Today's D Brief: Air attacks on Moscow, Kyiv; F-16s for Turkey?; Austin’s Pacific trip; Typhoon heads toward Okinawa; And a bit more.
Residents in both Moscow and Kyiv came under attack from lethal drones on Tuesday, capping one of the busiest months for air defense systems protecting Ukraine’s capital city from dozens of cruise missiles and Iranian-made exploding drones. For example, Russia launched nearly 80 drones and cruise missiles across Ukraine overnight Sunday. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War reviewed the known targets and presumed shootdowns from that barrage, writing Monday evening, here.
The Tuesday strikes in Kyiv killed at least one person, whom the city’s mayor said was a woman who went to her balcony to watch the drones as they were shot down, but she was killed by one of them instead. According to one security guard in Kyiv, speaking to The Guardian, “I woke up at 6.15 from a loud explosion, and then there were around six other booms every 10 minutes or so.”
At least two different kinds of drones were used to attack locations inside Russia, and neither seems to have been able to pack much punch, according to analysts at the Ukraine Weapons Tracker account on Twitter. And that would seem to suggest the aftermath of Tuesday’s apparent attacks inside Russia “are likely the result of drones attempting to fly as low as possible running into the heavy electronic warfare counter-measures in the area.” Reuters has more from Moscow.
Bigger picture: Ukraine’s military chief announced Saturday on Telegram, “The time has come to take back what is ours,” which seemed to be a reference to the start of Ukraine’s long anticipated spring counteroffensive. And Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council chief Oleksiy Danilov told the BBC on Saturday that his troops are “ready” and that an offensive could begin “tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week.”
Russia issues arrest warrant for Sen. Lindsey Graham. After the Republican senator from South Carolina met on Friday in Kyiv with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president’s office released an edited video in which Graham calls for more military aid to the beleaguered country, notes that “the Russians are dying,” and describes the U.S. military assistance to the country as “the best money we’ve ever spent.”
On Monday, Russia’s Interior Ministry issued the warrant for Graham’s arrest. He was already among more than 200 U.S. members of Congress banned from entering Russia, AP noted. Graham responded on Twitter, writing, “I will wear the arrest warrant issued by Putin’s corrupt and immoral government as a Badge of Honor.”
Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan won another five-year term as president in run-off elections held over the weekend. That will extend Erdogan’s rule into a third decade, and prolong many of the issues lingering for both Turks and their NATO allies, including ongoing earthquake recovery efforts at home, Erdogan’s desire to obtain F-16 aircraft from the U.S. (after losing F-35s because Turkey bought a Russian S-400 air defense system), and—perhaps most notably—his fevered reluctance to admit Sweden as the newest member of the NATO alliance. The Wall Street Journal reported late last week that Erdogan is demanding officials in Stockholm extradite 120 alleged terrorists the Turks say have ties to Kurdish extremists; but “Sweden says it has no idea who they are.” (Sinan Ciddi of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote a post mortem on why the opposition failed to defeat Erdogan at the polls, and you can find that over at the National Interest.)
Russia’s Vladimir Putin was the first world leader to congratulate Erdogan, and he praised what he described as Erdogan’s “independent foreign policy,” according to the BBC. President Joe Biden was the second leader to call. According to the White House’s terse readout of the conversation, the two presidents “discussed their readiness as NATO allies to address regional and global challenges, including strengthening transatlantic security at the NATO Summit in Vilnius,” which begins in two weeks.
Biden told reporters Tuesday that Erdogan is still keen on acquiring U.S.-made F-16s. “I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden, so let’s get that done,” Biden said on the South Lawn of the White House Monday. “And so we'll be back in touch with one another.”
- “Lukashenko offers nuclear weapons to nations willing 'to join the Union State of Russia and Belarus',” CNN reported Sunday;
- “Russian Public Appears to Be Souring on War Casualties, Analysis Shows,” the New York Times reported late last week;
- “NATO struggles in the shadows to find new leader,” Reuters reported Friday;
- “An alleged Russian spy whale turned up in Sweden. Why?” the Washington Post reported Tuesday;
- And “Russian Cruise Missile That Struck Poland Exposes NATO’s Air Defenses,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday from Warsaw.
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Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson, with Jennifer Hlad and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1982, Spain joined NATO to become the 16th member of the Russia-focused alliance.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is traveling to the Pacific region this week. He has stops planned in Japan as well as Singapore for this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, which is organized each year by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. That three-day conference begins on Friday, and Austin is expected to speak Saturday at about 8:30 a.m. local, which is 8:30 p.m. ET on the U.S. east coast.
