Today's D Brief: Poland formally requests German tanks for Kyiv; Stoltenberg in Berlin; China's missing missile; Erdogan chills NATO expansion bids; And a bit more.
NATO’s top official, Jens Stoltenberg, dropped by Berlin on Tuesday to meet with Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, who has been in his new job for just one week. “At this pivotal moment" in Russia's Ukraine invasion, "we must provide heavier and more advanced systems to Ukraine, and we must do it faster,” Stoltenberg said while standing beside Pistorius.
And before you ask, “We discussed the issue of battle tanks,” Stoltenberg told reporters, and emphasized, “Consultations among allies will continue and I am confident that we will have a solution soon.”
New: Poland has officially asked Germany to send Warsaw’s Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, according to Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak. “The Germans have already received our request for consent to the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine,” Błaszczak tweeted Tuesday. He said he also asked Germany to send its own Leopard 2s, stressing, “This is our common cause, because it is about the security of the whole of Europe!”
Now what? “The necessary review and procedures have been initiated and will be pursued with the appropriate sense of urgency,” German officials told the Wall Street Journal.
But even if those tanks move today, “it will take some time to identify, to make ready and to train Ukrainian crews,” NATO’s Stoltenberg said in Berlin. “And I welcome the clear message from Minister Pistorius that allies with Leopard battle tanks are actually urged to start that work.”
New: Italy says it’s sending a missile defense system to Ukraine, with France’s assistance. It’s called the Samp-T, and it’s “a truck-based tactical antimissile system designed to tackle cruise missiles, manned and unmanned aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles,” according to Defense News, which reported the development on Monday.
Background: “Italy only has five Samp-T batteries,” and officials in Rome plan to buy a sixth soon “for the army and a further five to protect Air Force assets,” Defense News writes. More, here.
Battlefield update: Russia is busy rotating “tens of thousands” of troops into Ukraine as they send in replacements after taking “heavy casualties” in the Bakhmut area, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Monday. But it’s far from clear if these new troops will provide Moscow the breakthrough it seeks in terms of occupying more of Ukraine, the official said.
“Despite these increased numbers in terms of replacements [and] reinforcements,” the new forces are not seen as “a significant enhancement.” And that’s because they appear to be “ill-equipped, ill-trained, [and] rushed to the battlefield,” according to the official.
Coverage continues below…
From Defense One
China’s Big New Warship Is Missing an Important New Weapon // Peter W. Singer and Thomas Corbett: When will we finally see the HQ-26 missile?
Is This New Microwave Weapon the Answer to Iranian Drones? // Patrick Tucker: Army awards $66 million contract to develop an EMP device that fries the electronics of incoming drones.
The Army’s Longtime Cloud Chief Looks Back—and Forward // Lauren C. Williams: Paul Puckett talks about what the service has accomplished in cloud computing since 2019, what’s left undone, and what’s next.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: Earnings preview; A Reagan Forum in DC; Boeing to develop NASA plane; and more.
DOD's New SATCOM Plan Puts US Space Command in Charge // Edward Graham: Clearer descriptions of various agencies' roles is just part of the Pentagon's new effort to improve its satellite communications.
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 1978, the malfunctioning Soviet spy satellite Kosmos 954 burned up in the Earth's atmosphere—with a nuclear reactor and 110 pounds of uranium-235 on board, scattering radioactive debris across Canada's Northwest Territories. Comedy writers at “Saturday Night Live” even jumped on news of the event, and produced three different but linked segments during this episode from the show’s third season. Authorities in Ottawa later cleaned up the area and billed Moscow, which paid just half of the $6 million tab.
Turkey’s Erdogan snuffs out NATO’s Nordic expansion, for now. Finland’s foreign minister said Tuesday that he’s no longer expecting Turkey’s president to warm up to Helsinki and Stockholm’s bid to join the NATO alliance, until at least the time that Turkey’s general election ends, likely sometime in late May. But even that is an optimistic read, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Reuters in a phone call on Tuesday.
