Today's D Brief: $2B to Poland; Assad visits China; USAF gets electric taxi; Milley’s exit interview; And a bit more.
The U.S. will lend $2 billion to Poland, using a little-used funding mechanism to help rearm the Polish military as war rages in neighboring Ukraine, Defense One’s Sam Skove reported Monday.
The loan comes from the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing program, which last granted a similar loan to Iraq in 2017, after ISIS’s rise to power. The U.S. will also give Poland up to $60 million to reduce the financing rate, according to the State Department’s announcement.
Review the big changes to Poland’s military over the last several years in our latest Defense One Radio podcast, in which Skove unpacks his recent trip to Poland and eastern Europe.
Bigger picture: Poland is boosting military spending amid rising inflation and a slowing economy, Skove reports. The country will hold parliamentary elections Oct. 15, with the Civic Platform party attempting to unseat the populist Law and Justice party. Read more, here.
Developing: The White House allegedly sent Ukrainian officials a “draft” letter “with a list of reforms that Ukraine must implement in order to continue receiving military assistance,” the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda reported Monday, via Yahoo news.
And on Capitol Hill, where a government shutdown could begin in just four days, senators are at something of an impasse over how to handle future aid to Ukraine in the face of obstructionist far-right lawmakers in the house. According to the New York Times, “a major sticking point was whether to add up to $25 billion in new assistance to Ukraine to what is formally known as a continuing resolution or to keep the legislation free of contentious provisions” to entice the lower chamber to advance the bill ahead of this week’s deadline.
And in case you missed it, President Joe Biden could greenlight long-range missiles to Ukraine that pack cluster bombs inside, the Washington Post reported last weekend, more than a week after Reuters initially reported this likely development. “The cluster-armed ATACMS, with a range of up to 190 miles, depending on the version, could allow Ukraine to strike command posts, ammunition stores and logistics routes far behind Russian front lines and dug-in defenses,” the Post reminded readers Friday.
Despite Pentagon plans to phase them out by year’s end, “ATACMS are still in production, with Lockheed Martin under contract to produce 500 a year, but all are designated for overseas sales,” according to the Post. Read on, here.
One last thing: Russian state-run media claimed on Tuesday that Ukraine did not in fact kill the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in a missile strike on Sevastopol last week. The denial came in the form of a video clip appearing to show Russian Adm. Viktor Sokolov at a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The Times and NBC News both noted afterward that it’s not yet clear exactly when the video was recorded.
Read more about those strikes on Sevastopol and the “new and potentially critical phase of the war at sea” in an analysis just published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, here.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1980, 13 people were killed and 213 others were injured when an explosive device detonated at an Oktoberfest celebration in Munich, West Germany. A far-right activist and student built the bomb and perished in the attack when it exploded prematurely.
U.S. forces in the Middle East captured an alleged high-level ISIS facilitator during a helicopter raid at an unspecified location in northern Syria on Saturday, officials from U.S. Central Command announced Monday.
Detained: Abu Halil al-Fad’ani, whom CENTCOM said “was assessed to have relationships throughout the ISIS network in the region.” No other fighters or civilians were harmed in the operation, according to CENTCOM. “The capture of ISIS officials like al-Fad’ani increases our ability to locate, target, and remove terrorist[s] from the battlefield,” Marine Lt. Col. Troy Garlock said in a statement.
Meanwhile in eastern Syria, U.S.-backed local forces were attacked by rival militiamen in the town of Ziban, in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province on Monday. The attacks reportedly killed several members of the Kurdish-led, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Ziban. The SDF then imposed what the Associated Press calls an “open-ended” curfew in Deir el-Zour. Agence France-Presse also has an updated map of Syria illustrating the marbled nature of regional control inside that country.
For what it’s worth: SDF oil revenues in regions it controls (like Deir el-Zour) account for at least three-quarters of the group’s revenue, according to an SDF finance official. In 2022, that revenue added up to about $605 million, and most of that concerned oil sold to Syria’s Assad regime, Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute noted Monday on social media.
By the way: Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad visited China last week for the first time in 20 years. And as NPR's Aya Batrawy reported this weekend, “Assad is definitely having a moment...this whole rehabilitation got a big boost in May when Syria rejoined the Arab League because, really, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are arguing that the status quo—the state of Syria is untenable for the region. And China welcomed this.”
