18 June 2021

Water Security as Part of Non-Traditional Security: Threat - Implications for India

  Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Like oil or data, water is an integral part of the world’s economy. Although about 71 per cent of the earth’s surface is water-covered, the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water which is salt water. Freshwater, most of it is frozen in glaciers, accounts for the rest. That leaves less than 1 per cent of the world’s water available to support human and ecological processes. We withdraw 4.3 trillion cubic meters of freshwater every year from the earth’s water basins. We use it in agriculture, which accounts for 70 per cent of the withdrawals. Industry and households consume 19 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively. However, these percentages fluctuate widely across the globe. In the United States, industrial and agricultural usage is almost the same around 40 per cent. In India, agriculture uses 90 per cent of water withdrawals, while only 2 per cent is consumed by industry. Over the past century, rate of withdrawal of available freshwater resources have risen almost six times, outpacing global population growth.

China’s Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.”

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

A Strategic US Approach to India’s COVID-19 Crisis

Husain Haqqani & Aparna Pande

The recent surge of COVID-19 in South Asia challenges India’s traditional ability to aid its smaller neighbors, a change that could, in turn, affect India’s influence in its competition with China. Unless India can recover from this surge with the help of allies like the United States, the pandemic could impact the Indo-Pacific’s geopolitical balance.

In the past, India has often acted as a first responder across South Asia, helping other countries recover from natural disasters, and it initially occupied this role during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, when it helped several South Asian and Indian Ocean region countries cope with the effects of the disease. India’s role as ‘first responder’ has been a key factor in its geopolitical power and in maintaining its role as a leader in the region.

However, the resurgence of COVID-19 has jolted India at a time when democratic countries, including the United States, view India as critical to balancing China’s deepening influence cross Asia. South Asia, a region holding 23 percent of the world’s population, now accounts for over 11 percent of global COVID-19 cases and 6 percent of COVID-related deaths. The world’s largest democracy and second-most populous country, India alone currently accounts for over 84 percent of South Asia’s cases and deaths.

Why Are Indians So Angry at Bill Gates?

By Akshay Tarfe

Last month, Bill Gates’ divorce and allegations of sexual misconduct made headlines in Western media. But in India, the billionaire philanthropist and his foundation have been under criticism for months for completely different reasons. Indians have called for Gates’ arrest over alleged violations of medical ethics and laws by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) in the country. #ArrestBillGates trended on Indian Twitter in May, part of a campaign calling Indian authorities to charge the BMGF and Gates for conducting illegal medical trials on vulnerable groups in two Indian states.

This is not the first time the BMGF or Bill Gates has been at the receiving end of public anger in India. This latest outburst is part of constantly growing anger against Gates and his foundation in India. As early as April 2021, Gates received flak for expressing his reluctance about sharing COVID-19 vaccine technologies with developing countries like India. After severe public criticism in India and abroad, BMGF Chief Executive Officer Mark Suzman officially supported a temporary waiver on vaccine IP.

China Says Nuclear Fuel Rods Damaged, No Radiation Leak

Joe McDonald

A Chinese nuclear power plant near Hong Kong had five broken fuel rods in a reactor but no radioactivity leaked, the government said Wednesday in its first confirmation of the incident that prompted concern over the facility’s safety.

Radiation rose inside the No. 1 reactor of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province but was contained by barriers that functioned as planned, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said on its social media account.

The Hong Kong government said it was watching the plant and asking officials in Guangdong for details after its French co-owner on Monday reported increased “noble gases” in the reactor. Experts said that suggested fuel rods broke and leaked radioactive gas produced during nuclear fission.

Noble gases such as xenon and krypton are byproducts of fission along with particles of cesium, strontium and other radioactive elements.

