Today's D Brief: Ukraine's growing military; Poland, UK team up with Kyiv; Too many secrets; Qatar's new status; And a bit more.
Ukraine is adding 100,000 troops over the next three years, and raising the pay for its military. “This decree isn’t because war is coming. This decree is so that there is peace soon and further down the line,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday in Kyiv.
Ukraine’s military currently has about 260,000 troops, the Wall Street Journal reports. (By contrast, Russia’s military is around 900,000, Reuters notes.) And Ukraine could soon get a lot more artillery shells, missiles, and drones from Poland, a Polish official said Monday.
Britain’s Boris Johnson is in Kyiv today. “Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had been due to accompany the PM to Ukraine, but she announced on Monday that she had been diagnosed with Covid and was self-isolating,” the BBC reports.
Don’t call it an alliance, but the UK, Ukraine, and Poland just entered into “a new format of political cooperation in Europe,” Zelensky said Tuesday. For what it’s worth, “One senior Polish official said the idea was conceived several weeks ago to facilitate joint training and arms shipments, but is far from being formalized,” the Journal reports. Reuters and the Independent have a bit more.
Meanwhile back in D.C., “The United States and our allies and partners continue to prepare for every scenario,” President Biden said in a statement following Monday’s rare United Nations Security Council meeting on Ukraine, which was called at Washington’s request. No actions were expected from the meeting, since Russia and China both hold veto power within the UNSC. But at a practical level for the U.S., its messaging of concern and plea for transparency is what seemed to have mattered most Monday at the UN. “The world must be clear-eyed about the actions Russia is threatening and ready to respond to the risks those actions present to all of us,” Biden said afterward in his statement.
Some Republicans are urging an escalation of U.S. arms to Ukraine, to include “anti-air and anti-ship weaponry,” according to a statement from Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, the leading Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. With that messaging Monday, Rogers is hoping to draw attention to a new bill drafted in January called “the Guaranteeing Ukrainian Autonomy by Reinforcing its Defense Act of 2022,” or the GUARD Act. Read it for yourself (PDF) here; or read over a GOP summary, here.
The way Rogers sees it, Russian President Vladimir “Putin shows no signs of backing down while the Biden administration has moved too slowly when it comes to supplying Ukraine with the weaponry it needs to deter Russia.” The leading Republican lawmaker does not explain, however, how the weapons his bill would provide will deter a foe with more than 6,000 known nuclear warheads; but that, of course, is a more complicated matter with no easy battle lines or political script.
ICYMI: “Lawmakers ask Austin to rush Abrams sale to Poland,” Defense News reported eight days ago. (FWIW, Rep. Rogers is involved in that effort as well.)
Hungary’s message to Russia: “No European leader wants war” on the continent. That’s one of the things Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban told Putin in a phone call today, the Associated Press reports from Moscow.
Canada’s new military chief, Anita Anand, is at NATO HQ today in Brussels. While visiting, she told reporters, “Russia has an important choice to make. It can choose to negotiate with a view to de-escalation or it can face harsh economic sanctions.”
From Defense One
US Spy Chief Warns Government is Classifying Too Much Data // Frank Konkel: As the amount of data soars, so does the burden of reviewing classified data for its eventual declassification.
US, Russia Spar Over Ukraine At Confrontational U.N. Meeting // Jacqueline Feldscher: Russian official claims the U.S. is trying to “drive a wedge” between Moscow and Kyiv with “unfounded accusations.”
How Irish Fishermen Took on the Russian Fleet and Won // Elisabeth Braw: The action illustrates how the private sector can help governments respond to Russian gray-zone aggression.
Lockheed, Airbus Say They Would Build New Air Force Tankers in Alabama, Georgia // Marcus Weisgerber: Team takes aim at service’s “bridge tanker” contract against likely rival Boeing.
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 1942, the U.S. military opened its offensive campaign in the Pacific with aerial and naval artillery attacks against Japanese forces near the Marshall and Gilbert Islands.
President Biden met with his Qatari counterpart, Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, in Washington on Monday. According to the White House, the two leaders “reaffirmed their mutual interest in promoting security and prosperity in the Gulf and broader Middle East region, ensuring the stability of global energy supplies, supporting the people of Afghanistan, and strengthening commercial and investment cooperation.” To that last point, Biden also flagged a recent $20 billion deal between Boeing and Qatar Airways Group, which the White House said “will support tens of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.”
And like Israel, Kuwait, and Bahrain, Biden formally designated Qatar as a “Major Non-NATO Ally” on Monday. “Qatar’s many years of contributions to U.S.-led efforts in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility” justified the decision, Biden said in a letter to leading lawmakers Monday.
For the record, 17 nations have the MNNA status, according to the State Department. That list also includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia—and Afghanistan (for now, anyway).
Qatar’s POV: “We are very happy and glad to host the most important military facility in the Middle East, Al Udeid Base,” the emir told reporters Monday when he dropped by the Pentagon. “We’re going to continue working together to help bring security and stability in the region, and I’m sure with this close partnership and this great relationship, we will be able to do so. We demonstrated that very clearly in Afghanistan. We still have, of course, a lot of work to be done in Afghanistan.”
BTW: Biden demanded the Taliban release American captive Mark Frerichs, an engineer and Navy veteran who was taken hostage almost exactly two years ago in Kabul—making him the last American captive still missing from Afghanistan. “The Taliban must immediately release Mark before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy,” Biden said in a statement Sunday. “This is not negotiable,” he added.
Happening tomorrow: Afghan sitrep on Capitol Hill. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and State Secretary Antony Blinken are scheduled to sit for a closed-door hearing with senators from the Armed Services Committee. That gets started around 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
The U.S. Navy will appeal the Hawaii Department of Health order to drain the fuel tank that leaked into drinking water at Pearl Harbor and sickened military families, but will “continue to take actions to address” the spill and contamination, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said in a statement Monday, adding that “permanently defueling” the storage facility is still an option.
Hawaii, of course, will fight the appeal. One health official called the decision by the DOD “yet another breach of trust between the Navy and the people of Hawaii,” the Associated Press reported. U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz agreed, but said the Navy will lose its fight. “This inexplicable and maddening resistance to the defuel order will not succeed,” he said.
And finally: A chicken was caught wandering around a security area outside the Pentagon on Monday, the Arlington County humane society tweeted in the afternoon, along with a photo. They’re now polling folks on Twitter to name the fowl creature. Feel free to share your suggestions, here.