Today's D Brief: Drone attacks in Moscow; No Space HQ for Alabama; USAF walks back tanker forecast; Marines’ recruiting success; And a bit more.
Ukraine seems to have attacked a high-rise building in Moscow with drones for the second time in three days. The building is known as the “IQ quarter,” and it’s home to Russia’s ministry of economic development, the digital ministry, and its ministry of industry and trade.
No one seems to have been harmed in the attacks. But Reuters reports the incidents “have provoked widespread unease and sit awkwardly with the Kremlin's narrative that Russia's ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine is proceeding according to plan.”
Developing: Saudi Arabia wants to host Ukraine peace talks this weekend in Jeddah. Representatives from China, India, Brazil, Europe, and Ukraine are invited; but Russian officials aren’t on the list, according to the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times notes “The meeting is another example of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to position himself as a global leader with influence beyond his region — and to carve out a role for the kingdom as a mediator.”
By the way, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visited Saudi officials in Jeddah last Thursday. Ukraine was not mentioned in the White House’s readout of the visit; however, “bilateral and regional matters, including initiatives to advance a common vision for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East region interconnected with the world” was a topic of discussion.
A Russian airstrike killed six and wounded more than 70 others Monday in Ukraine’s south-central city of Kryvyi Rih. CNN has a bit more on that, here.
Battlefield latest: “The Russians were waiting for us,” a Ukrainian soldier on the southeastern frontlines told Reuters on Monday. His unit worked hard to recapture a village known as Staromaiorske. “They fired anti-tank weapons and grenade launchers at us. My vehicle drove over an anti-tank mine, but everything was ok, the vehicle took the hit, and everyone was alive,” he said.
Russia’s occupying forces “methodically destroyed the roads” and “made pits that prevented driving in and out of the village, even in dry weather,” the soldier said. “Even walking was quite hard. You can’t use flashlights at night, but you still have to advance.” Read on, here.
The BBC tagged along with a team of Ukrainian snipers working to take back the destroyed city of Bakhmut. The group claims to have killed more than 500 troops in the area. The BBC has more, here.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian troops still seem to be deploying decoy air defense systems, which are being targeted by Russian drones in, e.g., Kherson oblast. See more from the folks at the Ukraine Weapons Tracker social media account, here.
Russia is still racing to repair its Kerch Bridge, which links Russia with occupied Ukrainian Crimea, and which was attacked in July likely with naval boat drones. You can see the cranes in action thanks to new satellite imagery shared online Monday by Brady Africk of the American Enterprise Institute.
The U.S. is poised to sell Romania 16 Assault Amphibious Vehicles at a cost of about $120 million. A separate package of F-16 upgrades for 32 of Norway’s “Fighting Falcons” is also under consideration; Romania would eventually acquire those aircraft via a process known as “third-party transfer,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced late last week. Details, here.
- “African leaders leave Russia summit without grain deal or path to Ukraine peace,” the Associated Press reported Sunday from Kenya;
- “China helps Russia evade sanctions and likely most supplies tech used in Ukraine, U.S. report says,” NBC News reported Thursday;
- And relatedly, “China imposes curbs on drone exports, citing Ukraine and concern about military use,” AP reported Monday from Beijing.
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 here. On this day in 1876, Colorado was admitted as America’s 38th state.
U.S. Space Command will stay in Colorado. The Biden administration will reverse a Trump administration plan to move the headquarters to Alabama, officials said Monday.
Pentagon spox: “Locating Headquarters U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs ultimately ensures peak readiness in the space domain for our nation during a critical period,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a Monday statement. “It will also enable the command to most effectively plan, execute and integrate military spacepower into multi-domain global operations in order to deter aggression and defend national interests.”
Among the reasons to keep the HQ in place:
- The Space Force is adding even more space-related missions to its already considerable operations in the state.
- The fear of losing much of its talent, as happened when the Missile Defense Agency moved to Alabama.