Iran’s Recent Naval Loss Should Be a Warning, Not a Victory, for America’s Military

Michael O. D. Pruitt

On June 2, just a few miles from the major port of Jask at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, the Iranian military oiler Kharg caught fire. The crew, dozens injured, had to evacuate, leaving the ship’s massive half-sunken carcass to smolder in the Gulf of Oman. As Iran’s only oiler, Kharg was central to Iran’s trans-Atlantic aspirations. The event serves not only as a strategic loss for Iran but as the latest in a string of high-profile naval disasters. Just over a year ago, in May 2020, Iran's Jamaran frigate struck the support ship Konorak with an anti-ship cruise missile during a scripted exercise mishap, killing 19. In January 2018, the Damavand, Iran’s most advanced frigate at the time, grounded on a rocky jetty, killing two Navy commandos and costing Iran the ship. While it didn’t involve Iran’s navies, it impossible to not mention when, at the height of U.S.-Iranian tensions following the U.S. assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian strike on al-Asad airbase, Iran shot Ukrainian Flight 752 from the sky in a catastrophic error.

The incidents don’t just embarrass Iran: they are the greatest obstacles to Iran’s own maritime goals. Losses like Damavand and Kharg push national objectives back by years. Investigations, repairs, and retraining come with real, tangible costs—a burden that Iran’s struggling economy can’t shoulder. Perhaps most importantly, when negligence kills, Iran suffers serious political consequences. In addition to creating a brisk détente with the U.S., the Flight 752 incident ignited over a year of internal strife that threatens the regime at its core.

Lost at Sea: How Two Iranian Warships Are Testing American Mettle

Emanuele Ottolenghi

What is the Iranian navy doing in the southern Atlantic? It is a question that Pentagon officials have had a hard time answering since late May, when they became aware that a large, repurposed oil tanker and a newly built frigate—both with Iran’s navy—were sailing past the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, heading westward.

Officially, the Iranians sent both ships to improve “their seafaring capacity” in untested, difficult waters far from home. If nothing else, Iran is flexing its muscles and seeking to project power beyond its near abroad. But U.S. officials worry that the larger ship—which satellite imagery shows is carrying seven fast boats of the type Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps use in the Persian Gulf to swarm larger vessels—may be carrying weapons to its Southern Hemisphere ally, Venezuela.

The U.S. has an arms embargo against Venezuela—but it applies only to U.S. exports. So does the European Union, but its embargo does not extend to third parties. The U.S. may have a legal basis to interdict the shipment’s delivery, and it has publicly warned both Venezuela and Cuba—another possible recipient of the cargo—to turn those ships away. If the ships turn up in the Caribbean Sea, U.S. Southern Command might take action to interdict them, with a potential escalation looming.

Participation in Israeli coalition government opens new chapter for Arab parties

Afif Abu Much
By one vote, with a majority of 60 to 59, Israel's new government was approved and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett sworn in as the 13th prime minister of Israel. The rotation government headed by Yamina and Yesh Atid that has been negotiated for the past month was finally authorized and put an end to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years in power. From today, we can say “Prime Minister Bennett” and “leader of the opposition Netanyahu.” And if that’s not enough, a mere hour after the new government was sworn in, US President Joe Biden called Bennett to congratulate him on entering office. Everyone remembers that Netanyahu had to wait nearly a month before he received a call from the American president after his inauguration in January.

But with due respect to the change in government in Israel, real history was made last night at the Knesset chamber with the entrance of an Arab party — Ra’am — into the coalition for the first time, and its participation in shaping the face of the government in Israel. After a long journey of delegitimization of the Arab voice and exclusion of the Arab public, Knesset member Mansour Abbas, with his colleagues of the Ra’am list, changed the rules of the game.

Israel Attacks Gaza, Hamas Deploys Fire Balloons as Conflict Flares After Netanyahu


The Israeli military has confirmed an aircraft attack in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, retaliating against incendiary balloons deployed by Hamas. The attack comes barely two days after the ousting of Israel's former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The attack reportedly targeted Hamas armed compounds in response to incendiary balloons that were deployed from the area. The balloons caused 10 fires in fields of southern Israel, Reuters reported.

