Today's D Brief: Russia bombs grain port; US soldier in N. Korea; F-35 deliveries drop; Dueling Navy Hornet databases; And a bit more.
Russia again attacks Ukraine’s food supply. For the second day in a row, a barrage of Russian missiles targeted a key Ukrainian port that’s been used to export grain to countries around the world. The latest attack on the southern city of Odesa destroyed an estimated 60,000 tons of grain in an early morning wave that began around 1 a.m. and featured cruise missiles, Kh-22 anti-ship missiles, and Iranian-made exploding drones, according to the Ukrainian military. “Grains terminals were damaged as well as an industrial facility, warehouses, shopping malls, residential and administrative buildings and cars,” according to Reuters.
Russia’s Tuesday and Wednesday attacks on Odesa follow Moscow’s decision to pull out of a key UN- and Türkiye-brokered agreement known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allowed Ukrainian grains to flow safely to market despite the Russian navy’s presence in the region. Under the deal, Ukraine maintained just three ports for exporting grain: Odesa, Chornomorsk, Yuzhny/Pivdennyi.
Ukrainian officials say they’re working with Romania to establish a second corridor to move grain out of Ukraine and to ports abroad, especially “African countries that are most critically dependent on the import of agricultural food,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy said Wednesday. “Together, we must do everything possible to ensure that the global food market remains stable, despite Russia's apparent efforts to provoke new crises and use hunger and destabilization as weapons,” he added.
Worth noting: Russia sent 63 missiles and drones at Ukraine overnight; just 37 of those were shot down by Ukrainian air defense forces. That’s partly why Zelenskyy is today pleading with allies to send more SAMP/T and Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine. “If we had additional systems, they would protect the infrastructure of Odesa, and not just the port,” he told reporters Wednesday in Kyiv.
Russian forces, meanwhile, are using an occupied Ukrainian port to export confiscated grain to its customers abroad, Ukraine’s military said Wednesday. That includes the port in Skadovsk, which is in Kherson. Russia is believed to have stolen an estimated 4 million tons of Ukrainian grain as of May, according to Ukrainian officials.
Britain’s top spy says his door is open to ordinary Russians who want to spy for the UK. “As they witness the venality, infighting and callous incompetence of their leaders—the human factor at its worst—many more Russians are wrestling with the same dilemmas and the same tugs of conscience as their predecessors did in 1968,” said MI6 intelligence chief Sir
Roger Richard Moore during a speech in Prague on Wednesday. (Why Prague for this speech? “It was [the] crushing of the Prague Spring by Russian tanks 55 years ago which had led to a wave of Soviet officials crossing over to the West,” the UK’s Independent writes.)
“I invite them to do what others have already done this past 18 months and join hands with us,” Moore said, and promised, “Their secrets will always be safe with us and together we will work to bring the bloodshed to an end.” Sky News has a bit more from Sir Richard’s remarks, here.
Russian authorities seem to be having serious issues rerouting cars and logistics in southern Ukraine after the July 17 Kerch Strait Bridge attack. That’s according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, writing Wednesday. “Footage and imagery published on July 17 and 18 show extensive traffic jams and accidents reportedly on the E58 Mariupol-Melitopol-Kherson City highway—Russia’s current main logistics line connecting Russia to southern Ukraine—at various points between Mariupol and Berdyansk, and in Kherson Oblast,” ISW writes.
But the bridge remains functional. Indeed, “Russian authorities reopened one span of the Kerch Strait Bridge to one-way road traffic towards Russia on July 18, and plan to reopen the same span to two-lane traffic on September 15 and the whole bridge to road traffic in November,” according to ISW.
- “Fire at military base in Crimea forces evacuation of more than 2,000 people,” Reuters reported Wednesday;
- “Putin, Wanted for War Crimes, Will Not Attend Summit in South Africa in Person, Kremlin Says,” the New York Times reported Tuesday from Johannesburg;
- “Climate and violence hobble Nigeria’s push to rely on its own wheat after the hit from Russia’s war,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday from Abuja;
- “Wagner chief Prigozhin claims his troops won't fight in Putin's war 'for now',” the Independent reported Wednesday after Prigozhin released another video on his Telegram account;
- And “Russia's Prigozhin: no more fighting in Ukraine but prepare for Africa,” Reuters reported from that video.
