The answer is still ‘no’: Biden unmoved by calls to allow Ukraine to strike Russia with US weapons

THE ANSWER IS STILL ‘NO’: Despite calls from members of Congress, several U.S. allies, and the civilian head of NATO, the White House said President Joe Biden has had no change of heart over his refusal to allow Ukraine to use U.S.-supplied weapons to carry out defensive attacks on Russian soil.

“We do not want this to escalate in any form,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at yesterday’s White House briefing. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been begging Biden, by way of national security adviser Jake Sullivan, to lift the restriction so his military can use American long-range weapons to target Russian troops and planes that operate from just across Ukraine’s northern border.

“We’re aware of the interest that President Zelensky has expressed in this regard,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at the briefing. “I would tell you that there’s no change to our policy at this point. We don’t encourage or enable the use of U.S.-supplied weapons to strike inside Russia.”

MACRON: UKRAINE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO ‘NEUTRALIZE’ RUSSIAN SITES: French President Emmanuel Macron is the latest NATO leader to call for an end to restrictions, so long as his targets are military sites that are serving as launching points for attacks against Ukraine.

“We must allow them to neutralize the military sites from which the missiles are fired, the military sites from which Ukraine is being attacked,” Macron said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Brandenburg, Germany. “But we should not allow them to touch other targets in Russia and obviously civilian capacities.”

“If we tell them, ‘You’re not allowed to reach the point from which missiles are fired,’ actually, we are telling them, ‘We are delivering you weapons, but you cannot defend yourselves,’” Macron said, according to the French newspaper Le Monde

The SCALP missiles that France has supplied Ukraine have a range just short of 100 miles.

SCHOLZ: ‘IF UKRAINE IS ATTACKED, IT CAN DEFEND ITSELF’: While Germany continues to withhold long-range Taurus missiles from Ukraine, Scholz said he agrees Ukraine should be able to use the weapons it has to target Russian forces that are bombing and shelling Ukrainian cities. 

“I find it strange when some people argue that it should not be allowed to defend itself and take measures that are suitable for this,” Scholz said. “Ukraine has every possibility to do this under international law. It must be said clearly: If Ukraine is attacked, it can defend itself.”

Both Macron and Scholz face challenges from hard-right candidates in next month’s European elections.

UKRAINE SHOULD HAVE F-16S ‘VERY SOON’

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HAPPENING TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin departs today for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit in Singapore at a time when tensions in the Asia-Pacific region remain high. Austin is scheduled to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Adm. Dong Jun, on the sidelines of the gathering, which features leaders from throughout the region.

It will be the first in-person meeting between the two defense leaders, although they talked by video teleconference last month. 

China’s recent “punishment drills,” in which the Chinese navy and air force surrounded Taiwan and conducted mock attacks, prompted a muted response from the Pentagon. “We have closely monitored joint military drills by the People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait and around Taiwan. We have communicated our concerns both publicly and directly,” spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement. “The Department remains confident in current U.S. force posture and operations in the Indo-Pacific region with our allies and partners to safeguard peace, stability, and our national security.”

The Chinese Defense Ministry noted that the two countries held the second round of consultations on maritime affairs last week, and in a statement, it said, “China also expressed its grave concern to the U.S. over its infringement and provocation in the waters around China.”

The statement called Taiwan independence “the biggest threat to peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits” and urged the U.S. to stop supporting and condoning “Taiwan independence” forces immediately and fulfill its commitment of not supporting “Taiwan independence.”

THE STAR-CROSSED GAZA PIER: From the day last month when one of the U.S. ships heading to Gaza suffered an engine room fire and had to turn back, it’s been one thing after another plaguing the U.S. Army floating pier that was supposed to be speeding the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians caught in the war zone.

Yesterday, it fell to deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh to begin her afternoon briefing with the news that the “Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore” platform was the victim of rough seas on Saturday. 

“Four U.S. Army vessels supporting the maritime humanitarian aid mission in Gaza were affected by heavy sea states, causing these motorized pier sections, which are used to stabilize the Trident Pier, to break free from their anchors due to a loss in power and subsequently beach ashore,” Singh said. 

The boats, essentially landing craft, were used to ferry aid pallets from ships to the pier for loading on trucks. One of the boats has been recovered. The other three were still on an Israeli beach at last report. 

Then yesterday, part of the pier broke apart, again due to heavy seas. “As a result, the Trident Pier was damaged and sections of the pier need rebuilding and repairing,” Singh said. “Therefore, over the next 48 hours, the Trident Pier will be removed from its anchored position on the coast and towed back to Ashdod, where U.S. Central Command will conduct repairs. The rebuilding and repairing of the pier will take at least over a week and, following completion, will need to be re-anchored to the coast of Gaza.”

So for now, humanitarian aid delivery from the sea is suspended. 

$320 MILLION US PIER OFF GAZA COAST TEMPORARILY SHUT DOWN

WHITE HOUSE AWAITS INQUIRY OF ‘TRAGIC MISHAP’: The Israeli military is investigating what caused a raging fire in a tent camp that followed an Israeli airstrike and killed 45 Palestinians and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “tragic mishap.”

“I’ll note that the Israel Defense Forces today released initial findings, initial findings that point to the fire being caused by a secondary explosion, not the initial strike,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “I think this speaks very clearly to the challenge of military airstrikes in densely populated areas of Gaza, including Rafah, because of the risk of civilian casualties, which, of course, happened terribly in this case.”

“Israel, of course, has a right to go after Hamas. And we understand that this strike did kill two senior Hamas terrorists who are directly responsible for attacks against the Israeli people,” Kirby said. “But as we’ve also said many times, Israel must take every precaution possible to do more to protect innocent life.”

