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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Pentagon Proposes Cuts to Ukraine Military Aid
(USA Today: Ray Locker)
The Obama administration has proposed a 28 percent spending cut for a Pentagon program that supports modernizing the military of Ukraine and other former Soviet Union republics.
The Pentagon Isn't Ready for a New Cold War
(The Daily Beast: Jacob Siegel)
The U.S. military spent decades pivoting away from its Cold War stance. Now the Pentagon is less prepared than it has been in generations for a confrontation with Russia.
Russia's Sanctions List: The Hottest List in Washington?
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
The U.S. officials now being sanctioned by Russia aren't bumming out. They're actually pretty thrilled.
Israeli Defense Chief Wounds Relations With U.S. Ally
(Reuters: Jeffrey Heller)
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon is in hot water again with the United States for caustic criticism of his country's main ally.
General Is Reprimanded, but Spared Jail, in Misconduct Case
(The New York Times: Richard Oppel Jr.)
Brig. Gen. Sinclair was also ordered to forfeit $5,000 a month in pay for four months, but will be allowed to keep his pension and other benefits.
Putin: No Need For Further Retaliation Against U.S.
President Vladimir Putin says there is no need for Russia to further retaliate against U.S. sanctions.
Ukrainian Militias Given Deadline to Surrender Arms
(The New York Times: Andrew Kramer)
To try to stabilize Ukraine, its interim leaders set a deadline of Friday for so-called self-defense groups to surrender illegal firearms. Above, Independence Square in Kiev.
Putin Looks to Asia as West Threatens to Isolate Russia
(Reuters: Timothy Heritage , Vladimir Soldatkin)
An underlying message from the head of Russia's biggest oil company, Rosneft, was clear: If Europe and the United States isolate Russia, Moscow will look East for new business, energy deals, military contracts and political alliances.
Soccer Hooligans Prep Ukraine for Putin
(The Daily Beast: Jamie Dettmer)
Gangs of Russian sympathizers in Ukraine are manning checkpoints, disrupting trains, and maybe even shipping weapons around the region. Are they prepping for Putin's next war?
U.S., Russia Exchange Threats at Tense U.N. Meeting
(Associated Press: Alexandra Olson)
Russia and the United States exchanged threats Wednesday at a tense U.N. Security Council meeting over the Ukraine crisis.
E.U. Targets Putin's Inner Circle, Scraps Summit
(Associated Press: Raf Casert, Mike Corder)
European Union leaders said they will hit more people with a travel ban and asset freeze.
Obama's Sanctions Sink Russian Stocks as Novatek Declines
(Bloomberg: Halia Pavliva)
Russian stocks traded in New York fell the most in a week as Obama imposed financial sanctions on a wider swath of Russian officials, including billionaires close to President Vladimir Putin.
Madeleine Albright: Vladimir Putin 'a New Czar'
(Politico: Tal Kopan)
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Thursday that Americans should turn their focus away from Flight MH370 coverage and to Ukraine.
Will Ukraine's Neighbour Moldova Be the Next East-West Europe Flashpoint?
(The Guardian: Humphrey Hawksley)
Moldova's breakaway region of Trans-Dniester is supported by Russia, whose supply lines to the area run through Ukraine.
Nancy Pelosi Urges Congress to Approve U.S. Aid to Ukraine
(The Washington Post: Ed O'Keefe)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Congress should quickly approve new U.S. aid to Ukraine that includes long-sought reforms to the International Monetary Fund.
Menendez in Brussels to Meet E.U., NATO Leaders
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez has traveled to Brussels to discuss the Ukraine-Russia crisis with European Union and NATO leaders.
Counsel: Senate Intel Panel 'Close' on Cybersecurity Information-Sharing Bill
(Inside Cybersecurity: Christopher Castelli)
The leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are "close" to reaching agreement on a cybersecurity information-sharing bill.
Four SASC Panels to Hold Open Markups
(Politico: Austin Wright)
Four Senate Armed Services subcommittees will hold open markups this year for the annual National Defense Authorization Act, up from three last year.
Udall Pushes Obama on Classified Senate CIA Interrogation Report
(The Hill: Mario Trujillo)
Recent events only intensify the urgency to release a classified Senate study on Bush-era CIA interrogations, Sen. Mark Udall wrote to Obama.
NSA Official: Keeping Americans' Phone Records Could Jeopardize National Security
(Foreign Policy: Shane Harris)
In a bizarre twist, the NSA itself now says keeping the phone records will impose a heavy toll on the agency and will ultimately distract the NSA from its national security mission.
Senate Leader Reid Seeks New Inquiry Into CIA's Monitoring of Its Computers, Alleges 'Intimidation'
(McClatchy: Jonathan Landay, Ali Watkins)
Reid has ordered the Senate's chief law enforcement officer to conduct a forensic examination of top-secret computers used for a study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program.
