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Obama Tells Putin to Pull Back, Kerry to Ukraine, West Faces Limited Options in Countering Russia

By Sara Sorcher (@SaraSorcherNJ) and Jordain Carney (@jordainc)

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a morning assembly of the best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage from around the Web.


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Obama to Putin: Pull Back Russian Forces in Crimea
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung)
The president spoke to his Russian counterpart by phone as international tensions over Ukraine escalate.


Pressure Rising as Obama Works to Rein In Russia
(The New York Times: Peter Baker)
President Obama rallied allies and approved a series of diplomatic and economic moves intended to isolate Moscow and prevent it from seizing more Ukrainian territory.

Kerry to Visit Ukraine, Threatens Russia Sanctions
(The Washington Post: Anne Gearan)
But the secretary of State skirted questions about whether the United States might be willing to use force to deter Russia's Vladi­mir Putin.

Kerry Warns Russia of Possible Eviction From G-8
The New York Times: Michael Gordon)
Kerry's warning came as the United States and Western allies aimed to prevent a further push by the Kremlin into Ukraine.

West Faces Limited Options in Countering Russia
(The Wall Street Journal: Stephen Fidler)
Response is likely to be largely symbolic, officials say.


Obama: 'The Window Is Closing' for a Viable Israel-Palestine Peace Deal
(Bloomberg: Jeffrey Goldberg)
The president discusses Iran, Syria, and his view of the imperatives now facing Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Ukraine's Leader Urges Putin to Pull Back Military, Mobilizes Reservists
(The Washington Post: William Booth, Will Englund)
Ukraine's new prime minister said the bold and provocative Russian troop movements in Crimea in recent days amounted to a "declaration of war to my country."

Putin Engages in Test of Will Over Ukraine
(The New York Times: Steven Lee Myers)
The Russian president's strategy has been pursued by subterfuge, propaganda and bold military threat, taking aim as much at the United States and Europe as Ukraine itself.

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Pro-Russian Troops Take Over Crimea Terminal
(Associated Press: Dalton Bennett)
The move exacerbated fears that Moscow is planning to bring even more troops into this strategic Black Sea region.

A Cold War Reprise as U.S. Seeks Moscow's Isolation
(Associated Press: Lara Jakes)
The U.S. and its allies are weighing sanctions on Moscow and whether to bolster defenses in Europe in response to Russia's military advances.

Russian Markets, Ruble Plummet on Ukraine Fears
(Associated Press)
Russia's stock market dropped about 10 percent on Monday.

Russian FM Lavrov Says Ukraine Action a Matter of Defending Russian Citizens, Human Rights
(Associated Press)
Russian FM Lavrov says Ukraine action a matter of defending Russian citizens, human rights.

EU Not Seen Matching U.S. Threat of Sanctions Against Russia
(Reuters: Justyna Pawlak, Luke Baker)
Instead, several EU member states will urge international mediation between Russia and Ukraine.

U.S. Tracks 'Thousands More' Troops Flowing into Ukraine
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes)
U.S. official adds no sign of violence involving Russian forces.

Prime Minister: Ukraine on Brink of Disaster
(The New York Times: Alexander Kolyandr, Margaret Coker, Adam Entous, Lukas Alpert)
Arseniy Yatsenyuk blames Russia's Putin, calls on international community to rein him in.

Ukraine Finds Its Forces Are Ill Equipped to Take Crimea Back From Russia
(The New York Times: Steven Erlanger, Andrew Kramer)
In the autonomous region of Crimea, the Ukrainian military has only a token force with light weapons, and it lacks the country's advanced battle tanks, a Russian military expert said.

Ukrainian Ex-President Speaks Out From Russia
(The New York Times: Steven Lee Myers)
Viktor F. Yanukovych, Ukraine's former leader, called on President Vladimir Putin of Russia to act, but vowed to oppose military intervention by Russia or anyone else.

NATO Chief Says Russia Threatens Europe's 'Peace and Security'
(Defense News)
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia on Sunday to stop its military activity

Lew Says Ukraine's Leaders Ready to Tackle 'Market Reforms'
(Bloomberg: Kasia Klimasinska)
Ukraine is ready to undertake "urgently needed market reforms" to help restore financial stability and strengthen its economy, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

Skeptical Ukraine Has a Tough Road Ahead
(The Washington Post: Will Englund)
Even if Crimea simmers down, the challenges facing Kiev's new leaders are enormous, starting with mistrust.

