Artificial intelligence experts shook up the tech world this month when they called for the United Nations to regulate and even consider banning autonomous weapons.
Attention quickly gravitated to the biggest celebrity in the group, Elon Musk, who set the Internet ablaze when he tweeted: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”
The group of 116 AI experts warned in an open letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons that “lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.” Speaking on behalf of companies that make artificial intelligence and robotic systems that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, they wrote, “We feel especially responsible in raising this alarm.”
The blunt talk by leaders of the AI world has raised eyebrows. Musk has put AI in the category of existential threat and is demanding decisive and immediate regulation. But even some of the signatories of the letter now say Musk took the fear mongering too far.
What this means for the Pentagon and its massive efforts to merge intelligent machines into weapon systems is still unclear. The military sees a future of high-tech weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence and ubiquitous autonomous weapons in the air, at sea, on the ground, as well as in cyberspace.
The United Nations has scheduled a November meeting to discuss the implications of autonomous weapons. It has created a group of governmental experts on “lethal autonomous weapon systems.” The letter asked the group to “work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”
Founder and CEO of the artificial intelligence company SparkCognition, Amir Husain, signed the letter but insists that he is against any ban or restrictions that would stifle progress and innovation. He pointed out that the campaign was organized by professor Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales in Australia, and was meant to highlight the “potential dangers of autonomous weapons absent an international debate on these issues.”
The industry wants a healthy debate on the benefits and risks of AI and autonomy, Amir told RealClearDefense in a statement. But a blanket ban is “unworkable and unenforceable.” Scientific progress is inevitable, “and for me that is not frightening,” he added. “I believe the solution — as much as one exists at this stage — is to redouble our investment in the development of safe, explainable, and transparent AI technologies.”
Wendy Anderson, general manager of SparkCognition’s defense business, said that to suggest a ban or even tight restrictions on the development of any technology is a “slippery slope” and would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, as other countries will continue to pursue the technology. “We cannot afford to fall behind,” said Anderson. “Banning or restricting its development is not the answer. Having honest, in-depth discussions about how we create, develop, and deploy the technology is.”
August Cole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and writer at the consulting firm Avascent, said the concerns raised by tech leaders on autonomous weapons are valid, but a ban is unrealistic. “Given the proliferation of civilian machine learning and autonomy advances in everything from cars to finance to social media, a prohibition won’t work,” he said.
Setting limits on technology ultimately would hurt the military, which depends on commercial innovations, said Cole. “What needs to develop is an international legal, moral, and ethical framework. … But given the unrelenting speed of commercial breakthroughs in AI, robotics, and machine learning, this may be a taller order than asking for an outright ban on autonomous weapons.”
But while advances in commercial technology have benefited the military, analysts fear that the Pentagon has not fully grasped the risks of unfettered AI and the possibility that machines could become uncontrollable.
“AI is not just another technology,” said Andy Ilachinski, principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses. He authored a recent CNA study, “AI, Robots, and Swarms: Issues, Questions, and Recommended Studies.”
Defense has to be concerned about the implications of this debate, he said in an interview. AI is transforming the world “to the level of a Guttenberg press, to the level of the Internet,” he said. “This is a culture-shifting technology. And DoD is just a small part of that.”
Another troubling reality is that the Pentagon has yet to settle on the definition of autonomous weapons. In 2012, the Department of Defense published an instruction manual on the use of autonomous weapons. That 5-year-old document is the only existing policy on the books on how the US military uses these systems, Ilachinski said. According to that manual, a weapon is autonomous if “once activated, it can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human.”
Policies and directives are long overdue for an update, he said. “We need to know what AI is capable of, how to test it, evaluate it.”
He noted that the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, published two studies on the subject in 2012 and 2016 but provided “no good definition of autonomy or AI in either of them.” These are the Pentagon’s top experts and “they can’t even get it straight.”
Something about Musk’s warning strikes a chord with scientists that truly understand AI, Ilachinski observed. When Google’s Deepmind created a computer program in 2015 that beat the world’s Go champion, it was a landmark achievement for AI but also brought the realization that these algorithms truly have minds of their own. “This is an issue of great concern for DoD.”
There are areas within AI that scientists are still trying to wrap their heads around. In advanced systems like Deepmind’s AlphaGo, “you can’t reverse engineer why a certain behavior occurred,” Ilachinski said. “It is important for DoD to recognize that they may not able to understand completely why the system is doing what it’s doing.”
One reason to take Musk’s warning seriously is that much is still unknown about what happens within the brains of these AI systems once they are trained, said Ilachinski. “You may not be able to predict the overall behavior of the system,” he said. “So in that sense I share the angst that people like Elon Musk feel.”
On the other hand, it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle, Ilachinski added. The United States can’t let up because countries like China already are working to become the dominant power in AI. Further, the Pentagon has to worry that enemies will exploit AI in ways that can’t yet be imagined. Anyone can buy a couple of drones for less than a thousand dollars, go to the MIT or Harvard website, learn about AI, download snippets of code and implant them in the drones, he said. A swarm of smart drones is something “would have a hard time countering because we are not expecting it. It’s very cheap and easy to do.”
Nov. 10 saw the annual Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis Air Force Base.
Located outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, Nellis has close ties to its neighboring city. Following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas in October, last weekend’s air show commemorated and honored the city and the shooting’s victims.
The show also featured US Air Force history, as the Air Force celebrates its 70th anniversary. About 400,000 people were expected to visit the two-day expo.
“This is freaking awesome. It really shakes you in your boots,” one observer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It is rare that you get to see this stuff.”
Here’s what it was like inside the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo:
Nellis servicemen customized several aircraft, including this F-16 Fighting Falcon, to display the base’s Vegas Strong message.
This F-15C Eagle was painted to commemorate the shooting, which took place at a country music festival on Oct. 1.
Here’s more detail on the tail.
The aircraft had to be completely repainted in some cases.
Here’s the final product on another F-15C Eagle.
Here’s what they normally look like, without the paint job.
Aside from the memorials to the Las Vegas shooting, the Air and Space Expo had some of the best features of a traditional air show. Spectators were treated to a show from the Air Force Thunderbirds.
The opening ceremony featured members of the Air Force’s Wing of Blue Parachute Team jumping out of aircrafts.
Here’s what it looks like when they land.
Aviation Nation also celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the US Air Force, showcasing older aircraft such as the B-25 Mitchell.
The Texas Flying Legends flew in formation, showing off some WWII-era aircrafts.
A Texas Flying Legends pass over the Nellis Air Force Base flight line during Aviation Nation 2017 Nellis Air and Space Expo, Nov. 10, 2017. The Texas Flying Legends is dedicated to honoring the men and women who have served—or are currently serving through an active display of World War II aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)
The US military is supporting research focused on genetically-engineering marine life for the purpose of tracking enemy submarines.
Research supported by the Naval Research Laboratory indicates that the genetic makeup of a relatively common sea organism could be modified to react in a detectable way to certain non-natural substances, such as metal or fuel, left behind by passing submarines, Defense One reports.
If the reaction involves the loss of an electron, “you can create an electrical signal when the bacteria encounters some molecule in their environment,” Sarah Glaven, an NRL researcher, said at a November 2018 event hosted by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, reportedly noting that the aim is to use this biotechnology to detect and track submarines.
“The reason we think we can accomplish this is because we have this vast database of info we’ve collected from growing these natural systems,” she further articulated. “So after experiments where we look at switching gene potential, gene expression, regulatory networks, we are finding these sensors.”
She said that hard evidence that this sort of biotechnology breakthrough is possible and capable of being used to serve the military is about a year away.
In 2018, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the Pentagon, revealed a desire to harness marine organisms for the monitoring of strategic waterways.
(US Navy photo)
“The US Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive. As a result, the capability is mostly used at the tactical level to protect high-value assets like aircraft carriers, and less so at the broader strategic level,” Lori Adornato, manager for the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program, said in a statement.
“If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles.”
As is, there is already a million tri-service effort among Army, Navy, and Air Force researchers to use synthetic biology to advance US defense capabilities. “Our team is looking at ways we can reprogram cells that already exist in the environment to create environmentally friendly platforms for generating molecules and materials beneficial for defense needs,” Dr. Claretta Sullivan, a research scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, explained in a statement.
There are apparently similar programs going on across the branches looking at everything from undewater sensing to living camouflage.
