keynote address at Saturday’s Reagan forum, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin repeated the long-standing U.S. policy while promising to meet Taiwan’s needs to fend off any future attempt by China to reunite the island with the mainland by force.

“We remain steadfast to our one-China policy and our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act to support Taiwan’s ability to defend itself while also maintaining our capacity to resist any resort to force that would jeopardize the security of the people of Taiwan,” Austin said. “We are working to bolster deterrence and not seeking to change the status quo.”

Asked afterward about China’s recent in-your-face incursions by military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense zone, Austin was careful in his characterizations of China’s motives. “It looks like, a lot like, them exploring their true capabilities. And sure, it looks a lot like rehearsals,” he said.

“We're committed to helping Taiwan develop and maintain the capability to defend itself, and again, that's another hypothetical. And nobody wants to see this conflict. Nobody wants to see this or things develop into a conflict in this region. So, we're going to do everything in our power to help prevent conflict and dial down the temperature whenever possible.

CHINA NOT 10 FEET TALL: Austin said China’s military is on pace to become a peer competitor to the U.S., and its nuclear arsenal will likely grow from 300 to at least a thousand warheads in the next 10 years. But he said that doesn’t mean the U.S. is on a path to inevitable conflict with China.

“We're clear-eyed about the challenge that China presents, but China is not 10 feet tall,” Austin said. “This is America. You know, we have the greatest industry, the greatest innovators in the world. And we're going to do what's necessary to create the capabilities that helps us maintain the competitive edge going forward.”

ON HIS DISPUTE WITH THE OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR: Austin downplayed the battle with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is suing the federal government in an effort to be exempted from the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate for National Guard troops.

Austin denied the state’s request citing the need for all troops who can be called up for active duty to be inoculated against the deadly and highly communicable coronavirus.

“A vaccinated force is a more ready force. And, you know, our troops have to deploy all over the world and place themselves in all kinds of conditions at a moment's notice. So, in order to keep this force healthy, I think it's important that we get vaccinated,” Austin said in California.

Asked if members of the Oklahoma guard would lose pay if they don’t comply — something the Pentagon said is a distinct possibility, Austin dodged the question. “I truly believe that the vast majority of them will get vaccinated,” he said. “If you take a look at our active-duty forces, you know, over 96% of them are currently vaccinated. There was huge speculation that we could ever get to that level, but you know, we've made tremendous progress.”


FAILURE IN EXTREMIST TRACKING: The Pentagon’s internal watchdog has found that Secretary Austin has so far failed to establish clear guidelines for tracking extremist activity in the military.

“The SecDef has not yet established or implemented standard policies to report and track prohibited activities, including supremacist and extremist activity, as required by law,” the DOD inspector general’s report concludes. “We found that data collection across the Military Departments is inconsistent. For example, the Navy did not track disciplinary action for participation in extremist organizations and activities.”

The internal report comes as a dozen Republican senators express concern to Austin in a letter last week that DOD efforts to root out extremist threats could be used to “target service members who voice opposition to woke, leftist ideology under the guise of protecting our ‘national security interest.’”


REMEMBERING BOB DOLE: Tributes have been pouring in for former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who served 36 years in Congress and died yesterday at 98 after announcing in February he has stage 4 lung cancer.

In his remembrance, Austin wrote of the highly respected military veteran, “As a young World War II platoon leader during a spring offensive in Italy, he sustained grievous injuries and almost died while trying to pull his radioman to safety. He never knew what exactly tore into him in April 1945 — a mortar, a shell, shrapnel, or a machine gun. Confined to a full-body cast, it was unclear if he would ever recover. But he battled his way back and never forgot those who helped him — including those in his hometown of Russell, Kansas, who chipped in to help pay his way to Chicago for an operation.”

“The young veteran devoted the rest of his life to his country. He served as a county prosecutor, a Kansas state legislator, a U.S. Representative, a Senator, and a presidential candidate. He was a man of uncommon strength, keen wit, and deep feeling.”


The Rundown Opinion: Japan's Attack on Pearl Harbor Was a Colossal Mistake

Washington Examiner: US intelligence warns of Russia planning massive military offensive against Ukraine involving 175,000 troops

Washington Examiner: Iran torches tentative plans to restore nuclear deal in abortive return to Vienna talks

Washington Examiner: Defense Department finds nearly 300 allegations of extremism in military ranks

Washington Examiner: Oklahoma governor and attorney general sue Biden administration over vaccine requirement

Washington Examiner: DeSantis proposes civilian emergency response team in Florida similar to National Guard

Washington Examiner: Central Command: Civilian casualties possible in latest Syrian strike targeting al Qaeda

Washington Examiner: Navy detects petroleum in Pearl Harbor tap water after hundreds complain

Washington Examiner: Migrants from all over world cross southern border in record numbers

Washington Examiner: Bob Dole, former Republican presidential candidate and longtime senator, dies at 98

