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Rep. JASON CROW (D-Colo.), a member of the congressional delegation to Ukraine last weekend, spoke at length with Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY about the new weapons he requested to fend off Russia’s invasion.
He told a small group of reporters, including NatSec Daily, what the Ukrainian leader is asking for.
First, per Crow, “he needs more sophisticated, longer-range drones that can target, that have sophisticated precision-strike munitions and that can also return and be used multiple times and be rearmed.”
The U.S. has already provided Switchblade drones — small, light remotely piloted vehicles that can loiter in the air for up to 30 minutes before being directed to targets by an operator on the ground, dozens of miles away. Basically, it’s a one-and-done kamikaze weapon that’s helped Ukrainian forces to date, but which has limited utility in the more open battlefields of the eastern Donbas. Zelenskyy assesses reusable and more advanced drones would help his troops in the war’s new phase.
Second, the Ukrainian president wants “increased shipments of U.S. artillery supplies,” said Crow, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “What we need to do is provide multiple-launch rocket systems,” or MLRS, he continued, especially the MARS system which has a longer range than other artillery equipment Ukraine has. “That would really have a devastating impact on the Russian military and provide Ukrainians with a new tool to defend themselves, but actually reseize the territory that was taken over by the Russians.”
Third, Crow reports that Zelenskyy wants more anti-ship missiles in Ukraine’s arsenal, namely Harpoons. “This system is actually going to be really critical for not just the Ukrainian economy, but worldwide hunger as well,” he said, noting that Ukraine has placed mines all around the strategic Port of Odessa to prevent Russian ships from entering.
But, as a result, Ukraine can’t export key commodities like grain or sunflower oil that help feed much of the world, particularly millions in the Middle East and Africa. Ukraine plans to remove the mines once it has a reliable and equivalent defensive capability against a Russian amphibious assault on the city, Crow said.
The lawmaker added that he came away from the Ukraine trip with an appreciation that Zelenskyy wouldn’t ask for weapons his troops couldn’t use or that the U.S. couldn’t deliver. The Ukrainian president displayed a “mastery” of wartime tactics, making his requests to American legislators credible, Crow said.
The Coloradan noted two other important items.
Zelenskyy wants a new training regime with the U.S., even as American forces continually train their Ukrainian counterparts. The issue is Zelenskyy doesn’t want to remove his top commanders or troops from the battlefield. So, per Crow, “we need to set up Mobile Training Teams in a more permanent and enduring training presence to more regularly rotate smaller, more junior Ukrainian Armed Forces elements out of Ukraine to be trained on these new systems over the months to come.”
NatSec Daily later in the session asked if Crow deemed Kyiv safe enough for President JOE BIDEN or Vice President KAMALA HARRIS to visit, seeing as he joined Speaker of the House NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.) — second in line to the presidency — on the trip.
Crow noted that the trip into the Ukrainian capital was difficult logistically and not without risk, as evidenced by Russian airstrikes that fell before and after the visit. He said the “security situation is extremely erratic” and it was up to the White House’s security team to determine whether any of America’s top two leaders could safely see Zelenskyy in person.
Without pointing fingers, Crow did make this remark: “I’m of the view that global leadership and U.S. leadership always entail some risks. If you want to be a leader, particularly on very difficult national security issues, and if we’re going to step up and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people who are fighting for their survival, there’s always risks to that.”
600 DEAD IN MARIUPOL THEATER STRIKE: “Amid all the horrors that have unfolded in the war on Ukraine, the Russian bombing of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol on March 16 stands out as the single deadliest known attack against civilians to date. An Associated Press investigation has found evidence that the attack was in fact far deadlier than estimated, killing closer to 600 people inside and outside the building. That’s almost double the death toll cited so far, and many survivors put the number even higher.”
That’s the key section of the jaw-dropping investigation by LORI HINNANT, MSTYSLAV CHERNOV and VASILISA STEPANENKO into what happened during one of the most notorious events in the months-long war.
Of course, this is one outlet’s findings. It’s possible official bodies, like the United Nations, will dig further into the airstrike and come up with their own conclusions. But if it’s true, it’s perhaps the greatest war crime Russia has committed since the invasion.
“Many survivors estimated around 1,000 people were inside at the time of the airstrike, but the most anyone saw escape, including rescuers, was around 200. The survivors primarily left through the main exit or one side entrance; the other side and the back were crushed,” the AP’s reporters wrote.
