Ukraine gets 'tank-like' vehicles and Biden gets a classified document scandal
The rundown of national security news this week.
Happy Thursday, and welcome back to The Ruck.
I launched this newsletter in August 2022, and since then, I’ve settled on this format: a reported column on national security followed by a news digest called The Rundown. And the dispatches have gotten somewhat lengthy—last week’s on U.S. military pilots training China’s Navy was pushing 2,200 words.
After a few months of this, I’ve realized that I’d much rather deliver either one or the other in a single dispatch—and many readers have told me they especially enjoy the news digest.
So from now on, my usual approach will be to send a weekly rundown of national security news. But when I have something interesting to say, like how I think the rise of China’s Marine Corps is something to watch, I will write about that instead.
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Now, without further ado… here’s what’s happening in the national security world. Thanks for reading.
The US is sending Ukraine nearly $3 billion in additional aid, including Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Despite what you may hear in some reports, they are not tanks. Although you can technically get away with calling them “tank-like.”
“They provide tremendous overwatch to infantry,” said retired Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who led the 1st Cavalry Division and served as head of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. “You’re able to move them in a relatively secure vehicle to a position of advantage. I’m sure the Ukrainians will be able to get more [troops] in them because they don’t have quite as much kit as we do — possibly as many as 10 folks in the back of that thing.”
Anyway, that and many other big-ticket items are in the latest package:
Chinese researchers claim they have broken the RSA algorithm that underpins most online encryption. "If it’s true — a big if — it would be a secret like out of the movies, and one of the biggest things ever in computer science.”
The research paper they submitted in December is here. I’m not smart enough to understand any of it, but maybe you are.
A 57-year-old Georgia man has pleaded guilty to taking $400,000 in bribes from an Afghan company he helped obtain millions of dollars in contracts, the Justice Department says. He also “received bribes to sign false letters of recommendation for visas authorized for Afghan nationals who worked as translators with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.”
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Pat Donahoe spoke out in Army Times now that he is out of uniform. The Army inspector general concluded the two-star “had violated Army policies during three separate incidents on Twitter.” And yet one of those instances was a military officer standing up in support of women in uniform.
“We value the women that serve in the United States Army,” he said. “And we’ve got to say that loudly and proudly…It’s a challenge to the cohesion of the Army, when an entire population inside the Army feels that senior leaders aren’t willing to defend them publicly, and we should never step away from that duty as senior leaders.”
In a new op-ed, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice argue that "time is not on Ukraine's side" and urge the West to send more to Ukraine, including, above all, "mobile armor.”
"Both of us have dealt with Putin on a number of occasions, and we are convinced he believes time is on his side: that he can wear down the Ukrainians and that U.S. and European unity and support for Ukraine will eventually erode and fracture...For Putin, defeat is not an option.”
“Taiwan has asked to join discussions on China’s protest against US chip sanctions at the World Trade Organization, seeking a voice on a debate that could have ramifications for the global chip industry,” Bloomberg writes.
President Joe Biden has his very own classified documents scandal. The Justice Department has launched a review after about 10 documents were found in Biden’s post-vice presidential office in downtown Washington, according to The Washington Post.
There are major differences between the two presidential instances, and we’re still waiting to see where the Trump case goes. But the nonpartisan view from The Ruck is consistent: Taking classified files home with you is wrong. So anyway…
A hacker red team from the Inspector General tested the Department of the Interior and found "outdated and ineffective" password requirements while cracking 16% of the agency's 85,000+ accounts in the first 90 minutes of testing. Oh my.
The Covid-19 vaccine is no longer mandatory in the Department of Defense. The Pentagon rescinded the mandate after Congress forced the administration’s hand with legislation signed into law on Dec. 23.
The full memo on the policy change is here. Notably, it provides latitude to commanders “to consider, as appropriate…when vaccination is required for travel to, or entry into, a foreign nation.”
A Chinese man attending school in Boston, Massachusetts, has been indicted on accusations that he threatened a fellow Chinese student for posting pro-democracy flyers on campus. “Post more, I will chop your bastard hands off," he allegedly said.
According to the Justice Department, Xialoei Wu “also allegedly told the victim that he had informed the public security agency in China about the victim’s actions and that the public security agency in China would ‘greet’ the victim’s family.”
Flashback to October: DoJ accuses seven Chinese men and women of conducting surveillance for Beijing and intimidating a Chinese national living in the United States.
As Human Rights Watch reported in 2021, Chinese pro-democracy students going to school in Australia said it “weighed heavily” on their minds the thought of “authorities punishing or interrogating their parents back home,” leading to self-censorship.
“This is the first Canadian donation of an air defense system to Ukraine,” says Canada Defense Minister Anita Anand. “In the face of Russia’s brutal airstrikes on Ukraine, this air defense system will help to protect Ukrainian population centers and critical infrastructure against drone, missile, and aircraft attacks.
This is useful: ChatGPT for Search Engines, a Chrome extension that displays results alongside Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo from the artificial intelligence wonder that has captivated the tech world.
I plan to write more about ChatGPT eventually. I’ve noticed an explosion of commentary and excitement in tech over this AI tool that interacts with humans in a conversational way to answer questions, generate ideas, and do all kinds of interesting things.
It’s far from perfect and has plenty of limitations. Sometimes its answers are flat-out wrong. But it is very cool and easy to use. Such AI technology will have national security implications, too. For example, it will likely lead to an explosion in state-sponsored propaganda littering the internet and cybersecurity threats. More to come on this.
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See you next week. —Paul