Today's D Brief: NATO DMs huddle in Brussels; Kyiv wants anti-missile weapons; Xi, Putin chat; #D1TechSummit, day 3; And a bit more.

NATO defense chiefs are discussing how to speed up the flow of weapons to Ukraine, which just entered its 16th consecutive week of war with Russia’s invading forces—who already occupy about a fifth of Ukraine, including most of its seaports and far-eastern territory. 

The two-day session is the latest for the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which features much more than just the 30-nation NATO alliance. The contact group first met in late-April with the goal of helping Ukraine meet its short-term and long-term security requirements; about 40 nations were represented at the time. Nearly 50 nations sent representatives to Wednesday’s meeting, which is being hosted at NATO headquarters in Brussels. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is attending, as is Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley. Many in Brussels today are also expected at the NATO summit two weeks from now in Madrid. 

What Ukraine says it needs now: Anti-missile weapons—as well as 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks, 1,000 drones, and more heavy weapons, according to President Volodymir Zelenskyy and one of his chief advisors, speaking Wednesday and on Monday, respectively. Ukraine’s deputy defense chief also said Wednesday that Kyiv’s forces are using about 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds every day, “while Russia uses 10 times more,” the Associated Press reports from Brussels. And so far, she said Kyiv has received just 10 percent of the weapons it has requested to meet its assessment of the current Russian threat. 

When it comes to arming Ukraine, “We can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high,” Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin told reporters Wednesday. “Russia's invasion is what happens when big powers decide that their imperial appetites matter more than the rights of their peaceful neighbors. And it’s a preview of a possible world of chaos and turmoil that none of us would want to live in,” Austin tweeted Tuesday.

  • Austin and Milley are set to brief reporters around 1 p.m. ET. DVIDS is carrying that one live, here.

“Sometimes these efforts take time,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday. “That's exactly why it is important to have a meeting like we have today... to identify the challenges and the issues [Ukrainian officials] would like to raise with us.” 

And on NATO’s possible Nordic expansion, Stoltenberg is still working that issue, which hinges on the support of embattled Turkish President Recep Erdogan. The two men had a “constructive conversation,” Stoltenberg tweeted Wednesday, saying Erdogan has “legitimate security concerns on the fight against [Kurdish-linked] terrorism.” So…stay tuned.

New: The White House is about to dip into that $40 billion in Ukraine authorizations to send between $650 million and perhaps a billion in weapons and equipment—including “anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets, and rounds for howitzers,” Idrees Ali of Reuters and Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Tony Cappacio reported Wednesday morning. According to Jacobs, this new round of weapons “will include, for the first time, vehicle-mounted Harpoon anti-ship missiles.”

On the energy front, the European Union just inked a deal with Egypt and Israel to send more liquified natural gas to the European bloc. However, according to AP, “It was not immediately clear how much gas the EU will import from either country.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger just filmed another video, this time chastising Europe for “financing the war” in Ukraine by paying Russia nearly one billion Euros every day for fuel. “We have blood on our hands,” the action star and former California governor said this week at the Austrian World Summit climate conference. Agence France-Presse has more.

POTUS46 to U.S. oil producers: Stop thinking about your profit margins, because this is “a time of war.” That’s the message President Joe Biden sent in a letter Wednesday to seven major U.S. oil refiners—Marathon Petroleum, Valero Energy, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, Chevron, BP, and Shell. While the price of gas continues soaring to record highs, as Fox News covers with gusto, “There is no question that Vladimir Putin is principally responsible for the intense financial pain the American people and their families are bearing,” Biden said. “But amid a war that has raised gasoline prices more than $1.70 per gallon, historically high refinery profit margins are worsening that pain.”

“At a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable,” the president said. AP and Reuters have more.