The US is once again in an age of great power competition, according to the 2018 National Defense Strategy. It faces new threats from adversarial powers like China and Russia beneath the waves. “In the undersea domain, the margins to victory are razor thin,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Thousands of cryptocurrency enthusiasts are taking part in an international scavenger hunt to find clues that promise to lead the winners to a prize of $1 million in bitcoin.
It’s called Satoshi’s Treasure, and it’s a game that’s part logic puzzle and part scavenger hunt, with clues found in both the digital and physical worlds. Each clue will reveal a fragment of the digital key used to access the game’s bitcoin wallet, and the winner will be the first person or team to put together at least 400 of these fragments to be able to claim the $1 million worth of bitcoin, according to cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk.
Nearly 60,000 people have signed up on the Satoshi’s Treasure website to receive notifications about new clues and game updates, CoinDesk reported May 12, 2019.
The game is being run and funded by a group of crypto investors. One of the co-creators of Satoshi’s Treasure, crypto investor Eric Meltzer, told CoinDesk that no single person knows all the locations of the clues or all of the key fragments.
“There are so many unknowns in this game that we kind of just want to see what happens,” said Meltzer, founding partner of crypto investment firm Primitive Ventures. “Part of the meta game that I think people are going to like is trying to figure out who is behind this.”
Game organizers say that since the first clues were released on April 16, 2019, many teams have been formed to work together toward finding key fragments and solving the game. A team organizing tool called Ordo has already been created, which will help to properly credit those who solve clues, and fairly divide up the id=”listicle-2637018554″ million prize at the end for the winning team.
According to the Satoshi’s Treasure website, the hunt is intended to “test the mettle of anyone who wishes to add some excitement to their lives.” The game has a simple set of rules that revolve around the tenant of “do no harm” — keys will not be hidden on private properties, no clues will require any destruction, and participants need to “always show respect” for fellow hunters.
CoinDesk reports that teams comprise of not only veteran crypto users, but also those new to bitcoin and those who are in it for the thrill of the hunt. The game’s creators say Satoshi’s Treasure prioritizes accessibility to anyone who wants to participate. For example, the latest clue was found on physical business cards distributed at the Magical Crypto Conference this weekend in New York.
“I’d say Satoshi’s Treasure is so exciting because it’s the pure joy of a treasure hunt,” crypto investor Nic Carter told CoinDesk. “It’s global and anyone can participate.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis released a statement condemning alleged sharing of nude photos by US military personnel, saying such behavior is “unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion.”
“The purported actions of civilian and military personnel on social media websites, including some associated with the Marines United group and possibly others, represent egregious violations of the fundamental values we uphold at the Department of Defense,” Mattis said, according to a statement obtained by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.
Mattis added that the Pentagon was “taking all appropriate action” to investigate any wrongful behavior carried out by active-duty service members.
“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow service members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion,” Mattis said. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller similarly condemned such behavior on Tuesday, saying in a video, “When I hear allegations of Marines denigrating their fellow Marines, I don’t think such behavior is that of true warriors or warfighters.”
The Pentagon has come under fire from the media and congressional leaders in recent days, especially after Business Insider reported that the scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who were accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group was found to be much larger than previously thought.
The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.
The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations among men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or where they are stationed.
The U.S. Army has stated that a person was killed in a Black Hawk training exercise at Fort Hood on Tuesday evening.
Army officials say the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley in Kansas was making use of the HH-60M Black Hawk medical helicopter as part of the exercise when the accident occurred and killed one person south of the Robert Gray Army Airfield, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
The training involved medical evacuation hoists. For now, the Army is withholding details on the person killed until all next of kin have been notified of the death. It’s not clear how many soldiers were in the HH-60M when the incident occurred.
This most recent incident reflects a growing trend of training accidents, which has captured the attention not only of military leaders, who have been warning for years of the consequences of budget cuts, but also a growing number of members of Congress. In a Senate speech Wednesday regarding the annual defense budget bill, GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, noted that in the past three years, four times as many service members have died from training accidents than from combat. McCain has long been an opponent of sequestration, which was enshrined in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and imposes “across-the-board” spending cuts.
“And yet as dangerous that these and other foreign threats are, perhaps the greatest harm to our national security and our military is self-inflected,” McCain said. “I repeat: self-inflicted. It is the accumulation of years of uncertain, untimely and inadequate defense funding, which has shrunk our operational forces, harmed their readiness, stunted their modernization, and as every single member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has repeatedly testified before the committed on Armed Services, put the lives of our service members at greater risk.”