The attacks were the first to occur following an 11-day ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian forces.

Following the balloon attack, Israeli nationalists marched around Damascus Gate, a site of Palestinian life within east Isreal. The crowd of mostly young men held blue-and-white Israeli flags while dancing and singing religious songs, the Associated Press reported. The march also commemorated Israel's capture of east Jerusalem in 1967.

Biden must be firm, but measured, in his message to Putin on cyberattacks


The relationship between the United States and Russia historically has alternated between great expectations and blanket condemnation. From the alliance with the Soviet Union during World War II to the Cold War to détente, to glasnost and perestroika, to Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton, to reset, to the present adversarial approach each nation takes toward the other, there has been no lasting equilibrium. Achieving equilibrium, or at least an understanding, between President Biden and President Putin will not come easily — or at all, unless the issue of Russian-supported cyberattacks on the U.S. is addressed.

While the parallels are far from exact, there are certain similarities with regard to the present U.S.-Russia confrontation and the Cuban missile crisis, which pitted the U.S. against the Soviet Union in 1962. Then, the Soviets under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, who was First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, challenged the new American president, John F. Kennedy, by attempting to install nuclear weapons in Cuba.

There’s Reason to Be a Little Hopeful About the Biden-Putin Summit


President Joe Biden meets on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and it’s been decades since the leaders of the two countries approached a summit so rife with tension, dread, and possibilities.

The wild card this time is the “possibilities.” Both leaders agree that relations between Washington and Moscow are at their “lowest point” since the Cold War. Contrary to hopes a mere decade ago that a democratic Russia might enter the fold of the European Union and the Western-led global economy, Putin’s posture as a strong world leader seems to pivot on his refusal to appear remotely conciliatory. His assertive actions in the second term of Barack Obama’s presidency—his annexation of Crimea, armed incursions of eastern Ukraine, and aid to Bashar al-Assad’s murderousness in Syria, which, together, crushed all plans for continuing the “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations—have since been intensified by relentless cyberattacks, including an attempt to tilt the 2016 election; the killing of Russian dissidents or former spies on foreign territory; and other steps to foment Western disunity and delegitimize democracy, sometimes with startling success.

A U.S.-Russia Alliance Against China? Don’t Laugh Just Yet.

Harry Kazianis

Here’s some good for thought as we all look to Geneva and the upcoming U.S.-Russia summit in a few days.

A few years back, I published the below piece in the American Conservative positing the idea that someday, provided the right political conditions and a realization that the growing threat from China is an existential one, that the U.S. and Russia could have a very different relationship than they do today. While clearly since this was posted back in 2018 U.S.-Russia relations have grown much worse, history tells us that a much bigger common threat can smooth over a lot of less critical challenges both sides consider important years back.

All one has to do is look at U.S.-China relations in the 1950s and 1960s which were clearly adversarial which quickly changed when both sides saw the Soviet Union as a much more pressing concern.

Russia’s Impact on US National Interests: 5 Primers

America today is grappling with a transition from its “unipolar moment” of the 1990s to renewed great-power competition with Russia and China. As U.S. decision-makers look for the best way forward, quite a few international-affairs analysts have argued that attempts to figure out a Russia policy that would give the U.S. an edge in that competition have been stymied by a failure to align policies with a hierarchy of U.S. interests. What, in short, are America’s vital national interests? How can they be protected or advanced? How does and can Russia impact them, and can changes to U.S policies make that impact benign? The volume posted here (links above and below) includes five primers that were written in the past year in an attempt to answer some of these key questions. The five vital U.S. national interests the primers tackle come from a list compiled by a task force that grew out of the Commission on American National Interests. That, to the best of our knowledge, was the last collective effort to define such a hierarchy of interests. They are: (1) preventing the use and slowing the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, securing nuclear weapons and materials and preventing proliferation of intermediate and long-range delivery systems for nuclear weapons; (2) maintaining a balance of power in Europe and Asia; (3) preventing large-scale or sustained terrorist attacks on the American homeland; (4) ensuring energy security; and (5) assuring the stability of the international economy. Below we summarize some of the primers’ key findings.

