The D Brief: Ukraine confirms counteroffensive; IC to gauge damage from Trump docs; US to name Arctic ambassador; China’s WWII shelters, reused; And a bit more...
Ukraine says its counteroffensive has begun. Kyiv is attempting to retake southern territory that was taken by Russia early in its invasion, Reuters reported Monday. Ukrainian military officials say forces have “breached the occupiers’ first line of defense near Kherson”—but not all are convinced. The Moscow-installed governor of Crimea called the news “Ukrainian propaganda.”
Winter is coming. Some U.S. experts said last week that the recent Ukrainian attacks are less about retaking territory and more about stalling Russian forces and cutting off their supply lines before a long winter.
“They're not trying to take out the Black Sea Fleet,” one analyst told Defense One’s Patrick Tucker. “They're trying to take out the air support that's operating out of Crimea to support the Russian southern front. And they are trying to take out the main rail links from Crimea into Kherson.”
Meanwhile, a UN team is on the way to the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant in Ukraine, to inspect the plant after it lost power last week, the Associated Press reported Monday. Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the plant, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said last week’s power outage brought the six-reactor plant close to the brink of a radiation disaster. The International Atomic Energy Agency team should arrive later this week.
The U.S. has sent billions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine, including HIMARS weapons systems that have been compared to the dragons on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” but the country has also had success with creative uses of older weapons, The New York Times explained Sunday.
Like what? “By mounting missiles onto trucks… Ukrainian forces have moved them more quickly into firing range. By putting rocket systems on speedboats, they have increased their naval warfare ability. And to the astonishment of weapons experts, Ukraine has continued to destroy Russian targets with slow-moving Turkish-made Bayraktar attack drones and inexpensive, plastic aircraft modified to drop grenades and other munitions,” write NYT’s Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt. Read more about “The ‘MacGyvered’ Weapons in Ukraine’s arsenal,” here.
And while the U.S. is trying to speed up weapons production to get HIMARS to Ukraine more quickly, as Newsweek reports, it’s going to take months to get all the weapons that have been promised to the battlefield in Ukraine, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber noted Friday.
- “Russia Moves to Reinforce Its Stalled Assault on Ukraine,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Sunday;
- “Crossing Ukraine’s iron curtain to deliver people, and toilet paper,” via the Washington Post, reporting Sunday;
- “Why Ukraine Debt Relief Isn’t Matching Funding Needs,” via the Washington Post, reporting Monday;
- “After a deadly jail blast, Ukrainians want answers about war prisoners held by Russia,” via NPR, reporting Monday;
- “EU faces awful winters without gas cap - minister,” via the BBC, reporting Monday; and
- “Grace in grief: Ukrainians find dignity in honoring those they’ve lost,” via Martin Kuz, writing in the Christian Science Monitor last week.
From Defense One
FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Affidavit Reveals How Trump May Have Compromised National Security // Clark D. Cunningham, The Conversation: A legal expert answers 5 key questions.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: It’s gonna take time to get US arms to Ukraine; Army goes shopping; Air Force gets security helos; and more.
Artemis Launch Is a Step Back to the Moon, But a Leap Into a New Tracking Domain // Jacqueline Feldscher: As the U.S. and others begin traveling more regularly to the moon, the Pentagon will need to ramp up its extraterrestrial capabilities, experts say.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by 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 1863, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sank during a test run. It was raised and eventually became the first submarine to sink an enemy ship.
Feds found classified docs at Trump’s house in January. “Fourteen of the 15 boxes recovered from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate early this year contained classified documents, many of them top secret, mixed in with miscellaneous newspapers, magazines, and personal correspondence, according to an FBI affidavit released Friday,” AP reported.
“The affidavit does not provide new details about 11 sets of classified records recovered during the Aug. 8 search at Mar-a-Lago but instead concerns a separate batch of 15 boxes that the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved from the home in January.”
Read the affidavit, here. Released by Aug. 22 order of a federal judge, it is heavily redacted by the Justice Department to conceal “the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and uncharged parties…the investigation’s strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods, and…grand jury information.”
The January docs included information from human spies and sources, notes Clark D. Cunningham, professor of law and ethics at the Georgia State University College of Law. “If the identity of agents or sources is revealed, their intelligence value is compromised and, even, their lives may be at risk.”
But it’s not just about the docs: “Improper storing of classified information is a crime, but that is not what is being investigated here. A much more serious crime under the Espionage Act is at stake,” Cunningham said. Read that, here.
The intelligence community will assess and brief Congress on the potential damage to national security, DNI Avril Haines said in a Friday letter, NBC News reports. The letter responds to a request by the chairs of the House intelligence and Oversight committees. More, here.
U.S. to name an Arctic ambassador-at-large. The melting ice caps and consequent opening of the roof of the world to shipping, mineral extraction, and great-power competition led the State Department on Friday to announce that it would create a Senate-confirmed post for someone to take diplomatic lead on Arctic issues.
Russia has reopened many Soviet-era military sites in the Arctic, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted last week after his own northern swing. He said that “Russian capabilities there pose a strategic challenge to the 30-nation alliance,” Reuters reported.
China has designs on the polar region as well. You may recall that Beijing declared the country a “near-Arctic nation” whose northernmost point is about thousand miles south of the Arctic Circle. A bit more, here.
UK aircraft carrier breaks down at sea. HMS Prince of Wales suffered an "emerging mechanical issue" as the ship sailed from Portsmouth Naval Base on Saturday for exercises off the U.S. coast. The second member of the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth class was commissioned in 2019. (BBC)
Lastly today: China’s WWII bomb shelters are drawing crowds seeking refuge from record heat in tunnels built more than 75 years ago. With the Yangtze River at a trickle, hydroelectric power has slumped in Chongqing and the neighboring Sichuan province. This has “deprived many of the Chongqing municipality’s 32 million people of air conditioning, with temperatures reaching as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit,” the Washington Post writes today. Stay cool, and we’ll see you tomorrow.