The Russians would still be coming: Amid talk of arming Ukraine, Phil Breedlove said lethal assistance wouldn't stop the Russians from expanding further into Eastern Ukraine. NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove: “In the current configuration I do not think that Ukrainian forces can stop a Russian advance in Eastern Ukraine… And to the degree that we can supply help, I’m not sure that they could stop a Russian advance in Eastern Ukraine even if we supply aid … but what we’re doing now is not changing the results on the ground.
“More than 1,000 pieces of Russian military equipment have been transferred into Ukraine, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery pieces and other military vehicles and equipment… These are not the actions of a good faith negotiating partner.”
Defense One’s Watson: “Some lawmakers and former administration officials have been eager to arm Ukraine’s military in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea…
Meanwhile, fighting between Kiev’s military – largely gutted by years of corruption – and pro-Russian separatists has continued for nearly a year now, despite the two sides already signing two ceasefires, the so-called Minsk-1 and Minsk-2 agreements.
McCain, yesterday on the Senate floor: “To me, it’s the most unbelievable view that somehow we don’t want to provoke Vladimir Putin, who has taken Crimea—they’ve written that off. Shot down an airplane, at least with Russian equipment. Moved and dislocated Eastern Ukraine. Caused an economic crisis. And we don’t want to provoke Vladimir Putin?”
“…House lawmakers, too, remained skeptical of any lasting ceasefire… Breedlove seemed to agree: “I think first and foremost, Mr. Putin has not accomplished his objectives in Ukraine, so next is probably more action in Ukraine… What is clear is that right now it is not getting better, it is getting worse every day.” Read the rest here.
The WaPo’s Craig Whitlock on Breedlove’s pessimism about Russia and Ukraine: “The fighting in eastern Ukraine is “getting worse every day” and Western efforts to deter Russian intervention are having little effect, NATO’s top military commander said Wednesday.
“…During a press conference at the Pentagon, Breedlove said he has submitted formal recommendations to the White House, via his chain of command at the Pentagon, on what other measures Washington should take to push back against Moscow and its support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.”
“Breedlove said that in order to turn the tide in Ukraine, the United States and its NATO allies need to develop a more effective mix of diplomatic, military and economic tactics.
Breedlove: “We don’t want a war of grand proportions in Ukraine. We must find a diplomatic and political solution… What is clear is that this is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.” More here.
Ukraine's president is expected to recall his military's heavy equipment from the front lines today. Kiev's previous delay had been attributed to ongoing shelling from separatists, which is said to have abated considerably in the past 48 hours. Reuters, here.
Meantime, the identity of “Jihadi John” has (probably) just been revealed. WaPo’s Souad Mekhennet and Adam Goldman trace the path from college student to radicalization after multiple arrests and alleged run-ins with MI6: “[H]is real name, according to friends and others familiar with his case, is Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming. He is believed to have traveled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined the Islamic State, the group whose barbarity he has come to symbolize.
“‘I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John,’ said one of Emwazi’s close friends who identified him in an interview with The Washington Post. ‘He was like a brother to me. . . . I am sure it is him.’” Read the full story, here.
More on ISIS below.
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American war hero and Medal of Honor recipient Will Swenson was reportedly a target of surveillance by the Army. The Daily Beast’s Jacob Siegel: “They went through his trash. And it all started because Swenson was mentioned in a book review posted to Amazon.com. The Army’s treatment of Swenson is one of a number of high-profile cases where the military has launched investigations into highly-decorated troops—only to have the investigations themselves come under scrutiny. Top congressmen have demanded answers from the Secretary of the Army, while insiders speculate that the deep dive into Swenson’s life was a political stunt.
“Before President Obama gave Swenson the Medal of Honor, he was known as much for his stinging criticism of Army leadership as he was for his heroism at the Battle of Gangal.
Said a source knowledgeable about the investigation to TDB: “There’s good reason to suspect that the investigation into Swenson was really about his award, his criticism of the Army, and the hope that agents would find something to shut him up… All of the details the Army was looking to confirm were all within their reach from the beginning, without speaking to Swenson.” More here.
The Taliban claimed a suicide attack on a NATO convoy this morning, killing two, including one Turkish soldier. WSJ’s Nathan Hodge from Kabul: “The Turkish military said the attack targeted the convoy of the team charged with protecting Ambassador Ismail Aramaz, the Turkish diplomat who is the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan. Col. Brian Tribus, a coalition spokesman, said Mr. Aramaz wasn’t in the convoy and wasn’t harmed.” More here.
