Today's D Brief: UK cruise missiles to Ukraine; NATO details defense plans; SOCOM chief’s vision; Tuberville’s hold; And a bit more.
Confirmed: The Brits have given Ukraine “Storm Shadow” missiles with an approximate 155-mile range, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace told lawmakers on Thursday—confirming the Washington Post’s Monday report from a procurement alert made public last week. The news will likely be unwelcome in Moscow: Ukraine has not previously had missiles that could hit Russian bases in occupied Crimea.
Wallace also reminded parliamentarians that Russia’s invasion has displaced more people than at any time since World War II, creating nearly eight million refugees across Europe and another six million displaced somewhere inside Ukraine.
Russia’s military has attacked Ukrainian clinics and hospitals almost 800 times during its 442-day invasion, Wallace said. Occupying forces have also “stole[n] or destroyed 4.04 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds, valued at $1.9 billion” across Ukrainian farms during and after last year's harvest, he said before elaborating upon nearly a dozen other instances of Russian brutality, violence, and alleged war crimes stemming from Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
“That is why the Prime Minister and I have now taken the decision to provide longer-range capabilities,” said Wallace. “Today, I can confirm that the UK has donated Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine,” he continued. “Their use of Storm Shadow will allow Ukraine to push back Russian forces based within Ukrainian Sovereign Territory.”
“It is my judgment as the Defence Secretary that this is a calibrated proportionate response to Russia’s escalations,” said Wallace, emphasizing a core principle of international humanitarian law. “The reality is that this is a war of President Putin’s own choosing—at the expense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and its civilians’ lives.” Wallace made no mention of an end game, as it were; but he did note repeatedly that the Brits will not stand idly by as the war grinds on amid Russia’s “needless destruction and gratuitous violence.”
“The UK stands for values of freedom, the rule of law, human rights, and the protection of civilians,” Wallace said. “We will stand side by side with Ukraine, we will continue to support them in defence of their sovereign country.”
Expert reax: “This will give Ukraine capability to make Crimea untenable for Russian forces,” Ben Hodges—retired three-star and former U.S. Army Europe commander—wrote on Twitter Thursday. Russia’s Crimea-based “Black Sea fleet is now faced with the destruction of ships, facilities in Sevastopol or [the] repositioning [of] ships to Novorossiysk,” which is on legitimate Russian territory, closer to Georgia—and, according to Hodges, is “a much less capable port for support of the Fleet.”
The missile isn’t invulnerable, analyst Fabian Hoffman writes. After all, it’s a 20-year-old system, he argues. But it does mean that Russian military “command posts, logistical facilities, ammunition depots and other high-value targets outside of HIMARS range are no longer invulnerable,” which he adds, “will likely exacerbate Russian planning and logistics.”
Speaking of missiles: Germany’s BILD newspaper assessed scraps of the Russian hypersonic missile that a Patriot air defense system shot down last week over Ukraine. Watch that video on Twitter, here.
Ukrainian spring offensive latest: Ukraine’s president says “we need to wait” and “We still need a bit more time” before officially launching Kyiv’s highly anticipated spring counteroffensive to retake occupied territory along the country’s eastern and southern regions. On Thursday, President Volodymir Zelenskyy told reporters, “We can go forward and be successful; but we'd lose a lot of people. I think that's unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time.”
Russia’s convict-mercenary leader says Ukraine’s counteroffensive has already begun around Bakhmut, which is the eastern Ukrainian city Wagner has been trying to seize since at least June. Yevgeny Prigozhin also said the Ukrainian military has been “unfortunately, partially successful” in its recent operations around Bakhmut, according to Reuters Thursday reporting.
A lot is riding on this Ukrainian operation, whenever it officially gets underway. But Ukraine’s allies would be wise to draft “a set of commitments and plans for what follows this operation, rather than maintain a wait-and-see approach,” argue Michael Kofman of CNA and Russian military analyst Rob Lee, writing in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. Perhaps more urgent for Kyiv, “Ukraine’s task is daunting” in that its military “must not only succeed but also avoid overextension” in the months to come.
Another key consideration: “Putin may assume that this offensive represents the high point of Western assistance and that, over time, Russia may still exhaust the Ukrainian military, perhaps in the third or fourth year of the conflict,” Kofman and Lee caution. “These assumptions may be objectively false, but as long as Moscow believes that the next offensive is a one-off affair, it may reason that time is still on Russia’s side.” However, “Russia does not seem well positioned for a forever war,” they warn. Read the rest, here.
Meanwhile: For the first time since the end of the Cold War, NATO has formalized “Regional Plans, which give NATO military commanders a wide range of options to defend Alliance territory against threats from Russia,” Britain’s top uniformed officer, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said in a statement Wednesday after a meeting of alliance defense chiefs in Brussels.
