Today's D Brief: Ukraine's growing confidence; DepSecDef in Europe; Biden's Asia trip; Taiwan's defense; And a bit more.
We’re nearly 90 days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Kyiv’s leaders are increasingly emboldened in their war aims, including not giving away any territory—like Crimea—while Ukraine’s military intelligence chief says he’s ready to fight until the last Russian has gone home.
“The war must end with the complete restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty,” said Ukrainian presidential advisor Andryi Yermak Sunday on Twitter. “That is, our victory. Our common victory with the civilized world,” he wrote.
“I don’t know any borders except the borders of 1991,” said Ukraine’s military intel chief, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, to the Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov on Friday. Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. “Russia will lose in the end and Ukraine will recover all its temporarily lost territories. It will do so by force, exclusively by force, because no other way exists,” the 36-year-old Budanov said.
Poland’s president agreed, saying Sunday that “Half-measures should not be used when aggression should be stopped,” and “Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future,” according to Reuters.
Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas agrees especially strongly, telling the New York Times in an interview last week, “I only see a solution as a military victory that could end this once and for all, and also punishing the aggressor for what he has done.” If Russia’s Vladimir Putin goes unpunished for stealing territory, “we go back to where we started—you will have a pause of one year, two years, and then everything will continue.”
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin joined a Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting Monday morning. Defense Secretary Austin rang his Ukrainian counterpart just three days before, on Friday, which was at least the fourth time the two have chatted this month.
Austin’s deputy, Kathleen Hicks, is visiting Norway, Germany, and the UK “to deepen relationships and reinforce the importance of Allies and partners to counter strategic competitors like Russia and China,” according to a preview from the Pentagon. Recall that U.S. officials reportedly (Reuters) want to send Ukraine anti-ship missiles, and a good candidate for that could come from Norway’s stockpiles of Naval Strike Missiles.
New: SecDef Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley are scheduled to speak to reporters in a rare briefing at the Pentagon just before noon. The last time the two spoke to reporters publicly appears to have been in late January; Austin had just spoken to his Polish counterpart at the time, and the SecDef’s messaging largely concerned protecting NATO allies from potential Russian aggression. At the time, nearly 100,000 Russian forces had been arrayed for alleged exercises to the south, east, and north of Ukraine. Those troops would invade four weeks later.
ICYMI: Milley spoke to his Russian counterpart last week for the first time since Putin’s forces invaded. That call happened Thursday, May 19—the same day Milley spoke with military leaders from Finland, Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK. Milley rang his Ukrainian counterpart three days later, on Sunday. Read over the Joint Staff’s terse readout from that one, here.
- “Pentagon Weighs Deploying Special Forces to Guard Kyiv Embassy,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Sunday;
- “After 3 months of war, life in Russia has profoundly changed,” via the Associated Press, reporting Monday;
- “Russian diplomat resigns protesting Putin’s ‘aggressive war’,” via the Washington Post, reporting Monday;
- “Russian rouble leaps to near 7-year high vs euro,” via Reuters, amid artificial price controls in effect by Moscow;
- “Zelenskyy urges ‘maximum’ sanctions on Russia in Davos talk,” via AP, reporting separately from Switzerland;
- “Starbucks will exit Russia after 15 years, closing 130 licensed cafes,” via CNBC, reporting Monday;
- And “Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin jailed for life over war crime,” via the BBC, reporting Monday from Kyiv.
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Welcome to this Monday 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 1618, growing tensions between the reformation and counter-reformation movements in Europe sparked the so-called “Thirty Years War” when Protestant nobles tossed three Catholic delegates out of a 70-foot high castle window and to their presumed death. The three survived the fall, but revolts against Catholic rule soon spread throughout Bohemia, and eventually involved nearly all of Europe's seats of power—from Spain to the Ottomans, all the way to Denmark and Sweden. Between four and eight million people died during these three decades of conflict, whose concluding peace treaty informed our definition of international sovereignty, and almost immediately preceded what we call the Enlightenment.
President Joe Biden is in Japan today for the second leg of his five-day trip to the Asia-Pacific, with stops in Seoul and Japan. Here are a few of the top takeaways from Biden’s first trip to the Pacific as POTUS:
- More U.S. military exercises with Seoul could be coming;
- Biden launched his economic plan for the region, “the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity,” noting that “the Indo-Pacific covers half the population of the world and more than 60 percent of the global GDP.” The plan includes new trade rules for digital goods and services, supply chain commitments designed to “eliminate bottlenecks in critical supply chains,” and new environmental commitments. AP has more on that plan, here;
- The U.S. is willing to use military force to defend Taiwan if necessary, Biden told a reporter during a joint news conference, Reuters reports this morning. “That’s the commitment we made,” he said.
Biden met with Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio at the Imperial and Akasaka Palaces, respectively, in Tokyo on Monday. Topics like the pandemic, regional economics, climate change, and the nuclear threat from North Korea led Biden’s agenda, according to the White House.
On Tuesday, “Quad” leaders are meeting in Tokyo, which brings together the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S. Afterward, Biden has bilateral meetings planned with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as Australia’s new Prime Minister-Designate Anthony Albanese.
And lastly: Today in Washington, the future of U.S. missile defense is the focus of a morning event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Missile Defense Agency's Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill headlines that hourlong morning session, which begins at 10:45 a.m. ET. Details and livestream here.