From “degrade and destroy” to “associated persons or forces,” the debate in Congress over the ISIS war has become a war over words. Defense One politics editor Molly O’Toole: “‘I think it would be difficult to put necessarily a level of precision against the word ‘enduring,’ [retired Gen. John Allen] told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. ‘Enduring might only be two weeks. But enduring might be two years.’
“Secretary of State John Kerry, on Tuesday, testifying before the same committee as Allen, gave a different definition. ‘Now, “enduring” in our mind means no long-term offensive combat of a large scale, which is what the president has defined.’ …Earlier in the day, Army Secretary John McHugh said he felt the president meant to define enduring by including ‘a three-year limit... But that’s just math, that’s not policy.’” Read the rest, here.
Go behind the curtain of Sudan’s state-owned Military Industrial Corporation and their expanding presence at the IDEX arms expo with Defense One’s global business reporter Marcus Weisgerber in Abu Dhabi: “[G]reen camouflage painted trucks built by Sudan’s state-owned Military Industry Corporation are lined up as if they were parked in front of a new car dealership. One is massive, with a howitzer cannon attached to the back. The other is a small pickup truck with a machine gun mount in the cargo bed... [Sudan’s Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohammad Hussein] has regularly attended IDEX since becoming defense minister in 2006 and this year more than 90 Sudanese defense items will be on display…[including] a small boat…” Read the rest, here.
Carter knows a lot, right? But he asked some experts to tell him something he doesn’t. The WSJ’s Dion Nissenbaum, ICYMI: “On his second evening as America’s new defense secretary, Ash Carter sat down for a private dinner at the Pentagon with a small group of think-tank scholars that included a prominent critic of President Barack Obama’s strategy for fighting Islamic State, and an early proponent of the 2003 Iraq invasion. For 90 minutes, Mr. Carter questioned his ideologically diverse guests about the most pressing problems facing the Obama administration, according to people at the dinner.
Carter to the group, over bacon-wrapped steak: “Tell me something I don’t know… Give me a new way of thinking about things.”
Guess who came to dinner: Brookings Ken Pollock, former Syrian envoy Robert Ford, former NSA Steve Hadley, Brookings’ Mike O’Hanlon, former U.N. adviser Clare Lockhart, Columbia Journalism School’s Steve Coll, Brookings’ Robert Kagan. Read the rest of Nissenbaum’s story here.
Defense One in repeats: Read Lubold’s story on the advisers who were asked to confer with Ash Carter before his confirmation, which included Mike Bloomberg and Eric Cantor. Read that one here.
Fear not cyber-armegeddon. Sleep with one eye open over the cyber knife fight that is far more likely, Jim Clapper will say today in testimony. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio: “A single cyber-attack that cripples U.S. infrastructure is less likely than a succession of costly computer attacks, according to the nation’s top intelligence official.”
James Clapper, director of national intelligence: “Rather than a ‘cyber-Armageddon’ scenario that debilitates the entire U.S. infrastructure, we envision something different… We foresee an ongoing series of low-to-moderate level cyber-attacks from a variety of sources over time, which will impose cumulative costs on U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.”
“Clapper’s report, submitted to a Senate committee, marks a significant departure from past U.S. warnings about the type of Internet attacks that the country will face. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned in 2012 of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” that could paralyze the country.” More here.
Clapper testifies today before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30.
Who else is doing what today? Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Navy Chief Adm. Jonathan Greenert, along with Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, all go before the House Appropriations Committee to talk the Navy’s FY16 budget request at 10 a.m. …the House Armed Services Committee is seeking “outside perspectives” on the Obama admin’s draft AUMF with retired Gen. Jack Keane and Brookings’ Robert Chesney at 10 a.m. … the Atlantic Council sits down with retired Gen. Jim Cartwright for a discussion on “the ISIS War Game” at 12:30 p.m. … U.S. Strategic Command’s Adm. Cecil Haney and Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon will talk their budget before the House Armed Services Committee at 1:30 p.m.
Also today: Army Chief Gen. Ray Odierno is in Kansas visiting Fort Leavenworth for an address to pre-Command Course students. He’ll visit the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention academy and meet captains participating in Project Solarium, an effort to confront challenges facing the Army’s future. More on that here.
