Today's D Brief: Tank ammo to Israel; Zelenskyy to DC; Worried Europeans; China probing US infrastructure; And a bit more.

The U.S. is fast-tracking the sale of some 14,000 tank rounds to Tel Aviv for about $106 million. Because of the ongoing “emergency,” the State Department says it can circumvent typical “Congressional review requirements under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act” to expedite the sales to Israel. 

Involved: 120mm M830A1 High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer tank cartridges, according to the Pentagon’s arms export wing. “The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in the Saturday announcement

A second, dissenting, opinion: “Anyone who was outraged the last time the State Department bypassed Congress to sell arms [in May 2019] to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—arms that killed Yemeni children—should be similarly outraged again,” said Patrick Gaspard, president and CEO of the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy organization, in his own statement over the weekend. 

The sale “flies in the face of the administration’s own policies that insist on accountability for arms transfers, civilian protection, and human rights,” Gaspard said, and predicted the transaction “will only weaken the administration’s ability to pressure Israeli officials to avoid harm to civilians.”

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day 82 years ago, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy declared war on the U.S., which responded with declarations of war against them; on the same busy day, Poland declared war on Japan. For this reason, the American Foreign Service Journal calls December 11, 1941, “the day World War II truly began.”

Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy is headed to the White House for talks with President Biden on Tuesday. “As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment,” the White House said in a statement Sunday. 

Zelenskyy flew to Argentina on Sunday to congratulate the country’s newly elected President Javier Milei. “I thanked [Milei] for supporting Ukraine and invited Argentina to work together with us to restore peace,” Zelenskky wrote on social media. “The unity of all those who value peace and freedom, and our shared energy to protect life, must be enhanced,” he said, and emphasized, “The voice and support of Latin American countries are key.”

New: Britain and Norway just announced a naval coalition to help Ukraine at sea. The Brits are also giving Ukraine two Sandown-class minehunter ships to bolster their navy. The idea is to “rapidly” build “a maritime force in the Black Sea” alongside a “Ukrainian Marine Corps, and river patrol craft to defend coastal and inland waterways,” the UK Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday. 

Inside Russia-controlled Ukraine, residents are braving terrifying conditions to flee their oppressors and finally walk on friendly soil, according to the Associated Press, reporting Monday from northeastern Ukraine.

Developing: Worried NATO members are dispatching envoys to associates of Donald Trump, trying to head off a U.S. withdrawal should the indicted one-term president regain the office, the New York Times reports.

The gist: “More than a half-dozen current and former European diplomats — speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from Mr. Trump should he win — said alarm was rising on Embassy Row and among their home governments that Mr. Trump’s return could mean not just the abandonment of Ukraine, but a broader American retreat from the continent and a gutting of the Atlantic alliance.” Story, here

New: The U.S. Air Force just cleared some supervisors of the airman accused of leaking top-secret documents that began showing up on the online chat platform Discord. The service’s inspector general investigated the internal matter, which is separate from the federal criminal investigation of Airman 1st Class Jack D. Teixeira, who has been indicted on six counts of unauthorized disclosures of national defense information, but has not yet been to trial. He was a member of the 102d Intelligence Wing, based at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts. 

According to the IG, “individuals in Teixeira’s unit failed to take proper action after becoming aware of his intelligence-seeking activities,” but Teixeira’s “supervisory chain” were not aware of the alleged unauthorized disclosures. 

There were, however, several actions managers could have taken that might have accelerated the timeline leading to the discovery of Teixeira’s alleged actions. Those include: 

  • “the failure of commanders to adequately inspect areas under their command”
  • “inconsistent guidance for reporting security incidents”; 
  • “inconsistent definitions of the “Need to Know” concept”;
  • “conflation of classified system access with the ‘Need to Know’ principle”;
  • “inefficient and ineffective processes for administering disciplinary actions”;
  • “lack of supervision/oversight of night shift operations”; 
  • and a “failure to provide security clearance field investigation results,” according to the IG. 

Reminder: Teixeira’s unit commander, Col. Sean Riley, was relieved of command for cause after the disclosures. As well, the entire unit—the 102nd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group—was “taken off mission when Teixeira was discovered as the source of the unauthorized disclosures,” and the “group’s mission remains reassigned to other organizations within the Air Force,” officials said Monday. 

“Every Airman and Guardian is entrusted with the solemn duty to safeguard our nation’s classified defense information,” said Secretary Frank Kendall. “When there is a breach of that sacred trust, for any reason, we will act in accordance with our laws and policies to hold responsible individuals accountable,” he added. Read over the full eight-page report released Monday (PDF), here

BAE Systems will get a $35 million “incentive award,” the White House announced today. That deal comes out of the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act, and was authorized to “modernize an aging facility to quadruple its production capacity for chips that are essential to our national security, including for use in F-35 fighter jets, that are produced in Nashua, New Hampshire,” the White House said Monday. A bit more here

China’s hackers are “burrowing” into U.S. infrastructure, unnamed U.S. officials and industry security officials told the Washington Post. “Hackers affiliated with China’s People’s Liberation Army have burrowed into the computer systems of about two dozen critical entities over the past year, these experts said.” 

A water utility in Hawaii, a major West Coast port, and at least one oil and gas pipeline are among the victims. “The hackers also attempted to break into the operator of Texas’s power grid, which operates independently from electrical systems in the rest of the country,” WaPo reports.

“None of the intrusions affected industrial control systems that operate pumps, pistons or any critical function, or caused a disruption, U.S. officials said. But they said the attention to Hawaii, which is home to the Pacific Fleet, and to at least one port as well as logistics centers suggests the Chinese military wants the ability to complicate U.S. efforts to ship troops and equipment to the region if a conflict breaks out over Taiwan.” Read on, here.

More from the region:

  • “Philippines says Chinese coast guard used water cannons against its vessels for a second day” (AP)
  • “China, Japan trade blame over confrontation near disputed islands” (Reuters)
  • Also: two more members of the BTS band begin their compulsory military service in South Korea (AP)

And lastly: North Korea’s rip-off Lego rocket. A North Korean toy company is offering “Manned Spacecraft,” a plastic-building-block set that looks juuuuust a little like a certain Danish company’s “Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control.” The included minifigs do not include Kim Jung Un thumbing his nose at the UN. Pics, here.

Kim’s new Maybach limo, however, appears to be the real thing.