Today's D Brief: UK sending tanks to Ukraine; Germany's military chief steps down; RoK searching for arms buyers; More sonar for frigates; And a bit more.
Over the course of our three-day weekend, there were two particularly notable developments related to the war in Ukraine: (1) The United Kingdom will soon become the first nation to send its own heavy tanks to Ukraine; and (2) Germany’s military chief just resigned, in part over what she said was a “monthslong media focus on me as a person.”
About those tanks: Ukraine’s military leaders say they want 300 tanks to expel Russian forces from occupied land; but no one has 300 tanks to give to Ukraine, so Kyiv will have to cobble together whatever they can from different nations. To that end, Poland’s president last week announced his intention to send 14 of Poland’s tanks to Kyiv. However, the decision isn’t really his to make, and ultimately depends on the approval of leaders in Germany, which manufactured the Leopard 2 tanks that Warsaw is trying to give Ukraine as the Russian invasion continues into its 12th month next week. While that Leopard 2 decision awaits, London went ahead and announced its latest moves—involving a squadron of Challenger II tanks bound for Kyiv sometime “in the coming weeks”—on Saturday.
A note on timing: The Pentagon-led Ukraine Contact Group will meet this Friday in Germany, at Ramstein Air Base. Along with last week’s developments involving armored U.S., French, and German vehicles to Ukraine, there could be quite a lot to review, especially if German officials become less nervous about arming Ukraine, which is one of the chief criticisms of the now-departed Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht. The BBC has more on her departure, here.
The new guy: On Tuesday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz appointed a new military chief named Boris Pistorius. According to Germany’s Deutsche Welle, he “has a markedly different personality” than Scholz, in that Pistorius “is vociferous and favors directness in public statements.” Indeed, Scholz praised his “experience, competence, and assertiveness as well as his big heart,” in a tweet announcing the news on Tuesday.
Bigger picture: German leaders have been walking an awkward line since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in late February. The invasion ended a decades-long Russian gas pipeline project, triggering a global energy crisis, and reversed many years of low-profile German defense policy—injecting about $100 billion to modernize Berlin’s military amid Chancellor Scholz’s promise to raise military spending to a level (two-percent of GDP) long sought by American officials across the pond.
Background: We reviewed several of Berlin’s key changes and challenges in 2023 in our latest podcast featuring former German Ambassador to the United Nations Christoph Heusgen; he’s the current chairman of the Munich Security Conference, an annual event that’s exactly a month away.
According to Britain’s military chief, Russia “has now lost over 1,600 main battle tanks in Ukraine since the start of the invasion,” Ben Wallace told the House of Commons on Monday. “But if we’re to continue helping Ukraine seize the upper hand in the next phase of this conflict, we must accelerate our collective efforts diplomatically, economically, and militarily to keep the pressure on Putin.”
Said Britain’s top ground forces officer: “Giving away these capabilities will leave us temporarily weaker as an army, there is no denying it.” However, General Sir Patrick Sanders said in a message to troops obtained by Sky News, “Ukraine needs our tanks and guns now. I know they will put them to good use; and there can be no better cause.”
“Putin believed the West would get tired, bored and fragment,” Defense Minister Wallace said Monday. But “Ukraine is continuing to fight and, far from fragmenting, the West is accelerating its efforts,” said Wallace, who is traveling to Estonia before dropping in for the contact group meeting at Ramstein.
The Brits are also sending more drones, missiles, artillery rounds, and “around 30 AS90s, which are large, self-propelled guns, operated by five gunners,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Saturday. Training on both the Challenger II and AS90 systems will begin “in the coming days, as part of wider UK efforts which have seen thousands of Ukrainian troops trained in the UK over the last six months,” said Sunak. He’s also sending his top diplomat to Washington and Ottawa this week “to discuss closer coordination on international sanctions and our coordinated effort to boost our support to Ukraine,” according to Sunak.
Meanwhile inside Ukraine, nearly four dozen people were killed when a Russian missile attack hit an apartment building in the city of Dnipro on Saturday. Twenty others remain unaccounted for, local officials said Tuesday after calling off the search for survivors amid the rubble.
“The attack was the deadliest for civilians since the start [of] a three-month Russian missile bombardment campaign,” Reuters reported Tuesday from Dnipro.
- “Ukraine yellow kitchen: Shock at image of apartment wrecked by strike,” the BBC reported from the aftermath of that Dnipro strike;
- Joint Chiefs Chairman U.S. Army Gen. Mark “Milley visits Grafenwoehr as Ukrainian soldiers train with Bradley vehicles,” Stars and Stripes reported Monday from Grafenwoehr;
- “Russia’s Energy Clout Is Waning, Weakening Its Global Influence,” the Wall Street Journal reported Monday;
- And “Top U.S. lawmaker objects to potential F-16 sale to Turkey,” Reuters reported Saturday, referring to New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee.
From Defense One
New Sonar For Navy Frigates Could Turn Any Ship into Submarine Hunter, Maker Says // Marcus Weisgerber: Thales says its Advanced Acoustic Concepts towed sensors can be installed in just two days.
Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1991, Operation Desert Storm began.
Seoul searching for arms buyers: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday in a visit designed to help increase arms sales to the Gulf nation, the Associated Press reported Sunday from Abu Dhabi. The following day, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on “strategic” defense industry cooperation,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
ICYMI: South Korea last year inked a $3.5 billion deal with UAE to sell the M-SAM medium range surface-to-air missile. Read more about that at Janes or Defense News.
And lastly: A former Republican candidate who lost his election in November and then protested the results has been arrested in New Mexico. Authorities in Albuquerque say 39-year-old Solomon Pena is the “mastermind” behind four drive-by shootings of Democratic lawmakers’ homes, and that he pulled the trigger in at least one of those shootings, the Associated Press reports.
“This type of radicalism is a threat to our nation and has made its way to our doorstep,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said. “But I know we are going to push back, and we will not allow this to cross the threshold.”
For what it’s worth: Pena ran against longtime incumbent state Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, a Democrat, and lost by 48 percentage points—or about 3,600 votes, according to AP.