‘WHAT HAPPENS HERE MATTERS’: Wrapping up his one-day pop-up visit to Kyiv yesterday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stood outside in the dark, near-freezing cold of the Ukrainian capital to answer questions from the reporters he took with him.
“I wanted to reassure the leadership that the United States of America will continue to support Ukraine,” Austin said. “We talked about the things that we’re going to continue to do to make sure that they have what they need to be successful on the battlefield.”
But to make that pledge credible — not just to Ukraine but also to allies and partners who have also supplied $36 billion in weapons and other military support to the war effort — Austin said quick congressional approval of President Joe Biden’s $61 billion is vital.
“I continue to see bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. And I know that there are some things that we need to continue to work through to get the supplemental request approved, and we’ll continue to work with Congress to do that,” Austin said. “Congress, our congressional members, have valid questions that we will answer. But again, I would point out that Ukraine matters; what happens here matters. Not just to Ukraine, but to the entire world.”
‘THE RUNWAY CONTINUES TO GET SHORTER’: The $100 million arms and equipment package Austin announced while in Kyiv is considerably more modest than previous allocations, which often exceeded a billion dollars.
It’s designed to give Ukraine what it needs to get through the winter, including cold weather gear and the most critical munitions: artillery rounds, anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, and three million bullets for small arms.
“The runway continues to get shorter with each and every passing assistance package that we provide them,” NSC spokesman John Kirby said at yesterday’s White House briefing. “We want to urge Congress to pass the supplemental request that we put in front of them to allow us to keep supporting Ukraine in an unimpeded, uninterrupted way.”
In announcing the latest weapons transfer from U.S. military inventories, the Pentagon included this argument to keep the arms flowing:
“Security assistance for Ukraine is a smart investment in our national security. It helps to prevent a larger conflict in the region and deter potential aggression elsewhere while strengthening our defense industrial base and creating highly skilled jobs for the American people in dozens of states across the country.”
AUSTIN: UKRAINE IS ADAPTING: In his brief interchange with reporters, Austin pushed back against the idea that Ukraine’s losing momentum, pointing in particular to how the country has been inflicting heavy losses on Russia’s ground forces, and has effectively neutralized Russia’s Black Sea Fleet with the effective use of long-range missiles and home-grown drones.
“If you look at the damage that they’ve created to the Russian land forces overall, it’s significant, and it will take Russia quite a while to recover from that in order to create the kind of force that it had before this began,” Austin said. “I think if you look at what they’ve accomplished here with the Black Sea Fleet, they have inflicted significant pain on that fleet and actually caused them to reposition a bit.”
“They’ve taken back half the ground that the Russians originally occupied. I think that’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “The Ukraine military is a learning organization and it will continue to learn from all of its operations to this point … as they learn and make adjustments.”
But critics — including retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe, and military analysts John Hardie and Bradley Bowman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies — say what Ukraine needs now is the newer version of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), not just the older variants that Ukraine has received so far.
“ATACMS with 300 km range will make Crimea untenable as soon they arrive in theater. No place for Russian Navy, Air Force, Logistics to hide in Crimea,” Hodges posted on X.
“The administration’s excuses for not sending the longer range ATACMS with unitary warheads don’t withstand scrutiny,” posted Bowman, along with a link to an analysis arguing that without additional supplies of ATACMS, Ukraine will soon run out, if it has not already.
“But success on the battlefield requires more than determination. It also requires the right weapons. That’s why Washington should provide Kyiv with additional ATACMS without delay,” Hardie and Bowman wrote.
Good Tuesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Conrad Hoyt. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at DailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow me on Threads and/or on X @jamiejmcintyre
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HAPPENING TODAY: AWAITING WORD ON HOSTAGE DEAL: For several days now, the Biden administration has been hinting a deal is close that would allow for the release of at least some of almost 240 hostages, including about a dozen Americans abducted by Hamas terrorists 45 days ago.
