Today's D Brief: Ukraine-Russia drone war intensifies; Gaza cease-fire continues; Navy’s big cyber bet; Can 3D printers save Replicator?; And a bit more.

Russia and Ukraine are locked in an intensifying drone war, with Kyiv’s military claiming to have shot down 74 of 75 drones and Moscow allegedly shooting down two dozen drones launched at Russian forces and territory this weekend as well. 

Russia’s 75-drone attack was the largest since its full-scale invasion began almost two years ago. “The attack on Kyiv left 77 residential buildings and 120 establishments in the city center temporarily without power Saturday, before supply was restored later in the day,” CNN reported Sunday. 

By the way: Australia’s prime minister is proud of a new counter-drone jammer sent to Ukraine. It’s called the DroneGun Mk4, and officials in Canberra pledged about $10 million worth to Ukraine in October. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held the 7-pound weapon for a recent photo op

  • ICYMI: Defense One’s Sam Skove spoke with DroneShield’s CEO just a few weeks ago. You can find that report here

The British military says Russia has suffered more dead and wounded troops over the last six weeks than just about any other point in the war so far. “Previously, the deadliest reported month for Russia was March 2023 with an average of 776 losses per day, at the height of Russia’s assault on Bakhmut,” the Brits said on social media Monday. But “Throughout November 2023, Russian casualties, as reported by the Ukrainian General Staff, are running at a daily average of 931 per day.”

Big-picture consideration: “It’s inaccurate to suggest that Russia is winning the war,” Michael Kofman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the Wall Street Journal on Monday. However, “The material advantages in 2024 are principally on Russia’s side, but they don’t appear decisive enough that Russia will be able to achieve its political aims.”

Developing: Several Chinese businesses are allegedly working with Russia to plan an underwater tunnel linking Russia with occupied Crimea, according to the Washington Post, reporting Friday. The allegations come from emails Ukrainian intelligence officials say they intercepted, including correspondence between apparent Chinese and Russian officials just last month.

Involved: The Chinese Railway Construction Corporation, which is a state-owned firm also known as CRCC. One executive named Xu Huaxiang is listed as discussing the project with Russian officials. While it is technically feasible to complete such a tunnel, engineers told the Post it would likely take years and would require a great deal of protection from the Russian military and navy. Read on, here

Also intercepted: Phone calls from Russian soldiers who desperately want out of Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion and occupation. The Associated Press obtained recordings from Russian troops in occupied Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk during January 2023. “It is hard to say how representative these calls are of sentiment in Russia’s armed forces, but their desperation is matched by a spike in legal cases against soldiers in Russia who refuse to fight,” AP writes. 

Russian women are increasingly demanding their husbands and sons return from occupying Ukraine, the New York Times reported Monday. According to Neil MacFarquhar and Milana Mazaeva of the Times, “The women and the government officials have been involved in a delicate dance, with the protesters trying not to trigger [counter-demonstration] laws while the authorities seek to avoid hauling the relatives of active duty soldiers off to jail.”

Russia appears to be trying to create another migrant crisis for Europe, officials in Finland and Estonia say. The Wall Street Journal calls it “the biggest surge in asylum seekers since a 2015-2016 migrant crisis” and it’s “fueling support for far-right and anti-immigration parties, potentially reshaping European politics for years.” 

The migrants are largely from Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. And if these tensions sound familiar, Russia has done this several times before—including with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia less than two years ago, as Business Insider emphasized in its report on the issue last week.

“We have proof showing that, unlike before, not only Russian border authorities are letting people without proper documentation to the Finnish border, but they are also actively helping them to the border zone,” Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told the Associated Press last week. As a result, the Finns have closed all but one crossing from Russia. Estonia has reportedly “stockpiled concrete barriers and barbed wire at border crossings” in anticipation of second-order effects from the Finland closures. Read more at France24.

Russia is also reportedly coercing migrants into military service, including about 135 from Moscow Oblast. 

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Cyber 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 three years ago, Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated in an extraordinary sequence of events while traveling outside of Tehran. Accounts of what exactly happened vary; but one version alleges a truck-mounted gun controlled via satellite fired the shots that killed Fakhrizadeh—and somehow spared his wife, who was seated beside him at the time of his murder.

U.S.-led warships capture pirates, dodge missiles. CENTCOM sends: “On Nov. 26, the USS MASON (DDG 87), with allied ships from our coalition counter-piracy task force (TF 151), and associated aircraft responded to a distress call from the M/V CENTRAL PARK, a commercial vessel, that they were under attack by an unknown entity.” When five armed men tried to flee in a small boat, the U.S. destroyer pursued and captured them.

About 16 hours later, around 1:40 a.m. on Monday, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the Mason and Central Park; they landed in the Gulf of Aden about ten nautical miles away. The New York Times has a bit more, here; or AP has nonpaywalled coverage, here.


U.S. Navy: “Non-kinetic effects” will likely decide the next war. That’s the bold claim of the service’s new cyber strategy, which lays out lines of effort for a new era of warfare. “The next fight against our major adversary will be like no other,” the 14-page document begins. “The use of non-kinetic effects and defense against those effects prior to and during kinetic exchanges will likely be the deciding factor in who prevails.”

The strategy, released just before Thanksgiving, had been held for several months to make sure it would line up with various related strategies from the White House and the Pentagon.

Its main architect was Chris Cleary, who stepped down last week as the Navy’s first principal cyber advisor. Cleary described the strategy’s origin, development, and import to D1’s Lauren C. Williams. Read that interview, here.

And lastly: Can troops with 3D printers save DOD’s Replicator program? There’s a big obstacle to the Pentagon’s three-month-old effort to acquire thousands of consumer-level drones: China makes most of the world’s small-drone components, which is a problem because the point is to deter China, D1’s Patrick Tucker writes. CENTCOM’s Schuyler Moore believes that part of the answer is printing parts near the front lines. Read on, here.