Today's D Brief: More US weapons to Ukraine; Berlin stays mum on tank decision; Russian forces advance; DCIA to Kyiv; And a bit more.
The United States is sending more air defense weapons to Ukraine, including eight Avenger systems and more National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems. That’s along with 59 more Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 90 Strykers, 53 more MRAPs, and 350 up-armored humvees. It’s all part of the latest $2.5 billion arms package from Washington, which was announced Thursday evening by the Pentagon.
“Russia is running out of ammunition,” Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Friday before the eighth meeting of the U.S.-led Ukraine Contact Group at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base. “It's suffering significant battle losses, and it's turning to its few remaining partners to resupply its tragic and unnecessary invasion,” Austin said.
But “Russia is regrouping, recruiting, and trying to re-equip,” the defense secretary continued. “This is not a moment to slow down; it’s a time to dig deeper. The Ukrainian people are watching us. The Kremlin is watching us. And history is watching us. So we won't let up, and we won't waver in our determination to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia's imperial aggression.”
Austin visited his new German counterpart in Berlin Thursday. The two military chiefs discussed NATO, security in the Pacific region, and “focused on the way ahead” for the war in Ukraine, according to a readout from Austin’s team.
But German officials still decline to authorize sending their tanks to Ukraine, as several Baltic states are trying to do. And this reluctance from Chancellor Olaf Scholz appears to be in sync with the will of voters in Germany, according to a recent survey from YouGov, which showed 43% of respondents opposed the idea of sharing tanks with Ukraine while 39% approved. State-owned broadcaster Deutsche Welle has more, here. (A second survey showed similar results—but shifted to 46% supporting the decision to share tanks with Ukraine, and 43% opposed. Tiny bit more on that from Reuters, here.)
For what it’s worth, Germany’s new defense minister says Berlin isn’t standing in allies’ way if they want to send tanks to Ukraine. “The impression that has occasionally arisen, that there is a closed coalition and Germany was standing in the way, this impression is wrong,” Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Friday at Ramstein.
That could be partly why a top Polish official said Warsaw may go ahead and send its tanks without a greenlight from Scholz and Pistorius. “I think that if there is strong resistance, we will be ready to take even such non-standard action,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski on Friday. However, he cautioned, “At the moment we are trying to make Germany not only agree [to] these tanks being sent by Poland or other countries, but also to do so themselves.”
There are reportedly more than 100 battle tanks Germany could send to Ukraine, and German companies are ready to do just that, according to Reuters, reporting Thursday. That includes Berlin’s Leopard tanks as well as refurbished British-made Challenger 1 tanks.
By the way: If Kyiv is looking for a “game-changer” in this conflict, German tanks aren’t it, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. “There is not a particular weapon system that is a silver bullet; a balance of all systems is needed,” U.S. Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told reporters Thursday. “A tank comes down to a balance between firepower, mobility and protection,” he said, and called those “the holy trinity of capabilities.”
One big problem is the associated supply chain and maintenance process for any tanks. That’s partly why NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters Friday, “We need also to remember that we need to not only focus on new platforms, but also to ensure that all the platforms which are already there can function as they should.”
Denmark just announced it’s sending all 19 of its French-made howitzers to Ukraine. At least eight other nations said they’re sending more weaponry to Ukraine as well on Thursday, including Estonia, Latvia, and Poland sending Stinger missile systems, s-60 anti-aircraft guns, and more.
Coverage continues below…
From Defense One
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Welcome to this Friday 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 1887, U.S. Senators quietly authorized the Navy to lease Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor as a naval base.
Russian forces are advancing beyond the captured Ukrainian city of Soledar and into Klischiivka, which is on the outskirts of the eastern Donbass city of Bakhmut, where both Ukrainian and Russian elements have fought since at least May. That’s according to state-run media TASS, citing military spokesman Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov.
The front lines around Soledar are “constantly shifting, unpredictably, sometimes by several kilometers a day,” the BBC reported on location Thursday. Why, and what’s next? “Privately, some Ukrainian soldiers have blamed poor coordination between different units for the loss of Soledar and have acknowledged that Russia may now be better placed to encircle the far bigger and strategically more important neighboring town of Bakhmut, to the south.” Read more, here.
CIA Director William Burns traveled to Kyiv late last week for a secret meeting with President Volodymir Zelesnkyy, the Washington Post reported Thursday and Reuters later confirmed. Burns reportedly discussed continued U.S. assistance to Ukraine despite a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. It’s a point National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan brought up about 10 days ago in remarks to reporters in Washington.
“I think to focus on what I believe is actually a distinct minority of a single party to conjure this narrative that somehow there are deep divisions or a genuine threat to enduring American support for Ukraine is misplaced,” Sullivan said. “Because I think the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans who are elected officials and the vast majority of the American people continue to strongly support the policy of providing Ukraine the means to defend itself against Russian aggression. And I think that cuts across all parts of our country, people from all walks of life, because people understand what’s at stake here.”
Meanwhile in the Pacific, there appears to be a Russian spyship just hanging out off the coast of Hawaii, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Wednesday. It’s been there for a few weeks; and it’s not breaking any laws, so the Coast Guard just wanted to let us know that it’s aware of the situation.
“As part of our daily operations, we track all vessels in the Pacific area through surface and air assets and joint agency capabilities,” said Cmdr. Dave Milne. “The Coast Guard operates in accordance with international laws of the sea to ensure all nations can do the same without fear or contest,” he said, and noted, “This is especially critical to secure freedom of movement and navigation throughout the Blue Pacific.” You can see a video of the Russian vessel at work over on DVIDS, here.
- “Russia’s Influence Wanes in Ex-Soviet States as It Pursues Ukraine War,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday from Moscow;
- “Serbia uproar over Wagner mercenaries recruiting for Russia,” via the BBC reporting Thursday;
- “U.S. cable: Russian paramilitary group set to get cash infusion from expanded African mine,” Politico reported Thursday;
- “He fled Russia's draft, now he's stranded in a South Korean airport,” Reuters reported Thursday;
- “Brothers found guilty of spying for Russia in Sweden,” Reuters reported separately on Thursday;
- And from the authoritarian state, “Russians’ level of trust in Putin exceeds 78%, poll shows,” Moscow’s state-run media TASS reported Friday.
The U.S. National Guard has expanded its training of Taiwanese troops, Nikkei Asia reported Friday.
Background: When Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., visited the island in May, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen in May announced the U.S. and Taiwan were planning military “cooperation,” but did not provide details on what that cooperation would entail. The fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act includes the “Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act,” of which Duckworth was a proponent. That legislation calls for the Secretary of State to “strengthen the United States-Taiwan defense relationship,” but does not mention National Guard training. Read more, here.
And lastly this week: The U.S. Army’s new squad weapon has a new name: The XM/M7. The service had in March designated the Next Generation Squad Weapons Rifle the XM5, but then realized that Colt Industries uses that name for one of its weapons, the Army said in a press release emailed to reporters. The service’s new automatic rifle will still be known as the XM250 or M250.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll catch you again on Monday!