Today's D Brief: Ukraine to get HIMARS; China buzzes Taiwan; Green Beret planning cell; Election-interference forecast; And a bit more.
Ukraine is about to receive new long-range rockets from the U.S., but on the condition that it won’t use them to strike inside Russia. And Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy seems to have consented to that condition, according to an interview Tuesday evening with Newsmax. “We are not fighting on their territory. We have the war on our territory,” Zelenskyy said. “We’re not interested in the Russian Federation,” he added.
About those rockets: They’re from the U.S. military’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, with a range of about 48 miles. (Zelenskyy has requested systems with a range of “at least 75 miles,” according to the Wall Street Journal.) Our colleague Tara Copp has a bit more on the incoming U.S. arms, here.
POTUS46: “I’ve decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine,” U.S. President Joe Biden wrote in an opinion column published Tuesday in the New York Times. “We will continue providing Ukraine with advanced weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, powerful artillery and precision rocket systems, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters and ammunition.”
“We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” Biden wrote. “We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia. As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow. So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces.”
“Russia continues to wage a war to take control of as much of Ukraine as it can,” Biden said. “Unprovoked aggression, the bombing of maternity hospitals and centers of culture, and the forced displacement of millions of people makes the war in Ukraine a profound moral issue.”
Why does Ukraine matter? “It is in our vital national interests to ensure a peaceful and stable Europe and to make it clear that might does not make right,” the president argued. “If Russia does not pay a heavy price for its actions, it will send a message to other would-be aggressors that they too can seize territory and subjugate other countries. It will put the survival of other peaceful democracies at risk. And it could mark the end of the rules-based international order and open the door to aggression elsewhere, with catastrophic consequences the world over.”
Looking ahead, Biden promised, “Americans will stay the course with the Ukrainian people because we understand that freedom is not free. That’s what we have always done whenever the enemies of freedom seek to bully and oppress innocent people, and it is what we are doing now.” Read the rest, here.
New: Germany is sending Ukraine anti-aircraft rockets and radars, including its “state-of-the-art IRIS-T system, which protects large cities from air raids,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Wednesday. “It would be arrogant and inappropriate to talk about war aims in this country. Only the Ukrainians and their President decide on the conditions for peace,” Scholz said, adding, “Our goal is that Putin doesn’t win and Ukraine can defend itself.”
On the battlefield, Ukrainian troops continue to lose ground in the eastern city of Severodonetsk, according to the Institute for the Study of War. Kyiv’s decision “to avoid committing more resources to saving Severodonetsk and the decision to withdraw from it were strategically sound, however painful,” ISW writes. Meanwhile, Ukrainian “defensive operations pushed the Russians almost out of artillery range of Kharkiv City and have stopped the Russian advances from Izyum—both of which are more important accomplishments than the defense of Severodonetsk.”
Russia is expected to soon continue on to Severodonetsk’s “smaller twin Lysychansk on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets river,” Reuters reports. With those two cities, Russia “will hold all of Luhansk, one of two provinces in the Donbas that Moscow claims on behalf of separatists and a key war aim of President Vladimir Putin.”
For what it’s worth: The commander of Putin’s invasion hasn’t been seen in two weeks, “leading some officials to speculate as to whether he remains in charge of the war effort,” the New York Times reported Tuesday in a broader piece on some of the persistent tactical failures of Russia’s military.
One POV: “There are some deep flaws in the Russian army that they could not have repaired in the last few weeks even if they had tried,” Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute told the Times.
- “Russia Targets Ukraine’s Rail Links for Military Gains,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Tuesday;
- “Report: China bars Russian airlines with foreign planes,” via the Associated Press, regarding reporting from Russian news outlet RBK;
- And “Sanctioned Russian oligarch’s megayacht hides in a UAE creek,” also via AP, reporting from the UAE.
From Defense One
US to Send Ukraine Advanced Rockets; Kyiv Promises Not to Fire Into Russia // Tara Copp: The fourth large arms package announced by the administration includes HIMARS for defensive use only, as Biden eyes “negotiating table.”
