NATO trainers to Ukraine?; Blackouts return to Kyiv; Gaza push continues; F-35s pile up on tarmac; And a bit more…

NATO allies are weighing a request to send military trainers into Ukraine, the top U.S. officer said Thursday. Amid a deepening manpower shortage, Kyiv is asking for help training 150,000 recruits near the front line. New York Times: “So far the United States has said no, but Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday that a NATO deployment of trainers appeared inevitable. ‘We’ll get there eventually, over time,’ he said.”

This would put “a bunch of NATO trainers at risk” and could mean diverting air defenses from Ukrainian infrastructure and forces to protect the trainers, Brown said aboard his plane while heading to a NATO meeting in Brussels. It would also, the Times wrote, “be another blurring of a previous red line and could draw the United States and Europe more directly into the war.” More, here.

Ukraine is now recruiting convicts to fill its ranks. President of Ukraine Volodymir Zelenskyy has “signed a law allowing prisoners to be sent to the front in exchange for conditional early release,” the Kyiv Post tweeted. “Notably, 4,500 convicts have agreed to leave prison for the front, according to the Ministry of Justice.”

ICYMI: Russia had sent some 100,000 of its own convicts to the front as of last December, Newsweek reported.

Russian forces lack the strength for a "strategic breakthrough" in the new front in Kharkiv Oblast, Gen. Christopher Cavoli, NATO's top commander in Europe, told reporters on May 16. (Kyiv Independent)

A Ukrainian drone attack cut power in the Russian-occupied city of Sevastopol in Crimea on Friday. An earlier attack had damaged aircraft and fuel storage at an airbase. (AP)

But Kyiv is also periodically in the dark. “Russian attacks on energy infrastructure have gradually whittled away at Ukrainian power, meaning rolling blackouts are common for the first time in ages,” writes Tim Mak reporting from the Ukrainian capital in his newsletter The Counteroffensive.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by 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 hereOn this day in 1987, the guided missile frigate Stark was struck by two Iraqi anti-ship missiles, killing 37 U.S. Navy sailors.

More Israeli troops press into Rafah. “Hundreds of targets have already been attacked,” Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, said Thursday after meeting with commanders near Gaza’s southernmost city. “This operation will continue.” NYT: “For the past week Israel has described its offensive as a limited military operation, but satellite imagery and Mr. Gallant’s comments on Thursday suggested that a more significant incursion was already underway.” More, here.

But just a day earlier, Gallant had delivered an extraordinary televised address in which the former general and Likud party member “publicly rebuked the government for failing to establish a postwar plan for Gaza” and demanded that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commit to allowing the enclave to govern itself, The Atlantic wrote. 

“Without such a political strategy, Gallant argued, no military strategy can succeed, and Israel will be left occupying Gaza and fighting a never-ending counterinsurgency against Hamas that saps the country’s military, economic, and diplomatic resources.” More, here.

Meanwhile, trucks laden with humanitarian aid are rolling off the temporary pier built on a Gaza beach by the U.S. military. The pier began operation early Friday morning, the Times reports, adding that no U.S. troops are on the ground and that the pier’s throughput is likely to be “well short of what humanitarian groups say is needed to meet the staggering levels of hunger and deprivation in Gaza.” More, here.

Suspect charged with attempted assassination of Slovakian leader. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot five times, an act that shocked the country and drew widespread condemnation as an assault on democracy. On Friday, police charged a 71-year-old man from southern Slovakia with the shooting; they did not release his name. The suspect told police that he was motivated by his disagreement with the government and its reforms, Interior Minister Matúš Šutaj Eštok told reporters. Eštok said the suspect is not a member of any extremist group, calling him “a lone wolf” who had in the past attended anti-government protests. (CNN)

NYT’s take:Slovakia’s Politics Were Toxic Long Before Its Prime Minister Was Shot: Years of vitriolic rhetoric, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, left Slovakia with bitter political division.”

F-35s are piling up on Lockheed tarmac, presenting ‘unique’ risks to the Pentagon. The Pentagon has refused delivery of so many F-35s that Lockheed Martin is running out of places to put them, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The government has not accepted new F-35s since last July because of hardware and software delays with Technology Refresh-3, a $1.8-billion effort to enable new capabilities for the jet. 

Now there are “going to be at least over 100 aircraft stacked up on the tarmac” outside Lockheed's plant, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee, told reporters Wednesday. 

“It is unique for so many critical DOD aircraft to be waiting for DOD acceptance, instead of stored at lower densities across many military locations throughout the world. This creates unique financial and schedule risks to DOD,” GAO said. 

Oh, and: The program is trying to quash bugs that force pilots to reboot in midair,GAO says. D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here.

Future Army artillery could include wheeled howitzers, automated cannons, and long-range mortars, Army Futures Command chief Gen. James Rainey suggested Thursday at a Senate hearing. The service, which is seeking a new self-propelled howitzer after the cancellation of the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, is planning a competition between various mobile artillery systems this summer. The competition 

“There are some very good wheeled howitzers that are having great effect in a place like Europe,” said Rainey, who didn’t say which ones? D1’s Sam Skove lists the possibilities, here.

Have a safe weekend, and we’ll see you on Monday.