The Pentagon is warning NATO member Turkey against a new military operation in Syria, after strikes in the country late last month endangered U.S. troops and caused casualties for their partner forces.
We’ll share what the message was plus President Biden’s latest condemnation of Russia during a U.S. visit from French President Emmanuel Macron plus a new survey on public trust in the military.
This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell.
Pentagon warns Turkey after strikes threaten troops
The Pentagon is warning NATO member Turkey against a new military operation in Syria, after strikes in the country late last month endangered U.S. troops.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday spoke by phone with his Turkish counterpart, conveying his “strong opposition” to a new Turkish military operation in Syria, according to a Pentagon readout on the call.
The Pentagon’s message: Austin “expressed concern over escalating action in northern Syria and Turkey, including recent airstrikes, some of which directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel who are working with local partners in Syria to defeat ISIS,” the readout said.
“Secretary Austin called for de-escalation, and shared the Department’s strong opposition to a new Turkish military operation in Syria.”
Earlier: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month launched airstrikes on northern Syria and Iraq targeting Kurdish groups in the two neighboring countries. Ankara claims the strikes are in retaliation for a Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that killed six people and injured 80 more, though the Kurdish groups have denied any involvement.
Erdoğan additionally suggested on Nov. 23 that he also plans to order a ground invasion into northern Syria.
Some context: The U.S. has notably partnered with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the effort to defeat ISIS in the region and continues to work with the group to keep the terrorist group at bay.
Since the Turkish strikes, the U.S. military is operating at a reduced number of partner patrols with the SDF, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Thursday.
Keeping lines open: Ryder noted that while the U.S. recognizes Turkey’s security concerns, “the focus here is on preventing a destabilizing situation, which would put ISIS in an ability to reconstitute.”
He added that the U.S. has frequent and open lines of communication with its Turkish allies “at a variety of levels.”
Biden has ‘no immediate plans’ to contact Putin
President Biden on Thursday said he has no plans to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin unless it is to discuss ways for Putin to end his invasion of Ukraine.
“I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin,” Biden said at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
“Mr. Putin is — let me choose my words very carefully. I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war,” Biden continued. “He hasn’t done that yet. If that’s the case, in consultation with my NATO friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he has in mind. He hasn’t done that yet.”
A condemnation: Biden condemned Putin’s actions since launching an invasion of Ukraine in February, including Russia’s targeting of civilian infrastructure, leading to bombings and military operations that have killed Ukrainian women and children.
Doubling down: Both Biden and Macron reiterated their support for Ukraine’s war effort, saying that victory for Ukraine in the war represents a victory for democratic values both domestically and abroad.
“We must support the Ukrainian people. The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension,” Biden said.
Biden has been consistent in saying he has no intention of meeting with Putin amid the war in Ukraine, even amid U.S. concerns about detained Americans like Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and talks over a nuclear arms treaty.
Also from The Hill:
Trust in US military remains below 50 percent
Public trust in the U.S. military remains below 50 percent, according to a new survey released by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.
About 48 percent of Americans say they have a great deal of trust in the military, slightly up from 45 percent last year.
A major drop: Confidence in the U.S. military has plummeted in recent years. In 2018, about 70 percent of Americans said they had a great deal of trust in the institution.
The drop to 45 percent last year was the first time only a minority of the American public expressed confidence in the armed forces in the Reagan Foundation’s survey.
A trend: Government institutions have seen a steep decline in public trust over the years, most notably the Supreme Court after a conservative majority overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June.
Odd man out: But the Reagan Foundation said “no other public institution” in its surveys has “seen as sharp a decline in public trust” as the military.
A Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote in an opinion piece last month that “many Americans think the military is no longer an institution that runs on excellence, merit and individual submission to a larger cause.”
“The current era is marked by fading trust in U.S. institutions, but confidence in one pillar has held up: the military,” it wrote. “But now even that is eroding.”
ON TAP TOMORROW
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute will kick off its annual Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, Calif., at 8 p.m.
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