Today's D Brief: Difficult years ahead for Europe; Rain slows Ukraine fight; Pentagon’s strategy trio; US Army’s new training center; And a bit more.
“Rough years are coming” for Europe, Germany’s president predicted Friday, saying Russia’s Ukraine invasion has “plunged” the continent “into an insecurity we thought we had overcome: a time marked by war, violence and flight, by concerns about the expansion of war into a wildfire in Europe.”
More than a million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Germany, where citizens are facing “possible energy shortages this winter after cuts in Russian gas supplies,” Reuters reported Friday. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier made the above remarks in his annual “state of the union” address, which came just days after he visited Kyiv for the first time since Russia invaded eight months ago.
“One thing is clear: we will have to accept some financial constraints over the next few years,” Steinmeier said Friday, and admonished his countrymen, “This crisis demands that we learn to be modest again.” German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle has more from his remarks Friday.
New: Ukraine’s military is bracing for a flood of new Russian troops sometime in the next 10 to 14 days, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday after comments from Kyiv’s General Staff Deputy Chief Oleksii Hromov. And that’s welcome news for Moscow, whose top army officer in Ukraine reportedly had to put a gun to recruits heads to get them to stop retreating near the occupied Luhansk city of Svatovo, according to The Insider, reporting Thursday.
The conflict is tilting toward stalemate again as autumn rains muck up the battlefield. That’s according to the New York Times, reporting Friday as well, and citing conflicts across two centuries. “Both armies are now dealing with the challenges posed by the thick clay sludge that hindered Napoleon’s army in 1812, slowed Hitler’s advance on the eastern front in 1941 and wreaked havoc on Russia’s plans for a lightning advance into Ukraine in the spring of this year,” Marc Santora of the Times writes.
“This is the rainy season, and it’s very difficult to use fighting carrier vehicles with wheels,” Ukraine’s military chief, Oleksii Reznikov told reporters earlier this week. Meantime, Ukrainian troops are trying to hold off Russian forces approaching the eastern city of Bakhmut. “Taking Bakhmut would rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and open a route for Russian forces to press on toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk province,” the Associated Press reported Friday from the city.
The tactical big picture: “In the last six weeks there has been a clear move from Russian ground forces to transition to a long-term, defensive posture on most areas of the front line in Ukraine,” the British military said Friday. But “Even if Russia succeeds in consolidating long-term defensive lines in Ukraine, its operational design will remain vulnerable.” And that all suggests, according to British military intelligence, that for Moscow, “To regain the initiative, it will need to regenerate higher quality, mobile forces which are capable of dynamically countering Ukrainian breakthroughs and conducting their own large-scale offensive operations.”
The even bigger picture: Gain a better understanding of why many nations in the developing world have avoided condemning Russia’s Ukraine invasion, via a new essay from Yaroslav Trofimov of the Wall Street Journal. In short, “Tolerance for Russia’s actions across the developing world stems from a historical resentment of the West that now taints the Ukrainian cause by association, as well as from a practical need to remain on Moscow’s good side and an often genuine lack of understanding of the conflict’s nature,” he writes. Read that essay in full, here.
Coverage continues below…
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Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with 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 1922, Benito Mussolini led a protest march on Italy's capital city of Rome, paving the way for the rapid ascent of his Fascist party, which would run the country until Il Duce was ousted in the summer of 1943.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he “doesn’t need” a nuclear strike on Ukraine because “there would be no military or political sense.”
However, Putin still seems quite intent on “destroy[ing] the Ukrainian state and eras[ing] the notion of a Ukrainian people,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War wrote Thursday after Putin’s annual address on foreign policy in Moscow. In that address, the former KGB spy repeated his pre-invasion “narrative that Ukraine and Russia are a single people separated into different states by arbitrary historical circumstance,” according to ISW, which warns, “These statements, along with many Russian actions, must cause serious reflection on the question of whether Russia’s war against Ukraine is a genocidal action.”
New: Ukraine began importing electricity from Slovakia on Thursday, officials in Kyiv announced. Ukraine’s electricity grid has been under fierce attack for the past several weeks as Russia has launched Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones on at least 45 key facilities across Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, often overwhelming local air defenses as the country’s lost nearly half of its output capacity.
Update: Bellingcat sleuths located the building Russia’s cruise missile targeting troops used. A unit photo taken there helped Bellingcat identify the unit that marked playgrounds in Kyiv and other Ukrainian infrastructure for strikes. Aric Toler explained on Twitter, here.
Moscow’s Medvedev trolls media mogul Musk on his new platform. Elon Musk appears to have finally bought Twitter in a deal that was expected to be finalized Friday. Russia’s Dmetry Medvedev wasted no time asking Musk to “quit that Starlink in Ukraine business,” which was a tweet additionally publicized by Russian state-run TASS on Friday.
- “'Kill everyone': Russian violence in Ukraine was strategic,” via the Associated Press, reporting Wednesday from just outside Kyiv;
- “Why Russia Stole Potemkin’s Bones From Ukraine,” via the New York Times, reporting Wednesday from Kyiv;
- “With Recession Looming, Big European Economies Still Show Some Growth,” the Times reported separately on Friday, zeroing in on Germany, in particular;
- “Russian Economy Expected to Shrink Under Weight of Sanctions,” the Wall Street Journal reported Friday;
- And “Russia's anti-satellite threat tests laws of war in space,” Reuters reported Friday.
And lastly this week: The classic 1929 antiwar novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” is now a new major motion picture, and it’s streaming on Netflix starting Friday, Oct. 28. The German-centric story, which addressed combat fatigue and post-conflict depression, was among the books banned by the Nazi party after it rose to power in 1930s postwar Berlin.
Germany is submitting the film as its Oscar entry in the international film category for this year’s Academy Awards. The Hollywood Reporter has more, here. Catch the trailer on YouTube, here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll catch you again on Monday!