Today's D Brief: $100M in new US weapons to Ukraine; Atrocities continue to mount; New hypersonic success; New ICBM gets an (old) name; And a bit more.
Russia’s invading forces are still shelling Ukraine’s southern city of Mariupol, where an estimated three-quarters of the city’s pre-war population has variously fled or been killed since Moscow’s invasion began more than 40 days ago. According to British military intelligence, “Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water. Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender.”
New: The U.S. just sent another $100 million in weapons to Ukraine, including “additional Javelin anti-armor systems, which the United States has been providing to Ukraine and they have been using so effectively to defend their country,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement Tuesday evening. Altogether, the U.S. has sent Kyiv about $2.4 billion in arms and equipment since Biden took office, and “more than $1.7 billion since the beginning of Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked invasion on February 24,” Kirby said.
Milley’s tank warning: “Because the Russians have not been effective in using their armor, it does not mean that armor is ineffective on the battlefield going forward," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. Mark Milley, told House lawmakers Tuesday. “It means that they were ineffective because of the things that they failed to do in this fight.”
Atrocity watch: Russians executed a village mayor from about 15 miles west of Kyiv; the troops then abandoned her “lifeless body in a shallow grave, her hands bound” while “Her husband and son lay next to her, dead,” according to the Wall Street Journal, reporting Tuesday from Motyzhyn.
Russians allegedly tried to kill every male below the age of 50 in Bucha, according to one 53-year-old survivor that ABC News interviewed Tuesday. “They gave him 20 minutes to bury his friends,” ABC’s James Longman reported. “I just wanted to protect them from the dogs,” he said, his hands still shaking from the trauma.
And drone footage reviewed by Bellingcat appears to show Russian forces killing a cyclist in Bucha in early March. See the footage and the digital forensics informing this understanding of events, via Bellingcat’s Twitter feed, here.
Even China’s United Nations envoy called the images from Bucha “very disturbing” in remarks to the world body Tuesday. Reuters also reports China’s “Ambassador Zhang Jun repeated Beijing's stance that sanctions are not effective in solving the Ukraine crisis but instead they accelerate the economic spillover.” Tiny bit more, here; or from the Associated Press, which notes that Zhang stopped short of assigning blame for the atrocities.
New: Russian troops are allegedly operating “filtration camps” for Ukrainians forcibly relocated inside Russia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S ambassador to the UN, said Tuesday. “Reports indicate that Russian Federal Security agents are confiscating passports and IDs, taking away cellphones, and separating families from one another,” she said. “I do not need to spell out what these so-called ‘filtration camps’ are reminiscent of. It’s chilling and we cannot look away.” She also called for Russia’s expulsion from the UN’s Human Rights Council, calling Moscow’s inclusion “the height of hypocrisy.”
In an odd bit of apparent tech news from Ukraine, Moscow’s forces are allegedly shipping stolen farm equipment back to Russia—and some of that stuff has GPS trackers that seem to reveal its new location.
Review the 63 Republican House lawmakers who voted no to reaffirm the United States’ “unequivocal support for [NATO] as an alliance founded on democratic principles” on Tuesday. There are many who will not surprise you, like Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Green, and Louie Gohmert from Texas. CNN’s Manu Raju shared a screenshot from the congressional record shortly afterward. The vote was a nonbinding resolution that also called for creating a “center for democratic resilience” within the alliance.
Britain’s top diplomat says 60% of Russia’s “war chest” is now frozen thanks to mounting sanctions against Moscow. That means “More than $350bn [£266bn] of Russia's $604bn foreign currency reserves are unavailable to the regime,” the BBC reported Tuesday after Foreign Minister Liz Truss spoke to reporters while standing beside her Polish counterpart. However, “Although Russian troops have been defeated in their initial assault on Kyiv, there has been no change in their intent and ambition,” Truss said. “We are seeing Putin's forces set their sights on the east and south of Ukraine, with the same reckless disregard for civilian lives and their nationhood,” she added.