McCain noted that 42 service members died in accidents during training exercises this summer alone, mentioning recent incidents like the USS Fitzgerald, the USS John S. McCain and the Marine Corps Kc-130 crash in Mississippi.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday announced the platform would allow its users to turn off political ads.
“Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content,” Zuckerberg wrote in a USA Today op-ed article. “For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads.”
“We’ll still remind you to vote,” he added.
Facebook will begin implementing the feature for some users Wednesday and plans to make it available to all users over the next several weeks, a company representative told CNBC.
Users will be able to turn off ads about political, social, and electoral issues from political candidates, super PACs, and other organizations that have a political disclaimer indicating an ad is “paid for by” a certain entity, CNBC reported.
Zuckerberg also announced in his op-ed article that Facebook would seek to boost voter registration, voter turnout, and marginalized voices ahead of the 2020 presidential election and that the platform hoped to help 4 million people register to vote.
To that end, he said Facebook would create a Voting Information Center with information about registration, early voting, and voting by mail. The center will also include details on how and when to vote, Zuckerberg said, adding that the company expected 160 million people in the US to see “authoritative information on Facebook about how to vote in the general election from July through November.”
Zuckerberg also said Facebook would continue working to combat foreign interference on its platform by tracking and taking down “malicious accounts.”
The company removed 3.3. billion fake accounts in 2018 and 5.4 billion last year as of November.
Zuckerberg’s announcement comes as Facebook continues facing scrutiny over its decision to show political content to users even if that content contains misinformation or false claims.
The social-media network has been under the microscope particularly in the past few weeks after it refused to follow Twitter’s lead in flagging President Donald Trump’s misleading statements on its platform.
Shortly after Twitter shared links debunking two of Trump’s tweets spreading conspiracy theories about voting by mail, Zuckerberg criticized Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a Fox News interview.
“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said.
Dorsey hit back at Zuckerberg, tweeting: “We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”
He added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”
Zuckerberg appeared to allude to the recent strife over Trump’s tweets in his op-ed article, writing, “Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content.”
“We have rules against speech that will cause imminent physical harm or suppress voting, and no one is exempt from them,” he wrote. “But accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say.”
Zuckerberg added that he believes the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting.
“I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves,” he wrote. “That’s why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.”
The Army is starting formal production of a new Self-Propelled Howitzer variant engineered for faster movement, better structural protection, improved drive-train ability, new suspension, and advanced networking tech, service and industry developers said.
The new vehicle is built with a more capable, larger chassis, designed as an initial step toward building a next-generation cannon able to outgun existing Russian weapons..
As part of a longer-term plan to leverage the new larger chassis built into the Army’s new M109A7 variant, the Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is beginning work on a new cannon able to hit enemies out to 70 kilometers, senior Army developers said.
Senior Army weapons developers have explained that the current 80s-era 39 calibre Howitzer is outgunned by its Russian equivalent — a scenario the service plans to change.
A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery. When GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.
In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks, and fast growing attack drone fleet — all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.
The M109 Paladin.
(US Army photo)
Furthermore, given the Pentagon’s emphasis upon cross-domain warfare, land weapons are increasingly being developed to attack things like enemy ships, aircraft, and ground-based air defenses; naturally, the idea is to pinpoint and destroy enemy targets while remaining at a safer, more protected distance.
Former Deputy Program Executive Officer for Missiles Space, Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch (Rasch is now the PEO) told Warrior in a previous interview that the service is making a decided push to upgrade and develop longer-range weapons as a way to address current threats and re-adjust following more than 15 years of counterinsurgency.
Building a higher-tech, more lethal Paladin
Following years of development and advanced engineering, the Army and BAE Systems are now formally entering full-rate production of the new M109A7 and accompanying M992A3 ammunition carrier vehicles. BAE officials said the new Howitzer, designed to replace the existing M109A6 Paladin, will have 600-volts of on-board power generation, high-voltage electric gun drives and projectile ramming systems.
Army developers say the A7 has a turret ring down revamp, including a new hull along with a new suspension and power-train. The new Howitzer will, among other things, greatly improve speed and mobility compared to the A6.
