Today's D Brief: 180K Russian casualties in Ukraine, Norway DM says; Amphib study under wraps; Berlin steps aside on Leopard 2 request; Paris mulls tanks for Ukraine; And a bit more.
Germany just cleared the path for Poland to send tanks to Ukraine. Berlin’s top diplomat said as much in an interview on French TV channel LCI Sunday. The host even asked the question twice to be certain of what Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. “I heard you say, if the Poles send [their German-made Leopard 2 tanks], you wouldn't oppose it?” journalist Darius Rochebin asked Baerbock.
“You understood me correctly,” she replied. “If we were asked we would not stand in the way,” she’d said previously. “We know how important these tanks are and this is why we are discussing this now with our partners,” she told Rochebin,” and added, “We need to make sure people's lives are saved and Ukraine's territory liberated.”
Now France is considering sending some of its heavy Leclerc tanks to Ukraine, but only if the process for doing so doesn’t make France weaker or escalate the war in Ukraine, according to President Emmanuel Macron. He said he has tasked a team of officials to look into the matter, and could have more to say in the coming days.
Berlin’s official message on Sunday: “We will continue to provide Ukraine with all the support it needs for as long as necessary—together, as Europeans, to defend our European peace project,” said Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a visit with Macron in Paris. Despite the flak Berlin has taken for not arming Ukraine more aggressively, Scholz promised that Vladimir Putin’s “imperialism will not win,” he said Sunday standing beside his French counterpart. “We will not allow Europe to revert to a time when violence replaced politics and our continent was torn apart by hatred and national rivalries,” the chancellor said. The Associated Press has more from that meeting.
By the way: France is raising its military spending by about a third, with an emphasis on “drones and intelligence,” Macron announced last week. “We need to be one war ahead,” the president said Friday in Paris. According to Reuters, “The budget for the period will stand at 413 billion euros ($447 billion), up from 295 billion euros in 2019-2025, which will mean that by 2030, France's military budget would have doubled since [Macron] took power in 2017.” More from Reuters, here.
New: Norway’s military chief said around 180,000 Russian troops have been killed or injured in Ukraine so far. “Russian losses are beginning to approach around 180,000 dead or wounded soldiers,” and “Ukrainian losses are probably over 100,000 dead or wounded,” Defense Minister Eirik Kristoffersen told TV2 on Sunday. He also said an estimated 30,000 civilians have been killed in the war so far, though he didn’t elaborate on how he arrived at any of his numbers.
Take a look at dozens of miles of battlefield trenches and fortifications the Russian military has installed throughout southern and eastern Ukraine over the past few months. Brady Africk of the American Enterprise Institute compiled the imagery in a Twitter thread you can review, here.
How well is Russia working around war-related sanctions? A new study released Monday by four analysts with the Silverado Policy Accelerator zeroed in on a few recommendations for U.S. allied officials, including recognition that global semiconductor supply chains are “vast and opaque,” but China and Hong Kong have stepped up their export game when it comes to providing Russian industry with components it now can’t legally access from the U.S. and partner nation markets. Russia is also still apparently having trouble importing vehicle parts; but China is stepping up in that realm, too.
Silverado’s advice involves boosting funding for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security officials for a joint interagency task force. There’s also lots more that could be done to link more securely with private industries to “enhance the government’s ability to take action against bad faith and illicit actors.” Read the full report (PDF) here.
Another American has died fighting in Ukraine, this time a former Navy SEAL who’d gone AWOL in 2019. His name was Daniel Swift, and he was a 1st class petty officer for the Navy before he deserted in March 2019 after basically 12 years of service, Lita Baldor of the Associated Press reported Friday.
Swift was reportedly “injured in Dnipro and died of his wounds,” according to Baldor, citing U.S. officials. Read more, here.
- “U.S. Weapons Industry Unprepared for a China Conflict, Report Says,” the Wall Street Journal reported Monday off a new analysis [here] from Seth Jones at the Center for Strategic and International Studies;
- “EU approves more military aid to Ukraine, Germany faces pressure on tanks,” Reuters reported Monday from Brussels;
- “German green-light for Leopard tanks is 'secondary' issue, Poland says,” Reuters reported separately Monday from Warsaw;
- “U.S. Military Vets in Ukraine Are Fighting Each Other in Court,” via The Intercept, reporting Friday from the latest drama surrounding the so-called Mozart Group, led by former U.S. Marine Andy Milburn;
- “'Russia's Rambo,' once a Putin favorite, says he'd now fight for Ukraine,” via CNN, reporting one week ago about Russian actor Artur Smolyaninov;
- And ICYMI, “Three active-duty Marines [were just] arrested for participating in Jan. 6 US Capitol riot,” CNN reported late last week.
From Defense One
EXCLUSIVE: Navy Won’t Publicly Release Results of Amphibious Ship Study // Caitlin M. Kenney: The study, which had been delayed for months, has been sent to lawmakers.
