Today's D Brief: Kyiv wards off missiles; GOP’s aid idea; Red Sea task forces; ‘Ghost Army’ gets medal; And a bit more.

Two ballistic and 29 cruise missiles converged on Kyiv shortly before the sun rose Thursday morning: the first Russian air attack on the Ukrainian capital in 44 days. All 31 of the missiles were shot down, Ukrainian officials said, but debris injured more than a dozen people, including a child, in the early morning hours. The Associated Press has more.  

“Russian terrorists do not have missiles capable of bypassing Patriot and other leading world [air defense] systems,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy wrote on social media after the attacks on the capital. 

Charted: A historical analysis of Russian missile attacks on Ukraine, not including Iranian-made drones, going back to the first day of the invasion. The chart comes from Konrad Muzyka of Rochan Consulting (hat tip Rob Lee). 

“Such terror continues every day and night,” Zelenskyy said in a plea for more air defense weapons for cities other than Kyiv. “This protection is required in Ukraine now. From Kyiv to Kharkiv, Sumy to Kherson, and Odesa to the Donetsk region. This is entirely possible if our partners demonstrate sufficient political will,” said Zelenskyy.

The missile attack followed an alert from Ukraine’s air force that nine Russian Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bombers had taken off early Thursday from the Olenya Air Base in Russia’s northwestern Murmansk Oblast, bordering Norway and Finland.  

It also came one day after White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visited Kyiv for talks with President Volodymir Zelenskyy. While there, Sullivan “underscored the multiple lines of U.S. support to Ukraine…and he stressed the urgent need for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the national security supplemental to meet Ukraine’s critical battlefield needs,” the White House said in a post-meeting readout

“From our perspective, we are confident we will get this done, we will get this aid to Ukraine,” Sullivan said at a press conference Wednesday in Kyiv. “And in the meantime, we’re not just waiting,” he said, noting the recent $300 million aid package announced last week. 

Has the U.S. authorized long-range ATACMS missiles for Ukraine? Sullivan refused to confirm or deny the allegation, reported last week by Politico. “I’m going to disappoint you by saying I have nothing to announce here publicly today on that issue,” Sullivan said Wednesday. “When we do have something to share, we will be sure to share it,” he added.

Welcome to this Thursday 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 in 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced the U.S. would boycott the upcoming Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviets' Afghanistan invasion.

GOP turn on Ukraine aid? Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham appears to be trying to thread the needle on future aid to Ukraine. Graham voted against the aid package last month that passed in a 70-29 vote in early February. But he’s since latched onto parts of an idea announced by his GOP comrades that involves reframing aid to Ukraine as a loan. Former president Donald Trump endorsed the idea on social media, writing in all caps, “IT CAN BE LOANED ON EXTRAORDINARILY GOOD TERMS, LIKE NO INTEREST AND AN UNLIMITED LIFE, BUT A LOAN NEVERTHELESS.” 

Graham visited President Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Monday. Afterward, he said in a statement, “given the crisis at the United States’ southern border and our overwhelming debt, President Trump’s idea of turning aid from the United States into a no-interest, waivable loan is the most likely path forward” for the Republican party to more widely support future aid to Ukraine. 

Replied Texan Anthony Zurcher, the BBC’s North American correspondent: “A no-interest waivable loan is just aid by a different name, but if it gives Graham a way to get to yes, Zelensky and the Biden administration should be fine with it.”

“Democrats support aid to Ukraine. Whether you call it a loan, or whatever, get ’em some resources,” Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi told reporters Wednesday. “You’ve got to get them some help,” he continued. “So if it comes in a loan, it’s help; if it comes as an aid package with no requirements, it’s still help.”

Additional reax: This GOP loan plan “sort of feels like a back-of-the-napkin idea that no one’s really fleshed out,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, told reporters before encouraging House Republicans to “Pass the Senate bill [approved in early February]. Let’s get this done. Stop f‑‑‑ing around,” said Murphy. 

For what it’s worth, Al Weaver and Mike Lillis of The Hill write, “Few believe that Ukraine would ever pay back the loans, given the trillions of dollars in reconstruction costs Kyiv is sure to face whenever the Russian conflict ends. But the loan design might provide some political cover to leery Republicans, who could pitch the idea to their constituents as a strategy for easing the financial burden on U.S. taxpayers.”

And despite his own February vote against Ukraine aid, Graham said he’s pushing the White House to send Ukraine “longer-range artillery, accelerate F-16 training for the Ukrainians, and designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law.”

New: Germany just promised Ukraine €500 million more in military supplies, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced Tuesday during the latest Pentagon-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base. That includes another 14,000 155mm artillery rounds, four more WISENT 1 mine clearing tanks, more remote controlled mine-clearing robots, 10 more Vector reconnaissance drones, almost two dozen anti-drone sensors and jammers, a dozen additional SatCom terminals, and more

Also this week in Germany: Authorities arrested a soldier suspected of spying for Russia. “On one occasion, he passed on information that he had obtained in the course of his professional activities to a Russian intelligence service for forwarding,” prosecutors announced Tuesday. 

The soldier had worked at the office in charge of equipping Germany’s military, and he’s accused of visiting at least two locations where Russian officials work on multiple occasions after May 2023, according to Deutsche Welle. Reuters has more. 

More evidence of Russia’s Potemkin defenses: Moscow’s navy appears to have painted a submarine silhouette into the pier at its Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. The British military flagged the development, visible in satellite imagery from late February, on social media Wednesday. 

