Today's D Brief: $1B aid package for Ukraine; UK to send long-range missiles?; Russia’s one-tank parade; USAF on ChatGPT; And a bit more.
The Pentagon is sending more than a billion dollars in new arms to Ukraine, including air defense systems, counter-drone equipment, 155mm artillery rounds, and using unspecified “commercial satellite imagery services.”
The Defense Department announced the package Tuesday morning under the authorization known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is an $18 billion fund that pulls “capabilities from industry or partners,” and marks the “beginning of a contracting process to provide additional priority capabilities to Ukraine.” Just over $11 billion of that USAI fund has been used over 10 separate times since the start of the full-scale invasion 14 and a half months ago, according to the State Department.
New: The British military “appears poised to send Kyiv the long-range missiles the Biden administration has long denied it,” according to the Washington Post, reporting Monday evening from a procurement alert issued last week.
Fine print: “No final decision has been made, according to a British official who declined to confirm the type, timing or quantity of weaponry under consideration,” the Post’s Karen DeYoung reported. “But the notice is a substantive step toward Britain itself supplying such munitions, and the requested specifications and capabilities closely match its air-launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles.”
Why it matters: With a range of nearly 200 miles, the missiles would allow Ukrainian forces to hit Russian positions inside occupied Crimea.
Coming up: NATO defense chiefs are to meet Wednesday at alliance headquarters in Brussels. The first planned session will concern “The military situation in and around Ukraine,” according to the public agenda. The second session will center around the NATO summit scheduled next month in Lithuania. Finland will officially join the alliance for that annual event. And nearly all of the rest of the alliance’s 30 members are hoping to see Sweden join NATO as well by that time. Turkey remains the key holdout in that accession process; but Hungary’s parliament, which is led by the far-right Viktor Orban, has not yet ratified Sweden’s accession either.
European Union President Ursula von der Leyen visited Kyiv Tuesday to unveil the bloc’s 11th round of sanctions against Russian entities. Sanctions evasion is a big theme for this latest tranche, she wrote on Twitter after an outdoor appearance in the capital with President Volodymir Zelenskyy.
Alongside Zelenskyy, von der Leyen marked May 9 in Kyiv. May 9 was the day the Nazi regime was officially defeated in 1945. She also said she “warmly welcome[d]” Zelenskyy’s suggestion that May 9 be known as “Europe Day” to emphasize the collective victory over tyranny.
“Courageously, Ukraine is fighting for the ideals of Europe that we celebrate today,” von der Leyen said in Kyiv. “In Russia, [Vladimir] Putin and his regime has destroyed these values. And now they are attempting to destroy them here in Ukraine—because they are afraid of the success you [Zelenskyy] represent, and the example you show. And they are afraid of your path to the European Union,” she said.
It’s worth repeating, however, that “[O]utside Europe and North America, the defense of Ukraine is not front of mind,” said David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee, writing in the latest print issue of Foreign Affairs. “Few governments endorse the brazen Russian invasion, yet many remain unpersuaded by the West’s insistence that the struggle for freedom and democracy in Ukraine is also theirs,” he cautioned.
Miliband’s advice: “Western governments should frame the conflict as one between the rule of law and impunity or between law and anarchy rather than one that pits democracy against autocracy.” Doing so, he argued, “tests China at its weakest point because China claims to support a rules-based international system. It also sounds less self-regarding, which is important given the obvious problems plaguing many liberal democracies.” Read the rest of that useful glimpse in the mirror for Ukraine’s Western allies, here.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin marked Victory Day with a considerably muted parade through Moscow’s Red Square—a parade that saw only one single T-34 tank the entire time, which is a notable contrast from years past. The parade’s aerial flyover was canceled this year, too, the Associated Press reported.
“This is weak. There are no tanks,” one Russian told AP. However, she added dutifully, “We’re upset, but that’s all right; it will be better in the future.” AP has more on Putin’s predictable message of defiance, here; Reuters has this; you can also review a Cold War historian’s take, via Twitter, here.
Russia says it wants to make 1,500 new tanks per year, according to Dmitry Medvedev. But Russian independent news outlet (it’s incredible any still exist) Verstka reportedly says workers at the country’s largest armored vehicle manufacturer point to several factors that appear to be undermining production. Those include “poor wages, difficult working conditions, staff shortages, unfilled vacancies,” and mobilization drives.
