Today's D Brief: WH asks for more Ukraine funds; African bloc readies force; China probes Taiwan’s defenses; 100K mines, removed; And a bit more.
The White House’s long-anticipated Ukraine aid supplemental request is finally here. Administration officials on Thursday unveiled the $40 billion congressional request, which included $24 billion for Ukraine, $12 billion for disaster relief, and $4 billion for border security and Washington’s fight against fentanyl trafficking.
The request exceeds “the budget caps both parties agreed to as part of the debt ceiling showdown earlier this year,” which could imperil its chances of passage in the Republican-led lower chamber, the Associated Press reports. However, an administration official said that shouldn’t be a sticking point since, “when that deal was signed, that it did not preclude requests for emergency funding,” Reuters reports.
The British military just finished training about a thousand Ukrainian marines on beach landings and amphibious assaults. “It is the first programme of amphibious training delivered by the UK to Ukraine, culminating with the Ukrainian marines planning and conducting raids by both day and night,” the Brits said Friday.
Ukrainian troops also practiced blowing up a range of obstacles, including Dragon’s Teeth, that they’ll likely encounter as they advance deeper into occupied territory. Anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons training were also involved, along with mortar practice and drone piloting. You can see an 85-second video of some of that training, which was posted to social media on Friday, here.
Ukraine says its demining troops have removed more than 100,000 explosive objects left behind by Russia’s invading forces. More than 1,500 were “removed and neutralized” this week alone. View four images of those demining troops at work, via Facebook, here.
Catch a few glimpses of what it looks like behind Russian lines inside occupied Ukraine thanks to a new dispatch using drone footage published Thursday by the New York Times.
Developing: Iran appears to have given Russia artillery made by North Korea, according to the online sleuths at the Ukraine Weapons Tracker Twitter account.
Get a better handle on Russia’s dominance in the global nuclear fuel market via a generous explainer published Thursday by the Associated Press. Some of the things you’ll learn include:
- “American nuclear plants plants purchased just 5% of their uranium from domestic suppliers in 2021,” whereas “Russia supplied the U.S. nuclear industry with about 12% of its uranium” in 2022;
- “U.S. imports of uranium products from Russia nearly doubled from 6.3 tons in 2020 to 12.5 tons in 2022”;
- Similarly, “French imports of enriched uranium from Russia increased from 110 tons in 2021 to 312 tons in 2022”;
- “Europe spent nearly $828 million (almost €750 million) last year on Russian nuclear industry products — including fuel elements, nuclear reactors, and machinery”;
- “Europe has 19 Russian-designed reactors in five countries that are fully dependent on Russian nuclear fuel”;
- And “Hungary, which maintains close ties to Russia, is fully dependent on Moscow to provide fuel for its four-reactor nuclear power plant.” Lots more in that AP dispatch, which you can read in full, here.
For the first time since 1976, Russia is sending a spacecraft to the moon. The idea is to send Moscow’s Luna-25 landing craft to the moon’s south pole to investigate possible sources of water. If the mission succeeds, Russia plans at least two more Luna-series orbiters and landers, the New York Times reports. “The European Space Agency had planned to test its Pilot-D navigation camera by attaching it to Luna-25, but severed its ties to the project after Russia invaded Ukraine,” Reuters reported Friday, alluding to the wider stakes of Russia’s lunar ambitions.
The probe is about the size of a small car and weighs almost two tons. It carries about 70 pounds of equipment, and can probe only as deep as about six inches.
India launched its own lunar probe with a similar mission in July. The two nations’ landers could arrive at their destination at about the same time. India previously tried to land a probe on the moon in 2019, but a crash ended the mission early. Israel also failed in 2019. Japan, too, tried and failed this past April. The Associated Press has a tiny bit more.
- “Ukraine announces 'humanitarian corridor' for ships stuck in Black Sea ports,” Reuters reported Thursday from Kyiv;
- “Germany will own NATO's 2nd largest helicopter fleet after Chinook purchase,” Reuters reported separately Friday from Berlin;
- U.S. “Army veteran killed in Ukraine wanted to protect civilians,” Task and Purpose reported Thursday after the death of Jeffrey Judd Jones;
- “Alleged Air Force leaker shared intel with foreign nationals, FBI says,” Military Times reported Thursday; review the sometimes jarring court documents for yourself, here;
- And don’t miss a new account of Russia’s failed efforts to seize Ukraine’s Hostomel Airport in the early days of the invasion, published this week by War on the Rocks.
Welcome to this Friday 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 1965, riots erupted in the majority-Black Watts neighborhood of southern Los Angeles after an alleged episode of police brutality during a stop. Eventually, 14,000 members of the California Army National Guard were called in to help put down the unrest, which finally ended after six days and resulted in 34 deaths, nearly 4,000 arrests, and $40 million in property damage. Read more about Watts back then, and how things have changed since, in this 2020 report from the Associated Press.
ECOWAS approves armed intervention in Niger “as soon as possible,” the president of Ivory Coast said after leaders of the 15-nation regional bloc met to discuss the two-week-old coup in Niamey. The leaders said they had agreed to deploy a "standby" military force, but gave no details on the size or posture. Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu said the use of force would be a “last resort.” BBC has a bit more, here.
That came one day after the junta declared a new government of Niger, the Atlantic Council reports in a piece meant to lay out what’s known and what may be the case in the country. Read that, here.
Related reading: “A U.S. Ally [the UAE] Promised to Send Aid to Sudan. It Sent Weapons Instead,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday from Uganda.
China has been probing Taiwan’s defenses over the past year, the New York Times reports. That’s no surprise, of course, but the Times offers a wrap-up of the steady pace of reports of People’s Liberation Army planes and ships cruising, flying, and exercising near the self-governing island. Read that, here.
Iran has agreed to free five Americans in exchange for gaining access to $6 billion for humanitarian purposes and the release of several jailed Iranians. The money, frozen by U.S. sanctions after the Trump administration scuttled the Iranian nuclear deal, will flow to an account in the central bank of Qatar, reports the New York Times, citing people familiar with the deal. “The account will be controlled by the government of Qatar and regulated so Iran can gain access to the money only to pay vendors for humanitarian purchases such as medicine and food, they said.”
Opinion: It’s a good deal that will ultimately put pressure on the Iranian regime, argues Ryan Costello of the National Iranian American Council. His reasoning: Iranian elites have blamed the sanctions for nationwide shortages of various medications, and removing that scapegoat will expose the role of corruption. Read that, here.
Elsewhere in the region: 23 Syrian soldiers were killed in an Islamic State attack. On Friday, jihadists surrounded a military bus in eastern Deir al-Zour province, then opened fire, the BBC reports, citing the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. “More than 10 other soldiers were injured and dozens are said to be missing.
“The attack has been described as the deadliest this year by IS militants. Despite losing the last of its territory in 2019, IS still maintains hideouts in the vast Syrian desert, from which it carries out ambushes and hit-and-run attacks.” A bit more, here.
Lastly this week: Dallas coughs up millions after ransomware attacks. In May, city websites went down and services were interrupted after malware struck Texas’ third-largest municipality. Now city officials say they’ve spent $8.5 million for expenses related to the attacks. They would not say whether these “expenses” included out-and-out ransom payments, but did confirm that some “27,000 city employees, retirees and their dependents have received notices that their social security and medical information was accessed,” the local NBC affiliate reported.
Have a safe weekend, and we’ll be back again on Monday!