More signs of changing winds in Berlin: 60% of Germans recently polled said they support sending “offensive weapons and heavy equipment” to Ukraine; only 29% were opposed to the idea. When it comes to cutting Russian natural gas, there’s less of a consensus—with 50% against the idea right now, and just 43% supporting the move, which could be the most damaging to Russian state coffers.
Romania just booted 10 Russian diplomats because their actions “contravene the Vienna Convention,” the Foreign Ministry reportedly announced Tuesday. And that follows news from the day prior that about a half-dozen other European countries already booted more than 100 Russian diplomats this week. Reuters has more.
A Romanian man died after ramming his car into the Russian Embassy in Romania’s capital city of Bucharest at about 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday. According to the Associated Press, “The case prosecutor who arrived at the scene told reporters that several containers with flammable substances were discovered inside the car, which will be examined by forensics experts.”
Twitter is adjusting its policies a bit because of the Russian invasion. The new changes involve blocking some videos that appear to show prisoners of war, citing Article 13 of Geneva Convention. Another update will stop recommending users follow Russian government accounts, the social media firm announced Tuesday. “This means these accounts won’t be amplified or recommended to people on Twitter, including across the Home Timeline, Explore, Search, and other places on the service,” Twitter said in its news blog. And “As the situation in Ukraine evolves, we’ll continue to iterate on our approach, focusing on reducing potential harm and surfacing reliable information.” More here.
- “World Bank says war shocks to drag on Asian economies,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday from Bangkok;
- “China state refiners shun new Russian oil trades,” via Reuters, reporting Wednesday from Singapore;
- “U.S. stops Russian bond payments, raising risk of default,” also via Reuters, reporting Tuesday;
- “Cyber Command chief: U.S. has 'stepped up' to protect Ukraine's networks,” via The Record, reporting Tuesday from posture hearings on Capitol Hill;
- “Unmasking ‘Clandestine,’ the Figure Behind the Viral “Ukrainian Biolab” Conspiracy Theory,” via the Anti-Defamation League, which alleges to have identified the relevant QAnon troll as “a self-described former restaurant manager and Army National Guard veteran living in rural Virginia”;
- And don’t miss “How America Watches for a Nuclear Strike,” via the New York Times, with the help of satellite imagery from Planet Labs, Capella Space, and Maxar, as well as a few nuclear historians.
From Defense One
Marines Push Light Amphib Warship While Navy Secretary Awaits Study // Caitlin M. Kenney: “I'm deeply committed to the LAW. I just want to make sure that it has the right balance,” Del Toro said.
Surprise! The Navy Declared Its Newest Carrier Battle-Ready Last Year // Marcus Weisgerber: USS Gerald R. Ford reached its initial operational capability in December, service leaders said Tuesday.
Are US Troops Still Training Ukrainians? // Elizabeth Howe: The military’s top officials did not clear things up on Tuesday.
Defense Secretary, Joint Chiefs Chair Rebuff Claims Vaccine Mandate Hurts Recruiting // Elizabeth Howe: GOP lawmakers try to pin recruiting, retention misses on DOD’s COVID requirements.
Satellite Firms Are Helping Debunk Russian Claims, Intel Chief Says // Tara Copp: Will the Pentagon protect those firms from enemy attack? It’s a “fairly sensitive conversation,” U.S. Space Command says.”
Don’t Sleep on Russian Information-War Capabilities // Alyssa Demus and Christopher Paul: Indeed, the Ukraine invasion should galvanize U.S. investment in its own messaging infrastructure.
L3Harris Stands Up Group to Speed Military Tech Development // Marcus Weisgerber: It’s the latest reorganization by CEO Chris Kubasik to help to win Pentagon business.
Sea-Air-Space 2022 Conference Wire: Battle-Ready Carrier // Caitlin M. Kenney: The USS Ford reached initial readiness in December, and other news from the naval conference's Day 2.
Space Symposium 2022 Conference Wire: Sky Eyes // Tara Copp: The intelligence community is relying on commercial satellite imagery to keep tabs on Russia, and more from Day 2.