“We are doing everything in our power to secure the release of those hostages and see their safe return home. But it’s just not productive to talk about the details. We have been engaged in intense negotiations over this matter,” said spokesman Matthew Miller at the State Department. “The secretary’s been involved; the president has been involved; other members of the administration have. And we have made progress in trying to secure a deal in conversation with our Qatari partners and, of course, in conversation with the government of Israel. But I can’t speak to the underlying details of those negotiations.”
“We’re hopeful, but there’s still work to be done. And nothing is done until it’s all done, so we’re going to keep working on this,” said NSC spokesman John Kirby, who said any deal has to include pauses in the fighting in order to move people to safety.
“I don’t want to negotiate in public. But if you’re going to secure the release of hostages — and we certainly hope we’re going to be able to do that soon — you got to make sure they can get from where they are to safety and do that as safely as possible, which means you’re going to have to have at least a temporary localized stop in the fighting to allow them to move,” Kirby said. “It’s a negotiation. And it’s over human lives. You do the best you can going back and forth with the arrangements, which we’re doing right now. And at some point, when you come down to executing — you know, when you hit “go” — then you’re counting on everybody to meet their commitments. And that’s what we’re doing.”
ISRAEL: HITTING HOSPITAL ‘PROPORTIONAL,’ JUSTIFIED: In response to questions about Israel’s Monday strike on the Indonesian hospital in Gaza that killed 12 people, including patients, Ophir Falk, a foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the firing was “proportional” and “in complete compliance with international law.”
“All civilian casualties are on Hamas’s hands,” Falk said on CNN. “Now, the firing that came out of the hospital yesterday was the firing of terrorists shooting at our troops. And we returned fire. That is the playbook out of the Hamas playbook that they use hospitals … They use these hospitals as command centers.”
With the death toll in Gaza reportedly over 12,000, with as many as half of them are children, Falk was asked by CNN anchor Alex Marquardt how that qualified as proportional.
“We are distinguishing, we are making a clear distinction between civilians and terrorists,” Falk said. “They burnt our babies alive. And they are hiding behind their babies. We are in complete compliance with international law, both proportionality, distinction. And there is a clear military necessity to destroy Hamas.”
“But even one child is a tragedy. Even one civilian is a tragedy. They are all on Hamas’s hands. All of them are on Hamas’s hands. We have been urging civilians to get out of harm’s way,” he said. “The IDF is setting a gold standard in modern military warfare. There is no military on earth that is more moral than the IDF.”
KIRBY: ‘WE DON’T WANT TO SEE FIREFIGHTS IN HOSPITALS’: The Biden administration has so far refrained from any criticism of the high civilian death toll inflicted by Israeli forces in Gaza while insisting it expects Israel to do everything possible to avoid civilian deaths.
“We continue to emphasize to the Israelis that they must account for civilians in the battlespace,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during his visit to Ukraine.
“We don’t want to see hospitals as battlegrounds. We don’t want to see firefights in hospitals,” Kirby said at the White House. “You’ve got real live patients, real live doctors, real live nurses that you got to look out for. On the other hand, you’ve got a real live threat. You got a group that seems to think it’s OK to bury themselves in the basement of a hospital and use it to command and control their operations.”
WHO IS GUILTY OF GENOCIDE? Kirby was adamant in rejecting charges that the high number of civilian deaths that has resulted from Israel’s campaign to wipe out Hamas was tantamount to genocide.
“Yes, there are too many civilian casualties in Gaza. Yes, the numbers are too high,” Kirby said. “What Hamas wants, make no mistake about it, is genocide. They want to wipe Israel off the map … Israel is not trying to wipe the Palestinian people off the map. Israel is not trying to wipe Gaza off the map. Israel is trying to defend itself against a genocidal terrorist threat. So, if we’re going to start using that word, fine, let’s use it appropriately.”
HIJACKING DOCUMENTED IN CHILLING HOUTHI VIDEO: In a sign of the times, in which everything is documented on video, Yemen’s Houthi militia recorded a helicopter assault and hijacking of a civilian cargo ship in the Red Sea, which it said it was seizing in a show of support for Palestinians in Gaza.
