Today's D Brief: More tanks to Ukraine; Kyiv eyes fighter jets; Election deniers atop HASC; New USMC base in Guam; And a bit more.
The United States joined Germany in greenlighting the transfer of tanks to Ukraine to help Europe’s largest country defend itself from a Russian invasion that’s now in its 12th month. President Joe Biden announced the development Wednesday at the White House, and declared, “The United States and Europe are fully united.”
“The United States will be sending 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, [which is] the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion,” Biden said. Pentagon chief Lloyd “Austin has recommended this step because it will enhance the Ukraine’s capacity to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives,” the president added.
It’ll still be some time before the tanks make their way to the battlefield in Ukraine, Biden cautioned. But several nations recently stepped up and donated dozens of pieces of equipment to Ukraine’s embattled military, he said. “The United Kingdom recently announced that it is donating Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine [and] France is contributing AMX-10s, armored fighting vehicles.” On top of Germany’s Leopard 2 tank decision Tuesday, “Germany is also sending a Patriot missile battery [and] the Netherlands is donating a Patriot missile and launchers,” Biden said.
“France, Canada, the UK, Slovakia, Norway, and others have all donated critical air defense systems,” and “Poland is sending armored vehicles. Sweden is donating infantry fighting vehicles. Italy is giving artillery. Denmark and Estonia are sending howitzers. Latvia is providing more Stinger missiles. Lithuania is providing anti-aircraft guns. And Finland recently announced its largest package of security assistance to date,” Biden told reporters at the White House.
The big picture: “The United States has worked in lockstep with our Allies and partners around the world to make sure the Ukrainian people are in the strongest possible position to defend their nation, their families, and against the truly brutal aggression of Russia,” the president said. “We haven’t seen the likes of this in a long time,” he added.
After Berlin and Washington’s tank decisions, Kyiv is looking to acquire F-16 fighter jets next, Reuters reported Wednesday. “If we get them, the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense,” Ukrainian defense advisor Yuriy Sak told the wire service. “It's not just F-16s: fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want,” he said. A White House official on Thursday stepped around the jet question somewhat, telling MSNBC, “We have not ruled in or out any specific systems. We have tried to tailor our assistance to the phase of the fight the Ukrainians are in.”
ICYMI: Morocco recently sent about 20 Soviet-made T-72 tanks to Ukraine, and that happened after they were refurbished in the Czech Republic, according to MENA Defense, reporting Sunday. Morocco had originally purchased the tanks from Belarus about 20 years ago, and the refurbishing was observed as recently as January 9 during a visit by Prague’s Prime Minister Petr Fiala.
Today on Capitol Hill, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services committee, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, plans to “make the case that supporting Ukraine is in America’s national interest” on the Senate floor this afternoon, according to his press team. Wicker is expected to urge the White House to provide “more, better, and faster” support to Ukraine in order to “secure victory against Russian invaders and detail ongoing and future oversight efforts,” his staff said in a statement Thursday. That’s expected around 2:30 p.m. ET, and you can catch it via the Senate’s live feed.
Reminder: Wicker said Friday that President Biden is “slow” and not “leading from the front” when it comes to support for Ukraine. He also said at the time that he wants “tanks, drones, and tactical missiles” sent to Kyiv “to defeat Vladimir Putin and end this war.”
New START status report? House Republican national security committee leaders this week demanded a briefing by Pentagon and State Department chiefs, as well as Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, regarding Russia’s decision to walk away from arms control negotiations with U.S. officials in Egypt last month. The U.S. delegate showed up, but the Russians bailed, with one key official stating, “We won’t propose any new dates.” Reps. Mike Rogers of the Armed Services Committee, Michael McCaul of Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner sent a letter to Haines, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and State Secretary Antony Blinken spelling out their concerns on Monday—with a deadline of the following Tuesday, Jan. 31. Details, here.
Last thing from the Hill: Congrats to the new House GOP subcommittee chairmen for the 118th Congress. Armed Services Chair Rep. Mike Rogers announced the new postings Wednesday, and five of his seven new leadership posts will now be held by election deniers, or Republican lawmakers who voted to overturn the 2020 election results without any supporting evidence. Those election deniers include:
- Rob Wittman of Virginia, HASC vice chairman and new chair of the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces;
- Colorado’s Doug Lamborn, who will now chair the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces;
- Mississippi’s Trent Kelly, chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces;
- Jim Banks of Indiana, who will now chair the Subcommittee on Military Personnel;
- And retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman from Michigan, who will lead the HASC’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations.
Two other new GOP chairman did not vote to overturn the election results on that ignominious day two years ago:
- Rep. Mike Gallagher from Wisconsin; he’ll now chair the Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems; he also chairs a new committee on competition with China, and you can hear him explain his goals for that committee in an interview this week with CQ/RollCall;
- And Florida’s Rep. Michael Waltz, a former Green Beret who will now chair HASC’s Readiness Subcommittee.
- “Northrop Grumman expects strong 2023 revenue as weapon demand surges,” Reuters reported Thursday;
- And South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi “Pandor defends joint Russia-China military exercise,” the BBC reported Tuesday from Pretoria, which has maintained relatively close relations with Moscow for decades.
From Defense One
US Army Readies Ukraine Abrams Tank Options For Policymakers // Marcus Weisgerber: Logistical details must be hashed out in the wake of Biden’s pledge.