Strategic Competition and Foreign Perceptions of the United States

Anthony H. Cordesman

It is all too easy to focus on the military aspects of strategic competition with China and Russia or on the political issues of the day and to instead ignore the importance of how our allies, strategic partners, and other states perceive the United States. A June 10, 2021 poll by the Pew Research Service warns, however, that it can be exceedingly dangerous to do so.

The main headline of the poll is seemingly reassuring: “America’s Image Abroad Rebounds With Transition From Trump to Biden.” Most initial press reporting has focused on these results and they are important, but they need far more qualification. It is the line under the title that sounds a critical strategic warning: “But many raise concerns about health of U.S. political system.” As is the case with many polls, the results need to be put in context, and it is the full range of results that count – not a simple bottom line.
Shifting Attitudes Towards the U.S. Presidency

A copy of the full text of the Pew poll and report is attached at the end of this commentary, and the documents is available online here . The first part focuses on the shifts in the attitudes in key countries like Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The Pew report summarizes these trends inFigure One, and they seem to be highly favorable:

Biden must push NATO on defense spending

At the NATO summit in Brussels, President Joe Biden must not mistake smiles for commitments.

The summit offers an important opportunity, indeed a responsibility, for Biden to outline America’s expectation that true alliances require fair burden-sharing. He will rightly reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense stipulation, but he must also explain why the alliance is not currently credible as a deterrent against prospective enemies such as Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The credibility of a military alliance rests on its capability and the willingness to act. Biden should then emphasize that the United States continues to bear an unfair burden in this regard. And he should make clear that in this unfair burden, the risk grows of a future president withdrawing from NATO.

Considering the relief of Europe’s wealthy powers that Biden has replaced Donald Trump in the White House, such a message coming from Biden might find an unusually receptive audience. These leaders are now at least somewhat aware that they ignored former Defense Secretary Robert Gates to their peril. In 2011, Gates warned, “If current trends in the decline are not reversed, future U.S. political leaders — those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me — may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.”

DoD Budget Requests Funding For Key Defensive Cyber Measures


WASHINGTON: The Defense Department’s 2022 proposed budget provides a boost in funding for key defensive cybersecurity measures.

Comparing the 2022 request to the 2021 request reveals a few notable funding shifts:

A new line item for implementing zero-trust architectures.

Increases for zero-trust security enabling technologies, including cryptology, identity and access control management (ICAM), and automated continuous endpoint monitoring (ACEM).
A decrease in funding for overseas “hunt-forward” cyber operations.

An increase in Cyber Mission Force teams by four.

What does this portend?

How Popular Is Joe Biden Compared to Other World Leaders Meeting at G7?


President Joe Biden is on his first overseas trip since taking office in January, but where does he stand on the world stage?

Polling from U.S.-based, nonpartisan Morning Consult suggests that he's doing better than at least four of the other global world leaders that are joining him at the G7 summit in England this weekend.

According to Morning Consult, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is the most popular leader at today's meeting, which is focused on ending the coronavirus pandemic, stopping future pandemics and addressing climate change, among other priorities. As of Thursday, Draghi polled at a 65 percent approval rating among adults.

Morning Consult conducts more than 11,000 daily interviews globally about leadership approval, based on a seven-day moving average of all adults in a given country. The survey, conducted online with a representative sample in multiple languages and weighted by demographic factors, has a margin of error 1 to 3 percentage points.

