Today's D Brief: $3B in more US aid to Ukraine; Stoltenberg's message for Sweden; China maintains pressure on Taiwan; Wargame brings bad news for Beijing; And a bit more.

The United States announced its largest military package yet to Ukraine, and it was jammed full of vehiclesincluding 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles with 500 TOW anti-tank missiles; 55 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (or, MRAPs); 100 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers; and another 138 humvees. 

There were also new long-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket System rounds, lots of mortars and 155mm artillery rounds, more than 6,000 other rockets and missiles, and quite a bit more gear like night vision equipment and claymore mines. The latest package was announced Friday, and now raises what the U.S. has given to Ukraine to more than $24 billion since February, according to the Pentagon. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker has more, here

Battlefield latest: “The situation on the frontline has not changed significantly in the first week of the year,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy said in his Sunday evening address. “Heavy fighting continues in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions—every hotspot in these areas is well known,” he said. That includes the Ukrainian contingent in the eastern Donetsk city of Bakhmut, which Zelenskyy said “is holding out against all odds.”

NATO expansion latest: Turkey and Hungary are the last two NATO members (out of 30) whose parliaments have not yet approved Sweden and Finland’s request to join the Russia-focused alliance. The requests were submitted in May, nearly three months after Russia invaded Ukraine; and almost immediately, Turkish President Recep Erdogan held up the process—insisting on prosecution of certain Kurdish-linked individuals living in the two Nordic countries, according to a deal the three nations’ top officials agreed to in 2022. 

But what lies ahead is still unclear, Sweden’s prime minister said Sunday. “Turkey both confirms that we have done what we said we would do, but they also say that they want things that we cannot or do not want to give them,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said at an event known as the Folk och Försvar Security Conference. Reuters has a tiny bit more from his remarks, here

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg visited Sweden on Sunday, where he spoke at that conference and met with Prime Minister Kristersson, as well as Stockholm’s top diplomats and military leaders. For Stoltenberg, Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion “is part of a pattern where Moscow uses military force to achieve its political goals,” he told conference attendees. Other examples of this pattern include, “The brutality in Grozny; the invasion of Georgia; the bombing of Aleppo; and the war in Ukraine did not start last February,” he said. “It started in 2014, with Russia's annexation of Crimea and the attacks in Eastern Ukraine.”

“If Putin wins in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg warned, “the message to him and other authoritarian leaders will be that if they use military force, they will get what they want.” That means freedom and democracy will take a back seat to oppression and tyranny, he said. The specter of a Russian victory also highlights the urgency of Finland and Sweden’s bids to join the NATO alliance. 

“NATO represents 50 percent of the world's economic power and 50 percent of the world's military power,” the alliance chief said. “In a way, that is half the world brought together to secure peace for each other, and to continue to preserve our freedom and democracy.”

“Regardless of when, or how, this war ends, we must accept that the security situation in Europe has changed permanently,” Stoltenberg told his Swedish audience. “The regime in Moscow wants a different Europe. It wants to control neighboring countries, and it sees democracy and freedom as a threat.” The uncomfortable reality for NATO, said Stoltenberg, is that “even if this war ends, the problems in our relationship with Russia persist…That makes it even more important that we, who believe in freedom and democracy, stand together.” 

Additional reading: 

From Defense One

Bradleys, Self-Propelled Howitzers Head to Ukraine as More Difficult Fight in the South Awaits // Patrick Tucker and Marcus Weisgerber: The biggest U.S. aid package yet reflects new realities on the ground.

Q&A: China's Vast Influence Campaign in Canada // Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica: In an interview with ProPublica, investigative reporter Sam Cooper describes how he unearthed scandals that have shaken the Canadian political system.

‘We Have Nothing’ to Indicate that UFOs Are Aliens, Defense Official Says // Kirsten Errick: The Pentagon says it has no data to suggest unidentified anomalous phenomena come from outer space.

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 this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1916, the nearly yearlong Battle of Gallipoli came to an end with an Ottoman victory and the retreat of allied British, French, and Russian forces from the peninsula. 

Beijing’s Taiwan saber-rattling continues: China flew nearly 60 aircraft close to Taiwan—and just as a group of German lawmakers visited the self-governing island that China’s Communist leaders claim as they own. Along with four navy vessels, Beijing’s military spread out to cover three of the four cardinal approaches to the island. China says it was practicing “land-strikes and sea assaults,” according to a statement from its Eastern Theater Command.
Twenty-eight of those aircraft “crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, and entered Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone,” according to Taiwan’s military, which called the actions an “irrational provocation” that threatens the security of the Taiwan Strait. (The U.S. Navy transited that strait on Thursday.)
Christmas Day was the last time a comparable number of Chinese aircraft flew near Taiwan, when 71 aircraft and 7 naval vessels bracketed the island’s western and northwestern approaches.
“We seek neither escalation nor conflict!” Taiwan’s military tweeted just a few hours after the Monday activity. Reuters and the Associated Press have more.
New: Another think tank just reviewed two dozen war scenarios for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in 2026, and found it would be especially deadly for all sides—China, Taiwan, and the U.S., which would presumably rush to Taipei’s defense. The two main questions asked by analysts in their wargame included, “would the invasion succeed and at what cost?” according to CNN. The answers are “no,” and “enormous” costs, according to the think tankers at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“In most scenarios, the US Navy lost two aircraft carriers and 10 to 20 large surface combatants” in the notional fighting, CNN reports. What’s more, “Approximately 3,200 US troops would be killed in three weeks of combat,” which is “nearly half of what the US lost in two decades of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.” CSIS also estimated China would lose about 10,000 troops as well as 155 aircraft and 138 ships.
And Taiwan? The island’s army would lose about 3,500 soldiers, and all of the navy’s 26 destroyers and frigates would be lost. Japan, too, would suffer—including the probable loss of “more than 100 combat aircraft and 26 warships,” according to CNN. Read on, here.
From the region: