STYMIED AT EVERY TURN: As a senior defense official relayed the latest U.S. intelligence on the war in Ukraine to reporters at the Pentagon yesterday, it painted an overall picture of Russian forces stalled or stymied at every turn.

Russian troops in the north, pushed back 20 to 30 miles from Kharkiv, still have designs on the major industrial city near the Russian border, but have made little progress in recent weeks. “The Ukrainians still hold Kharkiv. They never actually gave Kharkiv up,” the senior defense official said. “And the Russians have not made any progress there.”

Russian forces appear to be consolidating northern forces in an area southeast of Izyum, but have been unable to break through any Ukrainian lines. “As they continue to try to move south and southeast, they are continuing to meet with greater concentrations of Ukrainian forces and a stiffer resistance, so they still remained stalled in general,” the official said. “Again, I would say progress is very slow and uneven.”

An independent assessment by the Institute for the Study of War also concludes Russian forces are largely stalled in the east, noting that yesterday there were “a number of unsuccessful attacks” by Russian troops, but that they “were unable to make any confirmed advances.”

“Russian forces attacking south of Izyum appear increasingly unlikely to successfully encircle Ukrainian forces in the Rubizhne area,” the assessment concludes. “Ukrainian forces have so far prevented Russian forces from merging their offensives to the southeast of Izyum and the west of Lyman, Slovyansk, and Kramatorsk, as Russian forces likely intended.”


THE BATTLE FOR MARIUPOL: The Pentagon says most of the troops that were in the southern port city of Mariupol have begun to move north to unite with other Russian forces in the eastern Donbas area, but again have made little headway.

“They seem to have paused either to create better defensive positions or to refit and re-posture themselves,” the official said. “But they're not making really any progress in the south.”

About 2,000 Russian troops remain in Mariupol, thwarted by the defiant, desperate last stand of Ukrainian fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel plant facility, who, despite constant bombardment and dwindling supplies, are refusing to surrender and repelled an attempt by Russian soldiers to take the complex by storm.

“For two days now, the enemy has broken into the territory of the plant. These are heavy bloody battles,” Ukrainian Lt. Col. Denys Prokopenko told CNN in an interview from inside the facility. “I am proud of my soldiers who are making superhuman efforts to contain the enemy’s onslaught.”


RUSSIA CAN’T FIND, HIT US ARMS SHIPMENTS: Realizing the outcome of the war may ultimately be decided by whether the Ukrainian defenders get an uninterrupted supply of modern weapons and ammunition, Russia has redoubled its efforts to target transportation and supply routes, only to be frustrated.

Russian attacks on railroads and power stations have been largely ineffective, the senior defense official said. “It's not clear that they've been very accurate in trying to hit that critical infrastructure, and there's been no perceptible impact that we've seen to impeding or in any other way obstructing with the Ukrainians' ability to replenish and restore themselves.”

Later, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby made a point of saying that, for obvious reasons, the U.S. was not going to talk about how the weapons from the U.S. and other countries are getting from Poland into the hands of front-line fighters.

“There are lots of ways to do that. And that those ways change over time as they must, so there's redundancy built into the process,” Kirby said. “We're mindful of the potential threat that could exist in terms of getting stuff in. So we're also mindful of changing how we're doing that so that it can continue to flow. And it continues to flow.”

The Pentagon reported that “90% of the 90 howitzers” the U.S. pledged to Ukraine are now in the country along with the ammunition that goes with them. Doing the math, that comes to 81 howitzers.


Good Thursday 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 Victor I. Nava. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.


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HAPPENING TODAY: Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at 9:30 a.m. to testify on the president’s budget request for FY 2023.

This afternoon, Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, U.S. Northern Command; and U.S. Strategic Commander Adm. Charles Richard will conduct a Pentagon briefing at 3:30 p.m.

