Today's D Brief: Russian missiles hit dwellings; Xi wraps Moscow trip; Terror update; Climate report grasps for hope; And a bit more.
Russian missiles struck a dormitory in Kyiv and a nine-storey apartment building in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday, killing at least four people in the capital and wounding at least 18 in Zaporizhzhia, including two children. “This must not become ‘just another day’ in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world,” said Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy, writing on Twitter Wednesday. “The world needs greater unity and determination to defeat Russian terror faster and protect lives,” he said.
Russia’s military also launched 21 Iranian-made lethal drones at Ukraine overnight, and 16 of those were shot down—along with two “Kh-59 guided air [cruise] missiles,” according to Kyiv’s military.
China’s leader has ended his visit with wanted alleged war criminal Vladimir Putin in Moscow. After nearly three days of talks and photo ops, historian Sergey Radchenko said “the summit can be summarised by the Chinese saying 雷声大雨点小,” which means “Loud thunder but few raindrops.” That’s partly because unlike their “no limits” friendship in 2022, this Putin-Xi Jinping meeting produced no such grandiloquent joint statement.
But Radchenko notes: “there is a euphemism in [the 2023 joint statement] about the need to respect the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and abide by international law,” as well as “a restatement of the idea that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.” And that’s particularly noteworthy since no sensible person we’re aware of is keen on witnessing the use of nuclear weapons on a contemporary battlefield; and because Putin seems to savor his ability to threaten the use of nuclear weapons when his military faces setbacks, of which there have been quite a lot since the botched invasion began 392 days ago.
China’s top diplomat seems to have sensed the perhaps-poor optics of Xi meeting Putin at this point in history—and just two days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry released the following statement Wednesday morning, at the conclusion of the Putin-Xi summit: “China has no selfish agenda on the Ukraine issue. We did not stand by, nor did we add fuel to the fire, or exploit the situation for selfish gain. All that we have done boils down to supporting talks for peace.”
Russia is withdrawing 75-year-old tanks from storage facilities, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Mark Krutov flagged on Twitter Wednesday morning after analysts at the Conflict Intelligence Team reported the development Tuesday. The tanks reportedly include the old Soviet-era T-54 and T-55 models, which were spotted recently transiting on railcars. The tanks first entered service back in 1948, while “their first use in action was during the Hungarian Revolution back in 1956,” Krutov writes. More than 40,000 of both tank models were produced in the years since, he says—and notes that this seems to be “yet another sign of Russia struggling [with] tanks and other equipment shortages.”
Granted, “An outdated tank is more useful than no tank at all,” CIT wrote in their report, “but we consider the lack of rangefinders and ballistic computers (not to mention fire control systems) to be the key disadvantages of these series, as well as primitive sights and (in T-54s) an inferior gun stabilization system.”
Back stateside, top Republicans say they want to give Ukraine cluster bombs, which are banned by more than 120 countries because they “release large numbers of smaller bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area, threatening civilians,” as Reuters noted Tuesday after the lawmakers sent their letter to the White House. The signatories include the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Roger Wicker from Mississippi; Idaho's Jim Risch from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas; and election denier Mike Rogers from Alabama.
“No individual munition or system will prove to be the key to restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” the lawmakers admitted in their letter to the president. However, they say that they believe sending Kyiv cluster bombs “will allow Ukraine to compensate for Russia’s quantitative advantage in both personnel and artillery rounds,” and “could help fill a key gap for Ukraine’s military, and, in concert with other provided capabilities, continue to push Putin’s forces out of Ukraine.” More here.
- “Putin says Russia will ‘respond accordingly’ if Ukraine gets depleted uranium shells from U.K., claiming they have ‘nuclear component’,” CBS News reported Tuesday evening;
- “What is depleted uranium? Radiation risks explained after Putin's warning to UK over tank shells for Ukraine,” the UK’s Sky News reported in an explainer on Wednesday;
- “Ukraine to clinch first IMF loan to nation at war,” the BBC reported Wednesday; the Associated Press and Reuters have similar coverage;
- “The leaders of China and Russia have finished talks. Here are some takeaways,” via NPR, reporting Wednesday.
From Defense One
20 Years Later, Terrorism Simmers from Iraq to Afghanistan, Officials Warn // Kevin Baron: Threats are rising once again, two decades after the American invasion that unleashed them all.
