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Israel Halts Peace Talks, Military Suicides Decline, Pentagon to Build Three War Budget Plans

By Jordain Carney (@jordainc)

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, today's best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage. To contact us, email earlybird@nationaljournal.com.

 

Israel to Suspend Talks Over Palestinian Unity Deal
(BBC)
The decision came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chaired a six-hour meeting of Israel's security Cabinet.

Military Suicides Dropped Last Year
(Associated Press: Lolita Baldor)
But new detailed data reveals an increase in the number of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers who took their own lives.

Senate Hearing Planned on Arizona VA Allegations
(Associated Press)
The hearing will follow an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General.

 

Pentagon to Devise 3 Budget Plans on U.S. Troops in Afghanistan
(Bloomberg: Roxana Tiron)
One estimate would take into account 10,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country, another would presume 5,000, and another would imply zero presence as of Jan. 1, 2015.

Russia Starts Military Exercises Near Border
(The Wall Street Journal: Lukas Alpert, Julian Barnes)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the use of force in Ukraine against civilians would have consequences for the leadership in Kiev, but he stopped short of threatening military action.

Ecuador Expels U.S. Military Group
(Associated Press)
Ecuador has ordered all 20 Defense Department employees in the U.S. Embassy's military group to leave the country by month's end.

UKRAINE/RUSSIA

Obama Plans to Call EU Leaders in Russia Sanctions Push
(Reuters: Arshad Mohammed)
Disagreements among European Union nations on whether to impose new economic sanctions on Russia have held up punitive steps by the United States.

 

Obama to Russia: More Sanctions Are 'Teed Up'
(Associated Press: Julie Pace)
But he acknowledged those penalties may do little to influence Vladimir Putin's handling of the crisis in Ukraine.

Pentagon Eyeing New Russian Troop Movements Near Ukraine
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
"We have seen some movement associated with this announcement, but it's too soon to tell exactly what it is," Army Col. Steve Warren said.

John Kerry: Window Closing for Russia to Change Course in Ukraine
(Reuters: Arshad Mohammed)
The secretary of State accused Russia of using propaganda to hide what he said it was actually trying to do in eastern Ukraine: destabilize that region and undermine next month's planned Ukrainian elections.

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U.S. Forces Take Lead in NATO's Response to Ukraine Crisis
(Stars and Stripes: Nancy Montgomery)
It's the latest test for the alliance that has struggled throughout the war in Afghanistan.

Germany Proposes Joint U.S., EU, Russia Trip to Ukraine
(Reuters: Erik Kirschbaum)
U.S. officials are growing increasingly impatient with what they describe as Russia's failure to live up to that agreement, which was an attempt to try to calm the crisis in Ukraine.

Ukraine Launches Operation Against Insurgents
(Associated Press: Yuras Karmanau)
Within hours of the Ukrainian operation, which killed at least two pro-Russia militants, Russia's defense minister announced new military exercises for troops massed near Ukraine's border.

Kremlin: Ukraine's Actions in East Raise Questions About Upcoming Presidential Elections
(Reuters: Alexei Anishchuk)
A Putin spokesman said serious questions are being raised about the legitimacy of the May 25 vote.

INTELLIGENCE

Putin Renews Fears of Web Breakup After Calling Internet a 'CIA Project'
(The Guardian: Ewen MacAskill)
Russian president's remark fans idea that has gained ground in Germany, Brazil, and elsewhere after Edward Snowden's revelations.

Putin: The Internet Is a 'CIA Project'
(Time: Noah Rayman)
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for his country to "fight for its interests" on the Internet.

U.S. Judges Balk at Police Requests for Digital Data
(The Washington Post: Ann Marimow, Craig Timberg)
"The Magistrates' Revolt" against sweeping law enforcement demands gains power amid mounting public anger about the surveillance capabilities revealed by Edward Snowden.

Costa Rica Wants Explanation Over 'Cuban Twitter' Network Launched From San Jose
(Associated Press)
Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo said efforts to affect other countries should not be carried out from inside Costa Rica.

