Today's D Brief: More US arms to Ukraine; NATO chief in Kyiv; Russia's 'manly' recruiting campaign; Wargaming Taiwan; And a bit more.
The Pentagon just announced another batch of weapons and supplies for Ukraine, which has been valiantly defending against a brutal Russian military invasion for 60 consecutive weeks now.
The new U.S. arms announcement includes lots of artillery (155 mm, 105 mm, as well as High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems rounds), anti-tank rounds, unspecified “precision aerial munitions,” more than 9 million small arms rounds, “port and harbor security equipment,” and more.
This latest round is valued at $325 million, which raises the total security assistance the U.S. has sent Ukraine to $35.4 billion since Vladimir Putin’s large-scale invasion began almost exactly 14 months ago.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg visited Kyiv on Thursday, in part to tell President Volodymir Zelenskyy the alliance “stands with you today, tomorrow, and for as long as it takes.” The Kyiv visit was Stoltenberg’s fourth as head of the growing 31-member alliance; and most indications suggest the war will outlast Stoltenberg’s time as NATO secretary general, which began in 2014 and has already been extended three times, through April 2024. (Dutch statesman Joseph Luns is the only person to serve for a longer time as alliance chief; his tenure extended from 1971 to 1984.)
“We do not know when this war will end, but we know that Russian aggression is a toxic pattern that must be stopped,” Stoltenberg said while standing beside the Ukrainian leader. “So we must continue strengthening Ukraine’s armed forces, and we must ensure that robust, powerful arrangements are in place for Ukraine’s security,” he added.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy thanked the U.S. for the new support package. And following this week’s German delivery of Patriot air defense systems, told his countrymen in his nightly address, “Everything is being done to increase the ability to defend against Russian strikes. Air defense systems and other weapons to protect the sky are already here in Ukraine, they are really powerful…I am thankful to everyone who, with their accuracy and speed, ensures the effectiveness of all the weapons that our state has received!”
New: Russia just launched a “be a man” military ad campaign to recruit more soldiers for its disastrous Ukraine invasion. PBS Newshour’s Simon Ostrovsky can tell you a bit more, which includes some critical context for this apparently desperate campaign, via Twitter where he shared the video, here.
The Brits are rethinking where they lay undersea cables after a report this week found that “Russian spy ships are mapping wind farms and key communication cables off the coast of Britain as part of plans to sabotage critical infrastructure,” according to the Telegraph, reporting Thursday.
What’s going on: “A fleet of Russian boats, often disguised as fishing trawlers or research vessels but with armed guards, have been observed by European intelligence agencies conducting mass reconnaissance close to British coastal energy and communications networks,” the Telegraph reported Wednesday—after a joint investigation by public broadcasters in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Attention has turned to Russian research vessel Admiral Vladimirsky, whose known course you can retrace via the BBC’s reporting Wednesday. The ship reportedly “slows down when it approaches areas where there are wind farms and loiters in the area.” It also allegedly “sailed for a month with its transmitter turned off,” raising suspicions. According to the BBC, “A Danish counter-intelligence officer says the sabotage plans are being prepared in case of a full conflict with the West.” More, here.
Meanwhile in Warsaw, Germany’s president drew parallels between the Nazis and the present-day Russian military under Vladimir Putin. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in Warsaw on Wednesday to mark the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in which more than 10,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis in occupied Poland.
Putin, said Steinmeier, “brings immeasurable suffering, violence, destruction and death to the people of Ukraine. You in Poland, you in Israel, you know from your history that freedom and independence must be fought for and defended. You know how important it is for a democracy to defend itself. But we Germans, too, have learned the lessons of our history. Never again, which means that there must be no criminal war of aggression like Russia's against Ukraine in Europe,” the German president said. Read more at the BBC, here.
Coming soon: Turkey is apparently sending Ukraine Roketsan TRLG-230 missiles, which have a range of about 45 miles. CNBC has a bit more about Turkey’s semi-reluctant role selling arms to Ukraine and elsewhere around the world, reporting in late March, here.
