Today's D Brief: Putin's EU gas squeeze; Germany's LNG 'trap'; #D1TechSummit, day 5; China's new carrier; And a bit more.
Europe could be a very cold place this winter. That’s the European Union’s big fear now that Russia slowed natural gas deliveries to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline by about half this week, as Russian officials blamed Western sanctions for hurting its parts supply chains. That pipeline also supplied France and Italy with natural gas, while Russian supplies to Austria and the Czech Republic also declined dramatically this week.
Several European officials, however, didn’t buy the explanation from Moscow’s state-run gas firm Gazprom. “Germany, we, and others think that’s a lie,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Thursday in Kyiv. “In reality this is a political use of gas, just like there has been a political use of wheat.” According to the Wall Street Journal, German officials say they’re confident they can replace “the missing fuel from other sources, though at higher prices.” But the outlook for the winter looks bleak, “potentially leaving factories and households across the continent in peril.”
“Germany has built itself a trap, and it will simply have to pay the price for not diversifying away from Russia earlier,” said Berlin-based analyst Janis Kluge. “All of this is rational,” he added, “given that gas relations with the EU have no future. Contracts don't matter at this point, only physics do.” What’s more, “There is probably no good measure against it,” Kluge said. “Saving energy is the order of the day,” said Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, on Wednesday.
Developing: Ukraine’s navy said Friday that it hit a Russian ship sending supplies to Snake Island in the Black Sea. Shared video seems to indicate the vessel was hit with two anti-ship projectiles, which at least one open-source analyst speculates were likely Neptune missiles.
Big picture: “My judgment is that this is going to be a long, grinding, tough war,” said America’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, in an interview with NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Friday. “The Ukrainians are fighting inch by inch, yard by yard, kilometer by kilometer,” she said. “It's incredibly intense, difficult fighting with lots of losses.”
Dive deeper: Get the latest battlefield assessment from analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, summarizing Thursday evening, here.
Coverage continues below…
From Defense One
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What Ukraine Needs: More Arms, Sanctions, and Money, Ambassador Says // Caitlin M. Kenney: The war-ravaged economy is providing the Kyiv government far less than the $5B per month it needs, Oksana Markarova said.
NATO Needs to Move Protection of Civilians to Center Stage // Marla Keenan and Andrew Hyde: The Ukraine war shows why the alliance’s upcoming summit cannot give short shrift to the topic of human security.
NATO Must Ensure Defense and Civilian Industries Work Together // Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović: A new innovation accelerator and multinational VC fund should be just the beginning.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Bradley Peniston. 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 in 1971, President Richard Nixon delivered a speech effectively launching America’s “war on drugs,” which would absorb an estimated trillion dollars over the next five decades.
An “extremely important” speech today from Russia’s Putin was postponed by a cyberattack, the New York Times reports from the St.Petersburg International Economic Forum. The attack allegedly struck a “database of conference participants, complicating the process of screening the guests entering the plenary session at which Mr. Putin was to speak.” The event was also supposed to involve the leaders of China and Egypt.
“Once a brash and glitzy affair, this year's forum is muted,” Max Seddon of Financial Times reports. “Regulars are glum about Russia's future under sanctions,” he tweeted after Putin eventually spoke.
According to Putin, “European countries dealt a serious blow to their own economy all on their own,” he told the crowd in St. Petersburg on Friday. “Our special operation on the Donbas is a life buoy for them to blame Russia for their own mistakes,” he said.
“The EU has lost its political sovereignty,” said Putin. “Its elites are dancing to someone else's tune, harming their own population. Europeans' and European businesses' real interests are totally ignored and swept aside.”
Reminder: Putin framed Ukraine in a similar way months before Russia’s invasion, as the New York Times recounted in this report from three days before the invasion began. At least Friday he didn’t rattle on about Nazis running the show in Brussels, as he alleged about Kyiv four months ago. Read more from Putin’s speech, via Seddon’s translation, which begins here.
By the way: An EU panel just recommended Ukraine and Moldova join the 27-nation bloc, which formally launches a process that could take as long as a decade to complete. Georgia also applied, but it was not granted the elevated status of Kyiv and Chișinău. The Associated Press and Reuters have more.
Update: This year’s Ukraine crop forecast looks to be about 30% less than last year, according to analysis from the satellite imaging firm Maxar Technologies, which published a lengthy agriculture report Thursday. And that reduction suggests corn output will drop by 54% and sunflower production will decrease by 40% compared to 2021 yields. The hardest-hit oblasts are Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, Rivne, Poltava, and Suma—and several others in northern Ukraine, where Russian forces began their invasion in late February.
Meanwhile, “Russians continue to take grain from Ukraine and transport it to other regions of the world,” Maxar notes, and shares supporting imagery to back up the allegation of food theft by Vlad the invader’s regime, which is shipping stolen Ukrainian grain to Crimea and Sevastopol, then on to Latakia, Syria.
Why it matters: “Instability in food prices can lead to further unrest in other parts of the world, even those that may not receive agricultural products directly from Ukraine,” Maxar writes. Continue reading, here.
- “Ukraine’s Farmers, Contending With Stolen Grain and Mined Fields, Now Say Land Is Being Seized,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Friday from southern Ukraine;
- “The Hidden [Cyber] War in Ukraine,” via Emily Harding of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writing Wednesday;
- “Meet the Irregular Troops Backing up Russia’s Army in the Kharkiv Region,” via Bellingcat, reporting Friday;
- “Does the tank have a future?” asked The Economist on Wednesday in a visually fascinating presentation that asks a question some noted Russia-watchers (like Rob Lee) particularly loathe;
- “Ukraine suffering up to 1,000 casualties per day in Donbas, official says,” via Axios, reporting Wednesday;
- And “The New Geography of the Russian Elite,” via the New York Times data-visualization team, reporting Friday.
China just launched its third aircraft carrier, the Associated Press reports from Beijing—confirming recent prognostication, informed by satellite imagery, from analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The carrier is named Fujian, after the Chinese province opposite Taiwan, in what Reuters called a “statement of intent to rivals.” It reportedly has a “full-length flight deck” as well as a catapult launch system; it joins the Shandong and the Liaoning in China’s fleet.
Today is the final day of our 7th annual Tech Summit. Tune in starting at 1 p.m. for exclusive interviews with Rep. Mike Turner, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee; Mark Munsell, deputy director of the data and digital innovation directorate for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; David van Weel, NATO assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges; and Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit.
Also happening today: Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond is expected to speak this afternoon at the Naval Postgraduate School Spring 2022 graduation ceremony in Monterey, Calif. That’s slated for 1 p.m. ET. Details and livestream here.
And finally this week: Defense One rode along recently as the British Army Red Devils and the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration teams made a joint jump into Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., to celebrate U.S.-UK Friendship Day. Deputy Editor Bradley Peniston made a video showing a bit of what it takes to jump out of a perfectly good airplane into the somewhat dicey winds of a baseball stadium. Watch, here.
One last thing: We’re celebrating Juneteenth on Monday, so we’ll see you again on Tuesday. Have a safe weekend!