Today's D Brief: Iranian drones hit Kyiv; Ukraine wants more NASAMS; Putin in Minsk; 'China House' opens at State Department; And a bit more.

Russia’s air force attacked Ukraine with another 34 Iranian-made drones on Monday, including 23 aimed at Kyiv—18 of which were shot down before hitting their target. 

“These are ‘Shaheds’ [drones] from the new batch that Russia received from Iran,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy said in a statement Monday. Russia had been believed to be running low on the drones, which it reportedly received from Tehran over the summer. The first strikes were recorded on 13 Sept., but the pace had been easing since November. According to Zelenskyy, Russia has purchased a second batch of the drones totalling 250 more Shaheds, though the president didn’t elaborate on precisely which models (-131 or -136, e.g.). “As [happened] last time, the attack UAVs were launched from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov,” Ukraine’s military said Monday. 

“The drone barrage caused emergency power outages in 11 central and eastern regions of the country, including the capital region,” the Associated Press reported Monday from the capital, citing local officials. Half of the country’s pre-war population was without power on Friday night; that included more than 22 million people, the president said. By Sunday evening, about nine million had their electricity restored. “Imagine the scale of this terror,” he said, and used the occasion to plead for more air defense systems from Ukraine’s allies. 

“NASAMS which have already been given to us, significantly strengthened our defense. I thank you for this!” Zelenskyy said Monday. “I am asking you to increase the supply of such systems and missiles for them.” But he also wants tanks from the Dutch; artillery from the Swedes, Latvians, Estonians, and Danes; Stinger missiles from Lithuania; counter-drone gear from the Finns; and more. (See also this recent “wish list” from one of Zelenskyy’s key advisors, posted to Twitter 10 days ago.)

New: The Brits announced more than $300 million in artillery headed to Ukraine. That comes on the heels of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s trip to Latvia on Monday for a meeting with regional leaders. “We must continue to focus on degrading Russia’s capability to regroup and to resupply and that means going after its supply chains and removing the international support,” Sunak said Monday from Riga. 

Also today: Vladimir Putin is visiting Minsk for the first time since 2019. There he’ll be speaking with his autocratic buddy Alexander Lukashenko; and that meeting could suggest “that [Putin] is setting conditions for a new offensive from Belarusian territory” into Ukraine, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War wrote over the weekend. Reuters has more from Minsk, here

On the battlefield, Ukrainian troops are still holding the eastern city of Bakhmut, according to Zelenskyy. And that’s despite some six months of persistent attacks by Russian-backed forces, including the mercenary group Wagner, which has filled its ranks with prisoners from the motherland. The Wall Street Journal has more from Bahkmut, reporting Sunday, here

Brace yourself for “The inside story of a catastrophe.” This weekend, the New York Times published an intriguing #LongRead reviewing Russian military failures using absurdly ambitious timetables, logbooks, orders, and several other documents from Russia’s 76th Airborne Division and 1st Guards Tank Army. The documents date back to the first few days of the Ukraine invasion; and they are remarkable enough by themselves. But when stacked together in a six-part series, as half a dozen Times journalists (and 24 more of the outlet’s researchers and producers) have done, they yield a surprising portrait of vintage Soviet military corruption, arrogance, and brutal ineptitude.

Dive into each part individuallyBlunders; Hubris; Internal Rot; Collapsing Front; Divided Ranks; and Cannon fodder—or check out the entire project, supplemented with intercepted phone calls from frustrated and frightened troops, here

From Defense One

A Wireless Intelligence Community ‘On The Horizon,' Official Says // Lauren C. Williams: Getting there is a matter of appropriately protecting data and tweaking policies to allow for wireless secret- and top-secret networks.

The Saudi-China Deal Tells Us What Autocracies Want From Each Other // Patrick Tucker: Biden’s blunt democracy-vs.-autocracy rhetoric may be pushing U.S. security partners toward Beijing.

Welcome to this Monday 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. On this day in 1941, the myth of the invincible Nazi died after six months of Germany’s increasingly disastrous failed offensive on Moscow, which was the Nazis’ first defeat of the war. As a result, Adolf Hitler fired several officers and seized command as army chief. 

The State Department just created a new Office of China Coordination, which diplomats are informally calling the “China House,” State Secretary Antony Blinken announced late last week. The office will lead to better coordination, which in turn will mean “nimbler and more consistent policy from the State Department,” the department said in the announcement.
Related reading: 

It’s about two decades away, but France and Germany are teaming up to develop a new jet. This new aircraft, so far referred to as the Future Combat Air System, is intended to leverage artificial intelligence, drones, and other cutting-edge technology to rival the British, Italian, Swedish, and Japanese co-production of the future “Tempest” sixth-generation aircraft.
Involved: Airbus, Dassault Aviation, and Spain's Indra, France24 reported Friday. More than $3 billion in initial contracting was announced last week by officials from Dassault and Airbus. There are already several other European companies that have signed onto the project, which Agence France-Presse assembled and charted in a graphic you can review, here.
Caveats: The first flight demonstration isn’t expected until at least 2028; and the first aircraft aren’t expected to become operational until 2040. More from France 24, here

Lastly: There are only six days to go until Christmas. And (news to us, but) just this morning we learned Mr. Claus’s famous red sleigh can travel an astonishing 1,800 miles per second. That’s considerably faster than U.S. Air Force F-22 jets, according to NATO’s Air Command, which is apparently quite ready for Christmas. We hope you are, too—even if we’re almost certain there remain those among us who will nervously pace the thinned-out store aisles for that last forgotten thing on Saturday. Good luck to you, wherever you are.
But take heart: There’s still some time left; just not much…
And in case you’re curious: “Ukrainian children in their letters to St. Nicholas ask for air defense, weapons, and victory,” Kyiv’s President Volodymir Zelenskyy said Monday on Telegram. “They understand everything,” the former comedian added.