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 1917, the U.S. declared war on Germany.
In a new first, the U.S. military “secretly” and successfully tested a hypersonic missile from Lockheed Martin about three weeks ago, CNN reported Tuesday. (A prior successful U.S. test used a missile designed by Raytheon; that happened this past September.) The Defense Department decided to keep the test “quiet for two weeks to avoid escalating tensions with Russia as President Joe Biden was about to travel to Europe,” officials told Oren Liebermann.
It’s called a Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept, and it was fired from a B-52 flying off the country’s west coast. “The vehicle reached altitudes greater than 65,000 feet and flew for more than 300 nautical miles,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced Tuesday. It addition to its speed, which makes it virtually impossible to intercept, DARPA said the HAWC’s “kinetic energy can effectively destroy targets even without high explosives.”
Also new: The U.S., U.K., and Australia announced a partnership in hypersonic weapon research on Tuesday. That development was buried in a host of pledges the three nations declared, which also included collaboration in cyber defense, autonomy, quantum technology, and electronic warfare. More on that from the White House, here.
You may recall Russian officials said they used a hypersonic missile in Ukraine last month; U.S. officials later said the Russians used that weapon “multiple” times during Moscow’s ongoing invasion. Read more in Defense One’s coverage, here.
The U.S. Air Force has picked a name for its new ICBM. It’s called the LGM-35A Sentinel, service officials announced Tuesday, and reminded us that ICBMs are “the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad,” with submarines and aircraft bombers as the other two. According to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, “The name Sentinel recognizes the mindset that thousands of Airmen, past and present, have brought to the deterrence mission, and will serve as a reminder for those who operate, secure, and maintain this system in the future about the discipline and responsibility their duty entails.”
On Tuesday, we also learned that America already had a “Sentinel” weapon; “it was the Chinese-oriented [anti-ballistic missile] system that followed Nike-X and, after only 18 months, was canceled in favor of the equally unimpressive Safeguard system.” That bit of trivia comes from Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies in Monterey, Calif.
One more nuclear-related headline: “South Korea's president-elect wants U.S. nuclear bombers, submarines to return,” via Reuters, reporting Wednesday from Seoul.
The U.S. just opened a new “cyber bureau” at the State Department. It’s actually called a “Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy,” and it opened its doors, as it were, for the first time on Monday. “Ultimately, the bureau will be led by a Senate-confirmed Ambassador-at-Large,” Foggy Bottom said in a statement. Until then, it will be led by Jennifer Bachus, a senior foreign service officer.
The bureau has three different specializations, including “International Cyberspace Security, International Information and Communications Policy, and Digital Freedom.”
Read more: “State Department launches cyberbureau amid concerns over Russia and China's digital authoritarianism,” via CNN, reporting Monday.
Soldiers in Mali reportedly killed approximately 300 civilians in late March during a hunt for suspected Islamist fighters. “The incident is the worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s decade-long armed conflict,” Human Rights Watch alleged in a detailed report Tuesday.
The Malian troops were joined by foreign soldiers, “identified by several sources as Russians,” according to HRW; these elements, some of which allegedly included soldiers who parachuted in as others landed in helicopters, “executed in small groups several hundred people who had been rounded up in Moura.” That’s according to more than two dozen witness accounts.
Bigger picture: These apparent atrocities “occurred amid a dramatic spike in unlawful killings of civilians and suspects since late 2021 by armed Islamist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara , and by Malian government security forces,” Human Rights Watch reports. Relatedly, “Armed Islamists have also killed scores of security force personnel since the beginning of 2022.” Much more detail, here.
Lastly today: Production delays at Boeing are slowing the already-slowed development of the next Air Force One. The latest “mishaps, which involved a pair of attempts to place one of the two jets under development onto jacks, risked damaging the aircraft,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
The aircraft is already nearly 18 months behind schedule, and Air Force officials are now expecting another six-month delay. A bit more, here.