Ex-CIA Chief: Why We Keep Getting Putin Wrong
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake, Noah Shachtman, Christopher Dickey)
Blame a myopic mindset—and an intelligence corps focused on terrorism, not Moscow.

U.S. Spies Said No Russian Invasion of Ukraine—Putin Disagreed
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake, Christopher Dickey)
A day after U.S. intelligence said there would be no Russian invasion of Ukraine, Putin's troops started coming over the border.

Putin-Obama Relationship in Deep Freeze
(Politico: Edward-Isaac Dovere)
Obama couldn't have been clearer when he warned Russia not to send troops into Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin couldn't have been clearer in his response: Watch me.

Rubio Proposes Steps U.S. Should Take With Russia
(The New York Times: Jonathan Weisman)
Russia's use of its military in Ukraine has given Senator Marco Rubio of Florida an opening to emerge as a new foreign policy voice of the Republican Party.

McCain Tells Obama How to Punish Putin
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
Senator John McCain identifies several ways the U.S. could respond to Vladimir Putin's decision to move Russian troops into Ukraine.

Ukraine's Revolutionary Lesson for Russia
(The Daily Beast: David Satter
Vladimir Putin isn't sending troops into Ukraine merely to protect Russian interests abroad. He's also trying to protect his regime at home.

Ukraine Ousts Top Naval Officer After He Joins Separatists
(The Wall Street Journal: Alexander Kolyandr)
Removed a day after he was appointed following televised pledge to Crimea's leaders.


Graham: Obama Budget 'Guts Our Defense'
(The Hill: Cameron Joseph)
Graham has been especially critical of nearly every suggestion the Obama administration has made in regards to foreign policy and defense.

Top HASC Democrat: 'Bet That Sequestration Is Going to Stick Around'
(Defense News: John Bennett)
"If you had to bet, you'd bet that sequestration is going to stick around," Smith said.

Hawk vs. Hawk on Pentagon
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
Defense hawks are decrying reductions in Pentagon spending, but their budget hawk brethren see more fat to be trimmed.

Republicans Blast Obama Defense Cuts
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
GOP lawmakers say the Obama administration is ignoring history in planning a defense budget that bets there won't be another protracted ground war in the near future.

Markey Files Bill to Cut $100 Billion in Nuclear Arms Funds
(Global Security Newswire: Rachel Oswald)
A high-profile U.S. Senate critic of nuclear-weapons spending on Friday introduced a bill that would cut $100 billion over the next decade in arsenal outlays.


DoD Budget Faces Defiant Congress
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Chuck Hagel, with his first budget plan as U.S. defense secretary, has managed to do the unthinkable: He has united Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Hagel Defends 'Reset' of Posture, Assets
(The Hill: Cameron Joseph)
Hagel argued that the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created a new military reality.

Military Sex Assault Trial Showcases 2 Approaches to Prosecution
(The New York Times: Richard Oppel Jr.)
As Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair awaits trial on charges of sexual assault, lawmakers are expected to debate a bill to strip commanders of prosecuting decisions.


Iranian Missile Capacity Remains Expected for Next Year: U.S. Commander
(Global Security Newswire: Diane Barnes)
Iran is still believed capable of fielding a long-range ballistic missile that could hit the United States by next year.


Obama, Netanyahu to Meet on Iran, Mideast Peace
(Associated Press: Julie Pace)
Obama will personally appeal for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move forward on peace talks with the Palestinians.


Karzai Says 12-year Afghanistan War Has Left Him Angry at U.S. Government
(The Washington Post: Kevin Sieff)
He said he's deeply troubled by all the casualties he has seen, including those in U.S. military operations.

Taliban Move Brings Halt to Airstrikes in Pakistan
(The New York Times: Salman Masood)
The Pakistani government, in response to a Taliban cease-fire, suspended its airstrike campaign, but reserved the right "to effectively respond to acts of violence."

Taliban Prisoners Escape From Afghan Prison Through Trickery
(The New York Times: Rod Nordland)
Calling the breakout "humiliating," Afghan officials said someone had altered an official document that let at least 10 prisoners walk out the front gate of a prison in broad daylight.

Officials: Al-Qaida Plotting Comeback in Afghanistan
(Associated Press: Kimberly Dozier)
Al-Qaida's Afghanistan leader is laying the groundwork to relaunch his war-shattered organization once the United States and international forces withdraw from the country.

Will the Zero Option in Afghanistan Cause Chaos?
(Associated Press: Robert Burns)
That is the question at the core of the debate over Obama's next move in a long-running standoff with the Afghans over a postwar presence.