“Throughout the trip, I’ll underscore our commitment to peace, stability, and deterrence at a time of historic momentum,” Austin’s press team tweeted Tuesday upon his departure.
More than 40 nations are sending top officials to the conference, and that includes China’s military chief, Gen. Li Shangfu, who took over in March. His participation was announced Sunday, shortly after headlines circulated late last week (in Bloomberg, e.g.) that he might still refuse to meet personally with his U.S. counterpart. Li’s refusal to meet Austin was confirmed Monday and overnight, as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and more reported. Li is set to speak exactly one day after Austin, which would be early Sunday morning in Singapore / late Saturday evening in Washington.
Worth noting: Li was sanctioned by the U.S. back in 2018 for his role helping China acquire Su-35 Russian fighter jets and parts for Moscow’s S-400 air defense system system. The State Department has a bit more on that, here.
According to Beijing’s Foreign Ministry, the U.S. must “earnestly respect China’s sovereignty, security and interest concerns, immediately correct wrong practice, [and] show sincerity” before the two military chiefs can meet, Spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters Tuesday. The South China Morning Post has more on the recent history of those high-level U.S.-China talks, here.
Typhoon Mawar appears to be headed for Okinawa, Japan, home of the U.S. Air Force’s largest base outside CONUS as well as Marine Corps, Navy, and Army installations. But Mawar, which hit Guam last week as a category 4 storm, has since been downgraded to a category 1.
The typhoon forced the closure of the airfield at Andersen Air Base on Guam. It also knocked out power and water to the base, though no one there was seriously injured, the Air Force said in a press release Friday. Other military bases on the island also lost power and saw some flooding, which led the military to open Emergency Family Assistance Centers on Andersen and Navy Base Guam for families in need.
Help on the way? The USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship that until recently was operating as the lead ship in the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group/13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was standing by Friday for tasking to support relief efforts in Guam, a defense official told Defense One’s Jennifer Hlad, who is based in Hawaii. Marines in Japan were also standing by to respond. And while no one has answered any of our questions yet about whether that tasking came down over the weekend, your Hawaii-based D Brief-er saw the Makin Island heading out of Pearl Harbor on Friday at sunset.
For the first time ever, the U.S. Coast Guard will soon jointly drill with its Japanese and Philippine counterparts in the South China Sea, Reuters reported Monday from Manila. The exercises are expected to begin Thursday, and will include four vessels from the Philippines and one each from the U.S. and Japan.
The three-nation drills are ostensibly designed for search-and-rescue collaboration; but they also come at a time of Chinese territorial expansion and maritime aggression around the South China Sea. The Associated Press has a bit more, here.
Also from the region:
- “Japan puts missile defences on alert as North Korea warns of satellite launch,” Reuters reported Monday from Tokyo and Seoul;
- “Inside South Korea's race to become one of the world’s biggest arms dealers,” Reuters reported separately on Monday;
- “Malaysia detains Chinese ship suspected of looting British WW2 wrecks” for their low-radioactivity prewar steel, much prized for various scientific instruments, the BBC reported on Tuesday;
- And “Tesla shares rise as Elon Musk meets with China’s foreign minister,” CNBC reported Tuesday.
Meanwhile in South America, Uruguay’s taps are now running salt water, a deliberate decision by the relatively affluent but drought-wracked country. “Uruguay, beset by high temperatures and drought, is running out of freshwater. Montevideo, the capital, is down to just a few days’ supply,” the Washington Post reported. With the country’s main reservoir at just 5% capacity, authorities have begun adding brackish water from Río de la Plata to the country’s water supply.
Why? South America’s Southern Cone is “warming more rapidly than the rest of the world. Precipitation during the last four months of 2022 fell to half the average, the lowest level in 35 years. Andean glaciers have lost more than 30 percent of their area since the 1980s, according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization,” the Post wrote. “Central Chile is 13 years into its longest drought in at least a millennium. Argentina’s agricultural exports are expected to fall by 28 percent in 2023.”
And lastly: RIP U.S. Army Spc. Jayson Reed Haven, who perished last Thursday during a vehicle accident in Kuwait. He was with the South Carolina National Guard’s 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
Haven was a machine gunner in his unit, and was just 20 years old when he died. Army officials are investigating the incident. Haven was born in Aiken, S.C., and the local Aiken Standard has more on his past, here.