Today's D Brief: $750M in new US arms to Ukraine; Weapons-makers at the Pentagon; Hesitation in Berlin; Putin's moving goalposts; And a bit more.
With more Russian elements spotted in Maxar satellite imagery moving toward Ukraine’s eastern Donbas, U.S. officials say they’re sending another batch of about $750 million in weapons to Kyiv’s military—and that’s likely to include howitzer heavy artillery systems, Reuters reported in an exclusive Tuesday. Details are expected as soon as Wednesday.
Russian units are still on the move about 35 miles north of Izium, Ukraine, which is seen as a key battleground in the coming days and weeks; but those units are not moving terribly fast, U.S. defense officials told reporters Tuesday. “It includes some command-and-control elements, some enablers and we think it's also intended for resupply, perhaps an effort to amend their poor performance and logistics and sustainment in the north,” the officials said.
Russia’s military is committing “genocide” in Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden said Tuesday. When asked about his remarks later in the day, he doubled down, and said, “I called it genocide because it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian, and the evidence is mounting.”
Vladimir Putin reframed his war aims in Ukraine on Tuesday. Recall that initially, the invasion’s goal was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine’s leadership (and, of course, Ukraine’s president is Jewish, so much of the non-Russian West rejected this goal as a deception). “We were forced to do it,” Putin said Tuesday, and added, “we couldn’t put up with it any longer” because “a clash was inevitable…it was just a matter of time.” More, including video of Putin’s remarks, from Max Seddon of Financial Times.
Ukraine’s president responded to Putin’s reframing, saying Tuesday, “We must understand that not all Russian tanks are stuck in fields, not all enemy soldiers simply flee the battlefield and not all of them are conscripts who do not know how to hold weapons properly.” But, he added, “This does not mean that we should be afraid of them. This means that we must not diminish the accomplishments of our fighters, our army.”
Get to better know Ukraine’s top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyy, “who's quietly leading the fight against Russia's invaders,” Politico reported in a profile published late last week.
And ICYMI: Putin formally appointed a commander for its Ukraine invasion last week. His name is Alexander Dvornikov. And like many Russian generals, he’s had experience in Syria—not that that guarantees success in Ukraine, as the first six weeks of the conflict have revealed. He previously commanded Russia’s southern military district, whose elements are advancing on southern Ukrainian cities like Mariupol. Many outlets rushed profiles of Dvornikov out following the announcement last week from Moscow; take your pick from the Washington Post, the Economist, CNN, NBC, Al-Jazeera, Financial Times, Voice of America and more.
Today at the Pentagon: America’s top eight arms manufacturers are meeting for about 90 minutes “to discuss the defense industry's capacity to meet Ukraine's weapons needs if the war with Russia continues for years,” Reuters reported in a separate exclusive on Tuesday. The list of eight are believed to include Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and L3 Harris Technologies.
The Brits say they’re sending more than 100 armored vehicles to Ukraine. That was one message Prime Minister Boris Johnson carried with him on his unannounced trip to Kyiv over the weekend. The UK is also sending more anti-tank weapons, as well as “loitering munitions” and Starstreak air-defense weapons.
Two days after British PM Johnson visited Kyiv, U.S. President Joe Biden called him up on Tuesday. The two leaders “affirmed their commitment to continue providing security and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in the face of ongoing atrocities by Russia,” according to a brief White House readout.
German officials are somewhat publicly trying to work out what weapons they can send to Ukraine, which is a decision that goes against decades of German defense policy. Berlin’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Monday (Politico) that “Now is not the time for excuses; now is the time for creativity and pragmatism,” since “Ukraine needs more military material, especially heavy weapons.” Germany has about 100 armored vehicles it could send to Kyiv, but the New York Times reported Tuesday that Chancellor Olaf Scholz is “dragging his feet” on that decision.
- Related reading: “German president scraps Ukraine visit after admitting he would not be welcome,” via Financial Times, reporting Tuesday—though the original report is from the German-language outlet Bild, here.
Still, Germany has hiked its defense spending since the invasion began, rising to “some €70 billion ($76 billion) a year, compared with France’s €41 billion ($44 billion),” according to the Times.
And French arms to Ukraine? They total about €120 million so far, which means France—“the EU’s strongest military power and one calling for European strategic autonomy,” as the Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov pointed out Tuesday—is being out-donated by tiny Estonia, with its roughly €220 million contribution announced one week ago.
Russian hackers allegedly breached Ukraine’s power grid, and planned to shut down key portions of it last Friday. But Slovakian cybersecurity firm ESET said Tuesday that it worked with Kyiv to thwart the attack. Details here.
New: Russia has violated International Humanitarian Law several times over, according to a 99-page report representing the views of 46 nations. The executive summary was released Tuesday in remarks from Romania’s ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe.
Documented allegations include “targeted killing, enforced disappearance or abductions of civilians,” and “systematic attacks directed against a civilian population.” The report states that “Any single violent act of this type, committed as part of such an attack and with the knowledge of it, would then constitute a crime against humanity.”