BELARUS’ DRILLS: Belarus, a Russian ally that serves as a safe haven for Russian troops, has begun large-scale military drills in preparation for “possible crises,” The Washington Post’s ANDREW JEONG and ELLEN FRANCIS reported.
In a Wednesday statement, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said the drills would not “pose any threat to the European community as a whole or to neighboring countries in particular.” Of course, this is the same government that promised Russian troops would go home following joint massive exercises shortly before the invasion of Ukraine.
The Post notes that ANDRIY DEMCHENKO, Ukraine’s border chief, said in response that his country’s border with Belarus will be “strengthened,” adding, “[i]t cannot be said that they are ready to attack.”
The drills come ahead of Russia’s May 9 “Victory Day” where some U.S. and Western officials suspect VLADIMIR PUTIN might formally declare war on Ukraine — potentially dragging Belarus into the fight.
EU PROPOSES OIL BAN: The European Union has proposed a ban on Russian oil in its latest sanctions package, POLITICO Europe’s ANDREW GRAY reported.
“This will be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined,” EU Commission President URSULA VON DER LEYEN told the European Parliament. “We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, so in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and, at the same time, be very careful that we minimize the impact on the global market. And this is why we will phase out Russian supply of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.”
This isn’t a done deal. The bloc’s member states must now debate the proposal, and there’s a chance the measure could be weakened or nixed if any one of the 27 countries opposes it. Some of them, like Hungary and Slovakia, are dependent on Russian oil and fear weaning off it too quickly, Gray noted.
BLINKEN HAS COVID: The State Department announced Wednesday that Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN tested positive for Covid-19. “The Secretary is fully vaccinated and boosted against the virus and is experiencing only mild symptoms,” the department said in a statement, adding: “The Secretary has not seen President Biden in person for several days.” Blinken will now work at home and hold virtual meetings.
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NEW NORTH KOREA MISSILE LAUNCH: South Korean and Japanese officials said today that North Korea launched a ballistic missile from its capital region to the waters off its eastern coast, marking Pyongyong’s 14th round of weapons tests this year, per The Associated Press’ HYUNG-JIN KIM, KIM TONG-HYUNG and MARI YAMAGUCHI.
The launch comes after LIU XIAOMING, special representative of the Chinese government on Korean peninsula affairs, expressed concern Sunday about the tense situation between North and South Korea as he arrived for talks in Seoul. He said Tuesday that China remains committed to helping solve the North Korea nuclear issue.
The launch also comes before South Korean President-elect YOON SUK YEOL, a conservative who has pledged a tougher line against North Korea, takes office next Tuesday. North Korean leader KIM JONG UN vowed to accelerate the development of nuclear weapons during a military parade last week, and then warned over the weekend that Pyongyang could preemptively use the weapons if threatened.
CONTRACTORS HAVE HUNDREDS OF VULNERABILITIES: A Pentagon-led program found that defense contractors have hundreds of cyber vulnerabilities, showing the U.S. defense-industrial base has more work to do to shore up networks.
“Cybersecurity researchers with bug-bounty team HackerOne discovered some 400 issues across dozens of companies during the Defense Industrial Base-Vulnerability Disclosure Program, coordinated by the department’s Cyber Crime Center and the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency,” C4ISRNET’s COLIN DEMAREST reported. “Which contractors were involved was not disclosed. The campaign launched in April 2021 with 14 participating companies and 141 publicly accessible assets to examine. Interest quickly ballooned; 41 companies and nearly 350 assets were eventually admitted. The results were announced May 2.”
“The total represents a fraction of the Defense Department’s 200,000-company-strong contracting pool, raising concerns about vulnerabilities across far more networks,” Demarest continued.
The Pentagon has made boosting defense companies’ cybersecurity a priority, with Deputy Secretary of Defense KATHLEEN HICKS saying in February that they are “now facing increasingly sophisticated and well-resourced cyber-attacks that must be stopped.”
SECAF TESTIFIES: Our friends at Morning Defense (for Pros!) reported on Air Force Secretary FRANK KENDALL’s Tuesday SASC testimony, making two especially noteworthy announcements.
First, the next two flight tests of the hypersonic AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon will determine whether the project is canceled or enters production, Kendall said. The service is requesting $114 million in fiscal 2023 to continue the test program but has not set aside funding for production — despite investing more than $1.9 billion since fiscal 2019.
“As much as we’re encouraged to have failures, we have to have success before we can move forward to production,” Kendall told SASC.
The AGM-183, which was supposed to be fielded this year, has failed all three flight tests.