TRANSCOM Chief: Crews Ready to Withdraw People, Equipment From Afghanistan
(Military Times: Brian Everstine)
U.S. Transportation Command will be able to quickly withdraw all troops and equipment from Afghanistan at the end of the year, if that is the option chosen.

Afghan Broadcaster Says U.S. Soldiers Abused Him
(The New York Times: Rod Nordland, Jawad Sukhanyar)
A radio station has angered the Taliban by broadcasting pro-government ads, but that did not stop American Special Forces from raiding it.

Will Sgt. Bergdahl be left behind in Afghanistan?
(Associated Press: Deb Riechmann)
The case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held by the Taliban since 2009, has arisen again as the U.S. and other countries engage in diplomatic efforts to free him.


Documents Released on U.S. Wiretapping Since Sept. 11 Terrorist Attacks
(The New York Times: Charlie Savage)
Newly disclosed Justice Department reports show how frequently government agents asked to tap the communications of suspected spies and terrorists.

Senators Blast NSA for Webcam Spying
(The Hill: Ramsey Cox)
Sens. Ron Wyden, Martin Heinrich, and Mark Udall slammed the National Security Agency after reports that its surveillance program capture images from users' webcams.

Cyber Spending Rare Bright Spot in Budget
(Defense News: Zachary Fryer-Biggs)
Spending on cyber, both defensive and offensive, will continue to grow in the coming years, including in the fiscal 2015 budget, officials said.


Report Calls for Better Backstops to Protect Power Grid From Cyberattacks
(The New York Times: Matthew Wald)
The report, from leading security experts, also found that while the government has focused on the high-voltage power grid, less work has been done on the lower-voltage distribution system.


LCS Lives! Mabus, Hamre Argue Littoral Combat Ship Will Survive Cuts
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
The Navy's controversial Littoral Combat Ship program is in good shape despite a 38 percent cut in the number of vessels the Pentagon plans to buy, the Navy Secretary insisted.

Navy Said to Seek Three Littoral Ships Next Year Instead of Four
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
The Navy will request $2.1 billion to continue developing the Littoral Combat Ship and buy three of the vessels in fiscal 2015.

Navy Needs to Track $40 Billion Spent on Service Contracts Per Year
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Mabus said the Navy and Marine Corps needs to better track the $40 billion a year spent on service contracts for everything from information technology to mowing grass.

Navy Finds Missteps in Deadly SEAL Humvee Crash at Fort Knox
(Associated Press)
A series of missteps led to a deadly Humvee accident last May at Kentucky's Fort Knox, a Navy investigation concludes.

Military Pilot Dies in Fighter Jet Crash in Nevada
(Associated Press)
It took rescue crews several hours to reach the site of Saturday's crash on a Navy range training complex east of Naval Air Station Fallon because of a snow storm and mountainous, remote terrain.


Army, Guard Prep To Battle Over People, Planes
(Defense News: Paul McLeary)
The service is restructuring its brigades and its acquisition strategy to be able to deploy faster, and punch harder, than it has in the past.

General's Bid for Dismissal of Sex Case Is Countered
(The New York Times: Richard Oppel Jr.)
Army officials said that despite concerns about the credibility of the main accuser, they did not doubt her central claim of forced oral sex.


Global Hawk Saved, but A-10's Chances Are Dim
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
The decision would seem to be final, but supporters of one platform can look to the other for inspiration.

USAF To Shed Light on 'Mystery' Plane
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
While last week's U.S. defense budget preview was dominated by news of what was being cut, one bright spot remains — the Air Force's long-range bomber program.

UH-1N Squadron Commander Throws Support Behind Black Hawk Swap
(Inside Defense)
The commander of the Defense Department's largest operational UH-1N Huey helicopter squadron this week put his support behind the possibility of replacing that airframe with reconfigured Army UH-60 Black Hawks.

Air Force To Streamline Nuclear Personnel Reliability Efforts
(Global Security Newswire: Rachel Oswald)
The U.S. Air Force is moving to simplify its program for ensuring that personnel with nuclear-weapons responsibilities are fit to perform their jobs.


General Dynamics Lobbies Congress To Upend Army's AMPV Program
(Inside Defense)
General Dynamics Land Systems has been lobbying Congress this week to intervene in the Army's Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle program.