What will Mabus say at the HASC? Basically, that the “Navy/Marine Corps team” is unique in its ability to provide “presence,” which means that teams can respond faster; remain on station longer; carry everything we need with us; and do whatever missions our nation's leaders assign us without needing anyone else's permission. Mabus will also say that the size of the Fleet is growing. We’re told that on Sept. 11, 2001, the Navy's battle force stood at 316 ships. By 2008, the Fleet had declined to 278 ships. But today, Mabus will say: “In the five years before I assumed this position, the Navy contracted for just 27 ships, not enough to stop the slide in the size of the Fleet. In my first five years in office we contracted for 70 ships, halting and reversing that decline. By the end of the decade, our Fleet will once again top 300 ships.”
Read Mabus’ op-ed on maintaining seapower, here.
Meantime, two men in Brooklyn were charged yesterday with trying to travel to Syria to fight with the Islamic State, and a third was charged with trying to help fund the group. NYTs Marc Santora and Stephanie Clifford: “One of the men was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where the government says he was trying to board a flight to Istanbul and then planned to travel to Syria to join the battle… At least two of the men had threatened to carry out attacks on targets in the United States, including planting a bomb in Coney Island and killing President Obama, if they failed in their attempt to travel overseas, according to the government.
“In online postings, the two younger men seem to be searching for meaning in their lives, and increasingly disillusioned by those around them — including Muslim relatives they see as living less than devout lives. The case against the three men relies in part on a confidential informant paid by the government, court documents show.” More here.
The newest faces of foreign fighter movement are 3 British schoolgirls who reportedly fled to Syria to join ISIS, and the BBC spoke with a smuggler in Turkey who claims to know how the process worked. That here.
There are far more moderate Syrians ready to fight ISIS than previous U.S. estimates had assumed, John Allen said yesterday. Reuters, here.
The number of Christians taken by ISIS in northeastern Syria has more than doubled to over 200 now. AP from Beirut: “The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants have picked up dozens more Christian Assyrians from 11 communities near the town of Tal Tamr in Hassakeh province. The province, which borders Turkey and Iraq, has become the latest battleground in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. It is predominantly Kurdish but also has populations of Arabs and predominantly Christian Assyrians and Armenians.” More here.
It’s not going great with Israel these days. The NYT’s Peter Baker and Jodi Rudoren: “When President Obama’s national security adviser sat down with her Israeli counterpart at the White House last week, she upbraided him over leaks in Jerusalem that the Americans interpreted as an attempt to undermine nuclear negotiations with Iran. The meeting, shielded from the public but fraught with tension, brought home the depth of the frustration between Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is a mutual enmity that has only grown in recent days as Mr. Netanyahu prepares to address the Republican-led Congress next week about the dangers of a possible nuclear deal with Iran.
“…The relationship “has never been so terrible as it is today,” said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser. “Nobody even tries to use any diplomatic words.” More here.
Companies need to say “yes” to hiring vets, says the head of JP Morgan Chase’s military and veterans affairs. Maureen Casey in an op-ed on Yahoo Finance: “…While unemployment for veterans has improved during the past four years, there is still a need for private sector companies to hire veterans. Hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women will transition out of the military over the coming years and return to civilian communities across the country looking for meaningful careers.
“Without question, we as business and community leaders have an obligation to give back to the people who have made great sacrifices so that we may pursue our interests. But it’s more than an obligation. It’s an opportunity as well. These new job seekers are a talented pool for employers who want to hire dependable, tenacious people who have experience working in and leading teams, thrive in stressful, fast-paced atmospheres and are comfortable in culturally diverse environments.” Read the rest of Casey’s op-ed here.
Read more about the 100,000 Jobs Mission, a coalition of more than 180 companies which has hired more than 200,000 vets, here.
So fewer than 1 percent of the nation serve in the military, but what do you want to do about it? Sebastian Junger in The Atlantic, here.
Apropos of nothing, except that both of us here at the The D Brief build the newsletter each day standing up. The benefits of a standing desk, which we see more of in the Pentagon and around town, in this New Yorker piece, here.
The Pentagon’s future weapons must come faster, cheaper and simpler than ever before, Dan Ward says as part of Defense One and New America’s ongoing “Future of War” series. More on that one, here. For additional reads in the series, go right here.