Today's D Brief: US support for Ukraine is rising; The problem with land mines; German DM in DC; CMC Berger's parting message; And a bit more.
American support for arming Ukraine soars, according to a survey conducted this week by Reuters/Ipsos. One thousand respondents chimed in, including nearly 400 Democrats and Republicans, as well as nearly 200 independents.
Some 65% favored sending U.S. weapons to Ukraine, which is a nearly 20-point increase from just one month ago when 46% approved. That includes 81% of Democrats, 56% for Republicans, and 57% support among independents.
That’s similar to the 59% support for arming Ukraine that pollsters with the Reagan Institute discovered in results published this week. In that survey, too, Democrats were far more willing to send weapons to Ukraine than Republicans, with 75 percent in favor of sending weapons versus 50 percent of Republicans, Defense One’s Sam Skove reported Sunday.
Worth noting: Context makes a difference. When asked if the aid sent to Ukraine had been “worth the cost,” 50 percent of Reagan Institute respondents said yes. But when they were told that (1) the aid given was just three percent of the U.S. military’s budget, (2) that Ukraine remained in control of much of its territory, and (3) that the war had severely degraded Russian combat capabilities, the number of respondents who approved of the aid jumped to 64 percent.
“Gains were largest with Republicans, with 59 percent thinking money on military aid was well spent after being given additional information,” Skove writes. Read more, here.
By the way: The Pentagon on Tuesday announced another $500 million in weapons to Ukraine, including lots of artillery, Patriot air defense missiles, radar-seeking missiles, anti-tank missiles, 30 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, 25 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers, as well as “demolitions munitions and systems for obstacle clearing,” unspecified mine-clearing equipment, and more.
For Ukraine, “Providing us with more anti-mine means would improve the situation, but it doesn't solve all the challenges,” one officer wrote on Twitter Wednesday. That’s because “different types of mines require various clearance,” he says; and Russia has been seeding the ground with a variety of different kinds of mines.
The cheap surveillance effect: “In previous wars, it was easier to approach the enemy at close proximity without being easily detected,” he writes. “However, the element of surprise has diminished significantly due to the constant presence of drones, which easily detect any approaching mine-clearing vehicles.”
To clear a mined path effectively, he says, requires “an extraordinary level of coordination among anti-air defense, electronic warfare units, sappers, engineers, artillery, and reconnaissance elements on a scale not encountered by many modern armies in recent large-scale operations.”
But there’s also the psychological effect—i.e., what is truly safe ground? This is because, similar to the U.S. military’s IED experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, “Even after minefields are supposedly cleared, residual mines create lingering doubts, discouraging swift movements and maneuvers by military units.”
So what’s the best way to cope with the multifaceted threat of a heavily-mined battlefield? Hard to say for certain, he argues after listing a number of approaches; but constant communication and layered coordination of the kind you might get from experienced combined arms maneuvering would almost certainly help. And that sort of accomplishment is a challenge for even the most well-financed militaries like the U.S.
Update: A dozen U.S. and NATO-trained brigades have returned to Ukraine for the counter-offensive, and the U.S. plans to train still more Ukrainian troops in the weeks and months ahead, Defense One’s Sam Skove reported Tuesday. Those 12 trained brigades that have returned to Ukraine are expected to play a major part in the ongoing counteroffensive.
So far, 67,000 Ukrainians have been trained by allies outside of their country’s borders. And one Pentagon official in Europe said this week the U.S. Army is still “not at the max for training,” and could ramp up those efforts.
Reminder: Kyiv hasn’t yet gone all-in. “Ukraine’s main troop reserves, including most brigades recently trained in the west and equipped with modern Nato tanks and armoured vehicles, have yet to be used” in the counteroffensive, the Financial Times reported this week, citing Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
At least 10 people died in a Russian missile strike on a pizza restaurant in the eastern city of Kramatorsk Tuesday evening, and at least three teenagers are reportedly among the dead; 61 others were wounded, according to the Associated Press.
The venue, the Ria Lounge bar, was a frequent spot for not just locals but also journalists, including Colin Freeman of the Telegraph, who was called away from Ria for an interview elsewhere in Kramatorsk just minutes before it was hit in the missile strike. “By the time we headed back to the scene of the bombing, rescue workers were picking their way through a massive pile of smoking rubble, ferrying out the dead and wounded on a stretcher,” Freeman reports.
The U.S. just imposed new sanctions on Wagner-linked companies working to exploit Africa’s gold mines. The four companies are based variously in the Central African Republic (Midas Ressources and Diamville SAU), the United Arab Emirates (Industrial Resources General Trading), and Russia (Limited Liability Company DM), the Treasury Department said Tuesday. A Russian citizen in Mali, Andrey Nikolayevich Ivanov, was also sanctioned. Details, here.
