Today's D Brief: Biden in Poland; Putin saber rattling again; China's fine line; North Korea's ICBM; CODEL to Taiwan; And a bit more.
One day after America’s president visited Ukraine, Russia says it’s suspending its last nuclear arms control agreement with the United States. Moscow’s embattled autocratic leader Vladimir Putin confirmed the suspension in a nearly two-hour annual address that’s often delivered each December, but was delayed in late 2022 for unspecified reasons—and following months of battlefield setbacks for its invasion and occupying forces inside democratic Ukraine.
The nuclear arms agreement is known as the New START Treaty, which was signed in 2010 and limits each nations’ long-range nuclear warheads and nuclear-capable missiles. According to Putin, “Russia is suspending its participation in New START—I repeat, not withdrawing from the treaty, no; but merely suspending its participation,” he said, according to state-run TASS. “There is no connection between the New START issue and, let’s say, the Ukrainian conflict and other hostile actions of the West against our country,” Putin told Russian lawmakers in his address Tuesday.
He also said he put the country’s ground-based strategic (or nuclear) missiles “on combat duty” just last week. According to Putin, nations in the West “want to inflict a strategic defeat on us and want to get into our nuclear facilities…Do they really think we're easily going to let them in there just like that?” he said in some fairly typical tough-guy talk.
President Joe Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda today in Warsaw. Later in the evening, which is about 11:30 a.m. ET, Biden plans to speak about “how the United States has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and democracy, and how we will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” according to a brief preview from the White House.
“What is at stake here is more than just the success and survival of the nation of Ukraine, but the rules-based international order, fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the fundamental values of independence, democracy, freedom that matters so much to everyday American people,” Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday.
Biden will meet with officials from the so-called Bucharest Nine on Wednesday. That, too, will happen in Poland; and it includes representatives from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia; NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will attend that meeting as well, alliance officials said. (Read more on Biden’s unannounced visit to Kyiv in our related links below.)
The U.S. announced $460 million in new military support to Ukraine, and another $10 million to help rebuild portions of the country’s missile-damaged energy infrastructure on Monday. The new batch, the 32nd drawdown since August 2021, consisted of new long-range HIMARS artillery rounds; 155 mm rounds; 120 mm mortars; claymore mines; Javelin anti-tank missiles; radars; Four Bradley Fire Support Team vehicles; and more.
Conservative think tankers in Washington insist the U.S. send longer-range missiles to Ukraine. John Hardie, Bradley Bowman, and Ryan Brobst of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies made their case for the U.S. sending Army Tactical Missile System munitions to Kyiv in an op-ed published in Breaking Defense on Valentines Day. “These missiles would allow the Ukrainian military strike high-value targets deeper within occupied Ukrainian territory, helping to blunt Russia’s offensive and facilitate Ukraine’s own counteroffensive,” they argue, and dismiss the “risk of Russian retaliation [as] overstated.”
New and especially concerning: The U.S. says China is considering sending weapons to Russia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC News on Sunday that Chinese officials “are strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia,” and added, “To the best of our knowledge, they haven’t crossed that line yet.”
“I made clear the importance of not crossing that line,” Blinken said, “and the fact that it would have serious consequences on our own relationship, something that we do not need on top of the balloon incident that China is engaged in.”
Recall that Italian officials speculated just last week that China’s leader was planning a “peace speech” about Russia’s Ukraine invasion, Reuters reported Friday from Rome. Beijing’s top diplomat Wang Yi seemed to keep that narrative going on Monday when he said during a visit to Hungary, “We would like a political solution to provide a peaceful and sustainable framework to Europe.” Wang is in Russia today for talks with his counterpart in Moscow. CNN has a bit more on that visit, here; Reuters has more on China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang, who is indirectly messaging a bit of caution to Washington today, here.
Elsewhere in Europe, the U.S. just finished teaching the first battalion of Ukrainians how to use the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Friday. “Approximately 635 Ukrainians completed the approximately five-week period of instruction,” he said in a statement. That’s taking place at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany. “Another mechanized battalion began training on the M2 Bradley two weeks ago, as did a field artillery battalion on the M109 Paladin, with both battalions combined consisting of approximately 710 Ukrainians,” Ryder said.
This week, the U.S. will begin training Ukrainians on how to use the M1126 Stryker systems at Grafenwoehr. In his statement, Ryder called the work “a continuation of a world-wide effort led by the U.S. and supported by more than 50 nations to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war, which began nearly one year ago.”