The ship, the Galaxy Leader, is British-owned, operated by a Japanese company, and was reportedly en route from Turkey to India. The video, which appears to come mostly from helmet cameras, shows the view from the helicopter as it lands on the deck and armed men make their way to the helm and capture the crew.
“The Houthi seizure of the motor vessel Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea is a flagrant violation of international law,” Matthew Miller said at the State Department. “We demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew, and we will consult with our allies and U.N. partners, as appropriate, on next steps.”
RISCH: CHINA’S LATEST PROVOCATION AN ACT OF AGGRESSION: Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is condemning China after an accusation from Australia’s defense minister that a Chinese warship used sonar pulses to injure Australian divers who were clearing fishing nets near Japan.
“China’s latest provocation on the high seas, this time directed at Australia, is more than risky operational behavior. It is an act of aggression undertaken in international waters,” Risch said in a statement. “This brazen act occurred a week after Xi met with Australia’s Prime Minister, and only days after President Biden touted the restoration of our military-to-military communication after his meeting with this dictator.”
“China is not going to stop these risky and aggressive naval and air maneuvers, and no amount of military confidence-building and communications mechanisms is going to change that,” Risch said. “Putting any faith in these mechanisms with Beijing breeds false confidence that only puts U.S. and allied militaries at further risk. Lines must be drawn and enforced.”
Washington Examiner: Austin announces military package to Ukraine during visit to Kyiv
Washington Examiner: Biden confirms deal to free hostages held by Hamas is near
Washington Examiner: Israel war: John Kirby calls ‘genocide’ accusations against Israel ‘pretty inappropriate’
Washington Examiner: US threatens sanctions over Israeli settler violence against West Bank Palestinians
Washington Examiner: Israel questions why UN and international agencies have not condemned Hamas use of hospitals
Washington Examiner: Doctor who worked at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital says some areas were off-limits
Washington Examiner: China accuses Israel of ignoring Palestinian ‘survival and right of return’
Washington Examiner: The Debrief with Tim Carney: Biden and Xi’s summit from a business perspective
Washington Examiner: Houthi rebels release video showing seizure of cargo ship in Red Sea
Washington Examiner: Opinion: Israel’s justified action at Shifa Hospital
Washington Post: A Worrisome Escalation Of Conflict Along Israel-Lebanon Border
New York Times: Families of Hostages in Gaza Are Desperate for Proof of Life
NBC News: An Inside Look at US Drone Operations amid Search for Hostages Held by Hamas
Wall Street Journal: Tired Ukrainian Troops Fight To Hold Back Russian Offensive: ‘They Come Like Zombies’
AP: 10 years later, a war-weary Ukraine reflects on events that began its collision course with Russia
Reuters: Two Ships Divert Course Away From Red Sea Area After Vessel Seized By Houthis
CNBC: Yellen Says Biden, Xi Remain Far Apart On Taiwan’s Independence Post-APEC
Long War Journal: Al Qaeda’s general command renews calls for attacks against American, European, and Israeli interests around the world
AP: Q&A: Pentagon AI Chief on Network-Centric Warfare, Generative AI Challenges
DefenseScoop: DOD Plans to Build ‘Surge’ Capacity for Information Forces
The War Zone: Skunk Works Teases Tailless NGAD Fighter Design in New Ad
Breaking Defense: Ursa Major Takes Aim at DOD Solid Rocket Motor Market
Defense News: Rocket Lab to Open Spacecraft Parts Manufacturing Facility in Maryland
Air & Space Forces Magazine: USAF Gets Final MH-139 Test Helicopter as Production Ramps Up
Air & Space Forces Magazine: B-52s Leave Indo-Pacific, One Joins Exercise with S Korea on the Way Out
Air & Space Forces Magazine: New EC-37B Gets a Designation Change to EA-37B
Military.com: Pentagon Finally Issues Policy Allowing Cadets, Midshipmen Who Have Kids to Stay at Service Academies
Air & Space Forces Magazine: Minot Air Force Base Investigating Deaths of Three Airmen In One Month
Forbes: If Ukraine Military Aid Is Cut, Some GOP Districts Will Be Big Losers
The Cipher Brief: How Iran is Reshaping the Middle East
The Cipher Brief: Let’s Talk About Hamas and ‘Intelligence Failure’
The Cipher Brief: Artificial Intelligence in a Risk-Filled World
TUESDAY | NOVEMBER 21
9 a.m. 2401 M St., NW. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group conversation with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks https://nationalsecuritymedia.gwu.edu/events