For your eyes only: Russia’s military took photojournalists on a guided tour of Mariupol on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse tagged along and filed this report.
Public service announcement: “Nuclear anxiety” is real, warns Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists. Why bring that up? “I'm typing a reply to a woman who wrote to me asking for assurance that we are not on the precipice of nuclear war because she was having suicidal thoughts,” Mount tweeted Tuesday, and added, “She's not the first.”
His advice: “Before you speak, write, or publish saying that we are in a nuclear crisis, think about why you are doing so. Is it to reduce allied involvement in the conflict, push a disarmament narrative, or to grab a headline? If so, don't.” More where that came from, here.
- “I Commanded U.S. Army Europe. Here's What I Saw in the Russian and Ukrainian Armies,” via retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, writing in The Bulwark on Monday;
- “Russia’s Ukraine Propaganda Has Turned Fully Genocidal,” via Foreign Policy, reporting Saturday;
- And “Washington Post columnist [Vladimir Kara-Murza] arrested in Moscow after criticizing Putin,” the Post reported Tuesday.
From Defense One
‘Lightning Carrier’ Concept Shows How Navy, Marine Corps Can Fly More F-35Bs from Amphibs // Caitlin M. Kenney: The USS Tripoli had 20 of the fifth-generation aircraft on board conducting flight operations during a recent demonstration.
DIA Warns China’s Space Tech Seeks to Block U.S. Radars, Jam Munitions // Tara Copp: Beijing’s rapid acquisition of counter-space capabilities is most worrisome, says a new 80-page Defense Intelligence Agency report.
US Looking at New Weapons to Help Ukraine Expand Distance and Range // Patrick Tucker: New package of Ukraine aid coming soon.
Russian Scientists Say They Have A New System to Monitor Attacks on the Russian Internet // Patrick Tucker: Attacks on Russian web services have grown considerably since the start of the invasion.
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 2017, POTUS45 Donald Trump ordered the U.S. military to use its largest non-nuclear bomb, a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, against alleged ISIS militants in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Despite allegedly killing nearly 100 fighters in the U.S. strike, ISIS would endure in Afghanistan. The U.S. military would not, and hastily exited four years later when the government in Kabul rapidly collapsed in August 2021, leaving the Taliban in charge once again.
The U.S. just proposed a big change to the United Nations Security Council veto: “This innovation would automatically convene a meeting of the General Assembly after a veto has been cast in the Security Council,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced Tuesday.
Why it matters: “We are particularly concerned by Russia’s shameful pattern of abusing its veto privilege over the past two decades,” Thomas-Greenfield said, “including its vetoes to kill a UN observer mission in Georgia, block accountability measures and chemical weapons investigations in Syria, prevent the establishment of a criminal tribunal on the downing of flight MH-17 over Ukraine, and protect President Putin from condemnation over his unprovoked and unjust war of choice against Ukraine.”
Should the measure succeed, which is a big “if” at this point, one could expect to see U.S. officials more fully explain occasions when it vetoes UN resolutions, as it has done repeatedly in support of Israel. More from Thomas-Greenfield’s message, here.
ICYMI: A Virginia Republican called for the lynching of Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin less than a month after POTUS46 took office in early 2021. After initially refusing to step down, that Republican official, an electoral board chairman, has finally resigned, the Associated Press reported Monday from Richmond.
His name: David Dietrich, and he was an electoral member in Hampton, Va. His offending Facebook post was dated Feb. 17, 2021, and it was written amid the conspiratorial ramblings that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the White House. “We are being forced into a corner by these enemies of the People,” Dietrich wrote. “If it is civil war they want, they will get it in spades. Perhaps the best way to pull us back from the brink is a good public lynching.” A local TV station unearthed the post only recently; but it “appeared to have been removed or made private by Monday,” AP reports. Read more, including remarks from the new Republican governor of the state disassociating himself from Dietrich’s words, here.
Seven paratroopers from Fort Bragg are facing courts martial on conspiracy charges related to the beheading of 21-year-old Spc. Enrique Roman-Martinez, whose severed head washed up on the North Carolina shore on May 28, 2020; his body was never found. The Fayetteville Observer on Tuesday relayed the latest details on this gruesome case, which also involves LSD use and false statements from several of the soldiers. The first case is scheduled for May 31; and the last one, involving a female soldier, isn’t expected until late September. Read more, here.
And lastly: Jacob Fracker, a Virginia National Guardsman who pleaded guilty last month to a federal conspiracy charge for his involvement in the Jan. 6 riot, is finally being removed from the National Guard, Military.com reported Tuesday. Fracker, an infantryman, was arrested a week after the riot and has not been allowed to perform any of his military duties while the charges against him were being adjudicated. Fracker was fired from his job as a police officer in Rocky Mount, N.C., almost immediately after he was arrested. Read more, here.