ZELENSKY STILL WANTS BIDEN TO COME: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a delegation of Democratic lawmakers have all made the symbolic trip to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine’s heroic resistance to Russia, but President Volodymyr Zelensky is still hoping for the big guy.

In an interview with Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins in Kyiv, Zelensky noted that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came and that if President Joe Biden showed up, it would “be a great signal, very important signal.”

“I'm just thinking that it's also very good for him. That is good for him, because the United States supports us. So, I mean, the president of the country which supports us, I think it's good for him to be here if it's possible,” Zelensky said. “I think it's very important because in our minds, in our society, President Biden, the president of the biggest democratic civilization, for Ukrainians, for our understanding, yes, they see that as our partner.”


UKRAINE CLAIMS RUSSIAN MORALE FLAGGING: The Ukrainian Defense Ministry, citing what it says are intercepted communications, says it has more evidence that Russian troops — including some elite special forces — are losing their will to fight.

“According to available information, some servicemen of the 38th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 35th Combined Arms Army of the Eastern Military District, after being taken to the recovery area, due to significant personnel losses, refused to continue participating in hostilities in Ukraine,” the ministry said in its latest battlefield update.

It also identified another unit plagued by “low moral and psychological condition, significant problems with weapons and equipment” as elements of the 2nd Army Corps of the 8th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District in Luhansk, which it said was “not ready to perform tasks.”

JAPAN: NORTH KOREA A ‘GRAVER AND A MORE IMMINENT THREAT’: At his meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon yesterday, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said North Korea’s latest missile tests shows that Pacific allies need to do more to deter Kim Jong Un.

“North Korea has just launched another missile only yesterday and such action is absolutely unacceptable, and North Korea has become graver and a more imminent threat," Kishi said, before going into private talks with Austin. “What the current situation teaches us is that the deterrence is the most important to prevent contingencies from happening,”

Kishi cited Ukraine as an example of why deterrence is key to preventing conflict.

“I'd like to work together with you to ensure that the U.S. extended deterrence, including nuclear deterrence, remains critical and resolute,” he told Austin. “Given the current security situation we face, we have no time to lose in fundamentally reinforcing Japan's defense capabilities and strengthening the alliance capabilities to deter and respond.”

BLINKEN CHINA SPEECH POSTPONED: Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to give a major speech today at an 11 a.m. online event hosted by the Asia Society, in which he was to outline the Biden administration's policy toward China.

But a positive COVID-19 test after attending the White House Correspondents' Association dinner has forced the cancellation of today’s event.

“Secretary Blinken has tested positive for COVID. The good news is that he is fully vaccinated; he is boosted. He is experiencing only mild symptoms,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “ He will quarantine at home; he will follow CDC guidelines. I know he very much looks forward to returning to the office, returning to his full schedule, and returning to the road just as soon as he is able to do so.”


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Ukrainian commander says 'bloody fighting' going on inside Mariupol steel plant

Washington Examiner: US intel helping Ukraine kill Russian generals: Report

Washington Examiner: Russia hitting Ukrainian supply lines, but not with much 'accuracy’

Washington Examiner: First Ukrainian forces trained on US-based weapons system returns to Ukraine

Washington Examiner: Russia turns to 'missile terrorism' as eastern Ukraine offensive struggles

Washington Examiner: 'Desperate' families of Americans detained abroad ramp up pressure on Biden

Washington Examiner: Navy helicopter crash that killed five caused by mechanical failure

Washington Examiner: Blinken tests positive for COVID-19 after White House Correspondents Dinner

Washington Examiner: Administration ditches plan to send VA staff to help at border after GOP outcry

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Kim Jong Un fires an ICBM reminder into Biden's inbox

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Forget the Javelin shortages — the Pentagon and defense contractors aren't ready for China

AP: The AP Interview: Belarus admits Russia’s war ‘drags on’

AP: EXPLAINER: Why Victory Day in Russia is different this year

New York Times: U.S. Helped Kyiv in Targeting Russian Generals

Wall Street Journal: Russians Bury Dead, Blame U.S.

