Today's D Brief: Austin in Ukraine; Israel’s strategy; Army’s Pacific missile plan; China hits divers with sonar; And a bit more.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Monday, and relayed the message “the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine in their fight for freedom against Russia’s aggression, both now and into the future,” he wrote on social media. Austin will be flying back to the States later this week, where he’ll host a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. 

Russia resumed drone attacks on Kyiv over the weekend, breaking a 52-day pause with their Iranian-made one-way drones early in the morning Saturday and again on Sunday. The drones came “in waves, from different directions, at the same time constantly changing the vectors of movement along the route,” a military official in Kyiv wrote on Telegram. 

The Ukrainian military claims to have shot down 15 out of 20 of the Shaheds on Sunday, and 29 of 38 on Saturday. Several infrastructure facilities were hit outside of Kyiv, but there were no known casualties, according to Reuters. “I thank all the soldiers of mobile fire groups, the aviation of our air force, and the anti-aircraft missile troops,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday. “As winter approaches, there will be more Russian attempts to make the strikes more powerful,” he warned. 

Also visiting Ukraine on Monday: Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch. He brought along journalist Benjamin Hall, who was seriously wounded while covering the first weeks of the war back in March 2022. Murdoch met with one of Zelenskyy’s top officials, Andriy Yermak, who briefed the CEO on “the situation at the frontline, protection of Ukrainian skies, the state of the energy sector, the consequences of Russian aggression for civilians and infrastructure, Russian crimes against Ukrainian children, and cooperation between Ukraine, the United States and other international partners,” according to Zelenskyy’s office. 

ICYMI: Zelenskyy thanked Germany, Finland, and Lithuania for their recent military aid packages, which were each announced last week. 

The White House on Friday announced an upcoming Defense Industrial Base Conference during the first week of December. That two-day event is intended to bring together “U.S. and Ukrainian industry and government representatives to explore opportunities for co-production and other industrial cooperation,” the White House said. 

President Joe Biden linked the war in Ukraine with Israel’s war against Hamas in an op-ed published Saturday in the Washington Post. “If we walk away from the challenges of today, the risk of conflict could spread, and the costs to address them will only rise. We will not let that happen,” Biden writes. “That conviction is at the root of my approach to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue to defend their freedom against Putin’s brutal war,” he adds. 

“Both Putin and Hamas are fighting to wipe a neighboring democracy off the map,” the president warned. “And both Putin and Hamas hope to collapse broader regional stability and integration and take advantage of the ensuing disorder. America cannot, and will not, let that happen. For our own national security interests—and for the good of the entire world.” Read on, here

If you’re a little unclear about Israel’s long game with its occupation of Gaza, you’re not alone. Former CENTCOM commander retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel told us as much when he recently spoke to him. But NPR’s Steve Inskeep spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late last week, and wrote over the weekend, “Israel's lack of a strategy is the strategy.” 

Have you had difficulty discussing the Israeli-Hamas war with friends or family? It can be a challenging task when there’s such a large “psychological chasm” between both sides, as Roger Cohen of the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. 

Related reading: 

Welcome to this Monday 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 80 years ago, waves of U.S. Marines stormed ashore on Tarawa, launching a bloody three-day battle for the heavily fortified atoll. The New York Times offers photos from the battle, here.

The U.S. will deploy new land-based missiles to the Pacific next year, the region’s top Army officer says. They include Tomahawks and SM-6s, Army Forces Pacific’s Gen. Charles Flynn told reporters at the Halifax International Security Forum.

“We have tested them and we have a battery or two of them today,” Flynn said. “In [20]24. We intend to deploy that system in your region. I'm not going to say where and when. But I will just say that we will deploy them.”

And they might be followed by the Army’s Precision Strike Missile, which is set to reach initial operating capability this year, Flynn said. D1’s Patrick Tucker has more, here.

BTW: The deployment of land-based Tomahawks, whose variants can range up to 2,500 kilometers, was forbidden under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty until the U.S. withdrew in 2019, citing Russian non-compliance. The Marine Corps stood up its first Tomahawk battery in July at Camp Pendleton, California.  

Developing: Chinese warship hit divers with sonar pulses, Australia says. The Royal Australian Navy divers were removing fishing nets from their frigate’s propellers on November 14 when a PLA-N destroyer, the Ningbo (DDG-139), approached and activated its sonar, the BBC reports. Australian officials said the frigate had “communicated its intention to conduct diving operations” via normal maritime channels and employed internationally recognized signals.

Craig Hooper, writing for Forbes: “It is common knowledge that, for divers, active military-grade sonars are extremely dangerous, capable of inducing hearing loss, internal bleeding, and death.”

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. on Saturday: “Only days after President Biden met with Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, Beijing is once again harassing U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific. While the Biden Administration celebrates hollow U.S.-China ‘working groups’ as meaningful progress and Xi Jinping receives a standing ovation from American CEOs, the United States and our allies need to continue the hard work of bolstering deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.”

Meanwhile, Japanese forces are practicing retaking islands. Reuters: “Japanese marines in amphibious assault vehicles stormed an island beach at the edge of the East China Sea on Sunday in a simulated attack to dislodge invaders from territory that Tokyo worries is vulnerable to attack from China.”