Today's D Brief: EU hits Russia with new sanctions; Putin is 'visibly failing'; Missile failure for Seoul; Taiwan as a 'giant depot'; And a bit more.
The European Union is about to formalize its eighth round of sanctions against Russia since Putin’s invasion began in late February. This latest round, which includes a “watered-down” oil price cap that Reuters explains briefly here, comes in response to Putin’s illegal annexation of those four regions of Ukraine announced last Friday in Moscow’s Red Square.
“We have moved quickly and decisively,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Wednesday. “We will never accept Putin’s sham referenda nor any kind of annexation in Ukraine,” she said, and emphasized, “We are determined to continue making the Kremlin pay.”
The EU’s “Russian gas supplies have decreased from 40% to now down to 7.5% of pipeline gas,” von der Leyen said Wednesday in Brussels. And this has been backfilled “by increased imports of [liquified natural gas] and pipeline gas, mainly from our reliable suppliers like the U.S. and Norway.” And gas storage across the bloc looks pretty strong at the moment—at 90%, which is “15% higher than on the same day last year.”
She also pitched a “five-point plan” to better protect EU pipelines like Nord Stream, which German authorities said Wednesday appears to have been damaged by “the action of state actors,” according to Der Spiegel, reporting Wednesday. As part of that plan, von der Leyen promised to “make best use of our satellite surveillance capacity to detect potential threats” on critical infrastructure like gas pipelines.
“This war has entered a new phase,” she said Wednesday. “The Ukrainian army keeps reporting impressive successes in its fight against the aggressor, [and] our backing has helped Ukraine face down the invader. Only a strong and steadfast Europe will stop Putin. This is the moment to stay the course and support Ukraine as long as it takes. Long live Europe.” Read the rest of her remarks in Brussels, here.
London’s POV: “We will never recognise efforts to seize territory by force,” Britain’s diplomatic office tweeted Wednesday. “Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory and its continued attacks on civilians are egregious violations of international law,” said the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, which promised to “hold Putin to account for his brutality.”
Battlefield latest: “Ukraine has now consolidated a substantial area of territory east of the Oskil River,” which is in the northeast, around Kharkiv Oblast, British military intelligence said Wednesday on Twitter. “Ukrainian formations have advanced up to 20 km beyond the river into Russia’s defensive zone towards the supply node of the town of Svatove.” And this alleged progress could place new pressures on Russian supply lines snaking along Ukraine’s Svatove-Kremina road.
According to Ukraine’s military, “there is a lack of medical equipment for the treatment of wounded” Russians sent to the occupied Crimean city of Yevpatoria. And Putin’s “occupation authorities are trying to compensate for the loss of personnel at the expense of conscription of the local population” around Luhansk, and this is allegedly happening “without conducting a medical commission and training.”
For the Kremlin, “Putin is visibly failing at balancing the competing demands of the Russian nationalists who have become increasingly combative since mobilization began despite sharing Putin’s general war aims and goals in Ukraine,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War write. However…
On the global energy front, gas prices are expected to rise after OPEC members decided Wednesday to reduce output by two million barrels—the “biggest cut since the start of the pandemic,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The OPEC decision will likely “help oil-exporting Russia pay for its war in Ukraine,” the Journal reports. Some OPEC delegates even “acknowledged it represented an unprecedented effort by the world’s biggest oil producers to collectively help Russia with the political and economic problems caused by the war in Ukraine.”
- “It is impossible to monitor every place at all times,” Sweden’s navy chief told Der Spiegel in an interview Wednesday;
- “Finnish city removes last publicly displayed statue of Lenin,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday concerning the port city of Kotka, about halfway between Helsinki and St. Petersburg;
- “Putin signs decree to give mobilization deferments to some groups of people,” via the Kremlin’s state-run media TASS;
- “Russians Fleeing the Draft Find an Unlikely Haven,” the New York Times reports from Bishkek and Osh in Kyrgyzstan;
- And “Putin signs annexation laws, plowing ahead with a parallel reality as Russia loses ground in Ukraine,” the Times reported separately on Wednesday.
