Today’s D Brief: Biden to Putin: Critical infrastructure ‘off limits’ to cyberattack; Semiconductor shortage; Army’s new robot guns; And a bit more.

Sixteen different kinds of critical American infrastructure are “off limits” to cyber attacks, U.S. President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart in Geneva on Wednesday during their first in-person meeting as leaders of the two countries with the most nuclear weapons on the planet (and by a long shot). 

The 16 areas include chemical production, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense, emergency medical services, energy, finance, food and agriculture, government facilities, health care facilities, information technology, nuclear facilities, transportation and water sectors. (Hat tip to Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs.) Should Russia cyberattack U.S. critical infrastructure, “we will respond with cyber,” he said. (And if you’re wondering: “No, we didn’t talk about [a] military response,” said Biden.)

The two heads of state also launched what Biden called “a bilateral strategic stability dialogue” in the hopes of containing new and emerging weapons. And that, Biden said, means “get[ting] our military experts and our diplomats together to work on a mechanism that can lead to control of new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons that are coming on the scene now that reduce the times of response, [and] that raise the prospects of accidental war” between the U.S. and Russia. “And we went into some detail of what those weapons systems were,” Biden said, without elaborating, in a post-summit press conference. 

Read more: Defense One’s Senior National Security Correspondent Jacqueline Feldscher unpacked the significance of that possible arms agreement here. Coverage continues below the fold.

From Defense One

Russia, US Will Launch Arms Control Talks To Avoid ‘Accidental War’  // Jacqueline Feldscher: The agreement reached during the summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a positive first step,” according to one analyst.

NATO Members Agree to Broad Tech Agenda, Environmental Agenda // Patrick Tucker: A new tech accelerator and innovation fund comes with new commitments on cyber resilience and a collective look at emissions.

Air Force Begins Search For New Refueling Tanker as Lawmakers Push Airbus  // Marcus Weisgerber: Some lawmakers want the Air Force to terminate its KC-46 contract with Boeing.

Give Lasers Back to the Missile Defense Agency, Lawmaker Says // Marcus Weisgerber: Rep. Langevin slams Trump-administration decision to defund MDA research.

A Better Way to Measure Returns on U.S. Security Cooperation Investments // Zack Gold, Ralph Espach, Douglas Jackson, and Nicholas  Bradford: Though return-on-investment analysis seems like the obvious approach, it simply does not work for measuring security cooperation activities.

How the U.S. Can Beat the Semiconductor Shortage (and China) // Evelyn N. Farkas: We must reverse our reliance on foreign manufacturing and build a better microelectronic systems industrial base.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1967, China tested a thermonuclear weapon for the first time, a notable feat that occurred less than three years after its first nuclear weapons test in October 1964. 

A grab-bag of other items discussed in Wednesday’s four-hour, closed-door summit include:

  • The future of Afghanistan; 
  • Finding better ways to get humanitarian aid to people in war-torn Syria; 
  • Keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon;
  • Libya’s future; 
  • Security in the Arctic;
  • Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which refers to Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula; 
  • And the future of Belarus.

And Biden’s read on Russia’s autocratic leader? “He still, I believe, is concerned about being, quote, ‘encircled,’” Biden said, referring to the thousand-mile-long border Russia shares with China.

BTW: Russia’s navy is drilling this week in the Pacific, about 500 miles from Hawaii—close enough to alter a U.S. Navy carrier exercise, CBS News reported Tuesday.

“[Putin] still is concerned that we, in fact, are looking to take him down, et cetera,” Biden said. “He still has those concerns, but I don’t think they are the driving force as to the kind of relationship he’s looking for with the United States.” However, Biden said he thinks the driving force animating Russia’s global actions is far more cooperative at its core than is believed by outsiders.

Also: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” the U.S. and Russia announced in a joint statement after Wednesday’s bilateral, which put a bow on Biden’s six-day swing through Europe.

From Biden’s POV, “I did what I came to do,” he said in his press conference. And that, he said, involved, “Number one, identify areas of practical work our two countries can do to advance our mutual interests and also benefit the world. Two, communicate directly—directly—that the United States will respond to actions that impair our vital interests or those of our allies. And three, to clearly lay out our country’s priorities and our values so he heard it straight from me.”

As for America’s partners in the Group of Seven, “They’re glad America is back, and they acted that way,” Biden told reporters before heading back to the states. (The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.)

And Biden’s first meeting of NATO leaders as POTUS? “I didn’t get one single person—not one of the world leaders said to us anything other than thanking me for arranging a meeting with [Vladimir] Putin.”

What next for U.S.-Russia relations? Time and—well not exactly trust; but “self-interest and verification of self-interest,” Biden said. “We’ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters.” And that involves, e.g., the “release of people in Russian prisons or not,” and “whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order.”

After all, Biden said, “I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior,” referring to Russia’s leader. “What will change their behavior is if the rest of  [the] world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world.”

Big-picture take: Is the twilight of the Putin era upon us? Newsweek‘s Moscow correspondent Anna Nemtsova writes in The Atlantic, “Vladimir Putin has nothing to offer Joe Biden because his balancing act between Westernizers and more conservative forces is over.” Read over her argument here.

This week in emerging weapons news, the U.S. Army just sent an autonomous, robot truck on an artillery mission to show how it might “take out enemy ships and other defensive systems in multidomain operations in the Indo-Pacific theater,” Defense News reported Wednesday.

It’s called the “Autonomous Multidomain Launcher” because the Army loves multidomain things right now, as we discussed in our podcast episode on the wider U.S. military’s “JADC2” effort to link everything on the battlefield.

The idea: The AMLs drive off the back of a C-130 to their firing locations on some notional island. Jets, meanwhile, are flying overhead for aerial protection as the AML’s precision fires head toward their target. Then the trucks head back into the C-130 and fly to an undisclosed location.

For the Army’s test this week, “The 1.25-hour mission was led by soldiers from the HIMARS platoon in the18th Field Artillery Brigade based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina,” according to Defense News. Read on, here.

Don’t forget to register for next week’s big five-day Defense One Tech Summit! Headliners include Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Army Futures Command’s Gen. John Murray. Details, full agenda, and more here

That’s it for us this week. We’re taking off Friday in observance of Juneteenth, which will soon be “a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery,” as the Associated Press reports today.

Have a safe weekend, and we’ll catch you again on Monday.

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Ben Watson