Meanwhile in Ukraine, “More than 170,000 square kilometers of our territory are contaminated with mines and unexploded ordnance,” President Zelenskyy said in his evening address Monday. So, he said Ukraine’s military is “actively working with partners to increase our capabilities” for demining, including the “training of sappers and pyrotechnicians” and collaborating “with everyone in the world who has the experience, who has the technology, who has the financial capacity to support us to make Ukraine clear of Russian mines again.”
You may recall last week we highlighted a Reuters report from northeastern Ukraine featuring a farmer who built a remotely operated de-mining tractor contraption so he can safely plant his annual crops. Revisit that extraordinary May 2 report from Hrakove, here.
- Somewhat related: Zelenskyy on Monday did not mention Kyiv’s outstanding request for U.S. cluster munitions, which are noted for their tendency to spread unexploded ordnance around. Defense One’s Sam Skove wrote last month about the Biden administration's silence on the request.
On the other hand: Observe how densely-built Russian fortifications are along occupied territory in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia oblast. An open-source analyst combined Sentinel Hub EO imagery and commercially available Airbus DS Pléiades Neo photos to present an intriguing review of obstacles emplaced by Russian forces around Zaporizhzhia, which would appear to be one of the locations Moscow believes Ukraine will try to retake in a spring counteroffensive.
From Defense One
Air Force Is Working on Rules for Using ChatGPT // Edward Graham: The service's CIO also wants to encourage exploration of the "incredibly powerful capability" of generative artificial intelligence tools.
How Do You Guard AI Data? The Army Wants to Know // Carten Cordell: If an enemy can mess with a training dataset, the promise of AI tools could become a nightmare.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: A year without sub parts; Big Javelin deal; DOD’s new payment structure; and more...
DIU’s new chief arrives. Navy Reserve Capt. Doug Beck was sworn in Monday as director of the Defense Innovation Unit, the 7-year-old organization that touts itself as “the only DoD organization focused on accelerating the adoption of commercial and dual-use technology to solve operational challenges at speed and scale.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did the honors for Beck, who stepped down as Apple’s VP of Worldwide Education, Health, and Government to take the Pentagon job.
Speaking of innovation, former SecDef Mark Esper and former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James have been heading up an Atlantic Council deep dive into how the Pentagon might better harness new ideas and technology. They’ve put out an interim report, and they highlighted two ideas in an oped for Defense One: first, upgrade the powers of a handful of PEOs so they can more flexibly try new things as they develop broad categories of capabilities, and two, Congress should allow the Pentagon to start larger programs without asking. Read that, here.
The Allen, Texas, mass shooter was an Army washout with a fixation on Nazi iconography and far-right politics. The New York Times first flagged investigators’ interest in that content in their reporting Monday; Bellingcat’s Aric Toler found the shooter’s social media profile—on a Russian website with virtually no content-moderation policies—and confirmed the disturbing posts later Monday on Twitter. Bellingcat’s Elliott Higgins summarized the findings in a separate post on Twitter, here.
Among the online minds who find this all hard to believe: Elon Musk, owner of Twitter, and a man who has frequently shown himself to be sympathetic toward incredulous far-right users on his newly-acquired platform.
By the way: Musk’s platform permitted graphic images of those killed in Saturday’s Texas shooting to spread across the site for more than 24 hours after the attack—and “mostly without content warnings” like those in place before Musk acquired Twitter. The BBC has more on that, here. (Learn more about the by-now common trend of platforms frequently descending into a cesspool of awful and often harmful content via a new episode of WNYC’s “On the Media,” released Saturday, here.)
- “Texas mass shooting suspect was kicked out of the Army during basic training,” Task & Purpose reported Monday; Fox has similar coverage, here;
- “Texas mall shooting victims include 2 young sisters, a 3-year-old boy and his parents,” CBS News reported Monday; Dallas’s local WFAA news has more coverage of the victims, here.
And lastly: A man who pepper-sprayed police on Jan. 6 has been sentenced to 14 years in jail, which is the longest term yet of the 600-plus people convicted for actions during the 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol. (Around 1,000 have been charged so far, and the Justice Department believes [PDF] it may have 1,000 more to go.) The Associated Press has more about Peter Schwartz, who boasted that he had "started a riot" by "throwing the first chair." Later, according to prosecutors, he seized a police duffle bag of pepper-spray canisters and handed them out to fellow rioters.
Schwartz’s sentence might soon be eclipsed; prosecutors are seeking 25 years for Oath Keepers founder and convicted seditious conspiracist Stewart Rhodes, according to NBC News.