From Defense One
US Denies Ukraine’s Request for Long-Range Missiles in Latest Arms Gift // Kevin Baron and Patrick Tucker: Ukraine can reach the “vast majority” of targets with what they already have, a Pentagon official says.
Just How Long Should the US Send Aid to Ukraine? // Erik Swabb: History can help us understand whether Kyiv’s situation better resembles Afghanistan or Colombia.
The Air & Space Brief: Abortion leave for troops; Next CSO confirmed; C-130s grounded // Jacqueline Feldscher
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with 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 1947, POTUS33 Harry Truman became the first president to address the nation on television (there were only about 44,000 nationwide at the time). And in that Sunday address, President Truman asked the nation to cut back on how much food they eat—grains, in particular; but he also introduced a policy of “no meat” Tuesdays, and no chicken on Thursdays—to help starving Europeans as the region recovered from the devastation of the Second World War. “Their most urgent need is food,” Truman said. “If the peace should be lost because we failed to share our food with hungry people, there would be no more tragic example in all history of a peace needlessly lost.”
A South Korean ballistic missile test went awry and crashed inside an air force base just outside the coastal city of Gangneung on Wednesday. It was a short-range Hyunmoo-2C ballistic missile that apparently malfunctioned; its propellant reportedly ignited, but not its warhead. That “warhead was found around 1 kilometer backward from the launch point and just 700 meters away from the nearest civilian home,” South Korea’s military told Yonhap news agency. Fortunately, no one is believed to have been injured in the accident.
“The homegrown Hyumoo-2 is key to South Korea’s preemptive and retaliatory strike strategies against the North,” the Associated Press reports. “Some versions of the missile are similar to Russian-designed Iskander missiles, which also inspired a localized variant in North Korea as it expands its arsenal of nuclear-capable short-range weapons designed to evade South Korea’s missile defenses.”
The U.S. and South Korean militaries also launched four Army Tactical Missiles (aka, ATACMs) at targets in the East Sea on Wednesday. There don’t appear to have been any issues or complications in those demonstrations, which follow five rounds of missile tests from Pyongyang over the past 10 days.
New: America’s USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier is heading out to the East Sea in a “very unusual” mission, Yonhap also reported Wednesday, citing Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. For several months, North Korea has been expected to carry out another nuclear test; and some analysts are now eyeing the mid-October to early-November timeframe.
- “North Korean Missiles Push Japan to Improve Deterrence,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday from Tokyo;
- And next month’s ASEAN meeting will take place without Myanmar’s military junta chief, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday.
To last longer against a Chinese blockade, the U.S. wants to make Taiwan a “giant weapons depot,” the New York Times reported Wednesday. “Smaller, more mobile weapons” are being prioritized in U.S. officials’ planning sessions, according to the Times. That could include Stingers and Javelins, e.g. “The goal now, officials say, is to ensure that Taiwan has enough arms to defend itself until help arrives,” since logistics lines into Taiwan will be contested in ways Ukraine is not.
“One proposition would involve sending U.S. cargo planes with supplies from bases in Japan and Guam to Taiwan’s east coast,” the Times reports. “That way, any Chinese fighters trying to shoot them down would have to fly over Taiwan and risk being downed by Taiwanese warplanes.” Continue reading, here.
Update: U.S. Space Command now tracks more than 47,000 objects in orbit, Gen. James Dickinson, the head of the command, told a small group of reporters in Washington on Tuesday. That’s nearly double the 25,000 objects it was responsible for keeping an eye on when it was established in 2019, Defense One’s Jacqueline Feldscher reports. Dickinson applauded the FCC for a recent step to keep that number from ballooning even further, calling its decision to require satellites to be removed from low-Earth orbit within just five years—down from 25 years—a “remarkable achievement.”
He also talked about how Space Command’s mission might change when the Commerce Department takes on some of the space traffic management mission, a process begun during the Trump administration that is expected to conduct a pilot test this year. “When the space traffic management [mission at] Department of Commerce stands up, that will allow me to use my assets a little bit differently, and that will be important, especially as we watch the growth of the space commercial market [and]...the growth of some of our competitors in the space domain. That will allow me to use my assets…a little bit differently to be able to do more of a characterization role.”