CONGRESS

Lamakers Petition for Open NSA Debate
(CBS News: Stephanie Condon)
Rep. Rush Holt has written a letter to House leaders calling for that open debate.

House Committee To Begin McKeon's Final NDAA Process Next Week
(Defense News: John Bennett)
The House Armed Services Committee next week will begin cobbling together its 2015 Pentagon policy bill, the first defense panel to begin work on annual military legislation.

Senate's Newest Class Speaks Out on Foreign Policy
(Associated Press: Donna Cassata)
Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rand Paul of Kentucky stand on either side of the growing divide in the GOP.

Defense CEOs Ante Up for Durbin, Reed
(Politico: Austin Wright)
Two senior senators emerging as leaders of a rising bloc of strong-on-defense Democrats have joined forces to rake in tens of thousands of dollars from defense executives.

ASIA/PACIFIC

Obama Warns North Korea on Nuclear Test
(Reuters: Mark Felsenthal)
Obama arrived in Seoul for a visit in which he will seek to reassure South Korea that he is committed to pressuring Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Japan's Abe Wins Obama's Backing on Important Foreign Policy Issues
(The Wall Street Journal: Yuka Hayashi)
U.S. leader promises to defend Japan's territory, including islands disputed by China.

South Korea Ferry Disaster May Cloud Obama Visit
(Associated Press: Julie Pace)
The tragedy has consumed South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the lead up to Obama's visit and could distract from the security and economic agenda.

Tiny Pacific Nation Sues Nine Nuclear-Armed Powers
(Associated Press: Cara Anna)
It also filed a federal lawsuit against the United States in San Francisco, naming President Obama, the departments and secretaries of Defense and Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

North Korea's Reactor for Producing Plutonium Appears To Be Operating
(Global Security Newswire: Rachel Oswald)
Recent satellite images indicate that North Korea has begun operating a new light-water reactor that could produce plutonium for its weapons program.

MIDDLE EAST

U.S. Unwilling to Give Up Mideast Peace Process Yet
(Associated Press: Lara Jakes)
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to declare the negotiations over and said the U.S. is "still making the effort."

Chemical-Weapons Watchdog Weighs Chlorine Attack Probe in Syria: Sources
(Reuters: Anthony Deutsch)
OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu can launch an investigation into alleged use of chemical weapons in member states without the need to seek a formal request from a member state.

Syria to Hand Over Chemical Weapons, but Doubts Linger Over Full Arsenal
(The Guardian: Julian Borger)
Inspectors and Western officials say there is evidence chlorine has been used and stockpiled by the Damascus regime.

Iran Dismisses U.S. Criticism of Its Election to U.N. NGO Committee
(Reuters: Louis Charbonneau)
The harsh U.S. rebuke follows Washington's decision to deny entry to Tehran's proposed new U.N. ambassador Hamid Abutalebi.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

The Real Winner of the Afghan War Is This Shady Military Contractor
(The Daily Beast: Jacob Siegel)
The State Department paid out $4 billion to rebuild Afghanistan. Some $2.5 billion of that went to a single firm with a bad, bad past.

Dostum, a Former Warlord Who Was Once America's Man in Afghanistan, May Be Back
(The Washington Post: Joshua Partlow)
He is a vice presidential candidate on the ticket of former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, one of two front-runners in the election.

Poor Planning Led to River Forest Diplomat's Death in Afghanistan
(Chicago Tribune: Geoff Ziezulewicz)
The Army report for the first time criticizes civilian and military leaders for not following security protocols in the lead-up to the mission.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Pentagon Deputy: Defense Contracting Choices Will Only Get Tougher
(Government Executive: Charles Clark)
Sequestration is forcing the Defense Department to "literally build two budgets" and, if the automatic cuts are continued, will damage the quality of U.S. weapons systems and deter innovation.

Fresh Reports of Sexual Misconduct Undercut Pentagon's Argument for Internal Fix
(The Washington Post: Craig Whitlock)
For more than a year, U.S. military officials have admitted they have a serious problem with sexual assault and harassment in the ranks.

AIR FORCE

Hill AFB's Highest-Ranking Commander Reassigned
(Standard-Examiner: Mitch Shaw)
The highest-ranking military official at Hill Air Force Base will have a new home before the year is out.

