Today's D Brief: Ukraine’s urgent needs; US ups Gulf presence; WH visit for Israeli prez; American in N. Korean custody; And a bit more.

The Pentagon-led Ukrainian Defense Contact Group meets virtually this morning, followed by a press conference at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley. 

Today is the 14th time the group has convened. The last meeting took place in Belgium, and involved discussions on how to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s after training conducted by Dutch and Danish troops sometime in the future. 

“Ukraine's fight for freedom is a marathon, not a sprint,” Austin said Tuesday in his opening remarks. “So this Contact Group has come together again to stand up for some crucial shared principles—sovereignty, human rights, freedom, and a refusal to live in a world where big countries can just invade their peaceful neighbors and redraw borders by force,” he added. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, Ukraine is fighting for its life,” Austin continued. “This is a profoundly important moment in the history of this war and of this century, and the United States will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said. 

Developing: The U.S. will send another $1.3 billion in weapons to Ukraine, including VAMPIRE counter-air defense systems, Switchblade and Phoenix Ghost drones, and counter-drone systems made by Australia's DroneShield Ltd., according to Reuters, reporting Tuesday morning.  

The Ukrainian military’s most urgent needs include air defense and ammunition resupply, the Pentagon said after Austin’s Monday phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov. Beyond that, Austin will be working on lining up enough “support and sustainment for Ukraine over the long term” to help them through the coming weeks and months, according to the Pentagon’s readout

“I thanked Secretary Austin and the American people once more for the supply of cluster munitions,” Reznikov said on social media after that phone call. “We will use them wisely, with caution, and in strict accordance with previously-specified conditions,” he promised. 

Ukraine says a U.S.-provided Bradley Fighting Vehicle recently destroyed two Russian T-72 tanks. The Bradley “is equipped with a heavy TOW (Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided) anti-tank missile, which the crew skillfully used,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar wrote Tuesday on Telegram. 

“Western equipment is a magnet for the enemy,” she added, “and as soon as a Bradley appears on the front line, the Russians use everything they have— from grenade launchers to artillery and attack helicopters.”

The latest from the battlefield: “By and large this is an infantryman’s fight,” which means its largely focused on the squad, platoon and company level while being “supported by artillery along most of the frontline,” said defense analyst Franz-Stefan Gady after a recent trip to Ukraine with several other academics. 

However, Ukraine doesn’t have nearly enough de-mining equipment, air defenses, or anti-tank weapons, Gady said. In the meantime, Ukraine’s military has “switched to a strategy of attrition relying on sequential fires rather than maneuver,” he said. “This is the reason why cluster munitions are critical to extend current fire rates into the fall: weakening Russian defenses to a degree that enables maneuver.”

But perhaps most urgently, Ukraine still can’t efficiently coordinate the many different units needed to collaborate simultaneously for what’s known as combined arms warfare, said Gady. “Lack of a comprehensive combined arms approach at scale makes Ukrainian forces more vulnerable to Russian ATGMs, artillery etc. while advancing. So it's not just about equipment.” 

“There’s simply no systematic pulling apart of the Russian defensive system that I could observe,” he admitted, and added that he doesn’t anticipate those conditions will change anytime soon. “Absent a sudden collapse of Russian defenses, I suspect this will remain a bloody attritional fight with reserve units being fed in incrementally in the coming weeks and months,” said Gady. 

Notable: “There is also evidence of reduced impact of HIMARS strikes due to effective Russian countermeasures,” he said—and flagged this point’s relevance to the ongoing debates stateside about sending Ukraine long-range ATACMS missiles. Read the rest of Gady’s sobering assessment on Twitter, here

Coverage continues below the fold…

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, you can do that quickly here. On this day in 1942, the Nazis tested the world's first jet-powered fighter aircraft with their upgraded Messerschmitt Me 262s.