New: The U.S. Army is expanding its industrial base production capacity for 155 mm artillery rounds. “General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems, Niceville, Florida, and American Ordnance LLC, Middletown, Iowa, will compete for each order of the $993,790,373 firm-fixed-price (with economic price adjustment) contract to produce 155 mm rounds, which includes delivery orders for un-definitized contract actions to increase load, assemble and pack capacity to produce an additional 12,000-20,000 rounds per month.”
“The M795 projectile is being used by Ukraine in defense of their nation as a key munition that provides a high explosive burst with blast effects fired from towed and self-propelled howitzers,” Army officials said.
Russia’s invasion seems to be so stalled that Putin’s warlords are now infighting. The latest developments involve Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya vowing to start his own private military contractor to compete with the Wagner Group, which has had to recruit convicts to fill its ranks as Russian military casualties mount. (h/t Sam Bendett of CNA.)
And in case you missed it, the Washington think tank CSIS has a new report on the apparent North Korea-to-Russia arms flow, which also features oil and coal transit via the Tumangang-Khasan Railroad Crossing.
- “Russian mercenary boss Prigozhin accuses top army brass of 'treason',” Reuters reported Tuesday;
- “How do you sneak a US president into a warzone without anyone noticing?” the Associated Press reported in an explainer Monday; Politico offers much the same coverage, here;
- “They Were Married. They Shared a Trench. They Died in It Together,” the New York Times reported Monday;
- “In Satellite Images and Video, Hidden Clues About an Iranian Air Force Upgrade,” the Times reported separately late last week, citing a tip from imagery analyst Chris Biggers of HawkEye 360;
- “Leaked document shows how Russia plans to take over Belarus,” Michael Weiss and Holger Roonemaa reported Monday for Yahoo News.
From Defense One
France Pushes Collective European Air Defense // Kevin Baron: Emmanuel Macron offers to host a conference to meet Russia’s post-INF threat.
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 1945, the U.S. Navy's Bismarck Sea (CVE-95), the last American carrier to be sunk in combat in World War Two, went down in the waters near Iwo Jima after a swarm of "kamikaze" pilots attacked, triggering nearly three hours of explosions that eventually killed 318 sailors.
North Korea’s latest ICBM test this past weekend appears to have featured a missile that can potentially travel anywhere on Earth, according to Dutch astronomer Marco Langbroek, who analyzed the lofted trajectory Pyongyang used for its launch on Saturday, and shared a chart illustrating his point. Reuters reviewed the known-knowns from that Saturday test, here.
The White House condemned the launch, and called it “a flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions” against North Korea’s nuclear program. “This launch needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson in a statement. “The United States will take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and Republic of Korea and Japanese allies,” she added.
One POV from Capitol Hill: “The recent North Korean ICBM test is a stark reminder that Kim Jong Un is an unstable dictator with a growing nuclear arsenal capable of ranging [or, reaching] the U.S. homeland,” said election denier Rep. Mike Rogers, Republican from Alabama and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in a statement over the weekend. “Protecting the U.S. homeland must be paramount as we develop our 2024 budget, and this includes fully-funding homeland missile defense assets,” he said—especially since this is the budget and posture hearing season in Washington. “What has to be done is clear,” he said; “We must accelerate our missile defense development to outpace the DPRK threat. This includes speeding up the Next Generation Interceptor, putting more interceptors in the ground, and looking to space-based missile defenses.”
Four U.S. lawmakers met with Taiwan’s leadership in Taipei on Tuesday, the latest American delegation to visit the island. That group included Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., and Jonathan Jackson, D-Ill. The Associated Press has a little more on that visit, here.
You may remember that Khanna recently told Defense One he believes there should be “consequences” when China passes the median line of the Taiwan Strait to threaten the island, you can read that Q&A, here.
Coming soon: Hypersonic weapons on U.S. ships. The Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.1 billion contract to integrate hypersonic missiles onto Zumwalt destroyers. Lockheed will provide launcher systems, weapon control, all up rounds, and platform integration support under the terms of the contract, the company announced Friday. Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics Mission Systems are “on track to provide the [conventional prompt strike] surface-launched, sea-based hypersonic strike capability to sailors by the mid-2020s,” according to Lockheed Martin. Defense News has a bit more, here.
Lastly today: Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro is scheduled to speak this afternoon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. That one starts at about 12:30 p.m. ET, and will be livestreamed on YouTube, here.