“We’re glad that the Israel Defense Forces are doing a full investigation, which we believe is going to be very important to try to prevent future such mishaps,” he said.

Israeli shelling and airstrikes killed at least 37 people, most of them sheltering in tents, in the same area outside Rafah on Monday night into Tuesday, according to the Associated Press

US STILL DOES NOT ASSESS ISRAEL CARRYING OUT FULL-SCALE RAFAH OPERATION

THE RUNDOWN: 

Washington Examiner: $320 million US pier off Gaza coast temporarily shut down

Washington Examiner: US still does not assess Israel carrying out full-scale Rafah operation

Washington Examiner: IDF blames unexplained fire for dozens killed in Gaza airstrike

Washington Examiner: Spain, Norway, and Ireland recognize Palestinian state

Washington Examiner: Ukraine should have F-16s ‘very soon’

Washington Examiner: Pilot hospitalized after $80 million F-35 crashes in New Mexico

Washington Examiner: Mission to serve: Veterans and entrepreneurs join forces to help toxic burn pit victims

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Biden puts his reelection before national security

New York Times: Calls Mount to Let Ukraine Strike Russia with Western Weapons

Washington Post: Georgia Enacts Russian-Style ‘Foreign Agent’ Law In Victory For Moscow

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Belgium Pledges F-16s to Ukraine ‘as Quickly as Possible.’ F-35 Deliveries Could Complicate Things

AP: Missile Attacks Damage A Ship In The Red Sea Off Yemen’s Coast Near Previous Houthi Rebel Assaults

AP: UK Labour leader Keir Starmer woos undecided voters with a vow to safeguard national security

Military.com: US Soldiers Were Stuck in Beached Boats Along Gaza After Storms Broke Apart Aid Pier

Reuters: Taiwan Says China Drills More About Intimidation, Propaganda Than Starting War

Reuters: Rare Spat Shows China, North Korea Still At Odds On Nuclear Weapons

Washington Post: North Korea Launches Waste-Filled Balloons To Taunt The South

The War Zone: Massive China-Focused Black Flag Test Exercise Flies Deep into the Virtual Realm

Washington Post: North Korea launches waste-filled balloons to taunt the South

Breaking Defense: SNC Plans ‘Fully Digital’ Development for Air Force’s ‘Doomsday Plane’ Replacement

Defense One: DARPA Picks Two Firms to Design a Fast, Runway-Less Airplane

New York Times: Musk Muscles His Rivals Out In Space Race

Defense News: Defense Innovation Unit Awards Funding for Sea-Based Launch Pad

Air Force Times: Air Force Reservists Can Soon Apply to Join the Space Force

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Space Force Eyes Better EW Test and Training Ranges with New Contract Awards

Inside Defense: New MDA Charter Being Finalized as Statutory Deadline to Rescind 2020 DTM Approaches

Responsible Statecraft: Will Gen Z change America’s foreign policy towards Israel? 

BBC: Battle of Britain Planes Grounded After Pilot Killed in Spitfire Crash

THE CALENDAR: 

WEDNESDAY | MAY 29

12:30 p.m. — American Enterprise Institute virtual discussion: “Lessons for an Unserious Superpower: The ‘Scoop’ Jackson Legacy and U.S. Foreign Policy,” with Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies and former deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser; Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society; and Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI chairman in political economy https://www.aei.org/events/lessons-for-an-unserious-superpower

2 p.m. 2359 Rayburn — Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe briefing: “Ukrainian Culture in Wartime,” with Peter Doroshenko, director, Ukrainian Museum of New York; Ieva Gudaityte, doctoral research fellow, University of Oslo; and Richard Kurin, scholar and ambassador at large, Smithsonian Institution https://www.csce.gov/briefings/ukrainian-culture-in-wartime/

THURSDAY | MAY 30

8 a.m. 2941 Fairview Park Dr., Falls Church, Virginia — Potomac Officers Club forum: “Joint Coalition Operations in 2030,” focusing on technologies needed to operate effectively with coalition partners, with Defense Department Director of Intelligence Lt. Gen. Dimitri Henry https://potomacofficersclub.com/events

8:40 a.m. — Advanced Technology Academic Research Center 2024 Federal Quantum Summit discussion: “Quantum Use Cases: Bridging the Gap Between Science Fiction and Reality,” with Air Force Lt. Col. Ken Corigliano, deputy chief of future capabilities and innovation, and Garfield Jones, associate chief of strategic technology at the Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency https://atarc.org/event/federal-quantum-summit/

9:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “The Axis of Upheaval,” focusing on China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, with Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security https://www.csis.org/events/axis-upheaval

10 a.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual discussion: “Growing tensions between Israel and Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese border, attacks by Iranian-backed Houthis against international shipping in the Red Sea, threatening global supply chains and freedom of navigation, and the danger of another direct clash between Israel and Iran,” with Amos Hochstein, White House senior adviser for energy and investment https://carnegieendowment.org/events

11 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute discussion: “Leading in the Cyber Competition with China,” with Israel Soong, director for cyber policy, National Security Council https://www.hudson.org/events/leading-cyber-competition-china-conversation-israel-soong

11 a.m. — Wilson Center Mexico Institute virtual discussion: “The Future of U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation,” with Mariana Campos Villasenor, director general of Mexico Evalua, and former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne, diplomat in residence at American University’s School of International Service https://www.wilsoncenter.org/node/119261

1 p.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion of a new documentary film, “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” with former Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky https://www.washingtonpost.com/washington-post-live

FRIDAY | MAY 31

10 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Wilson Center Global Europe Program discussion: “How to Defeat an Autocracy? Lessons from Ukraine’s Defense Against Russia’s Invasion,” with former Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov and Mariana Budjeryn, senior research associate at Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/how-defeat-autocracy

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