Biden’s Budget Proposal Gives Meager Boosts to Defense and Diplomacy;China Economy Likely Off to Muted Start as 5% GDP Goal in Focus;UN envoy warns Gaza war and Red Sea attacks by Houthi rebels risk propelling Yemen back into war:Defense Briefing20240315

Welcome to our “Defense Briefing” show, folks! Today, we’re diving into the world of global politics, military maneuvers, and economic tremors – all served with a side of diplomacy and a dash of budgetary blues. So, buckle up as we take you through the latest headlines that are shaping our world.

First off, President Joe Biden has whipped out his calculator and presented a whopping $7.3 trillion federal budget plan. But here’s the kicker: the defense, diplomacy, and foreign aid sectors are only getting crumbs from this financial feast, with a modest 1% boost for defense. Meanwhile, our troops might be getting a 4.5% pay raise and some fancy new hypersonic weapons to play with. Across the pond, tensions are heating up as Russia cozies up its nuclear weapons to Belarus, nudging them just a tad closer to NATO territory. And let’s not forget China, whose economic growth is currently moving at the speed of a sleepy sloth, raising eyebrows about its ambitious 5% GDP goal.

On a more somber note, the UN’s warning bells are ringing loud and clear, with concerns that the Gaza war and some rather bold moves by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea could reignite the flames of war in Yemen. Over in Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron is sounding the alarm, urging a robust response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, lest Europe’s credibility vanish into thin air. And speaking of diplomatic twists, the Pacific island nation of Nauru has decided to switch its BFF status from Taiwan to China, a move that didn’t exactly catch the US by surprise.

So, as we navigate through these turbulent waters of international affairs, from saber-rattling in Eastern Europe to economic uncertainties in China, and diplomatic chess moves in the Pacific, it’s clear that our global village is anything but boring. Please stay tuned for the detailed scoop on these stories and more, as we unravel the complexities of our ever-changing world.

Biden’s Budget Proposal Gives Meager Boosts to Defense and Diplomacy
Foreign Policy

U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled a massive $7.3 trillion federal budget plan that includes only marginal increases for defense, diplomacy, and foreign aid as the administration feels pressure from foreign-policy hawks on one side and budget hawks on the other. Under Biden’s proposal, the U.S. defense budget would go up by 1 percent. U.S. troops would get a 4.5 percent pay raise. The Pentagon wants to field 10 long-range hypersonic weapons. It’s hoping to harden ballistic missile defenses around the island of Guam, home to a U.S. base that would almost certainly be a major Chinese target if the superpowers were to ever go head-to-head. And it wants to buy more stealthy B-21 bombers that should be ready to fly in a few years.
Biden’s budget allocates $64.4 billion for foreign affairs programs, of which $58.8 billion would go to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. This includes around $4 billion to be spent over five years on programs to counter China’s geopolitical clout and economic influence worldwide, including infrastructure development projects to counter Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative…Back on the defense side, top Republicans say that a 1 percent increase in defense isn’t an increase at all, as it doesn’t keep pace with the inflation rate, which is over 3 percent.
Russia has moved tactical nuclear weapons into neighboring Belarus, putting them several hundred miles closer to NATO territory, Western officials confirmed to Jack and Robbie. The move is likely to put more pressure on NATO’s eastern flank, as it comes with Russian President Vladimir Putin continuing to saber-rattle about possible nuclear-weapons use in Ukraine or in a larger conflict with the West. And the Baltic countries are warning that the risk of Western inaction is high.

China Economy Likely Off to Muted Start as 5% GDP Goal in Focus

China’s economic growth at the beginning of the year was likely mixed, with property remaining a major drag on the economy. Data expected to be released on Monday is predicted to show slowing growth in retail sales and industrial output compared to December. Property development investment is also expected to decline. Economists have raised doubts about China’s ability to achieve its growth target of around 5% for the year, stating that the economy will need to improve more in the coming months to meet the official benchmark.

UN envoy warns Gaza war and Red Sea attacks by Houthi rebels risk propelling Yemen back into war
Associated Press

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, has warned that the war in Yemen could be reignited if the conflict in Gaza and attacks on ships in the Red Sea continue. The Houthi rebels have targeted ships in the Red Sea since November in order to demand a ceasefire in Israel’s offensive in Gaza. While the Houthi attacks initially targeted nations involved in the war, they have become increasingly unconnected. The envoy had hoped for a nationwide ceasefire and improvement in living conditions by the start of Ramadan.

