Today's D Brief: Putin's Ukraine invasion, day 100; Biden's gun violence plea; China's new carrier; IS-KP's growing ambitions; And a bit more.
It is the 100th day of Vladimir Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine, and his forces are on the verge of capturing all of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk Oblast before turning to the adjacent Donetsk Oblast.
“Russia controls over 90% of Luhansk Oblast and is likely to complete control in the next two weeks,” the British military said Friday. However, “Measured against Russia’s original plan, none of the strategic objectives have been achieved. In order for Russia to achieve any form of success will require continued huge investment of manpower and equipment, and is likely to take considerable further time.”
One big obstacle for Putin’s invading troops appears to be “terrain in the Donbas,” which is expected to pose challenges as Russian units cross the Siverskyi Donets River “to complete the encirclement of Severodonetsk-Lysychansk and make further advances westward of Lyman towards Slovyansk via Raihorodok,” according to the Institute for the Study of War. Reuters has the latest from Severodonetsk, here.
Otherwise, manpower and morale still appear to be issues for Russia, according to ISW, citing Ukrainian officials. For example, a “Spokesperson for the Odesa Military Administration Maksym Marchenko stated that 30 to 40% of Russian personnel that rotated out of Ukraine refused to return, forcing Russian commanders to send unprepared and unmotivated units back into combat.” (There were similar reports published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal.)
What does Ukraine’s military chief want at this stage? More weapons, and just basically more of everything, he told a crowd in Bratislava on Friday. Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron led the discussion and has more in his Twitter feed.
Ordinary Lithuanians chipped in to buy Ukraine an armed drone from Turkey, according to the manufacturer of Bayraktar TB2s. “Upon learning this, Baykar will gift a Bayraktar TB2 to Lithuania free of charge and asks those funds go to Ukraine for humanitarian aid,” the company tweeted Thursday.
Word of warning: Now is not the time for gloating over Russian losses, Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Michael Kofman of the Center for New American Security cautioned Thursday in the op-ed pages of the New York Times. “Yes, President Vladimir Putin made a strategic blunder, leading to a military debacle and destroying decades of relative economic stability,” they write. “But it’s far too soon to write Russia off.”
After all, “Russia’s more destructive military capabilities” remain intact. That would include Moscow’s “submarines, integrated air and missile systems, electronic warfare, anti-satellite systems, and diverse nuclear arsenal.” And sanctions? Those may not bite in terribly significant ways for several months still, which would seem to suggest “America and its allies must remain prepared to manage the spectrum of challenges that Russia poses, however beleaguered by war it may be.” More where that came from, here.
What questions do you have about the ongoing war in Ukraine? We’re assembling another trifecta of interviews on the topic for our next podcast episode, and we’d love to hear your thoughts. Send us an email here.
- “Not Built for Purpose: The Russian Military’s Ill-Fated Force Design,” via Michael Kofman again and Rob Lee of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, writing in War on the Rocks Thursday;
- “‘Everything is gone’: Russian business hit hard by tech sanctions,” via Financial Times, reporting Thursday;
- “Beijing chafes at Moscow’s requests for support, Chinese officials say,” via the Washington Post, reporting Thursday;
- “Black Sea Grain Talks Gain Steam as Russia, Turkey Eye Cooperation,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Wednesday;
- “Russia summons heads of U.S. media outlets, warns of 'stringent measures',” via Reuters, reporting Friday;
- And “Russia may be in Ukraine to stay after 100 days of war,” is the Associated Press’s big-picture take at this admittedly superfluous conflict marker.
From Defense One
US Army Delays Doctrine Release to Incorporate Lessons from Ukraine // Caitlin M. Kenney: A service team is in Europe talking to Ukrainian troops and U.S. trainers, gathering information to refine its multi-domain operations playbook.
B-21’s First Flight Slips to 2023, But That’s Still Ahead of Schedule, Northrop CEO Says // Marcus Weisgerber: The classified bomber was initially expected to fly last December.
US Pushing Regional Monitoring Body to Extend Russian War-Crimes Inquest // Patrick Tucker: The OSCE already did one fact-finding mission in March; U.S. diplomats are whipping up support for another.
More Military Education Should Be Like the ‘Strategic Thinkers Program’ // Paula Thornhill: PME schools should move beyond a minimal standard toward the demanding education students deserve.
How the Pentagon Plans to Manage Inflation in Contracts // Lauren C. Williams: Contracting officers are told to "be mindful" of rising costs but to "limit the scope" of adjustment clauses.
Welcome to this Friday 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 1940, the bold and dangerous Allied retreat from Dunkirk, France, was completed at the conclusion of a nine-day evacuation later memorialized in a 2017 film of the same name from British auteur Christopher Nolan.