Russia’s decision Monday to blockade Ukrainian ports to keep its grain from global markets “will harm people all over the world,” said John Kirby of the National Security Council in a briefing Monday at the White House. To date, “More than half of the 33 million metric tons of grain and foodstuffs that have been shipped through the initiative have gone to developing countries, including some of the most food-insecure regions of the globe,” and “have helped drive down and stabilize global prices,” he said

“Russia will be fully and solely responsible for the consequences of this military act of aggression,” said Kirby. “Indeed, we are already seeing a spike in global wheat, corn, and soybean prices just today as a result of Russia's suspension. We urge the government of Russia to immediately reverse its decision.”

“Ukrainian food is basic security for four hundred million people,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy said Monday after Russia withdrew from the grain agreement. That includes people in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, he said. 

Zelenskyy said he wants the UN and Türkiye, along with Ukraine, to revive the agreement without Russia’s participation, which seems unlikely given the Russian navy presence in the region. “It is necessary for everyone in the world,” he said, “and everyone who supports it will become a savior of life in a huge territory from Morocco to China, from Indonesia to Lebanon.”

Plan B? “Overland transport of anything in Ukraine right now is a pretty hazardous undertaking,” Kirby said Monday at the White House. “And that’s why before the grain deal was put in place, food prices were going up; the developing world, the so-called Global South was suffering under food scarcity. So, I mean, I don’t want to stand here and promise you that we’ll be able to fix everything as a result of this decision by Russia. We’ll do the best we can,” including “work[ing] with allies and partners to find new ways to get grain out.”

About Monday’s Kerch Bridge attack: “[I]t’s just too soon to know” if it will “have any significant military impact on [Russia’s] ability to continue to fight this war,” Kirby said. “Yes, it provided land access, terrestrial access to Crimea,” he continued. “But the Russians have many, many, many other ways of providing logistics and sustainment to their troops in Ukraine.”

New: Türkiye just signed the biggest defense contract in its history after closing a deal to sell its Bayraktar drones to Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported Tuesday from Riyadh, two days after Erdogan sealed a separate deal to sell his country’s Bayraktar drones to Kosovo. 

The drones made an initial splash when Ukraine used them during the first months of Russia’s invasion. But video footage from the slow aircraft hasn’t been nearly as ubiquitous on social media in the nearly 12 months since Ukraine managed to push Russian forces away from the capital city of Kyiv. According to Reuters, citing drone-maker Baykar, the company has so far “signed export agreements with 30 countries for its Bayraktar TB2 combat drone and with six countries for the larger Bayraktar Akinci combat drone.” Tiny bit more on all that, here

Related reading: 

Developing: The United Nations says an American is in the custody of the North Korean military after he “crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line” separating the two Koreas on Tuesday. “The man moved into the North during a tour to the Joint Security Area,” Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reports. 

South Korean press says the American is a private in the U.S. Army. “We're still doing some research into this, and everything that happened,” one U.S. military official told Reuters


Israeli President Isaac Herzog is visiting the White House today, in part to mark the country’s 75th anniversary. According to the White House, the two leaders “will reaffirm the ironclad commitment of the United States to Israel’s security,” and they'll “discuss opportunities to deepen Israel’s regional integration and to create a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East.”

New: The Pentagon is sending a destroyer as well as F-35s and F-16s to the Middle East after Iran illegally seized two merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman less than two weeks ago. “In light of this continued threat and in coordination with our partners and allies, the department is increasing our presence and ability to monitor the strait and surrounding waters,” Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters Monday at the Pentagon. 

“I believe some [of the units] are enroute, but I'd leave it to CENTCOM to announce when they actually arrive,” she said. USNI News has a bit more, here.

And lastly: Outgoing Army chief Gen. James McConville is expected to speak at 12 p.m. ET for the Association of the United States Army’s Noon Report webinar. Registration required. Details, here

Reminder: McConville’s four-year term expires next month. Defense News profiled his likely successor, Army Vice Chief Gen. Randy George, last week. Read that, here.