US to Send 31 M1 Abrams Tanks to Ukraine // Patrick Tucker: They will join “hundreds” more armored vehicles arriving amid concerns about an anticipated Russian offensive.
Expect Big Replenishment Orders Soon, Army Tells Industry // Marcus Weisgerber: February and March should bring contracts to replace weapons sent to Ukraine, acquisition chief says.
When May a Robot Kill? New DOD Policy Tries to Clarify // Patrick Tucker: An updated policy tweaks wording in a bid to dispel confusion.
The Pentagon’s Innovation Shop Wants More Influence in 2023 // Lauren C. Williams: The agency wants to be part of program executives’ acquisition strategies and to spread more commercial-based tech across the department.
Welcome to this Thursday 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 1945, wounded U.S. Army soldier Audie Murphy, age 20, nearly single-handedly held off a German attack in northeastern France for almost an hour as he returned fire from a damaged tank destroyer and called in artillery strikes with his radio. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, in addition to every medal for valor that the Army had available at the time.
The U.S. Marine Corps just opened a new base in northwest Guam. It’s the service’s first new base in 70 years, and it’s called Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz. The place is still under construction, and hosts less than 100 troops presently; it’s expected to one day host as many as 5,000 Marines—but the bulk of those aren’t expected for another roughly two years, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Nancy Youssef, who traveled with Marine leaders to the Pacific island this week.
“Guam is an amazing location to function as a strategic hub and will provide great training opportunities for Marines, the joint force, allies, and partners,” Commandant Gen. David Berger tweeted on location Thursday. Youssef also reports that Camp Blaz will “reduce U.S. reliance on keeping large numbers of troops in Japan, where their presence has at times caused local resentment.” There are already about 10,000 U.S. forces stationed on the small U.S. territory.
A note on Guam, from Army Maj. Gen. “JB” Vowell of U.S. Army Japan: “America's homeland begins in Guam; America's day begins in Guam,” he told us in an interview late last week for the Defense One Radio podcast. “There are territories out here, they are United States territories in the Indo-Pacific, that aren't part of continental United States, that are protected.” That’s partly why the general wants to add a multi-domain task force to the region, based in Japan. He elaborated on his thinking in a roughly 25-minute conversation that adds to his op-ed on the topic, published recently in Defense One.
Looking out across the region, Vowell explained, “I think everybody recently—between the response from China to COVID, to some of their statements—just give them the microphone; the stuff that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, their spokesman says just belies what they're really all about, which is regional domination and potentially global aspirations to upend the rules based order in their favor. I mean, right now, strategically, we have the house odds, right? The U.S. Bretton Woods, and beyond; the World Bank, IMF—those are Western institutions. We have the house odds; but we helped build that system.”
“China has become the great nation that they are—always a great culture, great civilization; but they’ve become a prosperous nation, bringing a lot of people out of poverty just in the last 20-30 years in this network,” Vowell said. And now, “They want to change that because they're not happy they don't own [it].”
“And they're claiming they want to reclaim all the old territories—the Taiwans, the Tibets, the Nepals, parts of Russia that were given back in the 19th century; they want all that back, and they're serious about it,” Vowell said. “They want the Senkakus in Japan…[W]e agree we want no war, bottom line. No war. We all agree on that.”
“But how you get to no war doesn't mean that you're not ready to fight one,” the general said. “That's where the deterrence theory is extremely important—that forward posture plus the capabilities that represent the signaling of what that capability can do.” That’s where his multi-domain task force idea comes in, coupled with exercises alongside America’s partners and allies in the region.
“We don't want a military war” with China, Vowell said. “We can economically compete; we do that with the European Union. We can have competition on technology. I think we all understand that. [But] from the military perspective, we’ve got to be ready to fight. Because if we want to play games and work through, you know, a lot of soft power only, we're gonna get taken advantage of, and we'll have an unintended conflict or crisis, because we weren't ready.” Listen to the rest of that conversation, here.
From the region:
- “North Korea Imposes Lockdown on Pyongyang to Fight ‘Recurrent Flu,’” the New York Times reported Thursday from Seoul;
- “Taiwan appoints new, British-educated intelligence chief,” Reuters reported Thursday from Taepei;
- “China’s Global Mega-Projects Are Falling Apart,” the Wall Street Journal reported last week from Ecuador;
- And “The US Hasn’t Noticed That China-Made Cars Are Taking Over the World,” Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
Lastly today: U.S. Army funerals at Arlington National Cemetery will go on without any horses until at least Feb. 7, after a new horse tested positive for a highly contagious respiratory virus known as strangles, Defense One has learned.
The horse was “immediately isolated, as well as all horses he had encountered,” Old Guard public affairs said in an email statement. Army funerals that would normally have had a caisson and caparison horse element—that is, a horse-drawn artillery caisson and a riderless horse with a saddle and backward-facing riding boots—were suspended on Jan. 18; 84 funerals are expected to be affected.
You may recall this CNN report from April that the Old Guard’s horses were living in unsanitary conditions; the public affairs office said the unit has made “significant improvements to improve the life, health, and safety of our Military Working Equines” since then.
Those improvements include: hiring a civilian herd manager and facilities manager; coordinating with other organizations that own horses across the Army as well as veterinarians and other horse experts to “increase our knowledge and recommend updates to our operating procedures”; and buying better quality hay, grain, and supplements. The unit also plans to “increase our turnout space by adding 14 acres of pasture” in addition to existing facilities at Fort Meyer and Fort Belvoir.