Wall Street Journal: Finland Holds War Drill Ahead of NATO Bid

Defense News: U.S. Nuclear Commander Warns Of Deterrence ‘Crisis’ Against Russia And China

Reuters: U.S. Says It Is Now Preparing For A World Both With And Without An Iran Nuclear Deal

Defense News: Pentagon Says Inflation Has Made One Company Request To Cancel A Long-Term Contract

New York Times: India Finds Russian Oil An Irresistible Deal, No Matter The Diplomatic Pressure

USNI: Marines Committed To New Force Design, Despite Criticism From Retired Generals

Air Force Magazine: New Official Art Reveals Advanced F-22 Capabilities, Possibly JATM

Air Force Magazine: Vermont ANG F-35s Deploy to Europe for First Time

Air Force Magazine: A Plan to Keep the Space Force’s Future AI Safe Iran: The Next Nuclear Weapons State? Putin May Have No Choice But to Declare War on Ukraine China's Aircraft Carrier Fleet Is the Real Deal

The Cipher Brief: Opinion: Opinion / Time to Stop Wobbling and Learn to Love the Bomb



9:30 a.m. — Brookings Institution virtual discussion: “U.S. Grand Strategy Under President Biden and Beyond," with panels on "The Biden Administration's National Security Agenda,” and "Future National Security Challenges"

9:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Ukraine's Impact on Asia and Korea," with former South Korean Ambassador to Russia Wi Sung-lac; and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, director of Stanford University's Institute for International Studies

11 a.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion with Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Karin Olofsdotter on "the growing public support in her country to join NATO" and rising tensions between her country and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “National Security Presidential Memorandum-13 (NSPM-13) and the Future of Cyber Warfare," with Alexei Bulazel, cyber policy expert at the Alumnus, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Computer Security Team; J.D. Work, professor at the National Defense University; Joshua Steinman, CEO and co-founder of Galvanick; and Ezra Cohen, adjunct fellow at Hudson

1 p.m. —Nextgov, Defense One and Route Fifty virtual discussion: “Cyber Defenders: Part Two, The Road Ahead," with Steven Hernandez, chief information security officer and director of information assurance services at the Education Department;

2:30 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “The national security implications of small satellites," with Alan Pellegrini, CEO at Thales North America; Nicholas Eftimiades, professor at the Penn State University Homeland Security Program; Paula Trimble, policy chief and legislative affairs director at the Defense Department's Space Development Agency; Bleddyn Bowen, associate professor at the University of Leicester; Paul Graziani, CEO and co-founder at Analytical Graphics Inc.; Sandra Erwin, senior staff writer at SpaceNews; and Frederick Kempe, president and CEO at the Atlantic Council

1 p.m. — SETA Foundation at Washington D.C. virtual discussion: “Can the Western Policy Help Ukraine Achieve Victory?” with Steven Pifer, nonresident senior fellow, Brookings Institution; Kathryn Stoner, senior fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University; Kilic Kanat, research director, SETA Foundation; and moderator Kadir Ustun, executive director, SETA Foundation

3 p.m. 2121 K St. N.W. — International Institute for Strategic Studies roundtable discussion: “America's Defense Trade," with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security Mira Resnick; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defense Trade Mike Miller

4 p.m. — Woodrow Wilson Center Polar Institute virtual discussion: “Nordic Security Perspectives in the Arctic," with Norwegian Ambassador to the U.S. Anniken Ramberg Krutnes; Danish Ambassador to the U.S. Lone Dencker Wisborg; and Michael Sfraga, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and the WWC Polar Institute

7 p.m. — Council for a Livable World virtual discussion, “Nuclear Justice and the Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons," with Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif.,

7:30 p.m. — Stanford University Institute for International Studies Sidney Drell Lecture: “The President's Nuclear Button," with Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.


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


“Only with victory. We have no way out.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in response to Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins asking, “Tell me how this ends.”