Welcome to this Wednesday 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 1981, French President François Mitterrand told his U.S. counterpart Ronald Reagan about a so-called “Farewell Dossier,” which the French obtained from a KGB defector earlier that year. The dossier revealed Soviet spies had been stealing U.S. technological information across numerous fields, including radars, computers, machine tools, and semiconductors. Rather than going public with the revelations, the U.S. decided to keep the exfiltration channels open so they could feed bad data back to the Russians. “Contrived computer chips found their way into Soviet military equipment, flawed turbines were installed on a gas pipeline, and defective plans disrupted the output of chemical plants and a tractor factory,” as Gus Weiss of the National Security Council later recalled.
U.S. soldier held by N. Korea. U.S. and North Korean officials are talking about Pvt. Travis King, the U.S. soldier who apparently walked into North Korea on Tuesday. The United States is “working with our [Korean People’s Army] counterparts to resolve this incident,” Col. Isaac Taylor, U.S. Forces Korea public affairs spokesperson, said in a statement.
King had just been released from a South Korean prison on assault charges and was awaiting transfer back to Texas’s Fort Bliss to face additional disciplinary actions, the Associated Press reported. King was at the airport when he “joined a tour of the Korean border village of Panmunjom [and then] he ran across the border,” AP wrote.
D1’s Patrick Tucker has more, including a review of recent and celebrated cases of U.S. nationals captured by North Korea.
Nota bene: Several news organizations have reported Pvt. King’s rank as “private second class”; there is no such thing. The confusion may have arisen because the Army sometimes refers to the E-2 paygrade as “PV2.”
King’s misadventure added to an already fraught day on the Korean peninsula:
- U.S. and South Korean officials kicked off discussions about what they might do in the event of a nuclear war with North Korea. Tuesday marked the first meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group established under April’s Washington Declaration agreement, under which the United States “agreed to periodically deploy U.S. nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea and involve Seoul in its nuclear planning operations. In return, South Korea has agreed to not develop its own nuclear weapons,” as the BBC put it.
- The USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) put into Busan, the first visit by a nuclear-armed sub under the recent agreement and the first since 1981. As many have noted, the appearance of the missile sub reduces its military value; boomers typically leave homeport and disappear. “Tactically, (the US and South Korea) are diminishing the sub’s most powerful asset; its stealthiness,” Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii, said in April.
- N. Korea fired two missiles in apparent response. AP: “South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that from 3:30 to 3:46 a.m. North Korea fired two missiles from an area near the capital Pyongyang that flew about 550 kilometers (341 miles) before landing in waters east of the Korean Peninsula.”
Lockheed Martin is struggling with software problems that will cut F-35 deliveries to the U.S. and allies this year, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reported Tuesday.
The company now expects to deliver between 100 to 120 F-35s this calendar year, down from the planned 147 to 153, CEO Jim Taiclet said on Lockheed’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday. On the call, Taiclet attributed the reduced deliveries to “software maturation, acceptance and certification related to the…TR-3 configuration and hardware delivery timing.”
“We and our suppliers are applying all the needed resources to this,” Taiclet said. “We're running extra shifts. And we're deploying subject matter experts into other companies [at] our suppliers operations to make sure this stays on track.” Read on, here.
Related: How many Super Hornets are ready to fly? “Two key tools the Navy Department is using to monitor its battle to raise availability rates for its F/A-18 Super Hornets don’t always see eye-to-eye,” writes D1’s Caitlin Kenney off a new report by the Congressional Budget Office.
And lastly: This afternoon on Capitol Hill, West Point superintendent Army Lt. Gen. Steven Gilland, Vice Adm. Sean Buck of the Naval Academy, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Clark from the Air Force Academy are set to testify on “Admissions, Curriculum, and Diversity of Thought at the Military Services Academy” before the Republican-led House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. That’s scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET. Details and livestream, here.
Earlier in the morning, Israeli President Isaac Herzog will address a joint session of Congress at 11 a.m. ET. The address, which U.S. lawmakers extended to Herzog last year, is in part designed to mark Israel’s 75th anniversary.
Historical echo: “Herzog follows his father, Chaim Herzog, who as president in 1987 was accorded the same rare honor of addressing a joint meeting of the U.S. House and Senate, one of the highest marks of esteem Washington affords foreign dignitaries,” Reuters reported in a preview. NPR’s Leila Fadel has her own 3-minute preview you can listen to here.