POTUS46: America should reinstate its ban on assault-style weapons, President Joe Biden told the country in a rare televised address Thursday evening. Or if lawmakers won’t do that, they should ban high-capacity magazines and raise the minimum age for purchasing weapons to 21 (from 18), and strengthen background checks. All of which are plans that “have been rejected by Republicans and have no plausible path to passage,” as the Wall Street Journal wrote Friday morning.
“This isn’t about taking away anyone’s rights; it’s about protecting children,” Biden said. “It’s about protecting our freedoms to go to school, to a grocery store, and to a church without being shot and killed…Over the last two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined,” he said.
“But, as we know, in order to get anything done in the Senate, we need a minimum of 10 Republican senators,” the president continued. “I support the bipartisan efforts that include a small group of Democrats and Republican senators trying to find a way,” Biden said. (Read more on those efforts from The Hill, Politico, or NBC News.) “But my God, the fact that the majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find unconscionable.”
House Democrats passed legislation this week bumping the purchasing age to 21 and banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. But no one expects that to go anywhere in the upper chamber, as Biden alluded.
“How much more carnage are we willing to accept?” the president asked in his remarks Thursday evening. “How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say: Enough. Enough.”
- “Voters Say They Want Gun Control. Their Votes Say Something Different,” via the New York Times, reporting Friday;
- Or read about Sen. John Cornyn, “The Texas conservative turned Biden-approved 'rational Republican' on guns,” according to Politico, reporting Friday.
China’s third aircraft carrier appears to be close to being ready, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday after satellite imagery showed suggestive naval activity around where it’s being built in Shanghai's Jiangnan Shipyard.
Rewind: China’s second carrier, Shandong, entered service in Oct. 2020. And Beijing’s first, a converted Soviet vessel known as the Liaoning, has been used in Chinese exercises since at least 2016.
But for this third carrier, referred to as “Type 003,” satellite “imagery taken May 31 by Maxar Technologies shows that the dry dock where the ship had been under construction has been cleared of smaller ships and boatyard work that previous imagery showed had been there just 10 days ago.” China-watcher Matthew Funaiole of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said clearing out those smaller ships “would enable the Chinese navy to launch the carrier into the Yangtze River.”
Fine print: “It could still be years before the carrier is fully operational,” and “China still has a way to go to make a next-generation fighter, the Chengdu J-20, compatible for carriers.” Continue reading, here.
ISIS in Afghanistan is reportedly trying to grow its ranks in neighboring Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, according to Peter Mills of the Institute for the Study of War. Known more formally as Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-KP, “The group has carried out attacks in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan in recent months, some of which were part of a global Islamic State campaign of attacks called “Revenge of the Two Sheikhs,’” Mills wrote in a new assessment published Wednesday.
The Uzbek attacks happened on April 18 when ISIS fighters launched “ten 107mm rockets from northern Afghanistan toward Termez in Uzbekistan,” to little apparent effect. However, “Shortly afterward, the Uzbek military flew at least 35 helicopters and several jets in a significant show of force along the border with Afghanistan.” The Tajik attacks happened on May 7, and involved seven rockets fired from Takhar province and toward alleged Tajik military targets along the Tajik-Afghan border.
Why it matters: “These attacks indicate that IS-KP has regional ambitions beyond Afghanistan,” and that its “capabilities are likely growing in northern Afghanistan,” Mills warns. Meanwhile, “The Taliban government appears to be prioritizing the threat from the non-IS opposition…In the absence of sufficient pressure, IS-KP will likely continue growing in strength in Afghanistan and will likely continue to target neighboring countries.” Read on, here.
- “Indian officials hold first talks with Taliban in Afghanistan,” via al-Jazeera, reporting Friday;
- “Al-Qaida enjoying a haven in Afghanistan under Taliban, UN warns,” via the Guardian, reporting Friday;
- “Pakistani Taliban militants announce indefinite ceasefire with Islamabad,” via the BBC, reporting Friday;
- And “Security concerns leave Afghan evacuees stuck in Balkan camp,” via the Associated Press, also reporting Friday.
And lastly this week: U.S. missile defense and allegedly badass female military officers converge for an action flick called “Interceptor,” which just arrived on Netflix today. It stars Spanish model and actress Elsa Pataky as U.S. Army Capt. J.J. Collins, who has just been given a very boring gig in the middle of the ocean—until that boredom is interrupted by a bad guy and his six henchmen who want to take control of the site’s 16 nuclear missiles. (Pataky is married to Chris Hemsworth, aka “Thor,” and he helped produce the film.)
Watch a trailer on YouTube, here. We haven’t seen it yet, though we intend to. One U.S. critic referred to it as “a discarded Chuck Norris script”; an Indian reviewer called it “a cheap piece of propaganda”; the New York Post took a big dump on the movie in its review, as did the Post’s high-brow cousin, the Times. But its audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is currently 86%. If you’ve seen it already and would like to let us know what you think, feel free to drop us a line. (Your D Brief-ers still haven’t seen the new “Top Gun: Maverick” movie, but our colleagues have.)
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!