Second, despite requesting $11 million in fiscal 2023 for a market survey, Kendall said the need for a new competition for an aerial tanker, dubbed KC-Y, does not “look as necessary or as cost-effective as it once did.”
“We haven’t finished analyzing the requirements, but if the needle was over here at [a] competition, it’s moved back towards not necessarily having [a] competition,” Kendall told SASC.
Not holding a competition for the KC-Y and opting to buy more KC-46s from Boeing would be a blow for Lockheed Martin. Lockheed and Airbus are pitching the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport for KC-Y. The Air Force estimated it will buy up to 160 of the new tankers over the next decade.
FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY — GROUPS BACK ‘COST OF WAR’ BILL: A coalition of 15 national security organizations and think tanks from across the political spectrum sent a joint letter today to Reps. NIKEMA WILLIAMS (D-Ga.), PETER MEIJER (R-Mich.) and SARA JACOBS (D-Calif.) endorsing the lawmakers’ Cost of War Act of 2022.
The bipartisan legislation would direct the Defense Department to post online “information relating to the cost to U.S. taxpayers of any overseas contingency operation conducted by the U.S. Armed Forces on or after September 18, 2001,” according to a congressional summary. The bill also mandates that the Pentagon “update such information not later than 90 days after the end of each fiscal year.”
In their letter, the groups write that since fiscal year 2017, “thanks to the leadership of the late Congressman JOHN LEWIS (D-Ga.), the Department of Defense has been required to provide annual per-taxpayer cost-estimates of U.S. engagement in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, referred to as Section 1090 reports.” But now, Section 1090 needs “some sensible updates,” the groups argue.
“Two of the wars covered under Section 1090, Syria and Afghanistan, are considered officially over by the Pentagon. However, in addition to ongoing troop involvement in Iraq, the U.S. military continues to be engaged in counterterrorism efforts in 85 countries, according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project,” the letter states. “By expanding the activities covered by Section 1090 reports to capture ‘any overseas contingency operation conducted by the United States Armed Forces on or after September 18, 2001,’ H.R. 7147 will help provide a more accurate perspective on the cost of our military operations around the globe.”
The Cost of War Act of 2022, which NatSec Daily previously covered upon its unveiling in March, also is supported by the NAACP and progressive groups including Just Foreign Policy, VoteVets and Foreign Policy for America.
RUSSIAN WAR CRIMES BILL: Thirteen senators from both parties introduced a bill Wednesday to ensure the U.S. is helping to collect evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
The Ukraine Invasion War Crimes Deterrence and Accountability Act, led by Sen. JOHN CORNYN (R-Texas) and joined by top Democrats like Sen. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-Calif.), follows a House version of the bill that passed in April by a 418 to 7 margin.
Here’s what the bill would do if it became law, per a news release from Cornyn’s office: “[I]ssue a statement of policy and require a report to Congress within 90 days to ensure the U.S. is undertaking coordinated efforts to collect, analyze, and maintain evidence of war crimes and atrocities as defined in the U.S. Code committed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to deter the commission of such crimes by making Russian commanders, troops, and leaders aware of efforts to collect evidence and identify those committing these atrocities. The bill focuses on the development and maintenance of evidence and does not specify any specific prosecution venue in which such evidence may be used.”
“The reports of Russian war crimes coming out of Ukraine are sickening, and we must ensure these atrocities are properly documented,” Cornyn said in a statement. “The House of Representatives passed this legislation nearly unanimously, and it is imperative that the Senate quickly do the same so we can prosecute these criminals to the fullest extent of the law.”
ZELENSKYY: RUSSIA FOLLOWING GOEBBELS’ PLAYBOOK: Russia is “following the concept of [JOSEPH] GOEBBELS and they are using the same methodology,” the Ukrainian president told Fox News’ GRIFF JENKINS Wednesday.
Zelenskyy’s comment comes shortly after Russian Foreign Ministry SERGEY LAVROV wrongfully claimed that Zelenskyy was a Nazi, even though he’s Jewish.
“So what if Zelenskyy is Jewish? The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine. I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood,” Lavrov said Sunday on Italian television, per Haaretz.
That remark received fierce pushback, including from Israel’s government. “[L]ies like these are meant to blame the Jews themselves for the most terrible crimes in history, which were committed against them, and thus free the oppressors of the Jews from their responsibility,” Israeli Prime Minister NAFTALI BENNETT said Monday.
— FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY: ANTHONY DEANGELO has been named head of public affairs and strategic communications for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in the U.S. He previously served as senior program manager for democratic governance at the National Democratic Institute, and as deputy chief of staff for Rep. ANDY KIM (D-N.J.).
— CIARA NUGENT, Time: “Brazil’s Most Popular President Returns From Political Exile With a Promise to Save the Nation”
— LIANCHO HAN and JIANLI YANG, National Review: “Shanghai’s Anger Could Start a Fire”
— VIVEK WADHWA and ALEX SALKEVER, Foreign Policy: “How ELON MUSK’s Starlink Got Battle-Tested In Ukraine”
— Blinken, hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute, delivers remarks at the George Washington University on the administration’s policy toward China.
— The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Northern Virginia Chapter, 8 a.m.: “Small Business Enterprise IT Day 2022: Transforming Technology and Advancing Capabilities for Tomorrow — with KENDRA CHARBONNEAU, GUIDEAUX CROCKER, CAROLINE KUHARSKE, MIKE MATHEWS, STARGELL MOSLEY and more”
— The Brookings Institution, 9:30 a.m.: “U.S. Grand Strategy Under President Biden and Beyond — with ROBERT EINHORN, LESLIE T. FENWICK, MICHAEL E. O’HANLON, MELANIE W. SISSON, CAITLIN TALMADGE and HARLAN K. ULLMAN”
— The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 9:30 a.m.: “The Capital Cable: Ukraine’s Impact on Asia and Korea — with VICTOR CHA, MARK LIPPERT, MICHAEL MCFAUL, WI SUNGLAC and SUE MI TERRY”
— Senate Armed Services Committee, 9:30 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: The Posture of the Department of the Army in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2023 and the Future Years Defense Program — with JAMES MCCONVILLE and CHRISTINE WORMUTH”
— Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 10:15 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Securing and Ensuring Order on the Southwest Border — with JANUARY CONTRERAS, BENJAMINE ‘CARRY’ HUFFMAN, EMILY MENDRALA, BLAS NUÑEZ-NETO and MARYANN E. TIERNEY”
— Vanderbilt University, 10:30 a.m.: “Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats — with JOYCE CORELL, WILLIAM J. HARTMAN, KERSTI KALJULAID, PAUL NAKASONE, ANNE NEUBERGER and more”
— Washington Post Live, 11 a.m.: “World Stage: Sweden with KARIN OLOFSDOTTER”
— The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 12 p.m.: “Carnegie Connects: The U.S.-Israeli Relationship with Ambassador THOMAS R. NIDES — with AARON DAVID MILLER”
— The Hudson Institute, 12 p.m.: “NSPM-13 and the Future of Cyber Warfare — with ALEXEI BULAZEL, EZRA COHEN, JOSHUA STEINMAN and JD WORK”
— New America, 12 p.m.: “Russia’s Ghost Soldiers and the Crime of Aggression — with SORCHA MCLEOD, CANDACE RONDEAUX and ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER”
— Nextgov, Defense One and Route Fifty, 1 p.m.: “Cyber Defenders: The Road Ahead — with AARON BOYD, STEVEN HERNANDEZ, GEORGE JACKSON, ROXANNE A. LANDREAUX, MK PALMORE and more”
— The SETA Foundation at Washington, D.C., 1 p.m.: “Can the Western Policy Help Ukraine Achieve Victory? — with KILIC B. KANAT, STEVEN PIFER, KATHRYN STONER and KADIR USTUN”
— The Atlantic Council, 2:30 p.m.: “The National Security Implications of Small Satellites — with BLEDDYN BOWEN, NICHOLAS EFTIMIADES, SANDRA ERWIN, PAUL GRAZIANI, FREDERICK KEMPE, ALAN PELLEGRINI and PAULA TRIMBLE”
— The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 3 p.m.: “IISS-Americas Defense Trade Roundtable — with E.J. HEROLD, MIKE MILLER, MIRA RESNICK and JIM TOWNSEND”
— The Wilson Center, 4 p.m.: “Nordic Security Perspectives in the Arctic — with KRISTIAN SØBY KRISTENSEN, ANNIKEN RAMBERG KRUTNES, SARA OLSVIG, ANDREAS ØSTHAGEN, MICHAEL SFRAGA and LONE DENCKER WISBORG”
— Stanford University, 4:30 p.m.: “Drell Lecture 2022: The President’s Nuclear Button — with TED LIEU”
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And thanks to our editor, Ben Pauker, who also is proposing a “complete import ban” on our bad jokes.