9 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “The Republic of Turkey Turns 100,” with Cansu Camlibel, editor-in-chief of Duvar English; Sinan Ulgen, director of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy and senior fellow at Carnegie Europe; Defne Arslan, senior director of the Atlantic Council in Turkey; and Pinar Dost, nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Turkey https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/the-republic-of-turkey-turns-100/
10 a.m. — Wilson Center virtual discussion: “The World in Wartimes,” with Robert Daly, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the U.S., and Robin Wright, columnist for the New Yorker and fellow at the Wilson Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace https://engage.wilsoncenter.org/a/world-wartime
12 p.m. — Wilson Center Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies and the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs virtual discussion: “Is Russia’s Influence in Central Asia in Decline?” with Edward Lemon, president of the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs; Theresa Sabonis-Helf, professor at Georgetown University; Temur Umarov, fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center; and Kasiet Ysmanova, director of the Central Asia Barometer https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/russias-influence-central-asia-decline
WEDNESDAY | NOVEMBER 22
2:15 p.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW — American Enterprise Institute discussion: “Election Day in the Netherlands,” with Netherlands Ambassador to the U.S. Birgitta Tazelaar; Arthur van Benthem, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania; Matthias Matthijs, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies; Constanze Stelzenmuller, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center on the U.S. and Europe; Erik Voeten, professor at Georgetown University; and Stan Veuger, AEI senior fellow https://www.aei.org/events/election-day-in-the-netherlands
THURSDAY | NOVEMBER 23 | THANKSGIVING DAY
Federal holiday — No Daily on Defense
FRIDAY | NOVEMBER 24
Thanksgiving weekend — No Daily on Defense
MONDAY | NOVEMBER 27
6 a.m. EST Brussels, Belgium — Press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events
TUESDAY | NOVEMBER 28
5 a.m. EST Brussels, Belgium — “Doorstep statement” by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as the meeting of foreign ministers at NATO Headquarters begins https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events
10:30 a.m. EST Brussels, Belgium — Press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the end of the first day of the meeting of NATO foreign ministers https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events
WEDNESDAY | NOVEMBER 29
5:30 a.m. EST — Press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the conclusion of the two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events
3 p.m. — Advanced Nuclear Weapons Alliance Deterrence Center virtual forum: “Understanding the Modernization of the Land-based Leg of the U.S. Strategic Nuclear Deterrent, LGM-35A Sentinel,” with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, and Air Force Brig. Gen. Colin Connor, director of ICBM Modernization https://www.eventbrite.com/e/us-strategic-nuclear-deterrence
FRIDAY | DECEMBER 1
10:15 a.m. EST Simi Valley, California — Reagan National Defense Forum with members of Congress, senior leadership of the Department of Defense, former officials, scholars, defense industry leaders, and members of the press https://rndf2023virtual.rsvpify.com
9 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute in-person and virtual discussion: “U.S. National Security and Ukraine: A Bipartisan Conversation,” with Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE); Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA); Luke Coffey, Hudson senior fellow; and Tamar Jacoby, director, Progressive Policy Institute’s New Ukraine Project https://www.hudson.org/events/us-national-security-ukraine-bipartisan-conversation
SATURDAY | DECEMBER 2
10:15 a.m. EST Simi Valley, California — Reagan National Defense Forum with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and Shannon Bream of Fox News Sunday https://rndf2023virtual.rsvpify.com
QUOTE OF THE DAY “He was asked a direct question; he gave a direct answer. And he stands by that direct answer. … As true as that statement was, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t still prospects here to find ways to cooperate and to compete with China in a more responsible way going forward.” NCS spokesman John Kirby, on President Joe Biden calling Chinese President Xi Jinping “a dictator.”