A demonstration against Turkey erupted in Stockholm on Saturday, and included far-right protesters burning a copy of the Koran. Turkish President Recep Erdogan seized on the spectacle in a speech Monday warning Sweden, “Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership…If you love members of terrorist organizations and enemies of Islam so much and protect them, then we advise you to seek their support for your countries' security,” he added.
According to the State Department, “We are also cognizant of the fact that those who may be behind what has taken place in Sweden may be engaging in an intentional effort to try to weaken unity across the Atlantic and within and among our European allies and partners,” spokesman Ned Price said Monday. The U.S. supports the right to peacefully assemble in public, he continued. “But just as the Swedish prime minister said, burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act,” Price said.
“We feel that Finland and Sweden are ready to be NATO Allies,” he added, and cautioned, “Ultimately, this is a decision and a consensus that Finland and Sweden are going to have to reach with Türkiye.”
By the way: NATO’s #2 official is visiting with Sweden’s military chief on Wednesday. That meeting between Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană and Defense Minister Pål Jonson is happening at alliance HQs in Brussels.
Meanwhile back stateside: The U.S. just charged a 54-year-old former FBI agent with money laundering and for helping sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska by investigating one of Deripaska’s rivals in Russia. The former agent, Charles McGonigal, had once been in charge of the bureau’s counterintelligence division in New York. According to the Justice Department, McGonigal linked up with Sergey Shestakov, age 69, to try and get sanctions against Deripaska removed beginning around 2019.
His accomplice, Shestakov, “is a former Soviet and Russian diplomat who later became a U.S. citizen and a Russian interpreter for courts and government offices,” the Justice Department said. When asked about their work for Deripaska, Shestakov allegedly lied to agents, which drew another charge of making false statements. McGonigal faces at least four charges, each of which carry a maximum 20-year sentence; and his comrade Sergey faces those same four charges, plus one more for lying. Read more, here.
- “15 reasons why the world needs Ukraine to win,” according to historian Tim Snyder, writing on Substack Monday;
- “Ukraine purges officials and governors in biggest shake-up of war,” via Reuters, reporting Tuesday from Kyiv;
- And “Russia’s War Breathes New Life Into a Cold War Symbol,” the New York Times reported Tuesday on the work of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The U.S. military carried out another airstrike against al-Shabab militants in Somalia. On Monday we reported a similar recent U.S. strike that killed 30 fighters who had stormed a Somali army base some 150 miles northeast of Mogadishu; that relatively unusual event happened this past Friday. Shabab fighters later attacked government buildings in the capital on Sunday, killing five civilians in the process before security forces shot and killed six attackers.
Monday’s U.S. strike occurred about 250 miles northeast of the capital, and killed two Shabab fighters near a place called Xaradheere (sometimes known as Harardhere, which is about halfway up the coast), according to U.S. Africa Command. “Given the remote location of the operation, the initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed,” AFRICOM said in a statement Tuesday.
Israel and the U.S. military just began a large-scale joint exercise in the Mediterranean Sea that involves more than 140 aircraft—including B-52s, F-35s, F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s, AC-130, and AH-64s—as well as a dozen ships, and artillery systems like the HIMARS platform in use across Ukraine. The drills are known as Juniper Oak 23.2, and include more than 6,000 U.S. forces and just over a thousand Israeli troops.
The combined units will practice “electronic attack, suppression of enemy air defenses, strike coordination and reconnaissance,” and more, according to U.S. officials at Central Command.
From Tel Aviv’s POV, “The exercise is an additional layer of defense that strengthens and trains the multi-branch and international methods of action among the militaries to counter a variety of regional threats,” Israel’s military said Monday on Twitter.
And lastly: New name, same mission. The Space Development Agency’s network of military satellites has a new name. The network, which was previously known as the National Defense Space Architecture, is now the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture, our Nextgov colleague Frank Knonkel reported Monday. The new name is meant to “more specifically reflect the agency’s mission to deliver space-based capabilities to the joint warfighter to support terrestrial missions through development, fielding, and operation of a proliferated low Earth orbit constellation of satellites,” the agency said in a statement.