Today's D Brief: Jan. 6, 2 years on; France sending armored vehicles to Ukraine; Wagner stumbles; New hold on F-35 engines; And a bit more.

Tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol complex, and we’ve already got several essays and retrospectives to consider in the shadow of that ignominious day. Journalist and author Mike Giglio penned a few thousand words in The Intercept this week in an attempt to understand the deeper roots of the insurrectionists trying to disrupt the 2020 election certification process. 

Giglio traveled to Montana, which is the stomping ground for now-convicted seditious conspiracist Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right Oathkeeepers militia group. He also plumbs the depths of American protest movements from the 1960s, comparing and contrasting strategies of the far-left then with the far-right today. Grab a cup of coffee and read over his entire essay, “Mirrorglass: How Jan. 6 Brought Frontier Violence to the Heart of U.S. Power,” here

Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley said he was “disturbed” by what happened that day. “Immediately following the 6th, I knew the significance,” he told congressional investigators (PDF) in November 2021, “and I asked my staff, freeze all your records, collate them, get them collected up.” For more from Milley’s interview, Politico’s Lara Seligman published a sort of highlight reel on Wednesday, here.

Joseph Dunford has also chimed in. The former Joint Chiefs Chairman warns—alongside Harvard Professor Graham Allison, and Harvard researcher Jonah Glick-Unterman—against the further politicization of the military, which they argue is potentially fatal to the United States. 

“The nonpartisan ethic of the armed forces is at greater risk today than it has been in our lifetimes, and maintaining it is essential for the survival of American democracy,” the three men write in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. “Over the last 30 years, politicians from both parties have increasingly sought to exploit the public’s trust in the military by attempting to wrap themselves in the flag and encouraging former officers to speak publicly on partisan issues…Although this trend does not yet suggest that the military would act in a manner inconsistent with its constitutional duties, it is clearly heading in the wrong direction.” Read the rest, here

Speaking of partisan ethics and the future of America, if you think the Republican party has been overly “performative” and oppositional lately, you aren’t alone: The Wall Street Journal editorial board thinks so, too. Writing Wednesday—following two days of GOP lawmakers failing to decide on a House speaker—the Journal’s board scolded their fellow conservatives, noting (emphasis added), “The problem any GOP leader faces today is that too many Republicans don’t really want to hold and keep political power. They’re much more comfortable in opposition in the minority, which is easier because no hard decisions or compromises are necessary. You can rage against ‘the swamp’ without having to do anything to change it. This is the fundamental and sorry truth behind the Speaker spectacle and the performative GOP politics of recent years.” Read the rest, here

Related reading: 

From Defense One

Senior White House Official: Wagner Mercenaries More ‘Aggressive’ Than Russian Military // Patrick Tucker: The Wagner group is doing what the regular Russian military can’t. But it’s still losing.

Pentagon Scrambles to Prep New COVID Rules as Vaccine Mandate Nears End  // Caitlin M. Kenney: Vaccine-refusal separations are on hold as DOD develops “further guidance.”

The Air & Space Brief: B-2s still grounded; NDAA, budget pass; New weather sat; and more // Jennifer Hlad: 

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 this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1957, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower articulated a defensive and economic policy for America's allies in the Middle East following the Suez Crisis.

France says it’s donating armored vehicles to Ukraine, which President Emmanuel Macron’s aide on Wednesday referred to as the “first Western tanks” headed to Kyiv’s military, which is in its 11th month fighting off a Russian invasion.
Involved: AMX-10 RCs, which are armored fighting vehicles that began use in the early 1980s. With its 105mm cannon and two machine guns, the Financial Times called them a “tank killer” in its Wednesday headline.
Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy thanked Macron for the pledge “to transfer light tanks and Bastion APCs,” writing on Twitter, “Your leadership brings our victory closer.” 
Critical caveat: “It was not immediately clear how many of the French tanks would be dispatched or when they would be delivered,” Paris’s own France24 reported after the announcement Wednesday—a week after the French defense minister visited Kyiv.
For the record, “The Czech Republic and Poland have provided Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukrainian forces,” the Associated Press reported Thursday from Paris. But “Ukraine has for months sought to be supplied with heavier tanks, including the U.S. Abrams and the German Leopard 2 tanks.” France24 has more, here.
In case you were curious: France is ranked 10th when it comes to military aid to Ukraine, according to a tracker maintained by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. Ahead of Paris is (in ascending order) the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Poland, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.
Today in non-starter news for Ukrainian leaders, Russian leader Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart he will begin negotiations with Zelenskyy only if he accepts “new territorial realities.”
However, Putin said he’s ordered a 36-hour ceasefire over the Russian Orthodox Christmas, which is January 7. Agence France Presse has more from that unsurprising Kremlin message, here.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg is in Norway today where he’ll outline the alliance’s “role in turbulent times and security as a shared responsibility” at an annual business conference, NATO officials said in a preview. 

Industry alert: Deliveries of new F-35s and new F135 engines are on hold as the U.S. military continues to investigate a Dec. 15 crash at Lockheed Martin facilities in Texas. A team made up of the F-35 Joint Program Office, Lockheed Martin, the Defense Contract Management Agency and Pratt & Whitney “is developing procedures to lift [restrictions on F-35 production facilities] and resume flight operations,” the JPO told Defense One, which would also resume deliveries of the planes and engines.
“At this time, it is not known how long this pause will be in effect. The safety of flight crews is our primary concern,” the JPO spokesperson said. 

And finally today: Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin now has a new civilian advisor for intelligence. Veteran analyst Milancy Harris was sworn into the job Tuesday, after a decade and a half at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
She moves up to her new posting as deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence and security following several months as Austin’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for irregular warfare and counterterrorism, which operates out of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.
In other notable personnel moves, former SecDef Mark Esper’s top aide, Alexis Laselle Ross, has just opened a strategic advisory firm called Apex Defense Strategies. The goal is to help customers navigate the defense acquisition system, The D Brief learned this week. Read more at Apex’s website, here.