Today's D Brief: Germany OKs tank transfer; US announcement expected; Strategy change?; Raytheon reorg; And a bit more.

Germany has officially authorized the transfer of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. The decision, which opens the door for others to do the same, followed weeks of very public pleading from officials in Kyiv, whose military leaders said in December they want to acquire as many as 300 tanks from allies, particularly in Europe, to push Russian forces out of Ukrainian territory. 

The announcement was also preceded by weeks of increasingly anxious finger-pointing by Poland and other would-be donor countries (Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, and Spain) waiting on Germany’s approval to send their German-made Leopards to Ukraine.

“We will provide Ukraine with Leopard battle tanks,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told lawmakers in the Bundestag on Wednesday. That includes 14 tanks from Germany’s own stocks—though likely not before April; and that’s just a “first step,” German officials said. Eventually, Berlin has promised to send two battalions of Leopards to Ukraine. “It was necessary to take our time to reach a coordinated approach,” Scholz said, and assured parliamentarians, “We are not alone.”

Berlin’s plan would train Ukrainian troops on the tanks first, then sending them east to Kyiv’s military. That last part isn’t expected to happen for about three months, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Wednesday. “I think this is the right decision,” he told reporters. “It is an historic decision in many ways, and it is a necessary one.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg praised the decision, writing on Twitter, “At a critical moment in Russia’s war, these [Leopard tanks] can help Ukraine to defend itself, win [and] prevail as an independent nation.”

“Russia’s war of aggression is an imperialistic war,” Germany’s Scholz told MPs in Berlin Wednesday, according to the BBC. “Russia unleashed a terrible bombing campaign to move its border,” he stressed. When one parliamentarian replied, “Yes, you’re right, that is imperialism, just like NATO expansion is imperialism. When will this all stop?” Scholz responded, “We reject this imperialistic idea, and that’s why we support Ukraine.”

For what it’s worth: U.S. President Joe Biden “is a president who is a really good partner,” and U.S.-German relations are better than they’ve been in a “very, very long time,” Scholz told his countrymen in the Bundestag.

Coverage continues below the fold…

From Defense One

White House Announcement on M1 Abrams Tanks Expected Wednesday // Patrick Tucker: Poland is also likely to provide Leopard 2 tanks, with or without Germany’s blessing.

Marines To Train For Future Battlefield With Immersive Technologies  // Caitlin M. Kenney: The Marine Corps is revamping its training and education programs to prepare Marines to be problem solvers and decision makers, senior service officials say.

CEOs Downplay Anticipated Gridlock on Capitol Hill, Defense Spending Cuts // Marcus Weisgerber: Lockheed, Raytheon chiefs also say pandemic-era supply-chain woes are subsiding.

Advanced F-16 Version Makes First Flight, Lockheed Says // Marcus Weisgerber: Five countries have ordered the fighter jet’s Block 70 variant, and the company is looking for more customers.

Raytheon to Combine Missiles and Defense Division with Intel and Space Business // Marcus Weisgerber: Company also names Christopher Calio president.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston and Marcus Weisgerber. If you’re not already subscribed to this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1993, a Pakistani man shot and killed CIA employees Frank Darling, 28, and Lansing Bennett, 66, while they sat in their cars at a stoplight outside agency headquarters in Langley, Va. The shooter—who later claimed strong sympathies with the Palestinian cause, purportedly justifying the murders—fled the country, but was found inside Pakistan four years later. He was eventually sent back to the U.S., where he was tried and executed by lethal injection in 2002. 

Developing: White House officials could soon announce the U.S. will send perhaps a few dozen M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, which could take some attention and pressure off Berlin after Scholz’s Wednesday announcement. Politico and CNN reported Tuesday possibly 30 U.S. Abrams tanks were on the drawing board; the New York Times reported as many as 50 were under consideration.
The view from industry: Executives from Abrams tank maker General Dynamics said Wednesday that the company has enough workers and people to meet deliveries for Ukraine. “It's well within the capacity of the industrial base to accommodate,” CEO Phebe Novakovic said on a quarterly earnings call. She also said the company’s Lima, Ohio, production line can meet the demand of sending tanks to Ukraine if the U.S. decides to send them.
“Staffing is not an issue here,” said Novakovic. “There is plenty of capacity on the combat vehicle side [of the company] both tracked and wheeled” vehicles. “So to the extent that the U.S. government intends to execute any contracts with respect to some of these bilateral agreements they are developing,” she said.
Strategy alert: U.S. officials are reportedly pushing Ukraine’s military to draw up a ground campaign to retake occupied territory across the south. CNN reported Tuesday that Ukrainian and U.S. officials are leaning this new direction after many weeks spent defending the eastern city of Bakhmut. Instead of a standoff at Bakhmut, U.S. officials are emphasizing “a style of mechanized maneuver warfare that uses rapid, unanticipated movements against Russia.” The new tank announcements could reinforce that general plan.
Another way to hit Putin where it hurts: “Ban the sale of western-owned oil tankers to Russia.” That’s the advice of economist Robin Brooks after reviewing seaborne oil exports as Moscow tries to work around the recent $60 per barrel price cap imposed by G7 members in early December. Russia is trying to amass a “shadow fleet” of tankers to ship more oil outside that $60 cap. “This ‘shadow fleet’ undercuts the effectiveness of the G7 price cap,” and may soon yield Vladimir Putin considerably more money, Brooks explained Tuesday. Details, here.
Also: The White House believes some Chinese companies are helping Russia’s war effort in Ukraine through a variety of non-lethal aid and economic assistance, Bloomberg reported Monday. Flak jackets and helmets are some items Chinese firms have shipped to Russia for its invasion, CNN later reported. The issue could come up during State Secretary Antony Blinken’s planned February trip to China.
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