Today's D Brief: Russia strikes Odesa region; Turkey’s NATO deal; Another $800M for Ukraine; New Medal of Honor recipients; And a bit more.
Russian missiles slammed down on Ukraine’s Odesa region overnight, killing at least 19 people and wounding nearly 40 others—exactly one day after Russian forces withdrew from an island close to Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline in a retreat some observers had hoped would ease pressure on grain exports out of the region’s vital port city.
The rockets were allegedly Russian Kh-22 anti-ship cruise missiles, according to Ukrainian officials, who surveyed the damage in Serhiivka, about 30 miles southwest of the city of Odesa. (The same kind of missiles appear to have been used last week to strike a mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk.) The missiles on Friday seem to have hit residential buildings and a resort facility (see here and here, for example). You can also view drone footage released by Ukrainian officials over on Facebook, here.
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin called the current moment “a hinge in history,” in a short speech delivered Friday at the change-of-command ceremony for the U.S. military’s European Command, based in Germany. “Russia’s premeditated malice and baseless aggression against Ukraine poses the greatest threat to European security since the end of World War II,” said Austin, “and Putin’s war of choice threatens more than just the sovereignty of Ukraine.
“It is a reminder that tyrants believe that their imperial appetites matter more than the rights of their peaceful neighbors,” the defense secretary said. “And it’s a rallying cry for people of goodwill, from every part of the planet—who have stood together to defend freedom, democracy, and human rights from autocrats who see free systems of self-government as relics of the past.”
On the question of NATO’s Nordic expansion to include Finland and Sweden despite weeks of protest from Turkey’s president, a Turkish diplomat on Thursday confirmed what U.S. President Joe Biden said earlier that day about Ankara’s ultimate acquiescence to the deal, which was worked out in a three-way agreement Wednesday: The U.S. did not promise Turkey that it could buy F-16s in exchange for lifting its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, the purchase of F-16s and Turkey’s views on NATO enlargement “are two unrelated issues,” the senior Turkish diplomat said.
Now comes a long-ish wait. That’s because even though an agreement has been reached among all NATO allies, it’s not clear when the Turkish parliament might ratify the accessions, our colleague Jacqueline Feldscher reports. NATO has some paperwork to do before countries get to weigh in, and the accession process has often taken at least 18 months from the date of formal invitation. For Finland and Sweden, that clock began ticking only this week. What’s more, Turkey’s parliament just went on recess through October. U.S. Congressional approval is expected before August recess, according to earlier remarks from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
- “Dozens of Russian weapons tycoons have faced no Western sanctions,” via Reuters writing Friday in a special report claiming “nearly three dozen leaders of Russian weapons firms and at least 14 defense companies” have dodged sanctions so far;
- “In Russia’s Biggest Cities, Ukraine War Fades to Background Noise,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Friday from Moscow, where no one wants to irk the authorities by protesting Putin’s invasion for fear of triggering at least two years of surveillance, as one resident put it;
- “Trial for WNBA star Brittney Griner begins in Russian court,” via the Associated Press, reporting Friday from Moscow;
- “Russia hints at linking [detained American Brittney] Griner’s case to Viktor Bout, a Russian [arms dealer] known as the ‘Merchant of Death,’” via the New York Times, reporting Friday;
- “How Russia's war blindsided the world of ESG investing,” via Reuters again, this time with an economics explainer.
From Defense One
Pentagon Agency Wants to Send Arms Monitors to Ukraine // Marcus Weisgerber: The defense officials would make sure U.S. weapons are being used and stored properly.
Defense One Radio, Ep. 104: What we learned at the Tech Summit // Defense One Staff : Sixteen guests join us to discuss the war in Ukraine, cyber warfare, the challenges posed by China, and much more from this year's Defense One Technology Summit.
What Turkey Got for Letting Sweden, Finland Join NATO // Elisabeth Braw: And the prospective alliance members got a lesson in the politics of collective defense.
Biden: Additional $800M For Ukraine Coming ‘In The Next Few Days’ // Jacqueline Feldscher: The latest aid package will include Western air-defense systems as well as more ammunition and radars.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston and Jacqueline Feldscher. 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 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg began.