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Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Caitlin Kenney. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day 101 years ago, 29-year-old mathematics ace and former sharecropper from Texas, Bessie Coleman, became the first Black woman to earn her pilot's license, which she accomplished only after saving enough money to travel to France for training and certification. She would later perform in several air shows around the U.S, but refused to perform in events where Blacks were barred from attending. Tragically, she died less than five years after getting licensed when her Curtiss JN-4 stopped working at 3,000 feet above the ground near Jacksonville, Fla.; the engine’s catastrophic damage was later determined to have come from a wrench left inside after maintenance. Bessie was just 34 years old when she perished, but her daring legacy would go on to inspire countless others—including Mae Carol Jemison, America's first Black female astronaut.

#D1TechSummit, Day 3: Defense One’s 7th Annual Tech Summit continues today with an interview with Anduril founder Palmer Luckey, a panel discussion on emerging technologies for tomorrow’s military, and a one-on-one with Col. Wallace “Rhet” Turnbull, deputy director of Space Systems Command’s Space Systems Integration Office. That all starts at 1 p.m.; there’s still time to register if you haven’t already. 

Chinese officials have privately told the U.S. that the Taiwan Strait just might actually be China’s territory, Bloomberg reported on Sunday. Then a spokesman for Beijing’s foreign ministry said Monday, “There is no such thing as international waters in international maritime law,” said Wang Wenbin, adding, “Relevant countries claim that the Taiwan Strait is in international waters with the aim to manipulate the Taiwan question and threaten China’s sovereignty.” The foreign ministry then said on the same day that it is only China that “has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait.”
So U.S. officials responded publicly Tuesday by affirming the Taiwan Strait is in fact an international waterway, with State Department spokesman Ned Price telling Reuters in a statement, “The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway, meaning that the Taiwan Strait is an area where high seas freedoms, including freedom of navigation and overflight, are guaranteed under international law.” The entire world, Price said, has “an abiding interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and we consider this central to the security and prosperity of the broader Indo-Pacific region.” Read on, here.

Think Covid restrictions in America were miserable? Consider what’s playing out in the Middle Kingdom, thanks to Michael Schuman, who filed a report for The Atlantic this week entitled, “Zero-Covid China Kept Me From My Wife for 662 Days.” See also this experience Monday from Shanghai, flagged on Twitter by the BBC’s Stephen McDonald.

Back stateside: Possible UCMJ changes coming. The Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel on Tuesday provided a sneak peek into their National Defense Authorization Act markup, which won’t be released publicly until it is passed by the full committee. Included are amendments to two articles in the Uniform Code of Military Justice: Article 25, to randomize the selection of who sits on court martial juries, and Article 66, to allow judicial review of any court martial conviction, regardless of the sentence.
Also included: 

  • An extension of the authority to adjust troop housing allowances mid-year based on the demands of the local market;
  • A requirement for the Pentagon to review and report on rates of suicide in the armed forces by military occupation, rank, and service from Sept. 11, 2001, to the present;
  • And, authorization of funds to hire special education coordinators for military childcare centers.

Lastly: This week on the digital privacy beat, a fugitive-hunting deputy U.S. Marshall from Texas was just charged with “unlawfully obtaining cell phone location information by misusing a law enforcement service” back in 2016 and 2017—and then he was hit with an additional charge of lying about it all. He used falsified forms to access a database called Securus to get phone location data from “multiple individuals with whom the defendant had personal relationships and their spouses,” according to the Department of Justice, which unveiled the charges Tuesday.
Adrian Pena, 48, is the one facing charges, which include “11 counts of obtaining confidential phone records, two counts of false statements, and one count of falsification of a record.” Each of the 11 counts carries up to 10 years in prison, and the other three charges could add as many as 30 more years behind bars. More here.
If this case sounds familiar, it’s certainly not an isolated incident. The Associated Press found instances of such abuse all around the country back in 2016. Human Rights Watch was tracking more than a dozen related court cases in 2019; and in March, WIRED updated and broadened that criminal phenomenon with a look at how law enforcement officials use phone data to persecute LGBTQ citizens around the world.