Washington Examiner: American hero: The last remaining officer from World War II's 'Band of Brothers' dies at 99

Washington Examiner: Donald Trump calls Mark Milley a 'f***ing idiot' at Turning Point USA event

Washington Examiner: Explosion reported in sky near Iranian nuclear facility

Washington Post: Broad overhaul of military justice system being sidelined in favor of narrower focus on sexual assault

Air Force Magazine: 23,000 Airmen and Guardians Unvaccinated as Deadline for Guard and Reserve Passes

Air Force Magazine: Raymond Cancels Trip After COVID-19 Contact

Inside Defense: DOD Officials Bracing For Inflation Squeeze With Final FY-23 Topline Guidance

New York Times: U.S. Military Has Acted Against Ransomware Groups, General Acknowledges

New York Times: On Syria’s Ruins, a Drug Empire Flourishes

Wall Street Journal: China Seeks Its First Atlantic Navy Base

Defense News: U.S. Should Expect Cyberattacks In Any Struggle For Taiwan

Washington Post: U.S. Warns It Has ‘Tools’ To Deal With Iran If Talks Fail Javelin: The Missile Built to Attack Tanks (And Stop Russia from Invading Ukraine?)



9 a.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: “Veterans and the Digital Divide," with VA Secretary Denis McDonough; and Robin Kelleher, president and CEO of Hope For The Warriors

9:15 a.m. — National Defense Industrial Association 2021 Virtual Systems and Mission Engineering Conference with Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, program executive officer, F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office; Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering; David Cadman, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense, acquisition enablers; and Raymond O'Toole, acting director of operational test and evaluation

9:30 a.m. — Air Force Association Air and Space Warfighters in Action webinar conversation with Maj. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, director of operations, U.S. Central Command; and AFA President retired Lt. Gen. Bruce "Orville" Wright.

12 p.m. 1000 Massachusetts Avenue N.W. — Cato Institute discussion: “Congress and War: Reclaiming Article I Powers,” with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Jordan Cohen, policy analyst at Cato; Gene Healy, senior vice president for policy at Cato; and Eric Gomez, director of defense policy studies at Cato

4:40 p.m. — Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director, Missile Defense Agency; Army Lt. Gen. A.C. Roper, deputy commander, U.S. Northern Command; and Space Force Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, commander, Space Systems Command, participate in a virtual media roundtable at approximately 4:40 p.m. EST, following the MDA's initial fielding ceremony of the Long Range Discrimination Radar in Alaska.

5 p.m. 1521 16th Street N.W. — Institute of World Politics holds a virtual 24th Annual Pearl Harbor Day Lecture: “National Readiness for Great Power Competition," with retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel, former commander, U.S. Central Command

7 p.m. — Wall Street Journal EO Council Summit, with CIA Director William Burns; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX


8 a.m. — Association of the U.S. Army forum: “Holistic Health and the Soldier: An Army Medical Hot Topic,” with Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, Army surgeon general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command; Chris Rheney, deputy chief of staff for resources, infrastructure and strategy in the U.S. Army Medical Command's Office of the Surgeon General; and Brig. Gen. James Work, director of operations, readiness and mobilization in the Office of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff

8:30 a.m. — George Washington University Institute for Korean Studies and the East Asia National Resource Center virtual Korea Policy Forum: “South Korea's Presidential Election and U.S.-Republic of Korea Relations,” with Beomchul Shin, director of the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy's Diplomacy and Security Center; Joon Hyung Kim, former chancellor of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy; Mark Tokola, vice president of the Korea Economic Institute of America; Celeste Arrington, professor at GWU; and Yonho Kim, associate director of the GWU Institute for Korean Studies

9 a.m. 1750 Independence Ave. S.W. — Friends of the National World War II Memorial and the National Park Service commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Pearl Harbor, with a reading of the names of the more than 2,400 Americans killed during the December 7, 1941 attack and remarks by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Thomas O'Flanagan, command chaplain for Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region/U.S. Army Military District of Washington; retired Army Lt. Gen. Mick Kicklighter, board member of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial; Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks; and Mary Millben, actress and singer

10 a.m. — Defense One virtual Outlook 2022 summit with keynote interview with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

10 a.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual discussion: “U.S. Nuclear Declaratory Policy and the Future of Extended Deterrence,” with Senate Foreign Relations ranking member James Risch, R-Idaho; former Japanese Minister of Defense Taro Kono; and Patty-Jane Geller, policy analyst for nuclear deterrence and missile defense at Heritage

10:30 a.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual discussion: “Containing Crisis: Strategic Concepts for Coercive Economic Statecraft on China,” with Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Emily Kilcrease, director of the CNAS Energy, Economics, and Security Program; Rachel Ziemba, adjunct senior fellow at the CNAS Energy, Economics, and Security Program; and Emily Jin, research assistant at the CNAS Energy, Economics, and Security Program