“In the past, the A6 Paladin was the slowest vehicle in the Army. It needs to leapfrog. We are restoring that mobility so it will be one of the faster vehicles. Howitzers can now outrun 113s,” a senior Army weapons developer said.
Also, as part of maintenance, life-cycle and service extension — all aimed to improve logistics — the new Howitzer is built with an engine and other parts common to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and emerging Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.
Improved on-board power is, similar to other emerging higher-tech platforms, designed to enable the vehicle to quickly accommodate upgrades and new weapons technologies as they may evolve — such as lasers or advanced ammunition.
The advanced digital backbone and power generation capability provides significant growth potential for future payloads, a BAE Systems statement said.
One senior Army official told Warrior Maven that improved combat connectivity can enable multiple Howitzers to quickly share firing data, as part of a broader effort to expand battlefield networking and operate in more dispersed formations depending upon mission requirements.
Soldiers fire an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during Exercise Combined Resolve IX at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 21 2017.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Hulett)
The Army has also been working with the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office to explore additional innovations for the Howitzer platform.
While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality, and range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.
The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.
Firing from an Army Howitzer, the hypervelocity projectile can fire at high speeds toward enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft, vehicle bunkers, and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.
“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet,” a senior Pentagon weapons developer told reporters during prior testing of the HVP.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
A Chinese military official has warned that war between the US and China is becoming “a practical reality” following the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
On January 20, an official from the People’s Liberation Army wrote on its official website that the US’s “rebalance” in Asia, its deployments to the region, and its push to arm South Korea with the THAAD missile-defense system were provocative “hot spots getting closer to ignition,” The South China Morning Post reported Friday.
Before his inauguration, Trump sparked controversy in China when he took a phone call from the president of Taiwan, going against the US’s decades-long protocol to respect a “One China” policy. At the time, Chinese officials lodged a complaint with the White House but referred to the call as a “shenanigan by the Taiwan side.”
But that hasn’t put to rest all of China’s concerns. “The Taiwan question” is a core interest to the country, which, two PLA authors wrote in December, could push a more aggressive response as the US supports independence for Taiwan and more exports of weaponry.
“We hope that the US will rein in at the brink of the precipice and avoid going farther and farther down the wrong path,” the authors wrote on the Chinese military’s official website.
For now, China seems to be trying to get a read on what a Trump administration might do, especially in the contested South China Sea. But it is continuing to build up military preparedness and overhaul its ranks,according to SCMP.
“As it’s highly unlikely that China will compromise its sovereignty claims in the face of US pressure, we can be sure that the dispute will increasingly become a risky point of contention between Beijing and Washington,” Ian Storey, a senior fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, told the paper.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton has confirmed that an announcement will be made on June 28, 2018, regarding a planned summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
“There will be an announcement on that tomorrow simultaneously in Moscow and Washington on the date and the time of that meeting,” Bolton said after holding talks on June 27, 2018, with the Russian president in Moscow.
Trump will raise a full range of issues with Putin, Bolton said, including alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Putin has denied.
The adviser said he did not rule out concrete results to come out of the summit, adding that the leaders believe it is important to meet, despite their differences.
Earlier, a Kremlin aide said the summit — the first full-fledged meeting between the two presidents since Trump took office in January 2017 — will be held in a third country that is convenient for both sides. He said several more weeks were needed for preparations.
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin said that Bolton’s visit “instills hope” that steps can be taken to improve badly strained relations between Moscow and Washington.
Putin said he regretted that ties between the former Cold War foes are “not in the best shape” and suggested their dire state is due in large part to what he called “the internal political struggle” in the United States — indicating he does not blame Trump.
“Russia has never sought confrontation, and I hope that we can talk today about what can be done by both sides to restore full-format relations on the basis of equality and respect,” Putin said.
Bolton said he was looking forward to discussing “how to improve Russia-U.S. relations and find areas where we can agree and make progress together.”
When Moscow and Washington had differences in the past, Russian and U.S. leaders met and that was “good for both countries, good for stability in the world,” Bolton said. “President Trump feels very strongly on that subject.”
Bolton also said he would like to hear Putin’s account of “how you handled the World Cup so successfully.” The United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.
Bolton met with Putin after holding separate talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a senior member of Putin’s Security Council, Yury Averyanov.