Global Strike's Review of Morale Expands to Bomber Crews
(Air Force Times: Brian Everstine)
The Force Improvement Program will extend to bomber crews beginning in late May and through June.

Top Air Force General Doesn't Know If F-22 Successor Will Even Fly
(The Washington Examiner: Josh Gehrke)
Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh doesn't know if the successor to the F-22 Raptor, the Air Force's fifth-generation fighter, will fly.

Air Force Leaders Tout States' Support for A-10 Cuts
(Military Times: Brian Everstine)
Air National Guard leaders and governors are offering strong support for an Air Force plan to replace A-10 fleets with new missions in six states.

Guard Says Shrinking Active Duty Hurts Reserves
(Military.com: Brendan McGarry)
The Air Force and other branches are downsizing amid automatic budget cuts known as sequestration and the winding down of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

NAVY

Navy: Ex-Blue Angels Chief Condoned Inappropriate Behavior
(USA Today: Rob Johnson, John Bacon)
The Navy said in a statement that the investigation of Capt. Gregory McWherter is continuing.

New Growler Construction May Depend on Upcoming Navy Exercise
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
The Navy will conduct a battle exercise off the West Coast next month that could help determine whether another 22 EA-18G Growler aircraft will be built at a Boeing factory in St. Louis.

Navy Probes Report of Gunman at Point Loma
(Associated Press)
Navy spokesman Brian O'Rourke said Thursday that a shelter-in-place order was issued for parts of the base.

Guilty Plea Looks Imminent for Linguist
(Politico: Josh Gerstein)
But to charges vastly reduced in number and seriousness from the ones he was previously facing.

ARMY

Three Possible Suicides at Fort Bliss Last Weekend
(Military Time: Patricia Kime)
Fort Bliss, Texas, is reeling from three deaths on Easter weekend that, while still under investigation, are believed to be suicides.

Remote Care for Wounded Warriors Raises Concern
(Army Times: Joe Gould)
Members of the Recovering Warrior Task Force questioned the wisdom of providing remote care to soldiers with complicated health care needs.

MARINE CORPS

Ex-Marine Sentenced to Die in Sailor's Slaying
(Associated Press: Matthew Barakat)
Jorge Torrez was found guilty earlier this month of killing Navy Petty Officer Amanda Snell.

HOMELAND SECURITY

Homeland Security Puts Former Inspector General on Administrative Leave
(The Washington Post: Carol Leonnig)
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said he decided he had to temporarily remove Edwards from the workplace pending a final decision on his employment in light of the Senate's findings.

DETAINEES

Expert Testifies Accused USS Cole Bomber Was Tortured
(Miami Herald: Carol Rosenberg)
At issue is a defense claim that the captive's military doctors have not treated him for the trauma he suffered at the hands of the CIA.

AFRICA

U.N. Security Council Asks for Inquiry Into South Sudan Massacre
(Reuters: Michelle Nichols)
The 15-member council wants U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic to return to South Sudan as soon as possible to assess the recent escalation in violence.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Obama Stands With Abe
(The Wall Street Journal)
The U.S. declares solidarity with Japan over the Senkakus

It's Not Beijing's Hackers You Should Worry About; It's Moscow's
(Foreign Policy: Shane Harris)
Individuals and groups in Eastern Europe, and particularly in Russia and Russian-speaking countries.

Will This Be the Next Ukraine?
(The Atlantic: Robert Coalson)
Moldova's fault lines are visible everywhere and are rendered more volatile by the country's weak sense of national identity.

New U.S. Cruise Missile Risks Dangerous Arms Race
(War Is Boring: Michael Peck)
Pulverize your enemy—and hope they don't do the same to you.

Can America Make Peace in the Middle East?
(Times of Israel: Albert Wolf)
American participation in the peace process raises the likelihood a deal will be struck.

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DON'T MISS TODAY'S TOP STORIES

Keeps me informed about national leadership concerns."

Senior Military Officer

I can browse over breakfast or while on the metro."

AJ, US Army Officer

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