‘Woke-ism’ Not an Issue, Top Military Leaders Say // Audrey Decker: Inclusion is actually a critical part of unit cohesion, Air Force chief and Marine commandant said.
China ‘Colonizes’ Space with Its First Rice Harvest // Thomas Corbett and Peter W. Singer: The cultivation of food in orbit is part of a larger push by the Chinese space program toward a lunar base.
Lawmakers Propose Civilian Cyber Reserve to Bolster DOD and DHS // Edward Graham: Bipartisan bills aim to allow the agencies to bolster cybersecurity by recruiting skilled civilians to serve as reservists.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1907, James Maurice Gavin was born in Brooklyn, New York. Gavin would later be known as “the jumping general” for his role as commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II, where he became the only general to notch four combat jumps.
Pacific air chief: send anti-ship missiles. Russia’s high casualties in its Ukraine invasion shows, among other things, the value of air superiority, Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach said Tuesday during an online session with the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute. In a conflict with China, a key threat to U.S. aircraft would be surface-to-air missiles launched from Chinese warships. “One thing that people often don’t think about with respect to air superiority is weapons to be able to kill ships,” Wilsbach said. “We need better weapons to attrit those ships.” USNI News has more, here.
Where will the new U.S. bases in the Philippines be located? One will be in eastern Luzon, the closest of the country’s major islands to Taiwan, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Wednesday, adding that the others will be “scattered” around the Philippines.
Reuters: “A former Philippine military chief has publicly said the U.S. had asked for access to bases in Isabela, Zambales and Cagayan, all on the island of Luzon, facing north towards Taiwan, and on Palawan in the southwest, near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.”
The U.S. military has been pushing for more Pacific bases for several years in efforts to make its forces less vulnerable to Chinese missiles and to obtain more flexibility in operations.
Don’t say China. Marcos said he was adding four bases to the five the U.S. already uses in reaction to an unnamed but “emerging threat” that he said would require “adjustments in our strategy.” Read, here.
Speaking of Taiwan: President Tsai Ing-wen is planning a trip to the United States and Central America next week. “China, which has condemned Tsai's planned U.S. stopover, has continued its military activities around Taiwan since August, though on a much reduced scale,” Reuters reports.
Dept. of Planning: Deputy Defence Minister Po Horng-huei said Wednesday that while China is not expected to make particularly aggressive moves white Tsai is out of the country, Taiwan’s defense ministry has contingency plans.
What’s the latest with U.S. military recruiting? The full Senate Armed Services Committee is hearing testimony from the undersecretaries of the Army, Navy, and (acting) Air Force, starting at 9:30 a.m. today. Video, here.
And lastly: The UN’s latest climate report grasps for hope, but there is some. The “window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future” is “rapidly closing,” the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) writes in a summary of its past five reports on our rapidly warming planet.
The world is on track to release enough carbon by 2030 to send global average temperature rise past the 1.5-degree Celcius threshold that would stave off the worst effects, the report says.
Heat scenarios, illustrated. A key infographic in the report illuminates how much warmer the world has grown in past decades, and how hot it might get under various scenarios.
Washington Post: “Decades of delay have denied the world any hope of an easy and gradual transition to a more sustainable economy, the panel says. Now, only ‘deep, rapid and…immediate’ efforts across all aspects of society — combined with still-unproven technologies to pull carbon from the atmosphere — will be able to stave off catastrophe.”
Such efforts are still possible, the report says. “The systemic change required to achieve rapid and deep emissions reductions and transformative adaptation to climate change is unprecedented in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed,” it says. “Feasible, effective, and low-cost options for mitigation and adaptation are already available.”
The Post, again: “Yet the report also details how public officials, private investors and other powerful groups have repeatedly failed to heed those warnings. More than 40 percent of cumulative carbon emissions have occurred since 1990 — when the IPCC published its first study on the dangerous consequences of unchecked warming. Governments continue to subsidize fossil fuel use; banks and businesses invest far more in polluting industries than they do in climate solutions.” Read, here.
- “Five things we've learned from UN climate report,” the BBC reported Tuesday;
- “Why climate doomerism is wrong,” Vox reported Tuesday;
- “Joe Biden’s Push to Counter China Steers EV Investments to Canada,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday from Toronto;
- And “House Republicans Probe Biden’s Climate Bill Spending,” Bloomberg reported Wednesday.