But the bottom line is Assad’s Syrian economy “is on its knees,” Batrawy said. “It is so bad there in Syria that people took to the streets again in recent weeks openly shouting against his government. So Assad needs money. He needs investments.” And that helps explain his trip last week to Hangzhou, China.
- “In China, Syria's Assad gets political fanfare, but no funding commitments,” al-Monitor reported Monday after Assad’s China swing;
- “Iran and Turkey's proxies may back tribes against US in Syria,” the Jerusalem Post reported Monday;
- “Quebec mother bringing government to court over decision not to repatriate her from Syria,” Canada’s CBC news reported Monday;
- “Australian women and children in squalid Syrian camp are being detained unlawfully, federal court told,” the Guardian reported Monday as well.
South Korea just conducted its largest military parade in a decade on Tuesday, featuring “tanks, artillery systems, drones and powerful ballistic missiles capable of hitting all of North Korea,” AP reported from the rainy capital city of Seoul.
More than 3,700 troops and over 170 pieces of military equipment were involved, “including the country's ‘high-power’ missiles, K2 main battle tanks and unmanned aerial vehicles,” Yonhap news agency reports. What’s more, “In an apparent warning against North Korea, the parade featured key weapons systems utilized in Seoul's three-axis deterrence structure, including Hyunmoo surface-to-surface missiles,” Yonhap noted.
Air Force eyes supply missions for its first electric air taxi. It’ll be experimenting at Edwards Air Force Base, California, with a battery-powered vertical take-off and landing aircraft from Joby Aviation, part of the company’s $131 million contract with the Air Force’s tech innovation arm, AFWERX. D1’s Audrey Decker has a bit more.
New board will help Navy “absorb” new tech into real-world ops. The service has established a 17-member Science and Technology Board led by Richard Danzig, who as Navy secretary in the 1990s pushed for such technologies as the “Smart Ship” program and electric drive.
Today in notable DC events, the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante is scheduled to discuss “Strengthening the U.S. Industrial Base” at an event jointly hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. That gets underway at noon ET. Details and livestream here.
And lastly: The profiles of outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley have begun pouring in. The Atlantic’s glowing treatment of Milley was among the first that we noticed, and not just because it seems to have come before similar retrospectives published by the Washington Post on Sunday and the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Jeffrey Goldberg interviewed the four-star general at length for his profile in The Atlantic, which presented a decidedly different portrayal of Milley than he earned from the public after joining former President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a photo op in front of the White House after law enforcement used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters from DC’s Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020. Goldberg titled his treatment, “The Patriot: How General Mark Milley protected the Constitution from Donald Trump.”
Milley was at times quite candid in his discussion with Goldberg, saying for example, that allegations the post-Trump military is too “woke” are “kind of upsetting and insulting.”
“Here’s my answer: First of all, it’s all bullshit,” Milley said. “Our military wasn’t woke 24 months ago, and now it’s woke?” Secondly, he said, “these accusations are coming from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re doing it for political purposes,” Milley told The Atlantic. “So this idea of a woke military is total, utter, made-up bullshit,” he repeated. “They are taking two or three incidents, single anecdotes, a drag show that is against DOD policy. I don’t think these shows should be on bases, and neither does the secretary of defense or the chain of command.”
But in terms of Lafayette Square, “I absolutely, positively shouldn’t have been there,” Milley told Goldberg, repeating a public apology he also delivered about a week after the event. “The political people, the president and others, can do whatever they want,” the general said. “But I can’t. I’m a soldier, and fundamental to this republic is for the military to stay out of politics.”
But the damage was already done. Many retired officers were disgusted by the development at the time, as Goldberg noted. And many younger Americans noticed the top military officer in that moment as well, which troops have since told Defense One they believe hurt military recruiting in the months that followed. So how did Milley “protect the Constitution from Donald Trump”? By explaining, best he could, what “war crimes” are, according to Goldberg. But that’s not all. Read the rest of his rehabilitating profile, here. And, as noted above, you can also find AP and WaPo’s treatments here and here, respectively.