Resilience vs. Efficiency

William Reinsch

Last week, the Biden administration produced its report on supply chains in four critical sectors: semiconductor chips, batteries, critical minerals, and pharmaceuticals. Two hundred and fifty pages and 23 recommendations in 100 days is a significant accomplishment, and the administration deserves some respect simply for finishing it on time. The report is important because it addresses four areas that everyone agrees are critical from a national security perspective, although that is not the only reason why they are important. Still to come are longer, year-long studies covering major parts of the U.S. economy—agriculture, transportation, energy, the defense industrial base, public health, and information and communications technology. The breadth of these studies suggests they could have a major impact on our economy, depending on what they recommend.

Last week’s report was prompted by two developments: the Covid-19 pandemic, which made us acutely aware of supply chain gaps and vulnerabilities in sensitive sectors, and China’s continuing dominance in production in some of these sectors. The latter is not new, but concern has been growing because of China’s dominant position in some areas like critical minerals processing and its demonstrated willingness to use denial of access as a means of responding to criticism or to further its foreign policy goals. In fairness, the United States probably weaponized trade before they did through our many sanctions programs, but when the shoe is on the other foot, it turns out it does not fit very well.

NATO Condemns Russia’s ‘Aggressive Actions’ Ahead of Biden-Putin Meeting


NATO leaders emerged from their Monday summit united in their determination to counter Russia, but American officials have yet to convince their alliance counterparts to oppose China with similar full-throatedness. The communique from the summit mentions Russia 62 times, and China just 10.

But President Joe Biden said he received nothing but support for his plans to meet with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva. When asked if any international leaders worried that the meeting could be seen as rewarding the Russian leader for committing human rights abuses and invading another sovereign country, Biden said every NATO official he spoke with thanked him for his diplomatic outreach.

“Every world leader here as a member of NATO spoke today, and most of them mentioned it, [and] thanked me for meeting with Putin now. Every single one,” Biden said at a press conference on Monday in Brussels. “They thought it was thoroughly important that I do, and I had discussions with them...about what was important from their perspective and what they thought was not important.”

The future of NATO in an order transformed

Bruce Jones

As U.S. President Joe Biden continues his Europe tour, seeking to rally the leading democracies, a looming question is the future role of NATO. As the alliance contemplates the conclusion to its 20-year operation in Afghanistan, it confronts serious questions about its roles and relevance from political camps on both sides of the Atlantic.

The starting point for the alliance must be to recognize that it leaves Afghanistan in a world entirely transformed from when it entered. NATO started operations in Afghanistan at the height of American unipolarity, at the peak of the Western dominance of the international system. It leaves at a moment when the West is constrained internally and challenged externally, including by authoritarian powers of growing capacity — and perhaps growing coordination.


To chart its future role in this world, NATO needs to start by addressing the core question of its geographical scope.

Why Vladimir Putin Wants A Deal to Prevent 'Cyber Pearl Harbor' From Pulling Joe Biden Into War


Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking an agreement from his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden in order to rein in global cyberwarfare. Moscow sees the effort as critical in stemming an already raging 21st-century digital arms race and avoiding a miscalculation that could spark a conflict between the two top military powers.

Such an inadvertent conflagration becomes especially dangerous in the absence of "red lines" not yet established among nations and non-state actors, who are also quickly honing potentially devastating cyber capabilities.

Putin made note of this latent threat in September, asserting that "one of today's major strategic challenges is the risk of a large-scale confrontation in the digital field," part of remarks referred to Newsweek by the Russian embassy in Washington.

The comment came alongside a four-point plan to establish high-level communication between Washington and Moscow on what Russia refers to as "international information security," including through existing bodies dealing with nuclear and computer readiness, as well as through the establishment of new rules of the road mirroring U.S.-Soviet agreements on avoiding maritime incidents, and mutual "guarantees of non-intervention into internal affairs of each other."

Addressing growing threat of cyber-attacks

The potential for nuclear war remains the greatest threat to humanity, as it has for more than seven decades. But cyber-attacks have grown to become arguably the second greatest threat, in part because they could trigger an escalation of response and retaliation that moves humanity towards a nuclear exchange.

