Today's D Brief: More US arms to Ukraine; Kyiv's PM at the Pentagon; Russia's May 9 plans; Putin's ICBM; And a bit more.
NEW: The U.S. is sending another $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, President Joe Biden announced Thursday from the White House. This latest tranche will include heavy artillery—including more howitzers—and more tactical drones and ammunition to help the Ukrainian forces fight Russia in the Donbas. It also pushes the total U.S. military aid to Kyiv over the $4 billion mark since Biden took office, and more than $3.4 billion since the invasion began on Feb. 24.
That means “This batch of aid has nearly exhausted the money Congress already authorized to support Ukraine,” our colleague Jacqueline Feldscher reports. That’s why Biden said Thursday that he'll send a new supplemental budget request to Capitol Hill next week to help keep the flow of arms open.
The new package includes 72 155mm Howitzers and 144,000 artillery rounds; 72 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers; more than 120 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems; and “field equipment and spare parts,” according to the Defense Department. “This commitment, together with the 18 155mm howitzers announced on April 13, provides enough artillery systems to equip five battalions,” Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
“To modernize Teddy Roosevelt’s famous advice,” Biden said Thursday, “‘Sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large javelin.’ Because we’re sending a lot of those in as well.” More in video from ABC News, here.
By the way: Germany’s foreign minister says Berlin knows how to hold its tongue when it comes to arming Kyiv. “We have delivered anti-tank missiles, Stingers, and other things that we have never spoken about publicly so these deliveries could happen quickly,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock reportedly said Wednesday during a visit to Latvia.
The Czech Republic’s defense chief dropped by the Pentagon this morning, where Minister Jana Černochová was met by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and an enhanced honor cordon ceremony at 10:30 a.m ET. You may recall the Czech military announced on Tuesday that they’d begin repairing Ukrainian tanks and other hardware damaged from Russia’s invasion. Reuters and AP have a tiny bit more on that initiative. (Poland’s defense chief dropped by the Pentagon on Wednesday; here’s the Defense Department’s short readout from that visit.)
And Ukraine’s prime minister is visiting the Pentagon in the afternoon, following a morning visit to the White House to speak with President Joe Biden (readout here). Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal is expected across the Potomac at around 1 p.m. ET, according to the Defense Department.
In Ukraine: The humanitarian corridor for Mariupol fell apart Wednesday, just a few short hours after it was announced by Kyiv’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. She alleged Russian forces violated the ceasefire, and failed to send evacuees to the agreed-upon point where they could be picked up by ambulances and buses.
- Related reading: “Russia Says It Controls Mariupol, but Ukrainian Troops Hold Out in Steel Plant,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Thursday; and “Putin claims Mariupol win but won’t storm Ukrainian holdout,” via the Associated Press.
Update: Russia is planning a parade through Mariupol for “Victory Day” on May 9, after making “grinding progress against remaining Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Works” on Wednesday, according to analysts at the Institute for the Study of War.
Heads up: Russia just launched its new ICBM in a test Vladimir Putin said will “make those who, in the heat of frenzied, aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country, think” again. That, anyway, was the message from state-run media, TASS.
BTW: Russia gave the U.S. advance notice of the launch, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters Wednesday. See hi-res video of the Sarmat “heavy” ICBM launch, here; see a few of the U.S. aircraft that likely got a good look at that launch, via a plane-spotting Twitter account, here.
One critic says: “So much of this reeks of Hitler's ‘wonder weapons’ of World War II,” Phillips O'Brien of the UK’s University of St. Andrews tweeted after the Sarmat launch Wednesday. “I'm old enough to remember when whiz-bang Russian hypersonic missiles were going to turn the tide of war.”
When it comes to cyber warfare, that front has seemingly been very quiet over the past several weeks. But lots has been happening all the while, according to Micah Lee of the Intercept. “For [the] first time in internet history Russia is fair game for cyber attacks, and this is what it looks like,” he wrote in an explanatory Twitter thread Wednesday.
In Europe: Slovakian investigators have uncovered a Russian spy network that “shows in microcosm how the Kremlin has sought to win influence and sow discord on Europe’s formerly communist eastern fringe by leveraging spies, paid helpers, far-right nationalists, and disinformation-spouting media,” the New York Times reported Wednesday from the eastern city of Košice, just north of the Hungarian border. (Sound familiar? You may remember just over a month ago we highlighted the hidden-camera video from Slovakian officials that blew the lid off this story.)
Bigger picture: “Russia’s push for influence, officials say, kicked into high gear after its 2014 annexation of Crimea and initial invasion of eastern Ukraine, generating a flood of Russian disinformation in Slovakia and across the region,” Andrew Higgins of the Times writes. “Friendly outlets routinely portray Russia as a champion of peace and lodestar of Christian values, while casting NATO as a warmongering menace.” More here.
ICYMI: POTUS46 was a bit reflective Wednesday evening at a dinner with SecDef Austin and the Joint Chiefs. “When I was a kid in the United States Senate in my 30s and in my 40s, I was chairman of the NATO subcommittee [at] the Foreign Relations Committee,” President Biden told U.S. military leaders Wednesday evening during a dinner at the White House. “Not because of me or any particular thing, but I've never seen NATO as united,” he said. “Even though I've been Vice President for 8 years and a senator for 36, I didn't fully appreciate how the rest of the world literally looks to us as the leader of the free world. I mean, looks to us in very precise, specific ways. And [that’s] something you all fully, fully understand,” said Biden.