The decision to keep the command in Colorado was supported by: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, and Gen. James Dickinson, the Army general in charge of Space Command, according to Ryder. D1’s Marcus Weisgerber has more, here.
An especially angry Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, responded: “It’s clear that far-left politics, not national security, was the driving force behind this decision,” he said in a statement that lacked supporting evidence. (Similarly, in 2021, he voted with far-right lawmakers to overturn the 2020 presidential election results without any supporting evidence.)
“The Biden administration’s shameful delay to finalize the permanent basing decision for U.S. Space Command warranted the opening of a Congressional investigation,” Rogers continued, and promised, “I will continue this investigation to see if they intentionally misled the Armed Services Committee on their deliberate taxpayer-funded manipulation of the selection process...This fight is far from over.” As of press time, Rogers had tweeted eight times since the announcement Monday, and each tweet has expressed his persistent anger over the decision.
Just in: USAF walks back tanker forecast. It’s not clear that the service will order 75 tankers for its so-called “bridge buy” before the next-gen tanker arrives in the mid-2030s. D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here.
And lastly: While the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force continue to struggle with recruiting, the Marine Corps is on track to meet its annual goal, the Associated Press reported Saturday from Parris Island, South Carolina.
By the numbers: “Marine officials say they expect the Corps to achieve its recruiting target of more than 33,000,” AP writes for a service that includes 177,000 active duty Marines overall. The Army, meanwhile, wants 65,000 new recruits this year for a total of about 452,000 active troops, but service officials expect to miss that goal again for the fourth consecutive year. Similarly, the Navy wants to add about 38,000 recruits this fiscal year (amid a branch-wide total of about 348,000 sailors), while the Air Force is targeting 27,000 new troops (for a service of about 330,000 troops, and almost 340,000 including the Space Force). But, like the Army, neither the Navy nor the Air Force is on track to meet its recruiting goals by the Sept. 30 fiscal year deadline.
One factor allegedly turbocharging Marine recruiting: Commanders are selecting top-performing Marines to fill recruiting jobs. That’s according to Brig. Gen. Walker Field, “who heads[s] the Eastern recruiting region,” AP’s Lita Baldor writes. Marine leaders are also trying to extend the contracts of recruiters “who do well and speed their return to high schools, where in-person recruiting stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Baldor.
Some Republicans leapt at the chance to celebrate the message, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, e.g., who tweeted the AP report as well as another user’s post lauding the Corps for being “the most combat oriented and the least woke/PC of all the military services.”
Worth noting: Per capita, more Marine veterans have become documented extremists than any other service, and by a long shot. That’s according to a University of Maryland database that tracks extremists who have committed criminal offenses.
There were also more Marines on active duty who participated in the January 6 insurrection than any other service, which is again remarkable because the Marine Corps is the Pentagon’s smallest service behind the newly-formed Space Force.
More broadly, “The number of extremists connected to the military in the past decade more than quadrupled compared with the decade before,” USA Today reported less than two weeks ago, citing that Maryland database. And any affiliation with the U.S. military is the “single strongest” predictor of violent extremism, according to the data.
One possibly surprising datapoint: “More than two years ago, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin launched a sweeping initiative—triggered by the Jan. 6 insurrection—to root out the threat of extremism across the United States armed forces,” USA Today wrote on July 21. However, “Most steps in the process are stalled or inactive, and the reforms experts said were most important haven’t happened.” Read the rest, here.
- “Parris Island drill instructor found not guilty of Marine’s death during Crucible,” Task and Purpose reported Friday;
- “The Uncertain Future of the U.S. Military’s All-Volunteer Force,” via the Council on Foreign Relations, writing July 18;
- “The Military Recruiting Crisis: Even Veterans Don’t Want Their Families to Join,” the Wall Street Journal reported in late June;
- “Army Retention on Track, Even as Recruiting Struggles,” Defense One’s Sam Skove reported in June;
- See also “As Army Launches Recruiting Drive in Cities, One Recruiter Lays Out the Challenges,” via Skove reporting in May.