Today's D Brief: Russia destroys power plant; Ukraine’s pleas; China, US talk space safety; DOD & Starlink; And a bit more.

Russia launched another devastating attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure overnight. Ukraine’s military says it was able to shoot down 57 of Russia’s 82 missiles and drones. But the remaining 25 destroyed targets across the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv and Kyiv oblasts, including the largest such facility in Kyiv, the Trypilska coal plant.

Developing: Ukraine needs air defense systems so badly it has “identified more than 100 available Patriots” among neighboring and allied countries in Europe and Asia, the Washington Post reported Wednesday after speaking at length with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. 

His boss, President Volodymir Zelenskyy, said last week Ukraine needs 25 Patriot systems to protect the entire country. But Kuleba says he’s just looking for seven that can be donated as soon as possible. Those seven “would cover Ukraine’s largest cities and leave at least one free to be closer to the battlefield, where Russian aviation has been punishing Ukraine’s troops on the ground using guided bombs,” the Post reports. 

Said Kuleba to the Post: “Do you sincerely believe that the whole U.S. Army does not have one spare battery of Patriots that is not on combat duty and that cannot be given to Ukraine? I don’t.”

He also lamented the inaction of House Republicans, led by Speaker Mike Johnson, who won’t advance an aid bill the Senate passed more than two months ago. “I just don’t understand why it’s not happening,” he told the Post. “The feeling that extraordinary decisions are needed on a regular basis to end this war with a victory for Ukraine is gone,” he said. 

Johnson on Wednesday described House discussions on Ukraine aid as “a very complicated matter at a very complicated time…but what’s required is that you reach consensus on it, and that’s what we’re working on,” he said.  

“We need air defense systems and other defense assistance, not just turning a blind eye and having lengthy discussions,” President Zelenskyy said on social media Thursday.

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 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had recently enriched uranium.

“If we do not continue to support Ukraine, Ukraine will run out of artillery shells and will run out of air defense interceptors in fairly short order,” U.S. Army Gen. Chris Cavoli told House lawmakers on Wednesday. Cavoli is the military’s top officer in Europe, where he also serves as NATO’s top military commander. 

“The Russians fire five times as many artillery shells at the Ukrainians than the Ukrainians are able to fire back. That will immediately go to 10 to one in a matter of weeks,” Cavoli said. “We’re not talking about months. We’re not talking hypothetically,” he added. Ukraine’s “ability to defend their terrain that they currently hold and their airspace would fade rapidly, will fade rapidly without the supplemental” aid bill lingering in the lower chamber on Capitol Hill, said Cavoli. (Cavoli returned to the Hill today for a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.)

“Nearly all the money we’re spending to arm Ukraine doesn’t leave this country,” the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Mike Rogers of Alabama, said in his opening statement Wednesday. “It goes directly to U.S. companies and American workers to produce more weapons at a faster pace.” 

And that’s at least partly why “Congress needs to pass the national security supplemental,” Rogers said. “The quickest way to end this conflict is to strengthen Ukraine’s negotiating position by ensuring they are well armed and well supported.”

“Speaker Johnson has a choice to make,” former Pentagon official Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Michigan, said Wednesday, according to Politico. “I accept that it's a complicated choice. I accept that he's at risk of losing his job,” she said. “But that's what leadership is. It's the big boy pants.”

Today in worthwhile reads: “Ukraine matters to Kansas,” writes Emily Harding, director of the Intelligence, National Security, and Technology Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. 

“This world is a small world,” Harding says, “and this war affects everything, from the lofty ‘global order’ to the highly pragmatic wallet of a man in Kansas.” Read her relatively short explanation in its entirety, here

Also: Three dozen artists, activists, scholars are calling on House Republicans to advance that supplemental aid bill for Ukraine. Writing in CNN on Wednesday, country music’s Brad Paisley joined Yale Professor Tim Synder, Bill Krystol and others to argue, “we are letting the Ukrainians down,” because more than 470 days have passed since Congress last passed legislation to support Ukraine. 

“Ukrainians are impressive allies,” the three dozen contributors write. “They are fighting well across a very long front. They have cleared the Black Sea of the Russian navy, allowing Ukrainian agriculture to feed the Near East and Africa. They have developed and deployed their own weapons. They are doing everything humanly possible, and taking painful human losses every single day. But they need things that only we can provide to keep up the fight.” Read the rest, here

Peering into the future, “Ukraine has very few young men, [which is] a huge demographic problem for a country at war,” the New York Times reported Thursday in a demographic deep-dive following the recent passage of a law lowering the age of conscription from 27 to 25.

What’s going on: “In the year Ukraine gained independence, 1991, Ukrainian women on average had 1.9 children. A decade later, the birth rate had dropped to 1.1 children. When those children reached their 20s, the effect of their smaller numbers was felt first in the labor force — and then far more consequentially after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.” Read the rest, here.

US-China mil-to-mil thaw reaches space. At least partially. Within the last six months or so, “we've heard proactively from the Chinese twice on two things they wanted to talk to us about with space safety-related issues. We think that is very positive, and we would like to continue to build on that,” Gen. Stephen Whiting, who leads U.S. Space Command, said Wednesday at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. 

China cut off mil-to-mil relations after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid a visit to Taiwan in August 2022, and has resumed them, slowly and piecemeal, beginning last December.

China’s space weapons. But Whiting also spent much of his talk warning that China (and Russia) are fielding weapons that threaten the “peaceful use of space.” Since 2018, Whiting said, China has tripled its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance satellites to build a “kill web” over the Pacific Ocean to track and target U.S. and allied military capabilities. Beijing has also fielded counterspace assets that include reversible jamming, high-energy lasers, and anti-satellite weapons. D1’s Audrey Decker reports, here.

Pentagon can’t force SpaceX to stop helping Russian invaders, official says. As new details come to light about Russia’s use of Starlink satellite terminals, a top Pentagon official said the Defense Department can’t force Elon Musk’s company to cut service to the invaders—say, by creating a whitelist for Ukrainian troops’ terminals. “I don't think that DOD is in a position to make them do these things, so I'll just say that. I'm aware of Ukraine's concerns, working through it with both Ukraine and Starlink,” said John Plumb, assistant defense secretary for space policy. Decker has more, here.

When can US spies buy your personal data? New guidelines are coming, a top Pentagon lawyer said; the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will soon release guidelines to help the intelligence community better gauge ethical considerations for operatives who purchase commercially available data that can include sensitive personal identifiers. More, here

Space Force releases vision for commercial-military-allied hybrid mission systems. The young service branch debuted its 19-page strategy just a week after the Pentagon’s broader “2024 DoD Commercial Space Integration Strategy” which calls, among other things, for the military to help protect commercial space assets. D1’s Lauren C. Williams limns the new document, here.

And lastly today: The Navy found itself in hot water this week after posting an image to Instagram showing a commander firing a rifle with a backward scope. The image has since been removed, but Stars and Stripes preserved it here. “The weapon’s foregrip was also mounted strangely, positioned closer to the gun’s center than its barrel,” Stripes reports. 

The U.S. Marine Corps appeared to capitalize on the misstep, writing in its own photo caption on the same day, “Clear sight picture.” Read more, here.