Three More Nations Join Ukraine Planning Cell Run By Army Special Forces // Caitlin M. Kenney: Army secretary says U.S. intelligence may help Ukrainian convoys evade Russians.
‘Cultural Artifacts’ Are Keeping DOD From Going Big on AI // Lauren C. Williams: Policy, budgets, and budget execution are getting in the way, the outgoing head of the joint AI center says.
A Navy ‘Cattle Drive’ Has Saved $150M in IT Costs // Lauren C. Williams: The service's two-year-old effort to consolidate computer systems is to be duplicated across the Pentagon.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1907, the man who would invent the jet engine—aviator and engineer Frank Whittle—was born in the British city of Coventry.
China’s air and naval forces flexed their muscles around Taiwan recently, including 30 Chinese aircraft that reportedly entered Taepei’s air defense identification zone on Monday—up from five and seven in the previous days, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry. It happened because U.S. officials are “instigating support for Taiwan independence forces, which will push Taiwan into a dangerous situation,” the Chinese army’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement Wednesday, according to Reuters. Tiny bit more, here.
From the region:
- “US senator visits Taiwan as China ups military threat,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday from Taipei, where Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth recently traveled.
The “world’s biggest naval exercises” (RIMPAC) are taking place at the end of the month around Hawaii and California. More than two dozen nations plan to be involved—including India, Thailand, and the Philippines, the South China Morning Post reported Wednesday in a preview. “It will also involve land forces from nine countries, and a total of 25,000 personnel will take part.” More, here.
China’s top diplomat just warned against countries “monopolizing” the definition of democracy. He also pledged to “work together with Russia and the global community to promote real democracy based on nations’ own conditions,” according to remarks Wednesday from Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Wang sidestepped any mention of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, and insisted, “China and Russia should continue to join hands with peace-loving countries in the world to safeguard the global order with the UN at its core and based on international laws.” Bloomberg has more, here.
- “China’s spies are not always as good as advertised,” via The Economist, writing Wednesday.
- “Shanghai Ready to Exit Lockdown as Covid Cases Drop,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Tuesday.
With America’s midterm elections five months away, here’s a preview of possible interference by China, Iran, and Russia. Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute has drafted a useful resource and retrospective spanning the work of what he calls this “triad of authoritarian regimes.”
When it comes to Russia, the country “remains the principal state interfering in U.S. elections,” Watts warns, “but with their attention diverted by their war in Ukraine…it remains to be seen if they have the resources to mount a sustained influence campaign.”
Iran, which was 2020’s “surprise player,” may add to its growing list of clumsy, yet occasionally successful interference operations. Those, Watts says, were numerous and “imposed mild costs by stoking chaos around the U.S. election.”
China may continue to lay relatively low, but not for lack of trying. Rather, “the reach of their message remains limited by their dearth of convincing messengers,” Watts writes. As to the message, he expects midterm content to focus on “Big Tech, trade negotiations, [and] overseas manufacturing,” since “Congress has the power to determine U.S. government spending and regulations for U.S. trade and technology.” A strong economy also matters greatly to officials in Beijing because the country is presently still emerging from Covid lockdowns in major cities like Shanghai.
Bottom line: Hack-and-dump operations are still seen as the most impactful way to disrupt or interfere. “Compared to Iran and China, Russia remains the only country willing and able to undertake surgical hacks to influence political outcomes.” Read more, here.
And here are a few links from the domestic front:
- “Help Wanted: State Misinformation Sheriff,” via the New York Times, reporting Tuesday on developing efforts across Connecticut, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, and California.
- “In More Than 100 G.O.P. Midterm Ads This Year: Guns, Guns, Guns,” also via the Times, reporting last week.
- “‘It’s going to be an army’: Tapes reveal GOP plan to contest elections,” via Politico, reporting Wednesday.
- “Arizona lawmakers hear from election conspiracy theorists,” via the Associated Press, reporting Wednesday from Phoenix.
- And this latest iteration of that classic narrative of civic engagement, “Election returns show state senator losing by single vote,” also via AP, reporting Tuesday from Alabama.