The D Brief: US-Ukraine security pact; Russian warships, hounded; NGAD’s new uncertainty; China’s Peruvian megaport; And a bit more.

The presidents of the U.S. and Ukraine signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement on Thursday that White House officials said “strengthen[s] Ukraine’s ability to defend itself” and “reflect[s] the close partnership between our two democracies.” 

It includes agreements to cooperate on the “manufacturing of defense products,” work together on ordnance removal and demining, “develop Ukraine’s capabilities to counter Russian and any other propaganda and disinformation,” and “promote regional peace and security in the Black Sea,” according to the document.  

The agreement also insists “Ukraine will not be secure until its sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored through a just peace that respects Ukraine’s rights under international law, including the UN Charter.”

View from Kyiv: “This agreement is about security, protecting human life, fostering cooperation, and strengthening our nations,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy said on social media shortly after signing the document. “It includes steps to guarantee sustainable peace and benefits everyone globally,” he continued, “because Russia’s war against Ukraine is a real global threat.” 

“This will provide not only security, but also new good jobs for Ukrainians and Americans,” Zelenskyy said, emphasizing “provisions for advanced defense systems like Patriot and fighter jet squadrons—that’s right, plural, squadrons—including, but not limited to, F-16s.” 

And about those Patriot air defense systems: “We have acquired commitment from five countries so far for Patriot batteries and other air defense systems,” President Joe Biden told reporters Thursday in Italy while standing beside Zelenskyy on the sidelines of a G7 meeting. What’s more, the U.S. has “let it be known to those countries that are expecting from us air defense systems in the future that they’re going to have to wait,” Biden said. 

Biden also announced G7 members agreed to use $50 billion in frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine. In all, there are $280 billion in Russian Central Bank funds outside of Russia that were frozen by the European Union immediately after Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale Ukraine invasion in February 2022.

U.S. Treasury officials this week also announced nearly 300 additional sanctions against individuals and various entities allegedly helping Russia’s war effort. Several of the listed banks are located in India and China. “Today’s actions strike at their remaining avenues for international materials and equipment, including their reliance on critical supplies from third countries,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a statement. 

“We are increasing the risk for financial institutions dealing with Russia’s war economy and eliminating paths for [sanctions] evasion, and diminishing Russia’s ability to benefit from access to foreign technology, equipment, software, and IT services,” she added. 

Another thing: Biden took a jab at China, telling reporters pointedly at the end of his press conference Thursday, “By the way, China is not supplying weapons [to Russia], but the ability to produce those weapons and the technology available to do it. So, it is, in fact, helping Russia.” 

Ukrainian drone attacks in the Black Sea have forced Russian ships to bounce from port to port while Moscow’s troops have reinforced harbor defenses, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reported Thursday, citing satellite imagery and analysis. 

According to the imagery, ship traffic in Sevastopol dropped 18 percent after Ukrainian missiles struck warships and the naval base there last September. During the same time, ship traffic increased by more than 20 percent in Feodosia (100 miles away, on the other side of Crimea) and Novorossiysk (more than 200 miles away on Russia’s Black Sea coast) between September and December of 2022.

The satellite images also show Russian forces setting up defensive buoys and booms and staging small vessels at Sevastopol to hinder Ukrainian drones, Tucker reports. 

Reminder: Ukrainian rockets and naval drones have destroyed or disabled more than 20 Russian ships during the war, which amounts to nearly a third of Russia’s entire Black Sea Fleet. Read more, here

Speaking of satellite imagery, Ukrainian forces say they believe Russia uses Netherlands-based satellite firm Airbus before some of its attacks on Ukraine, Germany’s Der Spiegel reported behind a paywall Wednesday. 

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 2014, Russian invasion troops shot down a Ukrainian air force Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane, killing all 49 passengers and crew upon their approach to Ukraine’s Luhansk International Airport. The next month, Russian forces did it again when they shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 civilians over Donetsk, Ukraine. Also today: The U.S. Army turns 249, to which we reply dutifully, “Hooah!”

Army, Navy reduce their dependence on China. Last year, the U.S. Navy reduced the number of Chinese suppliers in its critical-technologies supply chains by 40 percent. The Army achieved a 17 percent reduction from 2022 to 2023. But the Air Force and defense agencies increased their dependence on China, according to a new report by a government-data analysis company. D1’s Lauren Williams reports.

Will the Air Force actually build its planned next-gen fighter? Asked to confirm plans to build NGAD, service chief Gen. David Allvin was cagey instead. “We're going to have to make those choices, make those decisions, across the landscape. That's going to probably play out in the next [of] couple years or by this [20]26 POM cycle. So those are things in work,” Allvin said at an Air & Space Forces Association event on Thursday. D1’s Audrey Decker has the full exchange, here.

China is building a $3.5 billion deep-water “megaport” in Peru, raising concern among various current and former U.S. officials, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday on location in Chancay, 50 miles north of the capital city of Lima. 

SOUTHCOM reax: “This will further make it easier for the Chinese to extract all of these resources from the region, so that should be concerning,” said U.S. Army Gen. Laura Richardson, chief of U.S. Southern Command, speaking at a security conference in Florida last month.

Big picture: “Chinese companies control or operate terminals at roughly 100 foreign seaports,” the Journal reports. And Chinese firms “have financed almost $30 billion of work in at least 46 countries between 2000 and 2021.”

Worth noting: “The ports haven’t emerged as stealth Chinese military bases, instead playing host to ceremonial naval port calls,” the Journal writes. “And the commercial cost-benefit analysis of China’s port building push won’t be known for some time, since it will take years to establish trading hubs in new markets.” Read on (gift link), here

New podcast: We returned to the topic of Taiwan’s security again this week with a conversation between Dmitri Alperovitch and Defense One’s Patrick Tucker. We previewed some of that conversation in Tuesday’s newsletter

Catch that 40-minute chat over on our website here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

And lastly: How is the military building the future of quantum computing, drones, lasers? We’re set to explore that issue next Tuesday— June 18—with Maynard Holliday of the Pentagon’s office of critical technology. 

Join us for a day of conversations and demos about cutting-edge research and development trends at this year’s Defense One Tech Summit at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City.

Beginning at 8 a.m. ET, we’ll convene senior Pentagon and industry leaders to discuss advancements in battlefield and backend technologies, and how the U.S. government can better work with startups, academia, and international partners.

Speakers include DARPA Director Stefanie Tompkins, the Pentagon’s Michael Horowitz, Defense Department hypersonics advisor Jarret Lafleur, Aditi Kumar of the Defense Innovation Unit, and lots more.

Register ahead of time here. And we look forward to seeing you next week in Pentagon City!