This afternoon at the Pentagon, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is expected to make his first stateside visit for talks with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. For Pistorious, “The main objective of the U.S. trip is to discuss the situation in Ukraine and Russia, and how to maintain European and NATO security as the war drags on,” the New York Times reported Wednesday in a preview after interviewing Pistorius in Berlin.
The Pentagon’s #3 civilian, Colin Kahl, met his German counterpart Tuesday inside the building for talks on not just Europe, NATO, and Ukraine—but also “strategy in the Indo-Pacific region” and “Germany's newly published National Security Strategy,” the Pentagon said in its readout.
Kahl also spoke to his Turkish counterpart last Friday in Washington ahead of the NATO summit about two weeks away in Lithuania. The two discussed “Turkiye's military modernization needs and the importance of welcoming Sweden into NATO immediately,” the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also reminded his Turkish counterpart that Sweden needs to be in NATO pronto. The White House has a bit more on that Tuesday phone call, here.
- “Wagner’s Prigozhin Planned to Capture Russian Military Leaders,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday;
- “Russian General Knew About Mercenary Chief’s Rebellion Plans, U.S. Officials Say,” the New York Times reported Tuesday, citing U.S. intelligence officials in an account several Russia scholars (e.g., Rob Lee, Mark Galeotti) are openly skeptical of;
- “A Wagner ex-convict returned from war and a Russian village lived in fear. Then he killed again,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday from Estonia;
- “Berlin and Paris 'missing in action' as EU lacks leadership in defence, report says,” Reuters reported Wednesday from the Munich Security Conference; find that report here;
- And don’t miss “Russia’s New Time of Troubles: It’s Not 1917 in Moscow—It’s 1604,” via Vladislav Zubok of the London School of Economics, writing Wednesday in Foreign Affairs.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Kevin Baron. On this day in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed outside Paris, formally ending war in Europe, even though fighting had ceased six months prior.
Outgoing top Marine Corps Gen. David Berger just slammed the military's lack of a joint modernization plan. While the Marine Corps is accelerating its Force Design 2030 efforts, the overall joint force lacks a common goal and timeline for modernization, Berger said Tuesday during the first day of the Modern Day Marine Expo in Washington D.C.
“I'm not in the position to judge the relative speed of the other services. But I think the speed of the joint force and a common goal in the future is what's lacking right now,” Berger said. “In other words, we don't have the equivalent of a joint force design that says this is where the joint force needs to be 5, 6, 7 years into the future. We don't have a common aimpoint. And we also don't have the speed, the velocity, to get us there,” he added.
Why it matters: The difference in modernization priorities is apparent in the services branches’ spending. The Marines have regularly needed to defend to the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office how they want to spend their program dollars because the service is going through more transformation than the other services. Defense One’s Caitlin Kenney has more, here.
In preparation for a possible future war with China, the U.S. Air Force is working with Boeing on drones, AI, and augmented reality—empowered by 5G—that can make some basic maintenance tasks faster and less complicated, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reported Tuesday.
What’s going on: At Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, members of the Air Force’s 15th Maintenance Group last May tested a new way to perform maintenance tasks: using autonomous drones for routine aircraft inspections of aircraft, to look for things like corrosion, damaged rivets, etc.. and inform maintainers. Those drones could drastically cut down on the time and complexity of inspections—inspecting just the tail of a C-17 can take six hours, Tucker writes. Continue reading, here.
U.S. and Japanese defense officials met at Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force Base on Monday and Tuesday. In those talks, officials conducted a tabletop exercise and “shared assessments of the regional security environment, prospects for strategic arms control and risk reduction, reviewed conventional and U.S. nuclear capabilities contributing to regional deterrence,” the Pentagon said in a joint statement with Japanese officials.
- “The China-U.S. military chill: do they talk at all?” asked Reuters in an explainer published Monday;
- And “U.S. Considers New Curbs on AI Chip Exports to China,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
And lastly, we have some developing science news that reportedly affects missile navigation for advanced militaries around the world. In short, the Earth’s axis is moving, or “going off-kilter,” and it seems to have started around the year 2000 or so, according to the New York Times, citing new research on the subject.
Big picture consideration: “Earth’s axis hasn’t been wandering enough to affect the seasons, which are determined by the planet’s tilt,” the Times writes. “But fine patterns and variations in the planet’s spin matter hugely to the satellite-based navigation systems that guide planes, missiles and map apps.”
So what’s driving these changes? Not exactly what you’d probably expect. We don’t want to ruin the surprise. So continue reading, here.