Today's D Brief: Blinken to Kyiv; CODEL to Ukraine; Stoltenberg in Berlin; Houthis attack UAE; And a bit more.
It’s another busy week of diplomacy for Europe as America’s top diplomat travels to Ukraine today, followed by a stop in Berlin on Thursday to speak with German, French, and British officials.
For the record, United States State Secretary Antony Blinken’s travel this week is “part of the diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the tension caused by Russia’s military build-up and continued aggression against Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Blinken also rang up his Russian counterpart Tuesday morning. In that call, the secretary “reiterated the unshakable U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and underscored that any discussion of European security must include NATO Allies and European partners, including Ukraine,” Foggy Bottom announced in a separate statement Tuesday.
Germany’s foreign minister traveled to Moscow today, where she met with the same man Blinken spoke to by phone, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Reuters has a tiny bit more from that one, here.
And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is dropping by Berlin today to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht.
More than a half dozen U.S. lawmakers visited Ukraine’s president and defense minister on Monday. And that bipartisan delegation included Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
One of the CODEL’s messages to Ukraine: “The United States Congress will give President Biden the authority he needs to build a set of massive deterrent sanctions to dissuade Russia from further invading Ukraine,” Sen. Murphy tweeted Monday.
“Ukraine is a vital U.S. partner who is standing resolute in the face of Vladimir Putin’s shameful and illegal aggression,” Wicker said in his own statement Monday, and emphasized, “It is imperative that the United States stay strong in the face of Russian aggression and stand by our friends who are fighting for freedom.”
The British military is rushing “anti-armor” weapons to Ukraine, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the House of Commons on Monday. “Let me be clear: this support is for short-range, and clearly defensive weapons capabilities; they are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia,” Wallace said. “They are to use in self-defence and the UK personnel providing the early-stage training will return to the United Kingdom after completing it.”
The reason why: “As of today, tens of thousands of Russian troops are positioned close to the Ukrainian border,” the secretary told lawmakers Monday. “Their deployment is not routine, and they are equipped with tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, rocket artillery, and short-range ballistic missiles.”
And regarding Russia’s big gripe (NATO is getting too close), “Countries choose NATO; NATO does not choose them,” Wallace said. “If Russia has concerns about the enlargement, it should perhaps ask itself why, when people were free to choose, they chose NATO.” Read over his full remarks, including several overtures to Moscow, here.
ICYMI: “Russia denies looking for pretext to invade Ukraine,” the Associated Press reported Monday from Moscow.
From Defense One
‘War Is Coming’: Mysterious TikTok Videos Are Scaring Sweden’s Children // Elisabeth Braw: The campaign offers an early test for the country’s new anti-disinformation agency.
China Is Watching Ukraine With a Lot of Interest // Michael Schuman, The Atlantic: Biden’s handling of Putin may tell Xi Jinping how resolutely the U.S. would defend Taiwan.
How Fake Spies Ruin Real Intelligence // Amy Zegart, The Atlantic: Espionage-themed entertainment is influencing policy makers, from soldiers fighting on the front lines to justices sitting on the nation’s highest court.
The US and China Could Soon Be In Race For Nuclear-Powered Satellites // Patrick Tucker: An idea from the 1960s has found new backers.
Russian Agents in Ukraine Are Trying to Create a Pretext for Invasion, Pentagon Says // Caitlin M. Kenney: “When there isn't an actual crisis to suit their needs, they'll make one up,” Kirby said
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: Navy supply chain challenges and worker shortages; FedEx wants missile countermeasures on its planes; and more
The Army Brief: Year-long CR?; Russian demand no-go; Large Army bonus; and more... // Caitlin M. Kenney
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson, with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1911, an aircraft landed on a ship for the first time when aviator Eugune Ely landed his Curtiss Pusher airplane, using an arresting hook built by a circus performer, on the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania, which was anchored in San Francisco Bay.
In a rare attack, Iran-backed Houthis struck fuel trucks in the UAE on Monday, killing three people and wounding six others when the group’s missiles and drones hit multiple locations near Abu Dhabi’s main commercial airport. Houthis confirmed their role in a statement Monday, claiming the group launched five ballistic missiles and an unspecified number of drones in the attack, which also targeted an oil refinery in Musaffah, according to Reuters.
The Saudi-led coalition responded with airstrikes on Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, which the Houthis have controlled since 2015. At least 20 people were killed in those overnight strikes, including civilians, Reuters reported separately Tuesday.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan condemned the attack in separate statements on Monday. “We will work with the UAE and international partners to hold [the Houthis] accountable,” Sullivan said, and added, like Blinken in his statement, that the U.S. “commitment to the security of the UAE is unwavering and we stand beside our Emirati partners against all threats to their territory.”
Related reading: “Satellite photos show aftermath of Abu Dhabi oil site attack,” via the Associated Press, using Planet Labs imagery.
America’s top officer and top Marine have tested positive for COVID, Military Times reported Monday in a shorty—since both Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger are fully vaccinated. Tiny bit more here. Or for those so inclined, you can watch Fox TV’s Laura Ingraham laugh and clap at Milley’s news on her Monday show, here.
Related reading: “Russia shortens COVID-19 isolation to 7 days as cases surge,” via AP, reporting from Moscow Tuesday morning; and “Abu Dhabi requires booster shots to enter the emirate,” via AP out of Dubai again today.
And lastly: Chief of Space Operations Air Force Gen. John Raymond is scheduled to speak this afternoon at the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies Schriever Spacepower Forum. That one’s planned for 3 p.m. ET. Details and registration here.