Today's D Brief: Japan's PM Kishida visits Kyiv; $350M in more US arms to Ukraine; Mapping China's balloon; 3D printing at the USMC; And a bit more.

While China’s leader is in Moscow, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is visiting Kyiv for unannounced talks with President Volodymir Zelenskyy. Kishida also traveled to the town of Bucha, site of some of the earliest alleged atrocities Russian forces inflicted on Ukrainian civilians in the first weeks of the invasion. According to a statement Tuesday from Kishida’s Foreign Ministry, the prime minister plans to “directly convey our solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine” and “resolutely reject Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.” 

By the way: In February, Kishida promised an additional $5.5 billion in aid to Ukraine over the coming months. Already, “Japan has provided loans of more than 70 billion yen ($520 million) to Ukraine in emergency economic assistance,” the Associated Press reported at the time, and noted that Japan “has also accepted more than 2,000 displaced Ukrainians and helped them with housing assistance, support for jobs and education.”

During the first day of Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow, the Chinese leader reportedly “offered a more reserved vision for Russian-Chinese relations than what [Russia’s Vladimir] Putin was likely seeking,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War wrote Monday evening. What’s more, “Xi’s rhetoric suggests that he is not inclined to fully give Russia the economic and political support that Russia needs to reverse setbacks in Ukraine,” according to ISW. 

As for what may lie ahead for the Chinese-Russian relationship, ISW predicts Xi will “likely offer a more concrete proposal for a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine, although it remains unclear what his proposal will entail and how receptive the Kremlin will be to it.” However, for one of the more pressing considerations from Kyiv’s perspective, “The prospects of China supplying Russia with military equipment also remain unclear,” ISW writes.

“Prime Minister Kishida stands with freedom, and Xi stands with a war criminal,” America’s Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emmanuel tweeted Tuesday. 

New: The U.S. is racing to speed up deliveries of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, which are now anticipated to arrive no sooner than the fall of this year. Lita Baldor of the Associated Press has more on that update Monday, here

Also: The Pentagon announced another $350 million in more weapons to Ukraine, including patrol boats and mine-clearing equipment. Defense One has more, here

Battlefield latest: A train car of Russian cruise missiles allegedly exploded in transit Monday just north of occupied Ukrainian Crimea, Kyiv’s Defense Ministry said. Reuters has a bit more on that, here; the BBC has this

Ukraine also says Russia is using several more field hospitals along its front lines. That allegedly includes one in the village of Rozivka in occupied Zaporizhzhia. “About 50 seriously wounded servicemen of the Russian army were brought there” on Monday, Kyiv’s military said Tuesday. “Also, in the village of Vysoke, Zaporizhzhia region, the occupiers set up a hospital in the building of a local school. During March 19, a large number of seriously wounded were brought there,” according to Kyiv.

NATO just released its latest annual report detailing member defense spending and alliance contributions over 2022. Public perception polls are also included, and this year involves polling from Finland and Sweden “for the first time,” NATO noted in its public release on Tuesday. 

Among the findings: 

  • “Most Allied citizens (74%) think that defense spending should either be maintained at current levels or increased, compared to 2021 (70%),” and “Just 12% think less should be spent on defense,” according to the report, which details each nations’ polling on the question.
  • All allies have increased their defense spending in 2022; however, just seven out of 30 allies overall are spending the recommended two percent of GDP on defense, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday in Brussels. Part of that can be attributed to rising costs and inflation over the course of 2022, said Stoltenberg; but some of those numbers could rise still further in 2023 since Europe is now keenly watching the invading Russian military as it plunders its way across eastern Ukraine. Read over the full report, here

Related reading: 

From Defense One

Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: A new space-sensor play; Speed bump for L3Harris-Aerojet deal; Boeing’s big Apache order; and more.

Counter-Offensive Arms, Gear Continues a Trend in US Aid to Ukraine // Sam Skove: Mine-clearing and bridging equipment are of particular use in assaulting dug-in forces.

Marine Makers: How I MEF Troops Are Putting 3D Printers to Work // Lauren C. Williams: From generator covers to car parts, a Marine describes how additive manufacturing helps his unit get on with its mission.

No US-Turkey Rapprochement Is Possible Under Erdogan // Sinan Ciddi: The Turkish president has morphed into an opponent of democratic governance.

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 2006, Twitter was founded—but it was called twttr at the time, taking a similar naming convention as the then-popular photo sharing service Flickr. Co-founder Jack Dorsey defined a tweet as “a short burst of inconsequential information,” like “chirps from birds.” But by 2010, the platform had risen to such influential heights that user tweets had helped spark revolution in several authoritarian regimes across the Middle East. By its 10th year, Twitter had become the preferred way for the president of the United States to communicate with the world. Today, the platform is owned by one of the world’s richest men, Elon Musk, who says he’s struggling to break even on his $44 billion investment.  

Just started: Tune in now to catch Marcus Weisgerber’s interview with Air Force Chief Gen. C.Q. Brown for Defense One’s State of the Air Force event. That started at 11 a.m., and will be followed by interviews with Brig. Gen. Kenyon Bell of Global Strike Command and Lt. Gen. Randall Reed of Air Mobility Command. Register and watch, here

We now have a much more detailed picture of that Chinese surveillance balloon’s path from southeastern China across North America and to the coastal waters of South Carolina before it was shot down by a U.S. Air Force jet in early February. The New York Times teamed up with two firms—including the satellite imagery specialists at Planet, along with artificial intelligence from a company called Synthetaic—to produce a new scrolling feature report mapping the entire journey from start to finish.
Synthetaic’s AI imagery analysis did much of the heavy lifting; and its work on this balloon story may only be the beginning of much more intriguing analysis in the future, one professor told the Times. “We are in the era that we are going to detect things and see things in satellite imagery that we couldn’t think about five years ago or 10 years ago,” he predicted.
Related reading: 

And lastly today: An old training range on Fort Bliss is getting a new lease on life, and will be officially renamed the Castner Range National Monument. Located near El Paso, Texas, the Castner Range was in use from World War II until 1966, which was about halfway through the Vietnam conflict.
“Before the U.S. Army used the lands, Castner Range was home to the Apache and Pueblo peoples and the Comanche Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma,” the White House said in a fact sheet published Tuesday. Similar to the carefully protected Hueco Tanks State Park, located about 45 minutes east of El Paso and home to some of the best boulder climbing in all of North America, the Castner Range is believed to contain “more than 40 known archeological sites including living structures, hearths, remnants of pottery and other tools, as well as a myriad of petroglyphs and images on the rock faces that make up the canyons and mountains of Castner Range.”
The White House announced the Castner designation Tuesday, along with a second newly-recognized monument in southern Nevada known as the Avi Kwa Ame, which is a sacred place “for the Mojave, Chemehuevi, and some Southern Paiute people and is important to other Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples,” the El Paso Times reports.
For the record, Castner Range will be “the first national monument directly managed by the U.S. military since national battlefields were transferred to the National Park Service in the 1930s,” the White House says. Read more, here.