One national security veteran’s advice: “The U.S. government must return to statecraft,” argues Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, writing in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. While he spends his time advocating for a whole lot more than just statecraft; to him, that specific entails “a fine-grained comprehension of the world, the ability to quickly detect and respond to challenges, a penchant for exploiting opportunities as they arise, and, behind all of this, effective institutions for the formulation and conduct of a nimble foreign policy.” He ends his essay with a callback to POTUS26 Theodore Roosevelt, who “balanced ideals and interests,” was “relentlessly curious about the world in which he operated,” and spent much of his time “reading in foreign languages and traveling widely.” More to all that, here.
- “Ukrainian, U.S., E.U. officials walk out of G-20 when Russia speaks,” via the Washington Post, reporting Wednesday;
- “SpaceX beating Russian jamming attack was ‘eyewatering’: DoD official,” via Breaking Defense, reporting Wednesday from a conference organized by C4ISRNET;
- And here’s a new plan for tightening the economic screws for Putin via an “Action Plan on Strengthening Sanctions against the Russian Federation,” from Stanford’s International Working Group on Russian Sanctions.
From Defense One
The Navy’s New Long-Range Shipbuilding Plan Is More Like a Menu // Bradley Peniston and Caitlin M. Kenney: With uncertainty rising at home and abroad, service leaders decided to offer Congress a trio of scenarios.
Biden’s No. 2 Defense Industry Policy Official Leaves Post // Marcus Weisgerber: It’s unclear why Jesse Salazar has left, the latest in a string of recent Pentagon departures.
Space Force Trying to Prep Old Satellites for New Threats by 2026 // Patrick Tucker: Russia and China are developing new space weapons faster than the U.S. can field new constellations. That’s forcing a big rethink on how to keep the lights on in space.
Poland Won’t Recognize Russian Gains in Ukraine, Ambassador Says // Jacqueline Feldscher: The ambassador said European allies will face “tremendous pressure” to return relations with Russia to normal after the war.
Soldiers Will Have to Wait Until Next Year for New Rifle, Ammo // Caitlin M. Kenney: Sig Sauer’s decade-long contract to make the weapons leads off with a tiny order for quality testing.
NATO Should Start Preparing Troops For a Nuclear Battlefield // Jonathan D. Moreno: Our own history can help prepare for the physical and psychological effects should Russia use tactical nukes in the next conflict.
The Military's 5G Gear Could Be Obsolete When It's Fielded // Lauren C. Williams: "Time to market" is the Navy's chief digital innovation officer's biggest 5G concern, after security.
Welcome to this Thursday 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 1918, German pilot Manfred von Richthofen, aka “the Red Baron,” was shot down over northern France.
China’s Xi Jinping just announced a new “global security initiative,” but he did not detail enough of it for anyone to know what he’s talking about, Reuters reports from the sidelines of an annual conference known as the Boao Asia Forum.
In his own words: “We should uphold the principle of indivisibility of security, build a balanced, effective, and sustainable security architecture, and oppose the building of national security on the basis of insecurity in other countries,” Xi said in a video speech.
Updating: The captions about an ongoing Chinese invasion of Taiwan that accidentally aired Wednesday on local TV in Taipei…those were meant to air during a series of drills planned for early May. The Guardian has more, here.
In an apparent new first, an alleged Russian militant with the Wagner group was recently killed in Mali, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday, calling it the first confirmed Russian death there since the military junta began working with Moscow’s paramilitary advisors.
He was reportedly “in his 30s,” according to a hospital source, and he was killed in an IED attack Tuesday near the south-central town of Hombori. A bit more, here.
Meanwhile in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces have allegedly sold $2.5 billion in oil beneath Block 26, in northeastern Syria, according to a man named John Bell, who is the managing director of Gulfsands Petroleum, a London-based oil and gas company that’s reportedly the operator and joint-owner of that tract of land. The Syria Report has that interview, here.
This week in #LongReads: Take a trip out to a secluded, picturesque Montana ranch located on the dry, brown margins of nuclear silo territory. The writer/photographer duo of Eli Saslow and Demetrius Freeman recently traveled out there and filed a curious and unusual report for the Washington Post. They visited 78-year-old Ed Butcher, out near Winifred, in north-central Montana. It’s rural land in what’s sometimes referred to as America’s “nuclear sponge.” Ed and his wife, Pam, explain what it’s been like to live through the end of the Cold War, and all the way to Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling here in 2022. Dive in, here.
Lastly: Golden Knights prompt Capitol complex evacuation. A U.S. Army plane carrying the Golden Knights parachute demonstration team to Nationals stadium caused a significant stir Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol building.
What happened: Shortly after 6:30 p.m., the Capitol Police sent an email saying, “Evacuate Now: Aircraft Intrusion,” as an alarm blared, according to CNN. The FAA and the Army are now investigating the event. In the hours since, House Majority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi slammed the FAA in a statement for its “apparent failure to notify Capitol Police of the pre-planned flyover,” calling it “outrageous and inexcusable.”
FWIW: The Golden Knights completed the jump after the all-clear was given.