At least part of the meeting between Bolton and Putin was also attended by others including Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, and Fiona Hill, senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that in addition to bilateral ties, Lavrov and Bolton discussed current global issues including Syria and Ukraine — where Moscow’s involvement in military conflicts is a source of U.S.-Russian tension.
Bolton traveled to Moscow after meetings with U.S. allies in London and Rome on June 25-26, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a television interview over the weekend that Trump is likely to meet Putin “in the not-too-distant future.”
Ushakov’s comments suggested that the summit is likely to take place at some point after Trump attends a NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12 and visits Britain on July 13, 2018. Vienna and Helsinki have been cited as possible venues.
An Austrian newspaper earlier this week said teams from the United States and Russia were already in Vienna preparing for a July 15, 2018 meeting between the two leaders.
However, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on June 26, 2018, that Finland’s capital, Helsinki, was the likeliest choice, but the final decision depended on the outcome of Bolton’s talks.
Trump and Putin have met twice on the sidelines of international summits and they have spoken at least eight times by telephone. Trump telephoned Putin to congratulate him in March 2018 after the Russian president’s reelection and said the two would meet soon.
However, Russian officials have since complained about the difficulty of setting up such a meeting, as ties between Washington and Moscow have further deteriorated over issues including the war in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, which the West blames on Moscow.
Relations were already severely strained by tension over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was an “influence campaign” ordered by Putin in an attempt to affect the U.S. presidential election, in part by bolstering Trump and discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Democrats and some Republicans have accused Trump of being soft on Russia. Trump made clear during his campaign and into his presidency that he wants better relations with Russia and Putin, and has often praised the Russian president.
Bolton’s trip and the movement toward a Trump-Putin summit comes after Trump unnerved allies by calling for Russia to be readmitted to the G7, the group of industrialized nations it was ejected from in 2014 over its interference in Ukraine.
Trump has also sharply criticized a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the alleged Russian meddling and whether his associates colluded with Moscow. Russia denies it interfered, despite substantial evidence, and Trump says there was no collusion.
With a recent rash of close encounters and fast approaches by Iranian vessels in international waters prompting U.S. ship commanders to fire flares and warning shots, the Navy’s top officer is warning that the consequences of this harassment could be significant and is advocating for an agreed-upon rule set to govern these at-sea encounters.
During a discussion at the Center for American Progress on Monday in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Military.com that individual ship commanders had broad autonomy to respond to these Iranian harassment incidents.
“There’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond,” Richardson said. “These things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow those commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond. They’ve got to know what their commander’s guidance is, they’ve got to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and also to make sure that they can respond to these very fast moving opportunities.”
To date, these responses have been limited to warning measures and rebukes. But the Iranian ships’ behavior, Richardson suggested, could have grave consequences.
“From the standpoint of, is our Navy prepared to respond, I would say, yes in every respect,” Richardson said. “These are some of these potentially destabilizing things. A tactical miscalculation, the closer and closer you get to these kinds of things, the margin for error gets smaller, human error can play a bigger and bigger role. I think it’s very important that we eliminate this sort of activity when we can and nothing good can come from it.”
Richardson said he hopes to establish a dialogue with Iranian naval leaders in order to develop a code of conduct to govern encounters at sea. He added that such a rule set had been very effective in dictating behavior during maritime encounters with the Chinese Navy, even amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.
“We’re working to sort of think our way through what are the possibilities there, both with the Iranians and I would say with the Russians who exhibit this behavior as well,” Richardson said, “so we can get up on the line and sort of have a conversation of, whether this would be helpful or hurtful, this is not in the helpful category.”
It remains unclear whether the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy would be interested in engaging in the sort of dialogue Richardson wants.
The deputy chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, told a state news agency this week that Iranian boats involved in the encounters with U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf were in keeping with international standards and norms.
“The claims [of harassment] are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of Iran’s soldiers,” Jazayeri said, according to Agence France-Presse reports.
The Pentagon has reported at least five incidents of harassment by Iranian boats in the last month. In at least one of the encounters, an Iranian vessel came within 100 yards of a U.S. patrol ship.
Separately, Iran over the weekend threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy aircraft — a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance plane and an EP-3 — that were flying in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, CNN reported.