Today's D Brief: NATO chief at the WH; Yemen truce extended; Swedish aid?; Mass shooters getting younger; And a bit more.
NATO’s chief is visiting the White House today, where Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. President Joe Biden are expected to compare notes ahead of an alliance-wide summit hosted by Spain in late June.
Developing: The Biden administration wants to sell Ukraine four armed drones—MQ-1C Gray Eagles—according to Reuters, reporting Wednesday. The biggest bonus for Kyiv would seem to be the Gray Eagles’ flight time of some 30 hours or so, which would be a significant advantage over Ukraine’s current supply of Turkish-made Bayraktar-TB2 drones. A bit more from Reuters, here.
New: The Brits say they’re sending Ukraine precision-guided M270 launchers, with a range of about 50 miles, according to the Associated Press.
Update: Russia’s invading forces now control about 20% of Ukraine, according to Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy, who spoke to lawmakers in Luxembourg on Thursday. That estimate includes the annexed Crimean peninsula, as well as occupied Ukrainian territory in the east, which total about 125,000 square kilometers—a total that Zelenskyy said is “much greater” than the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg combined, Agence France-Presse reports.
Russia’s army is allegedly plagued with “desertions and insubordination,” according to documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal. One particularly concerning second-order effect? How can Kremlin officials “punish those who refuse to serve without drawing more attention to the issue,” the Journal’s Matthew Luxmoore writes, since it’s fairly well known that “The Russian military is short on manpower and seeking recruits to help turn the tide in Ukraine.”
Newsflash: A top Russian officer says Moscow’s soldiers have stopped dying in Ukraine. “There are wounded, but there are no such number of dead,” Colonel-General Andrey Kartapolov, who is in charge of Russia's defense committee, reportedly said this week. “We have practically ceased to lose people,” he added, crediting “a change in the approach to the tactics of warfare.”
Now Russians are blowing up bridges to slow Ukrainian counter attacks near the southern villages of Davydiv Brid and Velyka Oleksandrivka, according to analysts at the Institute for the Study of War. The bridges spanned the Inhulets River, and were reportedly destroyed on Tuesday. Otherwise, Russia seems to remain focused on surrounding Ukrainian troops “in the cauldron between Izyum and [the] Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,” ISW reports. More here.
According to the British military, “It is likely Russia will need at least a short tactical pause to re-set for opposed river crossings and subsequent attacks further into Donetsk Oblast, where Ukrainian armed forces have prepared defensive positions,” the Defense Ministry tweeted in its latest assessment Thursday. “To do so risks losing some of the momentum they have built over the last week.”
Coverage continues below the fold…
From Defense One
Military Families’ Hunger Often Worsened by Common Military Experiences, Reports Find // Caitlin M. Kenney: Research sheds light on the one in eight—or more—military families who experience food insecurity.
Latest Ukraine Arms Package Includes HIMARS, Mi-17s, and Thousands of Artillery Rounds // Tara Copp: DOD policy chief explains rationale for sending the most advanced artillery weapons yet.
NATO’s Next Strategic Concept Will Add China’s Threats, US Ambassador Says // Jacqueline Feldscher: The document is to be unveiled at next month’s summit, where Russia and potential members will also be on the agenda.
Welcome to this Thursday 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 2002, the groundbreaking and award-winning TV crime drama “The Wire,” created by Baltimore police reporter David Simon, debuted on HBO.
Sweden could be about to send more than $100 million in support to Ukraine, including anti-ship missiles, the prime minister tweeted Thursday as the parliament takes up the new legislation. Reuters has a tiny bit more.
Russia just cut off its natural gas flows to Denmark, which makes now at least five countries that Russia has done that to since invading Ukraine. “We still have gas in Denmark, and consumers can still have gas delivered,” a top Danish energy official said in a statement Monday, and added, “We have plans ready if the situation worsens.” The Associated Press has more.
- Related: Danish citizens just ended three decades of resistance and voted to join the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy. The referendum means now all EU members are on board with this defense and security framework. Reuters and CNN have more.
Ukraine’s latest battlefield forecast: “We are still looking at many months of conflict,” U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken said Wednesday while standing beside NATO chief Stoltenberg in Washington. “That could be over tomorrow if Russia chose to end the aggression,” he said, and noted, “We don’t see any signs of that right now.”
