Today's D Brief: More US arms to Ukraine; Army throws down $1B for Javelins; Zelenskyy at The Hague; Manila warms to Washington; And a bit more.

Russia sent another two dozen Iranian-made exploding drones at Ukrainian targets overnight, launching them from the bordering Bryansk region and from the southeastern coast of the Sea of Azov, according to Ukraine’s military. Eighteen of the 24 drones were shot down, Kyiv said; but  three of the drones “hit the dormitories of one of the educational institutions of Odesa,” according to Ukraine’s southern military command. Fortunately no one was reportedly injured in the Odesa strikes. 

Russian forces continue to try to seize the eastern city of Bakhmut, with little apparent recent success or major breakthroughs after nearly a year of trying, going back to at least June. Brady Africk of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute shared a satellite image snapped over Bakhmut Wednesday that seems to show a single long plume of smoke emitting from the western edges of the destroyed city. Overall, “The fiercest battles are fought for Bakhmut and Maryinka,” which is about 75 miles southeast of Bakhmut, Ukraine’s military said Thursday morning. 

New: The U.S. State Department announced another round of weapons to help Ukraine in advance of its highly anticipated spring counteroffensive. It’s largely more artillery and rockets; details here

Also new: The U.S. Army announced a minimum billion-dollar deal to manufacture Javelin anti-tank rounds via Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies. “This is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for fiscal years 2023 through 2026, with a base period executed for $1.02 billion and a ceiling of $7.2 billion,” the Army said in a statement Wednesday. Read more on the Pentagon’s wider issues scheduling arms production with a bit more lead time than just a fiscal year via Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, reporting in February and earlier this week, here and here, respectively.

We’ve talked about the mud across Ukraine during the present rainy spring season. But that doesn’t mean the “bezdorizhzhia” trend has concluded; check out the nasty conditions evident in this clip of Ukrainian troops tugging a tracked howitzer out of a filthy pool of muck to stay in the fight. (h/t Rob Lee)

After the alleged drone attack Wednesday over the Kremlin, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine warned citizens “of an ongoing heightened threat of missile attacks, including in Kyiv” and the surrounding region, according to an alert posted Wednesday. 

A top White House official insisted Thursday that the U.S. had nothing to do with whatever allegedly exploded over the Kremlin on Wednesday. John Kirby of the White House’s National Security Council visited MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to dismiss allegations from the Kremlin that the U.S. masterminded whatever appeared to have happened in Moscow on Wednesday. (Reuters has more on the unfounded allegations from the Kremlin’s top spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, here.) 

“We do not encourage nor do we enable them to strike outside Ukraine,” Kirby said. He also thanked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for his vociferous support of Ukraine during a visit to Jerusalem earlier this week, when the speaker pushed back against a Russian state media reporter trying to get McCarthy to commit to cutting military and financial support to Kyiv, as demanded by a small contingent of far-right lawmakers in the House and Senate (just 19 out of 271 Republican lawmakers signed on to that message in April). 

The European Union’s top foreign policy official warned Russia against using the alleged drone attack to escalate the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. “This is what worries us: this can be used to justify more conscription of people, more soldiers, more attacks on Ukraine,” said Josep Borrell to reporters Thursday in Brussels. 

Ukraine’s president visited the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Thursday, where he pushed for the prosecution of Russian officials for their leadership roles carrying out Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion. “Whoever brings war must receive judgment,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy said at The Hague. 

Reminder: “The ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Putin for suspected deportation of children from Ukraine, and the European Commission has said another international centre for the prosecution of the crime of aggression in Ukraine would be set up in The Hague,” Agence France-Presse reported Thursday from Zelenskyy’s visit. 

Additional reading:

From Defense One

The Pentagon’s AI Chief Is ‘Scared to Death’ of ChatGPT // Patrick Tucker: But other defense leaders are more eager to deploy new artificial-intelligence tools.

MEU to Debut New Artillery, Missile, and Multi-Domain Unit // Caitlin M. Kenney: The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit will take along several innovations when it deploys this summer.

Who Bombed the Kremlin? // Sam Skove: U.S. officials puzzle over what appears to be the first drone attack on Moscow.

How DOD Is Experimenting with AI for Enhanced Cybersecurity // Patrick Tucker: Automated penetration testing and threat hunting could enable much faster response to threats. But adversaries are also accelerating their capabilities.

New Software Aims to Allow Fewer Troops to Manage More Drones // Marcus Weisgerber: Anduril says its product will enable U.S. forces to employ more capable, more autonomous—and just plain more—drones.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosted the president of the Philippines at the Pentagon on Wednesday. During that meeting, they “reaffirmed the United States and the Philippines’ ironclad alliance commitments under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and their shared resolve to defend against armed attacks on their aircraft, public vessels, and armed forces—to include their respective Coast Guards—in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea,” according to an unusually lengthy summary of the meeting provided by the Pentagon.
The two also discussed improving cyber defense and cyber security cooperation, as well as getting the four new “enhanced defense cooperation agreement sites” in the Philippines up and running. There are five such military sites already in the island chain.
Why it matters: The Philippines are flanked by the South China Sea, and the Associated Press recently went out on patrol in those waters with the Philippine coast guard. Read about that voyage for “a glimpse of what it’s like for members of the Philippine coast guard to work on the front lines of multiple geopolitical conflicts in one of the world’s most fiercely contested seas.”
The U.S. and the Philippines also issued new bilateral defense guidelines, which you can dive into here. Or read about why these guidelines were updated, via an explainer by Reuters.
China was not pleased with these developments, and issued a statement Thursday saying as much: “The South China Sea is home to all regional countries, and should not be a hunting ground for external forces,” a ministry spokesperson said in a briefing, Reuters reported.
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