Macron warns Europe that Putin won’t stop with Ukraine and urges strong response

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that if Russia wins the war in Ukraine, Europe’s credibility will be “reduced to zero.” Speaking in a television interview, Macron said that abstaining or voting against support for Ukraine would be “choosing defeat.” He stressed the need for Europe not to draw red lines, which would signal weakness to Russia and encourage its invasion of Ukraine. Macron said that France would never initiate an offensive against Russia and was not at war with Moscow. He called on Russia to stop the war and retreat from its positions.

US knew Nauru might cut ties to Taiwan before it did, official says
South China Morning Post

The US was aware that the Pacific island nation of Nauru was considering switching its diplomatic ties from Taiwan to mainland China before it formally did so in January, a senior US State Department official has said. Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the US had been working with partners to meet Nauru’s concerns but that the nation had “decided to flip” to China. Kritenbrink warned Taiwan’s three remaining Pacific partners, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Palau, to be cautious in their dealings with China.

Russia’s Nuclear Weapons Are Now in Belarus
Foreign Policy

Russia has reportedly moved tactical nuclear weapons from its own borders to neighboring Belarus, closer to NATO territory, according to Western officials. The move is seen as an attempt to put pressure on NATO’s eastern flank and follows years of nuclear threats from Russia. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko confirmed in December 2023 that Russia had completed shipments of nuclear weapons to his country. The move has caused concern in the West, but some experts argue that the move does not significantly alter the military threat posed to NATO.
Russia’s movement of nuclear weapons has clear political implications, but some experts have played down the military significance of the move. They argue that Russia’s nuclear missiles can already reach any place in NATO from Russian territory, so this is purely a political message. Nonetheless, Western officials are concerned about Russia’s apparent willingness to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. The US intelligence community believes that Russia will rely more heavily on nuclear weapons to deter the US and NATO as it rebuilds its land forces. Meanwhile, the US and Russia have abandoned most of their nuclear arms control treaties. The last remaining treaty, the New START treaty, caps the number of deployed warheads, but does not cover new weapons.

Russia’s Military Is Already Preparing for Its Next War
Foreign Policy

Estonia’s foreign and military intelligence chiefs have said that Russia is restructuring and expanding its army in anticipation of a conflict with NATO within the next 10 years. The Estonian officials said that Russia’s military leaders have learned from the mistakes of the opening phases of the invasion of Ukraine and are adapting with uncharacteristic speed. The Russians have resolved problems encountered on the battlefield within months and are likely to reform into a low-tech, Soviet-style army with “a lot of firepower and artillery.”

Violence Has Failed Palestinians
Foreign Policy

The path to Palestinian statehood has been hindered by violence and extremism. The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insists on retaining security control over Gaza to protect Israel from threats, which contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty. The violence and destruction caused by both sides have eroded trust and made peace negotiations difficult. The use of violence has also led to international delegitimization of the Palestinian cause and hindered progress towards self-determination. However, peaceful protests and negotiations have also faced challenges, such as lack of media attention and heavy-handed responses from Israeli security forces. Maximalist demands from both sides have also hindered progress. Moving forward, both Israelis and Palestinians must abandon these demands and focus on pragmatic solutions that acknowledge each other’s rights and work towards establishing a Palestinian state with agreed borders. The international community must also play a constructive role in mediating and supporting this process.

Salvation Army struggles with some Osceola neighbors as it seeks temporary site after fire

The Salvation Army is getting the “cold shoulder” from some Osceola County residents, who have rejected plans to open a temporary centre to service the area’s homeless population. The charity’s area leader, Captain Ken Chapman, said he has faced difficulties in his efforts to open a temporary facility since a fire last November at its previous premises. Chapman said NIMBYism (not in my backyard) was to blame. The Salvation Army is still looking for a suitable location for a temporary facility. The charity has seen a 32% spike in demand for its services in the past year.

Nevada Republican who lost 2022 Senate primary seeking Democratic Sen. Rosen’s seat in key US match
Associated Press

Retired Army Captain Sam Brown has filed his candidacy for the US Senate seat held by first-term Sen. Jacky Rosen, in a race Republicans have targeted nationally as one of their best chances to knock off an incumbent Democrat. Brown, a Purple Heart recipient, lost Nevada’s 2022 GOP Senate primary and has made national security a priority in his campaign while painting Rosen as a loyalist to President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders.

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