What about Turkey, whose leader strongly objects to expanding NATO to include Sweden and Finland, unless the two countries significantly reduce their support for several dozen members of the Kurdish diaspora that’s fled Turkey for northern Europe? “No other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey,” Stoltenberg said Wednesday. “And all NATO allies are of course ready to sit down and address those concerns, including the threats posed to Turkey” by Kurdish militants under the banner of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
BTW: Turkish President Recep Erdogan repeated his objections and demands in an op-ed published over the weekend in The Economist. Erdogan recounted a Turkish-centric history of NATO, and ways that he felt Ankara’s leaders have been sidelined by fellow alliance members going back several decades (Turkey joined the alliance in 1952). According to Erdogan, “we made legitimate and necessary demands upon NATO, as multiple civil wars broke out in Turkey’s neighborhood, to ensure the security of our borders and airspace as well as human security, as the largest refugee wave since World War II had emerged in the region. Largely abandoned, our country dealt with all those crises by itself and paid a high price during that effort.”
“Turkey maintains that the admission of Sweden and Finland entails risks for its own security and [NATO]’s future,” Erdogan wrote, before launching into his demands: “Turkey wants the candidate countries to curb the activities of all terrorist organisations and extradite the members of these organisations,” he said. “Terrorism is a threat for all members and the candidate countries should recognise this reality before joining. Unless they take necessary steps, Turkey will not change its position on this issue.” Review Turkey’s five demands before it says it will consider expanding NATO, here.
“Turkey is an important ally,” NATO’s Stoltenberg said Wednesday, “not least because of its strategic geographic location bordering Iraq and Syria. They have been important in our fight against ISIS, and also Black Sea country, close to Russia…When they raise concerns, of course, we sit down and we look into how we can find the united way forward.” (For what it’s worth, a spokesman for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wasn’t as kind as Stoltenberg. Reuters has more on that little splash of cold water for Ankara, here.)
- “Swiss veto Danish request to send armoured vehicles to Ukraine,” Reuters reported Wednesday from Zurich;
- “Refugee from Popasna spots looted possessions on Russian tank,” via the BBC, reporting Tuesday;
- “More than 15,000 suspected war crimes reported - Russian ministers and propagandists among those accused,” via Sky News, reporting Wednesday from Ukraine’s chief prosecutor;
- “The Middlemen at the Heart of an Oligarch-Industrial Complex,” via the New York Times, reporting Wednesday;
- “Europe’s Russian Oil Ban Could Mean a New World Order for Energy,” the Times reported separately on Wednesday;
- “In Russia, No Air Bags, Costly Toilets and Old Hollywood Movies Are Sanctions Fallout,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Thursday; and don’t miss the Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov, reporting Thursday from Kharkiv, where Ukrainian intel officials “are hunting for citizens that they view as abetting the enemy.”
Disturbing new stateside trend: Americans 21 or younger carried out six of the country’s nine deadliest mass shootings since 2018, the New York Times reports, calling it “a shift from earlier decades.”
A gunman used an assault rifle and a handgun as he killed four people in Tulsa on Wednesday. This latest mass shooting occurred on the second floor of a doctor’s office, and using an assault rifle purchased that very day, federal officials told CNN. The shooter—seemingly in his 30s—apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound; it’s unclear what motivated him to attack, police officials said Wednesday evening. Reuters and AP have more.
- “Fact-check: Did the number of mass shootings triple after the assault weapon ban ended?” from Politifact, via the Austin American-Statesman;
- “In Britain, it took just one school shooting to pass major gun control,” NPR reported Wednesday;
- And “There Are Hundreds of Thousands of School-Shooting Survivors, Their Lives Forever Altered,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Thursday.
Lastly today: Yemen’s two-month-old ceasefire will continue, thanks to last-minute negotiations mediated by the United Nations between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels, Al Jazeera and others reported.
UN: “I would like to announce that the parties to the conflict have agreed to the United Nations’ proposal to renew the current truce in Yemen for two additional months,” UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said Thursday, the day the ceasefire was to expire.
The original agreement paused the war for the first time since 2016, largely eliminating combat and allowing the first commercial airline flights out of Sanaa in more than five years.
Yet some of its terms remain unfulfilled. For example, the Houthis have refused to reopen roads leading to Yemen’s third-largest city, Taiz.
And the sides remain far apart. “The Houthis are ready for war,” Maysaa Shuja al-Deen, a senior researcher at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, told Al Jazeera. For them, peace means accepting their conditions, most notably not making any concessions regarding the territory under their control, and that has become their own state.” Read on, here.