Holder: No Decision on Whether to Investigate CIA or Senate Aides
(Los Angeles Times: Ken Dilanian)
The Justice Department has not decided whether to formally investigate the conduct of CIA officers or Senate staffers in the high-profile dispute.
Slow Pace of Transition Away From OCO Budget Leaves Questions for DOD
Air Force officials, like their brethren in the other military services, continue to struggle with transitioning items from their wartime budgets into the base budget.
Pentagon Asks Air Force About Russia Rocket Engine
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
Pentagon officials have asked the Air Force to review whether the use of Russian engines on rockets from a Lockheed Martin-Boeing team creates a national security risk.
DOD Delays Rule-Making on Rapid Reporting of Cyber Penetrations
The Pentagon needs more time to develop highly anticipated draft regulations that would require defense contractors with security clearances to rapidly report penetrations of their networks and information systems.
Pentagon's Gamble on Getting More Money From Congress Questioned
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio, Roxana Tiron)
The Pentagon is betting that Congress will roll back $35 billion in automatic defense cuts scheduled to begin in fiscal 2016.
Pentagon Reviews Will Focus on Military Medals
(Associated Press: Lolita Baldor)
The Pentagon has begun three separate reviews on how military medals are awarded.
Iran Leader: Improved Economy Can Fight Sanctions
Iran's top leader says his nation can best counter sanctions imposed by the West by strengthening its economy.
Iran Complying With Interim Nuclear Deal
(The Wall Street Journal: Laurence Norman)
IAEA says implementation of deal going as planned.
E.U. Sees Big Gaps in Nuclear Talks but Iran 'Committed' to Deal
(Reuters: Fredrik Dahl)
The remarks underlined the uphill task confronting negotiators.
Obama Promotes Iran Nuclear Deal in Nowruz Message
(USA Today: David Jackson)
President Obama delivered his annual Nowruz message to the people of Iran on Thursday, and he included a pitch for a long-term agreement on Tehran's nuclear program.
A Ship Being Built in Iran Looks Awfully Familiar to the U.S.
(The New York Times: Eric Schmitt)
Iran is building a nonworking mock-up of an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that United States officials say may be intended to be blown up for propaganda value.
Corruption in Afghanistan Could Kill U.S. Progress
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
But a watchdog official said he expects U.S. and international aid to continue to flow to the country after this year.
Abbas Asks U.S. Help to Free Jailed Palestinian Leader Barghouti
(Reuters: Nidal Almughrabi, Ali Sawafta)
Any move to free such a high-profile figure as Barghouti would probably ignite a political fire storm in Israel.
U.S. Cancels Summit With Gulf Nations
(The Wall Street Journal: Jay Solomon)
The White House canceled plans for summit this month between President Barack Obama and Persian Gulf monarchs in Riyadh because of splits between Washington's closest allies in the region.
Judge Finds Midshipman Not Guilty in U.S. Naval Academy Sexual-Assault Case
A military judge found a former U.S. Naval Academy football player not guilty of a sexual-assault charge Thursday at the conclusion of a three-day trial.
New Army Grooming, Appearance Regs Leaked Online
(Army Times: Michelle Tan)
Details of the Army's highly anticipated revisions to grooming and uniform regulations leaked online Thursday, just days before the document was set to go into effect.
New U.S. Army Rocket Could Blast Any Target in the World in Just Three Hours
(War Is Boring: David Axe)
Now the Navy might want it, too.
Army Balks at Camouflage Price Tag
(Military.com: Matthew Cox)
A year has passed since MultiCam won the U.S. Army's camouflage competition, but makers of the pattern said the service still refuses to pay what the market demands for more effective camouflage.
Army Squared Off With Budweiser Over Controversial Super Bowl Ad
(Foreign Policy: Dan Lamothe)
A popular commercial honored the return of a U.S. soldier from Afghanistan. So how did it get so ugly behind the scenes?
Top Army Budget General: FY15 Glass 'Half Full,' but Deeper Cuts Ahead
One of the Army's top budget officials said today that the service's current fiscal footing is a "glass half-full," but cautioned that the deepest spending cuts were likely still on the horizon.
Health Agency Chief Resigns After Clash With Marines Over Camp Lejeune Problems
(National Journal: Mike Magner)
Tense email exchanges and a Capitol Hill meeting preceded Tanja Popovic's sudden and quiet resignation.
VA-DoD Common Records System May Still Be Possible
(Military Times: Leo Shane III)
The Veterans Affairs Department is hoping a new makeover will finally get its own system noticed — and perhaps get defense officials to commit to a long-term relationship after all.
Veterans' Unemployment Edges Down but Remains High
(Associated Press: Tom Raum)
The unemployment rate for veterans who served since 2001 dipped slightly in 2013 to 9 percent, the Labor Department reported.
Vets Among Americans Suing Over Fed's No-Fly List
(Fox News: Joshua Rhett Miller)
Thirteen people—including four veterans—are suing the government, claiming their inclusion on the list deprives them of due-process rights.
