Today's D Brief: What Putin thinks of America; More HIMARS to Ukraine; Kyiv's new counteroffensive; RIMPAC, reborn; And a bit more.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin is counting on Americans to forget about Ukraine so that his invading forces may soon afterward “wear down the Ukrainian military” and seize more territory than they have so far. That’s according to William Burns, director of America’s Central Intelligence Agency, speaking Wednesday at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
“Putin’s view of Americans is we always suffer from attention deficit disorder and get distracted by something else,” Burns said, and added, “I think he’s wrong.” The autocratic Putin, according to Burns, “is relentlessly suspicious, always attuned to vulnerabilities that he can take advantage of…He is not a big believer in our better angels,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is pushing an offensive in the south, and wants to attack Russian military targets inside Crimea by the early fall, a senior commander told the Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama, reporting from southern Ukraine on Thursday. That is if Kyiv’s troops can retake the nearby towns of Nova Kakhovka and Arkhanhel’s’ke, with the help of Western-supplied weapons like the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS.
The U.S. is sending another four HIMARS to Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Wednesday. That would bring the known total HIMARS in Ukraine’s hands to 16, up from the current dozen known to be in use. (Britain has also sent similar M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Ukraine.)
“The Ukrainians have made excellent use of HIMARS and you can see the impact on the battlefield,” Austin said Thursday at the Pentagon. He also said the U.S. will soon send more HIMARS rockets, “And we'll also provide more rounds of artillery ammunition.” And while seemingly every Ukrainian soldier asked says HIMARS are having a welcome and noticeable impact on Russian troops, Kyiv increasingly needs anti-jamming equipment, since the Ruskies are still jamming everything they can on the battlefield—and this includes nearly all of Ukraine’s aerial drone systems.
New: Soldiers from Ukraine’s 53rd Brigade have retaken one village in eastern Donetsk called Pavlivka, Carlotta Gall and Mauricio Lima of the New York Times reported on location Thursday. And this is significant, they write, because taking back Pavlivka “was a welcome turnaround for Ukrainian troops in the region, after months of being on the back foot. It also gave them a close-up view of the enemy, and what they saw gave them confidence.” The 53rd Brigade also located diaries from Russian troops and shared excerpts with the Times. Continue reading, here.
For the non-military side of this war, the BBC just published a helpful review of the logistical kinks and obstacles regional officials face moving grain and iron ore on the Black Sea and out of Ukraine to world markets. Read all about “The bottlenecks on alternative routes to export Ukrainian grain,” here.
- “How Russia Has Turned Its Gas Into a Global Economic Weapon,” via the Wall Street Journal’s video team, reporting Thursday in a five-and-half minute feature;
- “Drones, Unmanned Boats and Killer Robots Have Made Turkey an Arms-Industry Powerhouse,” also via the Journal, reporting Thursday from Ankara;
- “CIA chief says no intelligence that Putin is in bad health,” via the BBC, reporting Friday from the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado;
- And “Pelosi to Blinken: Label Russia as terrorist state, or else Congress will,” via Politico reporting Thursday.
From Defense One
Senators Take Aim At Future Quantum-Enabled Hacking With New Bill // Patrick Tucker: Advanced computers of tomorrow pose big challenges to information security today.
Army Outlines Plan to Overcome ‘Most Challenging’ Recruiting Era Since 1973 // Elizabeth Howe: The service has already shrunk below the reduced end-strength goal it set with its 2023 budget request.
War in Ukraine Could Change the Types of Weapons the Pentagon Wants, Raytheon CEO Says // Marcus Weisgerber: “Big, slow things are big, slow targets,” Greg Hayes says.
The Biden Administration Wants To Standardize How the U.S. Conducts Cyber Operations // Lauren C. Williams: The White House is reviewing a Trump administration policy that made it easier for U.S. Cyber Command to conduct offensive cyber operations.
At Reborn RIMPAC, A Clear Mission: Deter China, Defend Taiwan // Caitlin M. Kenney: The enormous Pacific multinational exercise and show of force has reemerged from the pandemic to face a larger PLA and more threatening Beijing.
Air Force Chief Hints Western Fighter Jets Could Go to Ukraine // Patrick Tucker and Jacqueline Feldscher: No decisions yet, but U.S. and partners, looking at many options.
Military-Funded Program Produces A Self-Propelling Mesh Network In Space // Patrick Tucker: Satellites that take advantage of the unique atmospheric conditions of low-earth orbit.
Tempest Tabula Rasa: UK’s Next-Gen Fighter Cockpit Has No Instruments, Yet // Bradley Peniston: BAE suggests under-development avionics architecture could influence other aircraft as well.
Welcome to this Thursday 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. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1949, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty that formed the basis of NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance.
The U.S. Marine Corps is again pausing water operations in its new Amphibious Combat Vehicles, because of a training accident at Camp Pendleton, Calif. No one was hurt in the incident that led to the pause, the Corps said in an emailed statement.
“This is the right thing to do,” Lt. Gen. David Furness, the deputy commandant for plans, policies, and operations, said in the statement. "A pause on ACV waterborne operations will give us time to conduct an investigation, learn from this event, and ensure our assault amphibian community remains ready to support our nation.”
Rewind: ACVs just returned to the water in January after a problem with the towing mechanism led to a three-month pause in waterborne operations. The vehicles were built to replace the Corps’ Amphibious Assault Vehicles, which are no longer being used for scheduled deployments or water operations. Investigations into the deadly AAV accident in July 2020, also near Camp Pendleton, revealed a host of training and maintenance failures for the 1970s-era troop transports.
SOCOM and AFRICOM could officially get new commanders soon. President Biden’s nominees to lead the two commands—Army Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton for U.S. Special Operations Command, and Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Michael Langley for U.S. Africa Command—are testifying in their confirmation hearing this morning before senators with the Armed Services Committee. That began at 9:30 a.m. ET. Catch the livestream here.
Tonight on primetime TV: 187 minutes of alleged presidential inaction. That’s what the January 6 committee will focus on, starting at about 8 p.m. ET this evening in their latest hearing looking into the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building nearly 18 months ago—and the role former President Donald Trump may have played by allegedly failing to act sooner.
Former White House deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger is slated to testify this evening about what he knows from the events of that day. Former White House press aide Sarah Matthews is also slated to testify this evening. Both of them resigned after the events of that day.
Two veterans will be leading the discussions tonight: Air Force pilot Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Navy officer Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.
The committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., previewed a bit of what’s to come in remarks to reporters this week, saying, according to the Associated Press: “You will hear that Donald Trump never picked up the phone that day to order his administration to help. He did not call the military. His secretary of defense received no order. He did not call his attorney general. He did not talk to the Department of Homeland Security. Mike Pence did all of those things; Donald Trump did not.”
By the way: Cheney recently spoke to the New York Times this week, and said she now believes her work with the committee “is the most important thing I’ve ever done professionally, and maybe the most important thing I ever do.”
Update: “[M]ore than 840 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot,” according to AP, and “Over 330 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors.” See also Reuters’ preview of tonight’s hearing over here.
You can catch tonight’s 8 p.m. hearing live on YouTube, via the committee’s website, here.
Apropos of nothing: This week we learned U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has taken a ride in Tom Cruise’s $4 million Spitfire jet. That’s according to Kendall himself, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday.
ICYMI: Cruise took comedian James Corden on a flight as part of the “Top Gun: Maverick” promotional tour. Find that clip on YouTube, here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. (We’ll be taking Friday off, so no newsletter tomorrow.) See you again on Monday!