‘MOST SUCCESSFUL INTELLIGENCE OPERATION IN MILITARY HISTORY’: As Ukrainian forces continue to inflict heavy casualties on the Russian invaders, it’s becoming increasingly clear that in addition to the courage and ingenuity of the Ukrainian defenders and the steady flow of better weapons from the West, actionable U.S. intelligence is the critical difference maker on the battlefield.
Whether last month’s NBC report that U.S. intelligence on the Russian war plan and precise location and destination of its forces, which allowed Ukraine to shoot down a fully-loaded troop transport and prevent the takeover of a strategic airport, or this week’s New York Times report that U.S. intel on the movement of Russia’s field headquarters enabled the killing of a dozen generals, or the latest reports from multiple sources that the U.S. helped Kyiv identify and sink the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, real-time intelligence has been the key factor in success.
Last month Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley hinted at the outsize role U.S. targeting information was playing in the conflict. “This war has arguably been the most successful intelligence operation in military history,” Milley told the House Armed Services Committee April 5. “It's really tremendous, and someday that story will be told.”
US DENIES PROVIDING INTEL TO HELP UKRAINE TARGET RUSSIAN MILITARY LEADERS
‘LESS SAID … THE BETTER’: The Pentagon is being coy about how much it is directly involved in Ukraine’s stunningly effective counterattacks over the first 70 days of the war, which have humiliated Russian forces with a series of embarrassing setbacks.
“I'm not going to detail the intelligence that we're providing to Ukraine,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby at yesterday’s briefing. “We do provide them useful intelligence, timely intelligence, that allows them to make decisions to better defend themselves against this invasion. And I think the less said about that, honestly, the better.”
Kirby issued a non-denial denial of sorts to the New York Times story insisting the U.S was not tracking the movement of Russian generals, but not denying it may have provided more general information that would allow the Ukrainian military to put two and two together.
“We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military,” Kirby said. “Ukraine combines information that we and other partners provide with the intelligence that they themselves are gathering on the battlefield, and then they make their own decisions and they take their own actions.”
“The Ukrainians have, quite frankly, a lot more information than we do. This is their country, their territory, and they have capable intelligence collection abilities of their own,” he said.
OPINION: THE US SHOULDN'T PRETEND IT'S NOT HELPING UKRAINE KILL RUSSIAN GENERALS
RUSSIA PROGRESS ‘INCREMENTAL AND UNEVEN’: As Monday’s Victory Day deadline approaches, Russian forces are losing ground to Ukrainian counterattacks in the north while still trying to clear the Azovstal steel plant complex in the south.
“In the Donbas region, we would still assess that the Ukrainians are putting up a very stiff resistance and that the Russians have not made the progress that we believe they expected to make by this point,” said Kirby. “That's not to say they haven't made any progress. I think we would continue to assess it as incremental and uneven, but not nonexistent.”
In its latest assessment, the Institute for the Study of War said Russia “continued ineffectual offensive operations in southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts without securing any significant territorial gains.”
The Ukrainian counteroffensive, which has reclaimed about 30 miles of territory south of Kharkiv, “will likely force Russian forces to decide whether to reinforce positions near Kharkiv or risk losing most or all of their positions within artillery range of the city.”
The ISW does predict the surrounded defenders of the last bit of Ukrainian territory in the southern port city of Mariupol will likely be unable to hold out much longer. “Russian forces will likely capture the facility in the coming days,” it says.
UKRAINE ATTEMPTS 'NEXT STAGE' OF EVACUATIONS AS ASSAULT ON STEEL PLANT CONTINUES
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HAPPENING TODAY: Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks will discuss the Pentagon’s recently released unclassified summary of the National Defense Strategy at a 10 a.m. event at the Reagan Institute.
The document, released in March, lists the “growing multi-domain threat” posed by China as its top priority along with defending the homeland, deterring strategic attacks, and building a resilient joint force. The strategy calls for the U.S. to be “prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary, prioritizing the [China] challenge in the Indo-Pacific, then the Russia challenge in Europe.”
Republicans have criticized the Biden administration’s $773 billion budget request as “wholly inadequate” to meet the requirements of the strategy.
“The Biden administration recently released a defense strategy underscoring the accelerating threat of the Chinese Communist Party and its unprecedented military modernization, but unfortunately, the administration has sent to Congress a budget request that does not provide the resources necessary to combat that threat,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, at a hearing on the Army budget yesterday.
“Not only does it fail to provide the 3% to 5% real growth recommendation that's in this NDS report … it doesn't even keep up with the record-high inflation that we are facing,” Inhofe said. “And this is most evident in the budget request for the Army. Of course, those of us old Army guys always observe that the Army gets the short end of this stuff when changes are made.”
FROM NUCLEAR DETERRENCE TO COERCION: The top commander of America’s nuclear forces told Congress this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s veiled threats to use tactical nuclear weapons has changed the deterrence dynamic in a dangerous way, and China is no doubt taking note as it prepares for a possible future assault on Taiwan.
“Their intent is to achieve the military capability to reunify Taiwan by 2027 if not sooner,” U.S. Strategic Commander Adm. Charles Richard testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday.
“President Putin simultaneously invaded a sovereign nation while using thinly-veiled nuclear threats to deter U.S. and NATO intervention,” Richard said. “The PRC [People’s Republic of China] is watching the war in Ukraine closely and will likely use nuclear coercion to their advantage in the future.”