Korean War Veterans Renew Push for Addition to Memorial
(The Frederick News-Post: Sylvia Carignan)
Korean War veterans in Frederick are renewing their effort to have the names of the fallen printed at a Washington memorial.
Study: High Rate of Emotions in Vets With Mild Brain Injury
(USA Today: Gregg Zoroya)
A survey of several hundred veterans with mild brain injury shows that 60 percent reported suffering a neurological condition that involves exaggerated emotional responses such as crying or laughing.
Syria Has Almost Zero Chemical Arms Potential: Russian Foreign Ministry
(Reuters: Lidia Kelly)
The Syrian government has reduced its chemical weapons potential close to zero, state-run RIA news agency said.
Syria Hands Over More Chemicals as Disarmament Push Gains Steam
(Global Security Newswire: Diane Barnes)
Syrian authorities gave up a third batch of warfare chemicals in under a week, apparently accelerating moves toward relinquishing their stockpile.
NATO Chief Says Ukraine Events May Affect European Tactical Nuclear Reductions
(Global Security Newswire: Rachel Oswald)
The head of NATO says Russia's incursion into Ukraine may affect the prospects for nuclear arms control in Europe, which already faced political challenges.
Coast Guardsman Pleads Guilty to Misconduct
A Coast Guard lieutenant has pleaded guilty to military charges of assault and other misconduct while in port in Panama.
Uruguay Agrees to U.S. Request to Take Some Guantanamo Inmates
(Reuters: Malena Castaldi)
Uruguay has agreed with the United States to accept some prisoners held in the much-criticized detention center at the U.S. military base of Guantanamo Bay.
Army Team to Begin Libyan Training Prep
A small team of soldiers will go into Libya in the coming weeks to begin preparations for a larger U.S. mission to train Libyan troops in Bulgaria.
Navy to Return Accused Tanker Hijackers to Libya
(USA Today: Jim Michaels)
The three Libyans accused of hijacking a tanker loaded with oil remain under U.S. control as an American warship escorts the tanker back toward Libyan shores, the Pentagon said.
U.S. Envoy: Cyprus Peace May Ease Europe Gas Fears
(Associated Press: Menelaos Hadjicostis)
An agreement to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus could ease the supply of newly found offshore gas to Europe by allowing it to go through Turkey.
Obama: Keep Tightening the Sanctions
(The Washington Post)
Although the new sanctions on Russia are tougher than previous ones, they need to go farther.
A Jewish State
(The Wall Street Journal)
Why John Kerry's Palestine diplomacy is failing.
The Russo-Sanctions War
(The Wall Street Journal)
Putin interprets the West's gradualism as a sign of weakness.
America's Incredible Shrinking Navy
(The Wall Street Journal: Steve Cohen)
Only 35% of the U.S. Navy's entire fleet is deployed, fewer than 100 ships, including just three aircraft carriers.
How the West Lost Crimea
(USA Today: Oren Dorell)
Now that Russia has annexed Ukraine's Crimea region, the question arises how the U.S. and the West lost what they sought to keep out of the hands of Moscow.
Ukraine Fallout: Putin Hands the Pentagon a Rationale for New Nuclear Weapons
(Forbes: Loren Thompson)
It doesn't take a genius to figure out where this debate will end up in Washington: Tthe delicate balance of terror—the nuclear balance—is back on the table as an active concern.
Putin Now Gets to Rewrite Rules Meant to Prevent World War III
(Quartz: Steve LeVine)
For three centuries, the West had conspired to bottle up Russia within its borders—since the time of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and the establishment of the country's sweeping empire. But no longer.
Obama Gets Tough on Russia, but Is It Enough?
(U.S. News & World Report: Paul Shinkman)
The White House has rolled out further, harsher sanctions following Putin's Crimean aggression.
Geopolitics and the New World Order
(Time: Robert Kaplan)
Geography increasingly fuels endless chaos and old-school conflicts in the 21st century.
Insiders to Obama: Send Military Aid to Ukraine
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
Russian President Vladimir Putin "must be checked before it's too late," one of National Journal's Security Insiders said.
Five Tough Steps Obama Could Take
(The Hill: Justin Sink, Jeremy Herb, Erik Wasson)
Russia has brushed aside the West's punishment of its bullying of Ukraine so far, raising questions about what steps the administration could take to get Russia's attention.
America Needs More Ships: Scrap LCS, Double Virginia Sub Buy, and Move Design Back to Navy
(Breaking Defense: Kirk Lippold)
The United States cannot protect the world's sea-lanes, let alone "pivot to the Pacific," if we further downsize our military.
America's Hip-Hop Foreign Policy
(The Atlantic: Hisham Aidi)
How rap became a battleground in the war on terror.
War Is a Video Game, and We're Losing
(War on the Rocks: Adam Elkus)
One of the most common tropes in both military analysis and popular culture is the danger of war becoming a "videogame."