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Overnight Defense: Biden, Putin agree to launch arms control talks at summit | 2002 war authorization repeal will get Senate vote | GOP rep warns Biden 'blood with be on his hands' without Afghan interpreter evacuation

The Hill logo The Hill 6/16/2021 Rebecca Kheel
Joe Biden sitting on a statue of a man in a suit and tie: President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin © Getty Images President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: President Biden held his much-anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

The meeting was short on concrete outcomes, but one area where there seemed to be some progress was arms control.

In a joint statement after the summit, Biden and Putin said they agreed to resume a dialogue on strategic stability on nuclear arms control.

"Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," the statement said, a line that pleased arms control advocates and echoes the principle put forward by former President Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Biden administration and Russia reached an agreement in February to extend New START, that last remaining nuclear treaty between Washington and Moscow. The new dialogue will "lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures," the statement said.

Ambassadors going back, Putin says: Another concrete result, if it indeed happens, was an agreement for the United States and Russia to send their ambassadors back to their respective posts in Moscow and Washington.

That's according to Putin, who said at a news conference that he and Biden "agreed that they would return to their service."

Putin did not offer specific timing on the exchange but indicated it could happen over the next few days.

Putin's claim was not immediately confirmed by the White House, and the issue of ambassadors was not addressed at Biden's separate news conference later Wednesday.

Biden pleased with results: Biden framed his three-hour sit-down with Putin as a foreign policy win, even as tensions on cyberattacks and human rights loom over the future of the relationship between the two leaders.

Upon emerging from Wednesday's meeting in Geneva, both Biden and Putin agreed hostilities were minimal and said they had a "positive" and "constructive" talk that took a few hours less than what White House officials had previously indicated.

"It was important to meet in person so there could be no mistake about or misrepresentations about what I wanted to communicate. I did what I came to do," Biden said at a press conference.

The president said his goal going into the summit was to identify areas of mutual interest, make clear the U.S. would respond to Russian attacks on American interests or U.S. allies and "lay out our country's priorities and values so he heard it straight from me."

More coverage of the summit:

-- Five takeaways from the Biden-Putin meeting

-- Biden, Putin agree to begin work on addressing cybersecurity concerns

-- Biden gives Putin custom aviators, crystal bison sculpture

-- Biden says he warned Putin of 'devastating' consequences if Navalny dies

-- Biden criticizes Putin's 'ridiculous comparison' between Capitol rioters and critics

-- Putin says Biden did not invite him to White House

Video: Biden administration pushes plan to combat domestic terror (Associated Press)


Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday vowed that the Senate will vote on repealing the 2002 Iraq War authorization, marking the first time he has announced his support for the measure.

"The Iraq War has been over for nearly a decade and authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021. ... It no longer serves a vital purpose in our fight against violent extremists," Schumer said from the Senate floor.

"I strongly and fully support repealing the 2002 authorization for the use of military force in Iraq," he said. "It is my intention as majority leader to bring this matter to a floor vote this year."

Why it matters: Schumer's support provides a significant boost to repeal proponents after a years-long stalemate over trying to repeal or place new restrictions on a president's war authority. The House advanced a repeal measure during the previous Congress but it went nowhere in the Senate, which at the time was controlled by Republicans.

But first: The Senate Foreigns Relations Committee next week will take up a bill from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) to repeal the both the 2002 and 1991 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMFs), the Kaine, Young and panel Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) announced Wednesday.

And the House is set to vote Thursday on Rep. Barbara Lee's (D-Calif.) 2002 AUMF repeal bill.


A Republican congressman and former Green Beret implored President Biden on Wednesday to immediately order the evacuation of Afghans who helped U.S. troops in the country, saying "blood will be on his hands" if he does not.

"If he doesn't act, and he doesn't get these people out, blood will be on his hands and on his administration's hands," Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) said at a news conference. "The time for talk, the time for debate is over."

Waltz's fiery comments up the rhetoric as lawmakers in both parties increasingly pressure the Biden administration to order an evacuation for Afghan interpreters and their families as the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan progresses.

More legislation coming: Waltz was speaking at a news conference alongside members of the American Legion and Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), all amplifying the call for an evacuation.

Crow, a former Army Ranger, previously introduced legislation with Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) that seeks to speed special immigration visa processing by waiving the requirement for applicants to undergo a medical exam while in Afghanistan.

Lawmakers will introduce another package of bills, collectively dubbed the ALLIES Act, Thursday to add visas to the program and speed up the process, Crow said. Asked for more information on the package, Crow's office said it "removes some of the burdensome application requirements and increases the visa cap."


Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "C.Q." Brown and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee at 10 a.m.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the U.S. relationship with Taiwan with testimony from State Department officials at 10 a.m.

A House Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the budget request for seapower and projection forces with testimony from Navy and Marines officials at 11 a.m.


-- The Hill: Nikki Haley warns Republicans on China: 'If they take Taiwan, it's all over'

-- The Hill: Senate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees

-- The Hill: GOP lawmakers urge Biden to add sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning

-- The Hill: China blames Taiwan for tensions

-- The Hill: North Korea's Kim warns of possible food shortage

-- The Hill: Opinion: America must keep its promise to Afghan translators

-- The Hill: Opinion: Congress should cut military aid to the Philippines

-- Bloomberg: US needs 'combat-credible' forces to deter China, nominee says

-- Associated Press: US Army has hidden or downplayed loss of firearms for years

-- Space News: Air Force defends choice of Alabama's Redstone Arsenal to host U.S. Space Command

-- New York Times: Pentagon weighs proposal to send dozens of troops back to Somalia


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