3:30 p.m. — Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance virtual discussion: “80 Years Later — Are We Ready to Defend the Pacific,” with Lt. Gen. Stephen Sklenka, deputy commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; retired Lt. Gen. Jon Thomas, former deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces; retired Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, former director of operations, U.S. Pacific Command; retired Maj. Gen. Joaquin Malavet, former director for strategic planning and policy, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; Riki Ellison, MDAA chairman and founder; retired Rear Adm. Victorino Mercado, moderator, former director of maritime operations, U.S. Pacific Fleet Register: Livestream:


9:45 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. N.W. — Center for Strategic and International Studies Project on Nuclear Issues Winter Conference with panels discussion on “The Past, Present, and Future of Arms Control, and “Evolving Global Threats”

10 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration virtual conference, “U.S.-Korea Defense Cooperation in the Biden Administration,” with Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, military deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; and Seo Hyeong Jin, vice minister at the Republic of Korea Defense Acquisition Program Administration

10 a.m. — Defense One virtual Outlook 2022 summit, with Jake Sullivan, assistant to the president for national security affairs; Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy; and White House Space Force Brig. Gen. John Olson, mobilization assistant to the Chief of Space Operations

2 p.m. — Protect Democracy virtual conversation: “National Security Risks of Election Disinformation and Subversion,” with Javed Ali, former senior director for counterterrorism, National Security Council; Matt Masterson, former senior cybersecurity adviser Department of Homeland Security, and former chair of the Election Assistance Commission; and Olivia Troye, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.

10 a.m. — Brookings Institution virtual discussion: “Is the NATO-EU Divide an Obstacle to a European Foreign Policy?,” with Kristi Raik, director of the International Center for Defense and Security's Estonian Foreign Policy Institute; Benjamin Haddad, senior director of the Atlantic Council's Europe Center; Rachel Rizzo, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Europe Center; Giovanna De Maio, visiting fellow at George Washington University's Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies; and Thomas Wright, director of the Brookings Center on the United States and Europe

3:30 p.m. 2121 K St. N.W. — International Institute for Strategic Studies and American Institute for Contemporary German Studies discussion: “Germany's Defense and Security Priorities under a post-Merkel Government,” with Bastian Giegerich, director of defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies; Constanze Stelzenmuller, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center on the United States and Europe; and Jeff Rathke, president of AICGS

4 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Nuclear Weapons: The Growing Risk,” with former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, co-chair and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI); and former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., founder and co-chair of NTI


9:30 a.m. — Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on the nomination of Adm. Christopher Grady to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Rescheduled from Dec. 2)

9:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion on the Korean Peninsula and Asia, with former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell; and Sue Mi Terry, director of the Wilson Center's Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy

9:45 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. N.W. — Center for Strategic and International Studies 2021 Project on Nuclear Issues Winter Conference panel discussion on "Emerging Threats and Technologies in the Nuclear Sphere"

10 a.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual discussion: “Lessons of the Syrian Conflict,” former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford; Nicholas Danforth, visiting scholar at George Washington University; Mona Yacoubian, senior vice president at the U.S. Institute of Peace; and Elisa Ewers, adjunct senior fellow at the CNAS Middle East Security Program

2 p.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual discussion: “ The Next National Defense Strategy,” with Mara Karlin, performing the duties of deputy defense undersecretary for policy

2 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Is there a 'Plan B' for Iran?" with Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association; Mahsa Rouhi, research fellow at National Defense University; Sima Shine, head of the Institute for National Security Studies' Iran Program; Barbara Slavin, director of the Atlantic Council's Future of Iran Initiative; and Sina Azodi, nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council

2 p.m. — Association of the United States Army virtual book discussion on "Thought Leaders: Special Operations Forces,” with N.W. Collins, author of Grey Wars: A Contemporary History of U.S. Special Operations; Jessica Donati, author of Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War; and Tony Brooks, author of Leave No Man Behind: The Untold Story of the Rangers' Unrelenting Search for Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL Lone Survivor in Afghanistan


8:30 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual Spacepower Forum, with Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander of the U.S. Space Command; and retired Gen. Kevin Chilton, explorer chair for space warfighting studies at Mitchell Institute's Spacepower Advantage Research Center

11 a.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual discussion: “The Crisis in Belarus,” with U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher

11 a.m. — Cato Institute virtual discussion: “The Meaning of European Defense,” with French Ambassador to the United States Philippe Etienne; Joshua Shifrinson, associate professor of international relations at Boston University; Rachel Rizzo, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; Justin Logan, senior fellow at Cato; and Peter Goettler, president and CEO of Cato

12 p.m. — Woodrow Wilson Center Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies virtual book discussion on Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin's Russia, with author Timothy Frye, professor at Columbia University


“If the average American could see what I see on a daily basis as I go out and visit our troops and listen to them, talk about what they're doing, and watch them at work, there's no question that, you know, our American people would have confidence in our military.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the results of the annual Reagan National Defense Survey, which found only 45% of Americans have high confidence in the U.S. military.