Acknowledging how serious a security issue the threat has become, on Monday, during President Biden’s visit to the NATO summit in Brussels, the 30 NATO countries agreed “that the impact of significant malicious cumulative cyber activities might, in certain circumstances, be considered as amounting to an armed attack.”

That assessment could lead to the invocation of the organization’s mutual self-defense clause, Article 5, and a collective response.

“If necessary, we will impose costs on those who harm us,” read the joint communique.

The move is at the same time distressing and necessary.

GPS III Launch Will Provide Global M-Code


WASHINGTON: The Space Force plans to launch the fifth GPS III satellite Thursday, which will allow the constellation to broadcast the encrypted M-Code positioning, timing and navigation signal to military users anywhere on the globe. The planned launch was actually moved forward from its original July schedule.

GPS III Space Vehicle-5 (SV-5), built by Lockheed Martin, will bring the number of satellites in the GPS constellation equipped with M-Code to 24 — the ‘magic number’ for allowing global access to the jam-resistant signal. Those 24 satellites include the five latest-model GPS III birds, as well GPS IIR-M and GPS IIF satellites. There are 31 GPS sats in total; GPS III SV-5 will replace one of the early models.

The code will begin broadcasting once the satellite is operational, which should be “two weeks after launch,” Col. Edward Byrne, senior materiel leader, Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems Division at Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), said today in a briefing with reporters.

Is Climate Change America’s Greatest Security Threat?


President Biden tells a story from early in his tenure as vice president when he and then-President Obama visited the Pentagon and met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the meeting, Biden says, the Joint Chiefs told him that climate change was the greatest threat to American security. He invoked this story again during his recent European visit.

Soon afterward, Gen. Mark Milley, testifying to the Senate as Joint Chiefs chairman, was asked about the president’s anecdote. Milley concurred that climate change is a threat, but he hedged. He noted the impact on natural resources and said climate change will drive instability in certain parts of the world. He highlighted extreme weather and how it can damage military installations, citing the devastation of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in 2018. Milley concluded that from a strictly military standpoint, his focus was on China and Russia.

It’s true that Mother Nature has no military per se, but the damage she did to Tyndall AFB was nonetheless very real. It was, in fact, more damage than any enemy has done to an American base in many decades.

The Brutal Truth About Bitcoin

Eswar Prasad

Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, has been on a wild ride since its creation in 2009. Earlier this year, the price of one Bitcoin surged to over $60,000, an eightfold increase in 12 months. Then it fell to half that value in just a few weeks. Values of other cryptocurrencies such as Dogecoin have risen and fallen even more sharply, often based just on Elon Musk’s tweets. Even after the recent fall in their prices, the total market value of all cryptocurrencies now exceeds $1.5 trillion, a staggering amount for virtual objects that are nothing more than computer code.

Are cryptocurrencies the wave of the future and should you be using and investing in them? And do the massive swings in their prices — nearly $1 trillion was wiped off the their total value in May — portend trouble for the financial system?

Bitcoin was created (by a person or group that remains unidentified to this day) as a way to conduct transactions without the intervention of a trusted third party, such as a central bank or financial institution. Its emergence amid the global financial crisis, which shook trust in banks and even governments, was perfectly timed. Bitcoin enabled transactions using only digital identities, granting users some degree of anonymity. This made Bitcoin the preferred currency for illicit activities, including recent ransomware attacks. It powered the shadowy darknet of illegal online commerce much like PayPal helped the rise of eBay by making payments easier.

Putin dismisses criticism of hacking and internal crackdowns ahead of Biden summit

By Keir Simmons, Corky Siemaszko and Yuliya Talmazan

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin denied ordering a hit on political rival Alexei Navalny, but in an exclusive interview with NBC News he did not guarantee that the jailed Kremlin critic, who survived being poisoned with a nerve agent, would get out of prison alive.

"Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president," Putin said.

That was one of several striking moments in Putin's first interview in three years with a U.S. news organization, days ahead of his meeting with President Joe Biden in Geneva.

Reminded that Navalny wasn't just any prisoner, Putin replied: "He will not be treated any worse than anybody else."

Putin spoke for nearly an hour and a half as Biden met with the leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, from which Russia was suspended in 2014 after it annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

TSA preps second pipeline cyber directive

By Justin Katz

The Transportation Security Administration told lawmakers on Tuesday that the agency is developing a second security directive focused on requirements for pipeline cybersecurity mitigation measures and that the agency has a cadre of inspectors ready to enforce those requirements.

Sonya Proctor, the assistant administrator for surface operations at TSA, told two subcommittees of the House Homeland Security Committee that the new directive will be a "security sensitive information" document and "will be rather prescriptive in terms of the mitigation measures required."

Proctor was testifying before House lawmakers alongside Eric Goldstein, executive assistant director for cybersecurity at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, about the effects of the ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline.

A representative from the FBI was invited to testify at the hearing but declined to attend, according to Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.).

Monero Developer Expects More Criminal Groups to Use the Crypto for Ransoms


Criminal use of the Monero cryptocurrency is expected to increase significantly in the future, Justin Ehrenhofer, a member of the coin's development community has told Newsweek.

The use of cryptocurrency in cybercrime has risen to prominence in recent weeks following the Colonial Pipeline hack in May, which forced pipeline officials to pay a Bitcoin ransom worth $4.4 million.

The FBI later confirmed a criminal organization known as DarkSide was responsible for the attack.

Last week, U.S. deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco announced the U.S. had recovered $2.3 million worth of the Bitcoin ransom after the FBI managed to trace it to a particular wallet and gain possession of the key. It is still unclear how the FBI got the key.

The incident has led some analysts to discuss other types of cryptocurrency tokens that could be more difficult for law enforcement to trace in future.

S-400 SAMs Knocked Out In Simulated Strikes During Big Army-Led Exercise In Africa


Simulated strikes on a pair of Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries were part of the still ongoing U.S. Army-led Africa Lion 2021 exercise that is taking place in various countries in North and West Africa. This comes as the Russian government continues to actively market export variants of the S-400, even to smaller countries, and amid persistent concerns within the U.S. military about the general increasing proliferation of higher-end air defense assets. The inclusion of these threats in African Lion 2021's training scenarios is also notable given that there were indications last year that the Kremlin had introduced S-400 or S-300 systems into the civil conflict in Libya, though U.S. Africa Command later said it had assessed that no such deployment had occurred.

Twitter user @kmldial70 was among the first to notice the mention of the mock strikes on the S-400s in footage that the U.S. Army's Southern European Task Force-Africa (SETAF-AF) recently released of a Command Post Exercise (CPX) being run at a facility in Agadir, Morocco, as part of the larger African Lion 2021 event, on June 9, 2020. A CPX is typically an entirely simulated wargame. African Lion 2021 kicked off on June 7, 2021, and is set to wrap up on June 18.

MDA: U.S. Aircraft Carriers Now at Risk from Hypersonic Missiles

Sam LaGrone

U.S. aircraft carriers are already facing risks from hypersonic weapons that are now entering the inventory of American adversaries and the Navy has developed early defenses for the threat, the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said last week before the Senate.

“It’s important that we have that capability now because the hypersonic threat is there now,” Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces last week.

Within the last few years, both China and Russia have fielded early versions of hypersonic weapons that can travel faster than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5 is about 3,806 mph) and potentially hold U.S. capital ships at risk. Unlike the explosive supersonic cruise missile threats the carrier’s Aegis escorts are designed to fight, the new weapons travel at higher speed and can make unexpected changes in flight on their way to their targets.