Defense One Radio, Ep. 115: Preparing for conflict in the Indo-Pacific // Ben Watson, Maj. Gen. J.B. Vowell, and Maj. Kevin Joyce: An Army two-star general explains his proposal to send a multi-domain task force to the region.
Is China About To Destroy Encryption As We Know It? Maybe // Patrick Tucker: A new research paper claims to offer a quantum-powered code-breaker of spectacular power. “If it's true, it's pretty disastrous,” says one expert.
Germany Resists US, Allied Pressure to Allow Leopard 2 Tanks to Go to Ukraine // Marcus Weisgerber: German, U.S. officials deny that Berlin would relent if the Pentagon donates Abrams tanks.
The Navy Put Its Next Amphib on Hold. Good. // Bryan McGrath: The proposal to build a slow and combat-shy Light Amphibious Warship raises questions about a key Marine Corps operating concept.
Former Acting DOD Comptroller Accused of Sexual Harassment, Using N-Word // Erich Wagner: The Pentagon inspector general's office says it substantiated several allegations against Douglas Glenn, now CFO at the Office of Personnel Management.
Right Hands, Right Place: Why We Must Push Military Technology Experimentation to the Edge // Schuyler Moore: The Pentagon will struggle to keep up with rapidly evolving threats unless it gets better at sending promising new gear to deployed troops.
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 1973, President Richard Nixon announced that Henry Kissinger had forged a peace agreement with his Vietnamese counterpart in Paris “to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.”
American and partnered local forces in Syria detained two alleged ISIS militants during a helicopter raid Saturday at an undisclosed location in eastern Syria. One civilian received “minor injuries” during the operation, and was taken “by our partner forces to a nearby medical care facility along with an accompanying family member,” according to the U.S. military’s Tampa-based Central Command, which announced the raid Sunday afternoon.
Captured: A man named “Abdallah Hamid Muslih al-Maddad (AKA Abu Hamza al-Suri), an ISIS facilitator; and Husam Hamid al-Muslih al-Maddad, (al-Khayr), ISIS facilitator and logistician,” as well as “one associate.” CENTCOM had nothing further on the “associate,” but it did not claim that he (or she) was an official ISIS fighter. The wounded civilian mentioned above “received care and was released back to his family,” according to CENTCOM spokesman Army Col. Joe Buccino.
U.S. and partnered forces in southern Syria were attacked Friday by three suicide drones—two of which were shot down, “while one struck the compound, injuring two members of the Syrian Free Army partner force who received medical treatment,” CENTCOM said in a statement later that evening.
Earlier that week on Wednesday, the U.S. and Syrian forces captured an alleged ISIS “media and security operative” in the eastern part of the country. “The individual was involved in the planning and facilitation of ISIS operations in and outside of the region as well as global recruiting efforts,” according to another brief statement from CENTCOM.
And don’t miss a newly published investigation into the ISIS attack on the al-Sina prison in northeastern Syria, released Monday by Vice News and Airwars. Eventually, U.S. airstrikes helped stop the fighting, which had contributed to the escape of some 400 alleged ISIS militants from the facility, and has been referred to as the terrorist group’s largest operation since its territorial losses in 2019. Instead of 150 or so ISIS militants storming the prison, as the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alleged, Vice and Airwars say only about 30 fighters conducted the attack. Furthermore, the entire SDF guard force at al-Sina at the time has since been relieved of duty. Details, here.
See also a related, detailed review of “Distinctive markings on weapons used in Syria prison breaks,” via analysts at Conflict Armament Research, who also just published their findings on Monday. Among those: At least nine rifles used in three different prison breaks had previously been used by the Syrian National Army.
Meanwhile in Somalia, the U.S. military says it killed 30 al-Shabab fighters Friday after the Somali National Army fought off “a complex, extended, intense attack by more than 100 al-Shabaab fighters” at an army base in the Galgudud region, about 150 miles northeast of the capital city of Mogadishu. According to the U.S. military in Africa, “The combined actions by partner forces on the ground and the collective self-defense strike is estimated to have resulted in three destroyed vehicles and approximately thirty al-Shabaab terrorists killed.”
As is so often the case in Somalia, U.S. officials at AFRICOM said they don’t believe any civilians were killed during the complex attack Friday.
Reminder: The Somali government declared “total war” against al-Shabab in August, and “in recent months claimed success in retaking many communities during what has been described as the most significant offensive in more than a decade,” the Associated Press reported Friday from Mogadishu.
Shabab fighters carried out a separate complex in the capital city on Sunday, killing five civilians during an attack on a regional headquarters building near the mayor’s house. Security forces reportedly killed six attackers after a roughly six-hour gun battle in Mogadishu. Al-Jazeera has a bit more, here.