To counter the ability of adversaries such as China and Russia to blackmail the U.S. with the threat of low-yield “battlefield nukes,” Richard advocates that the U.S. enhance its capability to deliver a low-yield nuclear weapon of its own.
“To help close this gap, pursuing a low yield, non-ballistic capability that does not require visible generation should be reexamined,” Richard said, in an apparent reference to the proposed sea-launched nuclear-armed cruise missile (SLCM-N) cut from the budget by the Biden administration.
READ MORE: FAREWELL TO ARMS CONTROL: HOW RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE HAS UPSET THE WORLD NUCLEAR ORDER
WORDS MATTER: When it comes to Taiwan, the U.S. walks a delicate line, stopping short of recognizing the island nation as an independent country while rejecting Beijing’s claim that it is a renegades province that can be reunited with the mainland by force.
So, the Pentagon felt compelled yesterday to clarify exactly what Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in his first phone calls with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe last month.
The U.S. has very specific language it uses when referring to Taiwan, and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Chinese government misquoted Austin in its readout of the phone conversation.
China’s Ministry of National Defense “erroneously claimed” that the United States adheres to the “One China principle,” Kirby says. “The secretary did not say this; rather, Secretary Austin made clear that the United States remains committed to our ‘One China Policy as enumerated in the Taiwan Relations Act, the three joint communiques, and the six assurances.”
INDUSTRY WATCH: Aerospace giant Boeing is moving its headquarters operation from Chicago to its Arlington, Virginia, campus, which will put its top leaders a stone’s throw from the Pentagon and in a section of Northern Virginia just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., that is rapidly becoming a tech and defense sector.
"We are excited to build on our foundation here in Northern Virginia. The region makes strategic sense for our global headquarters given its proximity to our customers and stakeholders, and its access to world-class engineering and technical talent," said Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun in a statement.
"We greatly appreciate our continuing relationships in Chicago and throughout Illinois. We look forward to maintaining a strong presence in the city and the state," said Calhoun.
IN OTHER INDUSTRY NEWS: Aerojet Rocketdyne has been selected by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control to build an advanced solid rocket motor booster for the second stage of a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency hypersonic weapon system, known as Operational Fires, or OpFires, the company said in a statement.
“We continue to push the envelope in our hypersonic propulsion technologies, whether by developing a high performance solid rocket motor that can be turned off on command, like for OpFires, or by incorporating additive manufacturing into our air-breathing scramjet engines to improve affordability,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president.
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FRIDAY | MAY 6
10 a.m. — Ronald Reagan Institute virtual event: “Linking Resources to Strategy: A Discussion on the National Defense Strategy and FY23 Budget,” with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Reagan Institute Director Roger Zakheim, followed by a panel discussion with insights from Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va,, member of the House Armed Services Committee; and former Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee RSVP to email@example.com for livestream link.
4 a.m. Florence, Italy — Woodrow Wilson Center Global Europe Program virtual conference: “The State of the Union: A Europe Fit for the Next Generation?" with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/state-union-europe-fit-next-generation
TUESDAY | MAY 10
TBA — President Joe Biden welcomes Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to the White House
9 a.m. 901 17th St. N.W. — American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security breakfast program: “In Ukraine, There are No Quick Fixes,” with John Erath, former member of the National Security Council and current senior policy director for the nonprofit Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Register with Jennifer Kildee Jennifer.Kildee@americanbar.org
10 a.m. — Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing: “President’s Fiscal Year 2023 funding request and budget justification for the Army,” with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings
11 a.m. — Center for the National Interest Zoom webinar: “Does Nuclear War Loom With Russia?” with Dimitri Simes, CNI president and CEO, who recently returned from a two-week visit to Moscow https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register
3 p.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — American Enterprise Institute in-persson event: “The Future of U.S. National Security Policy,” with Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc; and Colin Dueck, nonresident senior fellow, AEI https://www.aei.org/events/a-conversation-with-rep-mike-gallagher
SATURDAY | MAY 14
German Federal Foreign Office — Informal meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, May 14-15, 2022 in Berlin, Germany.
MONDAY | MAY 16
9 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies Schriever Spacepower Forum with Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, commander of Space Operations Command https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register
FRIDAY | MAY 20
President Joe Biden travels to South Korea and Japan for bilateral meetings with his counterparts: newly-elected President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan. In Tokyo, Biden will also meet with the leaders of the Quad grouping of Australia, Japan, India, and the U.S.
SATURDAY | MAY 21
10 a.m. Michie Stadium, West Point, New York — Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2022 graduation ceremony at West Point, N.Y. https://www.westpoint.edu/parents/graduation-information
WEDNESDAY | MAY 25
11:30 a.m. Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs, Colorado — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2022 graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colo https://www.usafa.edu/about/traditions/graduation/
THURSDAY | MAY 26
5 p.m. — National Security Institute at George Mason University “NatSec Nightcap” fireside chat with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Jamil Jaffer, founder and executive director, National Security Institute https://nationalsecurity.gmu.edu/natsec-night-cap
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“They don’t have control of their own country … we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly … no one would know it was us.”
President Donald Trump, ruminating about attacking Mexican drug labs in the summer of 2020, as recounted by former Defense Secretary Mark Esper in his forthcoming book A Sacred Oath.