Today's D Brief: Ukraine replaces military chief; Russia, N.Korea talk deal; Secretaries hit Tuberville; Chinese spies at US gates? And a bit more.

Amid its grueling counteroffensive, Ukraine will be getting a new military chief, outgoing Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov confirmed Sunday, describing the past 22 months of his tenure as “the toughest period of Ukraine’s modern history.” 

The high-profile personnel change wasn’t entirely a surprise. The BBC reported Reznikov’s “dismissal has been anticipated for some time,” and just last week, “Reznikov told reporters he was exploring other positions with the Ukrainian president.” 

Worth noting: “While Mr Reznikov is not personally accused of corruption, there have been a number of scandals at the ministry of defence involving the procurement of goods and equipment for the army at inflated prices,” the BBC writes. 

Ambassador Reznikov? Some observers believe Reznikov could be appointed to a diplomatic posting soon, possibly with the British, due to his wide range of experience interacting with European allies since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022. 

“Oleksiy Reznikov has gone through more than 550 days of full-scale war,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy said when he announced the change on Sunday. “I believe that the [Defense] Ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society at large,” the president said. 

Zelenskyy’s new choice to lead the military is a man named Rustem Umerov. He’s a 41-year-old politician in Ukraine’s Holos opposition party. He’s known as a Crimean Tatar, and “was involved in the exchange of prisoners of war, political prisoners, children and civilians, as well as the evacuation of civilians from occupied territories,” according to the Associated Press. Umerov has also “established close ties with the leadership in Turkey as well as with Middle Eastern countries and some western allies,” the Financial Times reported Tuesday in a short profile of the man. “Mr. Umerov does not need any additional introductions,” Zelenskyy said Sunday, and added, “I expect the Parliament to support this candidate.” 

Zelenskyy visited frontline troops in Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Bakhmut on Monday and Tuesday. “It is very, very useful to hear from those who are going into battle directly what exactly is lacking, what exactly is enough and what exactly needs to be changed…Especially regarding electronic warfare—we heard everything, guys,” Zelenskyy said Monday evening in an address to the nation. 

Ukrainian troops continue to advance incrementally, including 3 square kilometers around Bakhmut, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday on social media. Otherwise, she urged patience for those outsiders watching the war from afar. 

The ongoing counteroffensive “is a long process, and war is not quick,” said Maliar. It is also “not a montage that you can re-watch a movie about the entire war in an hour and already see the victory…We have plans, we have an understanding of what to do next,” she said, and added, “Our soldiers do their job well.”

Developing: Russia has begun using a terrifying new method to stop Ukraine from clearing minefields: “They will lace a pasture filled with mines with a flammable agent,” the New York Times reported Saturday from the south. “Once the Ukrainians get to work clearing an opening, the Russians will drop a grenade from a drone, igniting a sea of fire and explosions.”

White House officials said Friday that Ukraine had made “notable progress” in the South during the middle of last week, after Kyiv said it had liberated the village of Robotyne. 

On the same day, Russia said it had just put its Sarmat ICBM on “combat duty,” though space agency director Yuri Borisov did not elaborate on exactly what he meant by that. 

Washington was not spooked, however. A U.S. official told the New York Times “the deployment had not elevated U.S. fears of a nuclear escalation and appeared to be low-level posturing.”

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 here. On this day in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt mediated an end to the Russo-Japanese War with the Treaty of Portsmouth.

New: Russia and North Korean leaders will meet soon since Russia needs a lot more artillery and North Korea wants help launching satellites and fielding submarines, U.S. and allied officials told the New York Times on Monday. The current plan, as the outsiders understand it, is to have the two leaders meet in Russia’s far-eastern city of Vladivostok, possibly as soon as next week. 

Russia also needs more troops, and it’s reaching out to Cuba for at least some potential new bodies to throw at its ongoing Ukraine invasion. Cuba’s foreign ministry flagged the apparent recruiting effort Monday on social media, but stressed in a statement that it does not want to be part of the Ukraine war, according to the BBC

Developing: The U.S. will soon send depleted-uranium munitions to Ukraine, months after the British did the same thing. “The munitions can be fired from U.S. Abrams tanks that, according to a person familiar with the matter, are expected [to] be delivered to Ukraine in the coming weeks,” Reuters reported Friday ahead of Washington’s next aid package to Kyiv. 

From the region: The U.S. will likely soon sell 183 Strykers to Bulgaria for about $1.5 billion. The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the probable sale on Friday. Details, here

Additional reading: 

What ails the U.S. Navy, the New York Times asks? The paper of record takes a big-picture look at the U.S. Navy—and particularly the tension between the urge to build complicated, multibillion-dollar warships and today’s fast-evolving strategic and tactical landscape. Read, here.

Service secretaries take GOP’s Tuberville to task: In a Washington Post oped, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth add their voices to other defense leaders decrying the blanket hold on promotions levied by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. They say the hold itself is disruptive and dangerous, both because it deprives the services of current leadership and because it discourages tomorrow’s would-be generals from staying in the military.

The secretaries also include a full-throated defense of the policy that Tuberville is seeking to change. Readiness requires ensuring that “service members and their families have access to reproductive health no matter where they are stationed,” they write. “After the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, this policy is critical and necessary to meet our obligations to the force.” Read on, here.

Chinese spies at U.S. gates? U.S. counterintelligence officials have tallied more than 100 instances of Chinese nationals seeking unauthorized access to U.S. military bases in recent years, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall).

Lastly today: As war grinds away on European soil once again, France and Belgium want their World War I memorials to become UNESCO World Heritage sites. The UN body, which has rejected such entreaties in the past, is expected to vote on the matter on Sept. 21. AP has a bit more, here.