Raytheon, U.S. Navy Test Tomahawk Block IV's Latest Communications Upgrades
(Sea Power)
Raytheon Co. and the U.S. Navy have successfully tested communications advancements to the Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile, the company announced in a Feb. 27 release.


North Korea Fires Two Short-Range Missiles Into Sea: Seoul
(Reuters: Choonsik Yoo, Michelle Kim, Se Young Lee)
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the missiles likely flew about 300 miles after being launched off the North's east coast.


9/11 Trial to Start Monday in New York
(Chicago Tribune: Richard Serrano)
The first and probably only federal court trial of a Sept. 11-related case will start jury selection.

Effort to Delay Terror Trial of a Bin Laden Relative Fails
(The New York Times: Benjamin Weiser)
The terrorism trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith will not be delayed despite a claim by his lawyers that authorities may have mixed him up with a detainee at Guantánamo Bay with a similar name.


Under Fire, Border Patrol Says Agents Kill Only 'as Last Resort'
(McClatchy: Tim Johnson)
The Cabinet secretary who oversees the agency has promised Congress that he'll personally review recent cases "to ensure that we're getting this right."


Second Member of Spy Ring Freed from U.S. Prison
(Miami Herald)
Fernando Gonzalez, 50, was convicted for acting as an illegal Cuban agent at a 2001 espionage trial of the five men in Miami.


What Is Russia's Aim in Ukraine?
(The New York Times)
Putin's reported tactics in Crimea are sure to backfire.

Putin Declares War
(The Wall Street Journal)
Will Obama and Europe let him get away with carving up Ukraine?

The Price Russia Will Have to Pay
(The Washington Post)
Obama should make crystal clear the consequences Russia will face for invading Ukraine.

Putin's Power Grab Gets Lame Response
(USA Today)
Russian president's intervention in Ukraine caught U.S. and its allies flat-footed.

Russia's Aggression
(The New York Times)
The Putin government ignites the world's condemnation with each move against Ukraine.

Obama's Foreign Policy Is Based on Fantasy
(The Washington Post)
The president's ideas are designed for a world that doesn't exist.

Obama's Shrinking Army
(The Wall Street Journal)
Plenty of cash for entitlements, but not enough for defense.

Frustration With Afghanistan
(The New York Times)
Despite threats to leave, the United States and NATO may still prefer to keep a residual force.

Mr. Abe's Dangerous Revisionism
(The New York Times)
The prime minister's reading of history complicates his relations with America.

Making Russia Pay? It's Not So Simple
(The New York Times: Peter Baker)
President Obama has warned Russia that "there will be costs" for a military intervention in Ukraine. But the U.S. has few options for imposing such costs.

Crimea, the Tinderbox
(The New York Times: Charles King)
The West and Russia have a Common Interest: forestalling civil war in Ukraine.

In Ukraine, Obama's Biggest Test
(National Journal: Michael Hirsh)
Forget Iran and Syria. Everything now depends on a show of diplomatic strength that will isolate Putin.

Russia Loves Its Small Wars
(War Is Boring: David Axe, Matthew Gault)
Moscow's long history of short border conflicts.

Putin Goes to War
(The New Yorker: David Remnick)
Vladimir Putin, the Russian President and autocrat, had a plan for the winter of 2014: to reassert his country's power a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A History Lesson That Needs Relearning
(The New York Times: Sam Tanenhaus)
The truth is that the Cold War was less a carefully structured game between masters than a frightening high-wire act, with leaders on both sides aware that a single misstep could plunge them into the abyss.

Crimea Crisis Is Really Not Like Georgia-Russia in 2008
(The Washington Post: Will Englund)
A key factor is that Georgia acted first when it attacked posts in South Ossetia.

The Crimean Crisis We Should Have Seen Coming
(The Atlantic: Robert Coalson)
Obama and Ukraine's new government have warned Russia not to intervene militarily in Crimea—a region long plagued by tensions.

Putin's Playbook: The Strategy Behind Russia's Takeover of Crimea
(The Atlantic: Uri Friedman)
Moscow has supported secessionist movements in ex-Soviet states to expand its influence in the region. Is the Crimean crisis just the latest example?

Gates Versus the Air Force
(Air Force Magazine: John Tirpak)
For former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, it was "one damn thing after another."

Abysmal Ambassadorial Nominations
(The Wall Street Journal: Sen. John McCain)
The tradition of giving diplomatic posts to campaign contributors has now officially gotten out of control.

An Outdated Nuclear Strategy
(The Washington Post: Rachel Maddow)
The U.S. is throwing money away.

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