North Korea’s leaders are exhibiting a new kind of Covid paranoia, blaming the isolated kingdom’s latest virus outbreak on “alien things” that floated north across the demilitarized zone from South Korea. Two of the North’s citizens reportedly contracted Covid by touching “virus-tainted” balloons that drifted across the border, according to state-run media, citing an alleged investigation by North Korean medical officials. The New York Times reminds us: “For years, activists in South Korea, mostly defectors from the North, have sent balloons across the border loaded with leaflets denouncing the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as well as dollar bills, miniature Bibles and USB drives containing news from the outside world.”
The North claimed to have avoided the pandemic until late April. Officials soon after declared a “maximum emergency” on May 12, according to the Times. In the meantime, “it has reported 4.7 million cases of people developing Covid-like symptoms, such as a high fever. North Korea said on June 15 that 73 people had died of the disease, but it has since provided no update on fatalities.” According to the Wall Street Journal, officials in Pyongyang recently claimed their “Covid wave was subsiding, though health experts suspect they are underreporting figures, especially on deaths.”
Former Pentagon chief James Mattis was in Seoul today—one week after his wedding—in part to tamp down talk about giving South Korea nuclear weapons to balance the North. “You don’t need nuclear weapons on the peninsula to ensure an extended deterrence so long as there is trust between the ROK and the United States,” he said at an event hosted jointly by the Seoul Forum for International Affairs, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Korea Society. “I think that [if there's] anything you can do to avoid having these weapons yourself, you should do so,” Mattis said. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has more, here.
New Zealand just designated the far-right American Proud Boys a terrorist organization, according to a police announcement made public this week. The group engages in what officials called “crypto-fascism,” which “overlays methods to disguise extremism and increase the appeal...and to prevent unwanted attention from authorities,” according to Kiwi officials, who dedicated nearly 30 pages to arguing their case. “For example the current Chairman of the APB, Enrique Tarrio, self-identified as Afro-Cuban. Having a non-white Chairman is commonly used by the APB as a foil against accusations of white supremacy,” New Zealand police said in their report.
The group’s founder Gavin McInnes also received more than a page of exclusive coverage unpacking his “ideological fascism (and by extension that of the APB he created).” The Proud Boys are also notably close to several “white supremacist” groups including the Oath Keepers, the ‘Three Percenters,’ and Patriot Prayer—as well as a faction known as the “Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights.”
Why it matters: “The APB see themselves as defending an idealised perception of ‘The West’ and ‘Western’ values, but are in practice railing against liberal values and the diversification of US society and the political classes,” New Zealand officials said.
“More importantly, and as was demonstrated on 6 January 2021, this provides justification for the APBs’ widespread political violence against those they perceive as ideological opponents and targets,” and that includes “Black Lives Matter protests, the election of public representatives (especially Donald Trump), and popular opposition to Islam and Muslim.” And, of particular note to officials in Wellington, police say they’ve observed “Proud Boys organization…in Canada and Australia.” However, “no credible direct link or coordination” has been found yet linking the American group with alleged Canadian or Australian members. Read on (PDF) here. The Washington Post, Guardian, and Voice of America have more.
In #WeekendReads: It may be easy to overlook the “surprising success” of the recent truce in Yemen, but there is still more that outsiders can do to help keep the nation on an encouraging path, argues Peter Salisbury of the international monitors at Crisis Group, writing in Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.
For your ears only: Don’t miss our new Tech Summit review podcast, which combines nine hours of interviews with nearly two-dozen officials and experts into one podcast episode that clocks in at just under an hour.
Discussions concern the war in Ukraine, cyber warfare, the challenges posed by China, and more.
Guests include Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, retired Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, Dmitri Alperovitch, Wesley Kremer of Raytheon—and a dozen others. Listen to Defense One Radio here, or wherever you get your podcasts.
And at last: Early next week, President Biden is scheduled to award Medals of Honor to four soldiers who fought valiantly in the Vietnam War.
- Staff Sergeant Edward N. Kaneshiro (posthumous);
- Specialist Five Dwight W. Birdwell;
- Specialist Five Dennis M. Fujii;
- And retired Major John J. Duffy.
Read more about each soldier in a brief bio provided by the White House, here.
Have a fun and safe holiday weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Tuesday!