Today's D Brief: Javelins to Kyiv; Misdirection and Moscow; CODEL to Ukraine; Qatar at the WH; And a bit more.
“The largest invasion since WWII.” That’s how U.S. President Joe Biden described what seems to be looming over eastern Europe as Russia stages some 127,000 forces around much of its western neighbor, Ukraine. “There has been no change in the posture of the Russian forces,” President Joe Biden told reporters during a brief press availability Tuesday afternoon.
“Now they are, as you know, they’re along the entire Belarus border,” Biden said. “If he were to move in with all those forces, it'd be the largest invasion since World War Two. It would change the world…So, everyone—from Poland on—has reason to be concerned about what would happen and what spillover effects could occur.”
New: The White House could send written answers to Russia’s Ukraine-related demands as soon as today. However, “the response is unlikely to characterize the likelihood of Ukraine joining NATO in the short term or show any room for negotiation on NATO's open door policy,” CNN reports.
For the tea-leaf readers: “Nearly every Soviet and Russian military intervention of the past half century, from the Prague Spring to Afghanistan to the war in Chechnya, has begun with an operation of disguise or misdirection, intended to sow confusion,” Andrew Kramer of the New York Times reported Tuesday from Ukraine.
Some specific targets of Russia-backed forces are believed by Ukrainian and U.S. officials to include “an ammonia gas factory in separatist-held territory a few miles from the Ukrainian frontlines,” or we could see “a limited advance by the separatists to seize disputed infrastructure such as waterworks or power plants,” Kramer reports. A naval clash in the Azov Sea could also ignite a wider conflict. Read on, here.
“We have no intention of putting American forces or NATO forces in Ukraine,” said POTUS46 on Tuesday. “But we—as I said—there are going to be serious economic consequences” for Moscow if Russia re-invades.
New: About 300 Javelin anti-tank missiles arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv announced on Twitter, with supporting imagery. That shipment came in at about 79 tons of material, making it “the third shipment of $200 million in assistance authorized by President Biden,” according to the embassy.
U.S. F-15s have arrived to the Baltics (Estonia), and Danish F-16s are set to arrive tomorrow (in Lithuania), NATO tweeted Wednesday morning.
A new CODEL is visiting Ukraine and NATO this week. The bipartisan delegation is led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., and also includes Reps. Mark Green, R-Tenn.; August Pfluger, R-Texas; David Cicilline, D-R.I.; Amy Bera, D-Calif.; Colin Allred, D-Texas; Tom Malinowski, D.-N.J.; Sara Jacobs, D-Calif.; Victoria Spartz, R-Ind.; and Mikie Sherill, D-N.J. That group departed CONUS Tuesday. (The last CODEL visited Kyiv early last week.)
Qatar’s emir will meet POTUS46 Monday at the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday. Regional security and the future of Afghanistan are two big topics expected to animate that discussion.
“Ensuring the stability of global energy supplies” is one particularly big focus, according to the White House. And that will extend to “contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” according to Axios, reporting Tuesday.
Why: “The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis,” Zachary Basu and Hans Nichols of Axios report. A bit more here.
Related reading: “Russia’s Attempts to Sanction-Proof Its Economy Have Exposed a Weak Spot,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Wednesday morning; see also, “Russia says ‘destructive’ sanctions wouldn't hurt Putin personally,” via Reuters, also reporting Wednesday.
One last thing: Some Irish fishermen seem to have a modest plan to thwart a future Russian naval exercise, the BBC reported Tuesday. Story here.
From Defense One
Republicans Are Split Over Ukraine, Threatening a Rare Bipartisan Consensus // Jacqueline Feldscher: Some GOPers think Biden is doing too little to counter Russia. The far right thinks he’s doing too much.
It’s Macron’s Moment to Move Europe Beyond NATO // Kevin Baron: Russian threats, Normandy talks, and the EU presidency give the French leader a golden chance to advance his new European security arrangement.
Redesignate the Houthis as Terrorists // Emily Milliken and Mary Beth Long: The Biden administration made a mistake. “Diplomacy first” has failed in Yemen.
Welcome to this Wednesday 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 1841, at the height of its First Opium War, the British military occupied and took possession of Hong Kong Island, which was just one of many excursions in 19th-century Western colonialism, but one that would endure until 1997.
After nearly a week, a deadly ISIS prison siege has allegedly been put down in northern Syria, the Washington Post reports Wednesday from Baghdad, describing it as “the Islamic State’s most serious strike in the country for years.” But as the sun rose over Ghwaryan prison in Hasakah this morning, “no one seemed able to state definitively how many inmates had escaped or been killed,” the Post’s Louisa Loveluck writes. And judging from imagery provided by U.S.-backed Syrian forces at the prison, “it appeared that dozens of inmates might have escaped and that scores were killed.”
The big worry now: ISIS in Syria may be stronger than imagined just one week ago. And parts of the Ghwaryan prison are now destroyed, so some 400 inmates are being moved elsewhere, according to a spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Continue reading, here.
UAE authorities seem to be upset that people shared video of intercepted missiles over Abu Dhabi earlier this week. And so the country’s public prosecutors' office has summoned several people alleged to have recorded the interceptions, claiming the videos “endanger vital and military installations, and can impact the security and stability of society,” according to Reuters, reporting from Dubai.
For what it’s worth, the UAE “prides itself as a safe business haven and global tourist destination,” Reuters notes. A bit more, here.
The U.S. Navy is about to go try and find the F-35 that crashed in the South China Sea on Monday, ABC News reports. Seven troops were injured in the accident, which occurred when the aircraft struck the carrier while trying to land.
In case you’re wondering, “It is unclear how deep the waters are where the F-35 fell into the Pacific, but the Navy has considerable experience in salvaging wreckage in deep waters,” ABC News reports. In fact, “A salvage operation in 2019 in the Philippine Sea was able to recover a C-2A Greyhound aircraft that was three miles under the ocean.” More here.
North Korea reportedly lost its internet service for a short time today, following the country’s fifth missile test of the young year on Tuesday, Reuters reports from Seoul. The outage seems to have lasted about six hours, and some email services were becoming accessible at press time.
And lastly: In a new executive order, President Biden will make sexual harassment a UCMJ offense, the White House announced in its public schedule for the day. The same order will also aim to “strengthen the military’s response to domestic violence and the wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images,” the latter of which would seem to reference the so-called “Marines United” scandal The War Horse founder Thomas Brennan and AP reporter James LaPorta helped uncover.