Developing: Ukrainian forces have already begun some of their anticipated counteroffensive operations, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said Wednesday. She was understandably vague in her remarks, and reminded reporters Kyiv would not announce operations in advance—but she repeated Kyiv’s ultimate objective of liberating all occupied territory across Ukraine, which is still about a fifth of the country, including the Crimean peninsula.
Russia resumed launching Iranian-made lethal drones on Tuesday evening, including 12 Shahed-131/136 variants targeting southern Ukraine from the Sea of Azov. Ten of those were allegedly shot down by Ukrainian air defense elements, according to Kyiv’s military.
- “Canada's military shortfalls harm ties with NATO allies, Discord leaks show,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday from the documents it copied from Discord before the FBI shut it down last week; and
- And “China snubbed Wagner arms request, says US intelligence leak,” the Financial Times reported Thursday from its own stash of those documents.
From Defense One
Marines Overhaul Amphibious Combat Vehicle Training After Rollovers // Caitlin M. Kenney: A brand-new unit will teach Marines to drive the vehicles through the surf.
The Air Force’s Electronic-Warfare Wing Is 400 People Short // Lauren C. Williams: That’s okay for now, its commander says, but his service may need to change how it trains and manages EW officers.
Let Me Start Weapons R&D Faster, Air Force Secretary Asks Congress // Marcus Weisgerber: Frank Kendall wants freedom from rules that require lawmakers’ approval to get anti-China weapons off the ground.
Tighten Access to Classified Info, Air Force Secretary Says // Audrey Decker: As the Pentagon responds to a classified document leak, officials should focus on enforcing “need to know,” according to Frank Kendall.
CENTCOM Hires AI Guru from Google // Patrick Tucker: Andrew Moore, former director of Google Cloud AI, heads to CENTCOM to bring new approaches to data and innovation.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. On this day in 1999, the Columbine High School massacre occurred, leading to the deaths of 15 people—including two shooters—and injuries to two dozen others.
Developing: SpaceX tried and failed to send the world’s largest rocket into orbit on Thursday. The company said on Twitter that its rocket, known as Starship, “experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation” after launch from Texas.
Dig into the history of SpaceX’s productive, and at times fraught relationship with the U.S. military in a series of recent Defense One reports including:
- “Pentagon Looking to Make Sure SpaceX Doesn’t Abandon Them in War,” from early March;
- “Decrying Starlink's 'Weaponization,' SpaceX Cuts Support for Ukrainian Military,” from February;
- And “Why the Pentagon’s Crush on Elon Musk Is Dangerous to Democracy,” from October.
Wargaming a Taiwan invasion: The House Select Committee on China and the Center for a New American Security think tank on Wednesday evening ran a tabletop exercise examining how the U.S. would respond if China invaded Taiwan.
In opening remarks for that exercise, committee chair Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., said he believes the “business community is not taking the threat of a Taiwan crisis seriously enough. I recently had a meeting with an executive from a leading financial services company who told me that the chance of a Taiwan conflict was “near-zero”...if the Chinese do invade Taiwan, any business or investor that is overly-dependent on the Chinese market, including both suppliers and customers located there, will suffer. We want American businesses to deal with these risks responsibly, not stick their heads in the sand.”
And despite the “wargame name,” Gallagaher said the exercise was “not about a desire for war, and tonight is not about playing frivolous games. We seek peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait—and the continuation of a relationship that has enabled both Taiwan and China to grow their economies and integrate their societies with the world through high-tech commerce. Only Beijing seeks to upend this peaceful situation, and provoke conflict.”
“We’re going to explore what happens in the very grim scenario in which deterrence fails in the Indo-Pacific. This is not a possibility we wish to contemplate, but one we must,” Gallagher said.
And lastly today: The future LCS Cleveland got off to a rocky start Saturday, colliding with a tugboat as soon as it was launched, videos circulating online show. The new ship was damaged but no one was injured in what the Navy called “unintentional contact,” Navy Times reported.
And the damage was relatively minor, according to the Navy: “The damaged area is well above the waterline and no flooding occurred,” Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman Jamie Koehler said in an email. “An assessment was completed and permanent repairs are being planned. Root cause of the incident is currently under investigation by the Navy and shipbuilder.”
The side-launch was already planned to be the last of its kind from the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin; future ships will launch with a “shiplift system,” Navy Times reports.