The unprecedented detail of the plans will enable military leaders to better understand what forces are needed—and may help more political leaders understand why they need to up defense spending to the alliance’s 2%-of-GDP guideline, said Royal Netherlands Navy Adm. Rob Bauer, the chair of NATO’s Military Committee. Defense One’s Caitlin Kenney reports, here.
- “Poland reverts to historic name for Russia’s Kaliningrad,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday from Warsaw;
- “Kremlin calls Polish decision to rename Kaliningrad 'hostile act',” Reuters reported Wednesday;
- “Grain Trail: Tracking Russia's Ghost Ships with Satellite Imagery,” via Bellingcat, reporting Thursday using over 140 satellite images of activity around Crimean shipping terminals;
- “Luxury Imports to Russia Take a Detour Around Sanctions,” via Dubai, e.g., the New York Times reported Thursday;
- And “India's Russia oil imports jumped tenfold in 2022, bank says,” the BBC reported Thursday.
From Defense One
How Special Operations Forces Must Meet the Challenges of a New Era // Gen. Bryan P. Fenton: To the commander of U.S. SOCOM, what matters most is whether we solve the problem our nation needs solved.
A Classified Cloud Is Headed to the Indo-Pacific // Lauren C. Williams: It’s part of DISA’s effort to bring continental-U.S.-level computing resources to U.S. military forces around the world.
US Military Now Has Voice-Controlled Bug Drones // Patrick Tucker: And next year, they might talk back.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1846, Congress declared war on Mexico at the request of President James Polk. Of the nearly 79,000 U.S. troops and militia volunteers who served in the two-year war, more than 13,000 died, the vast majority of disease and accidents.
China remains America’s “number one long-term geostrategic security challenge,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers this morning during a budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. And the Pentagon's latest $842 billion “budget request shows it, including requests for the Department’s largest procurement and R&D budgets ever—$170 billion and $145 billion respectively,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
“Using economic and military hard power, the PRC’s goal is to revise the global international order by midcentury, and it intends to be the regional hegemon in Asia within the next 10 years,” Milley said. “Its intention is to exceed the United States’ military capability within the Western Pacific in the next decade and to exceed the United States’ global military capability by 2049.”
That’s partly why the White House says it will soon sign a new defense pact with Papua New Guinea, just north of Australia, according to Reuters, reporting Wednesday. President Joe Biden is set to visit the island on May 22, before a visit with Japanese, Indian, and Australian leaders—aka, “the Quad”—in Sydney. Read more, here.
Developing: China just delivered two naval ships to Pakistan as part of a four-ship deal Beijing reached with Islamabad back in 2018. It’s just the latest in several deals linking the two nations, including “the first batch of six J-10 fighter jets [China delivered] to Pakistan in March last year,” along with eight Hangor Class submarines expected by 2028, according to Reuters, reporting separately Thursday from Beijing.
From the region:
- “China pours cold water on bilateral meeting with US defence secretary,” the Financial Times reported Thursday ahead of this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore next month.
White nationalists in the military? “I call them Americans,” said Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the junior senator from Alabama. Asked recently by Birmingham-based WBHM, “Do you believe [the Biden administration] should allow white nationalists in the military?” the Senate Armed Services Committee member responded, “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.”
His office later issued a statement: “Sen. Tuberville’s quote that is cited shows that he was being skeptical of the notion that there are white nationalists in the military, not that he believes they should be in the military.” Read more of the statement at al.com.
The presence of white nationalists in the ranks is well-documented, of long standing, and growing. A good rundown by a West Point history professor and several co-authors begins, “Since the growth of the modern white power movement in the 1970s, servicemembers have been directly involved in every major surge in white nationalist activity across the country.” Read that, here.
Tuberville’s obstruction of military promotions over DOD abortion policies appears to be wearing on his party’s Senate leader. “No, I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters on Wednesday about Tuberville’s blockade, which aims to halt the Pentagon’s practice of funding travel for troops who cannot get reproductive health care where they serve.
In context, via AP: “McConnell’s comments have no practical effect on Tuberville’s holds, because any senator can hold up any Senate action. But the GOP leader’s position further isolates the Alabama Republican as lawmakers and national security officials have said that the holdup may have dangerous effects.”
Defense Secretary Austin laid out those “risks” in a May 5 letter responding to a query by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.: “This indefinite hold harms America's national security and hinders the Pentagon to normal operations,” Austin wrote. Read the 4-page letter, here.
- “Army sergeant who fatally shot BLM protester in Texas sentenced to 25 years,” AP reported Wednesday from Austin.