“There are also painted silhouettes of airframes at nine Russian air bases,” the Brits said. But this appears to be the first known time a decoy submarine has been spotted. The Russian navy has also painted black on the front and rear of its Black Sea vessels seemingly so as to reduce their visibility to pilots of Ukrainian drone boats. Those boats have attacked nearly two dozen Russian ships in the region since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion. 

Want to know more about Ukraine’s defensive needs? Michael Kofman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently returned from another trip with some input for the public. Ukraine’s biggest needs are somewhat fundamental, he noted, isolating the issues of “manpower, fortifications, and ammunition” in an explanatory thread on social media Tuesday. 

“The primary limiting factor for Russia,” he writes, “is not ammunition or manpower, but likely equipment, and capacity to employ forces at scale.” 

On the bright side for Kyiv, “With Western support, a stabilized [Ukrainian military] could hold this year against Russian offensives,” Kofman predicted. However, “This presumes fortifications are established…UA has funding + ammo support, and the manpower problem is addressed by Kyiv in the coming months.” And all of those are fairly strongly contingent on additional (though not only) U.S. support. Read on, here

A second opinion: “Delays in U.S. lethal aid have already negatively impacted the battlefield in Ukraine,” Dara Massicot, also of Carnegie, explained Tuesday on social media. “These signposts are not foregone conclusions,” she cautions, and adds, “Conditions can stabilize and improve with the near-term approval and dissemination of critical ammunition from the west, and additional manpower.” Read more, here

Additional reading: 

Poland’s navy just joined the Pentagon-led naval task force monitoring piracy near the Horn of Africa, officials at Central Command announced Wednesday. The group is known broadly as the Combined Maritime Forces. 

Warsaw’s participation now pushes the total membership to 42 countries, which makes it “the largest naval partnership in the world,” according to CENTCOM.  

Worth noting: There are five mini task forces within this Mideast-focused group, and each has a different (though similar-sounding) responsibility. 

  • There is the Combined Task Force 150, which is ostensibly “focused on maritime security in the Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea and eastern Gulf of Aden.” 
  • There is also CTF 151, “which leads regional anti-piracy efforts,” according to U.S. defense officials. 
  • Then there’s CTF 152, which is “dedicated to maritime security in the Arabian Gulf.” 
  • There’s also CTF 153, “responsible for maritime security in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb, and western Gulf of Aden.” 
  • And there’s CTF 154, which officials say was “established in May to enhance maritime security training throughout the region.”

For the record: Yemen is also a member of the 42-nation group…or its exiled UN-recognized government approves of the mission, anyway. That’s of course because Yemen is actually being run by the Iran-backed Houthi militia from the capital city of Sana’a.

The U.S. military destroyed a likely Houthi drone boat launched from Yemen Wednesday, CENTCOM officials said afterward. An aerial drone was also destroyed by a U.S.-allied aircraft Wednesday, U.S. defense officials said. 

ICYMI: U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria are still working amid a lull in rocket and drone attacks from Iran-backed militias in the region. Recall the American troops faced dozens of attacks in the immediate aftermath of Hamas militants’ surprise assault in Israel on October 7; one such attack killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded more than 40 others in late January.  

The Iran-backed militants have since largely shifted their drone attacks to Israeli targets, as a rolling tally by the Washington Institute illustrates. This lull appears to have begun after the U.S. killed two militia leaders with a series of airstrikes in early February, and following an order from Iranian Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani, according to Reuters and the New York Times.

Related reading: 

“Disabling cyberattacks are striking water and wastewater systems throughout the United States,” the national security advisor and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency told the nation’s governors in a Monday letter. “These attacks have the potential to disrupt the critical lifeline of clean and safe drinking water, as well as impose significant costs on affected communities.”

The letter contains no details on where or when the attacks occurred, but said Iran-linked hackers “disabled a common type of operational technology used at water facilities where the facility had neglected to change a default manufacturer password,” wrote Jake Sullivan and Michael S. Regan.

State and local water agencies should reach out for federal help in securing their systems, they write. Coverage: Reuters, Security Week, CNN.

A B-52 flying from Guam test-launched a hypersonic missile. The first such U.S. test in the region was likely intended as a message to China, writes The War Zone, which adds that “this comes as ARRW's future continues to be murky with signs pointing to a potential follow-on program, which may already be in progress.”

Don’t miss Defense One’s State of the Army interviews today. Registration is free: 

  • 2:10 p.m. EDT: Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy A. George;
  • 2:45 p.m.: Gen. Charles Flynn, commanding general, U.S. Army Pacific;
  • 3:40 p.m.: Maj. Gen. David W. Gardner, commanding general, Joint Readiness Training Center, and Maj. Gen. Curt Taylor, commanding general, National Training Center; and
  • 4 p.m.: Maj. Gen. Paul Stanton, commanding general, Cyber Center of Excellence.


  • 9:30 a.m.: Navy Adm. John Aquilino, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; and Army Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander, United Nations Command, ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea, testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee posture hearing.
  • 10 a.m.: Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander; Army Gen. Michael Kurilla, commander, U.S. Central Command; and Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, commander, U.S. Africa Command, testify at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
  • 3:30 p.m.: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Dr. John Plumb; Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander, U.S. Strategic Command; Space Force Gen. Stephen Whiting, commander, U.S. Space Command; and Air Force Gen. Gregory M. Guillot, commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, testify at a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces posture hearing.

And lastly: A medal for the long-secret WWII unit that tricked the Germans. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops was 82 officers and 1,023 men who used fake radio calls, inflatable “tanks,” and other deceptions to simulate two divisions and keep the German military off-balance. Some members went to their graves without telling their families about their classified service. Now the “Ghost Army” will get the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony today at 11 a.m. ET. AP has more.