GIVING UP ON KHARKIV: Russian forces appear to be in a tactical retreat from the suburbs of Kharkiv, where attacks from Ukrainian forces have pushed the Russian troops out of artillery range of Ukraine's second-largest city. The failure to take Kharkiv is the most significant battlefield setback for Russia since it was forced to retreat from Kyiv in the early weeks of the war.

According to the latest British intelligence update, the Russian thrust now is aimed at achieving a breakthrough of Ukrainian lines with the goal of surrounding Ukraine’s main fighting force in the Donbas. “The primary objective on this axis is to envelop Ukrainian forces in the Joint Forces Operation area, isolating them from support or reinforcement by units in the west of the country,” the British Defense Ministry tweeted.

But so far, Russia continues to make little progress. “Russian forces have failed to make any significant advances despite concentrating forces in this area after withdrawing and redeploying units from the Kyiv and Chernihiv Oblasts,” the British Ministry of Defense said.


A BRIDGE TOO FAR: Emblematic of Russia’s travails in eastern Ukraine is the difficulty its forces have encountered attempting to move across the Siverskyi Donets River to break through Ukrainian defensive positions.

The Russians have put up pontoon bridges, only to have them destroyed by the Ukrainians, and in recent days suffered heavy losses trying to cross the river, losing the better part of two or more Russian army battalions.

“Images indicate that during the crossing of the Siverskyi Donets river west of Severodonetsk, Russia lost significant armored maneuver elements of at least one Battalion Tactical Group as well as the deployed pontoon bridging equipment,” said the British intelligence report.

Caught in a deadly artillery barrage, Russia lost at least 70 tanks and armored vehicles, along with the bridge itself, according to other reports.

“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” said British intelligence.


BRITISH MOD: ‘OVERALL, HE'S LOST’: In an appearance on CNN yesterday, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who was in town to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said that no matter what the final outcome of the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already lost.

“I think, overall, he's lost. I mean, if it was about making Russia greater, he's lost. And the tragedy is he's done that at the expense of an illegal invasion and killing thousands, potentially, of Ukrainians and his soldiers,” Wallace told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

“He's reduced Russia to a lesser country in the world because of not only the invasion, which was illegal, and everyone recognizes, internationally, it's illegal, but what he's done to the reputation,” Wallace said. “He's also reduced his armed forces. He's put about 65% to 70% of all his land forces into the Ukrainian war. There, as we can see, sufferings of serious damage and will take years to refurbish. So, he's going to be less of a military power than this at the beginning.”


Good Friday 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.


Subscribe today to the Washington Examiner magazine and get Washington Briefing: politics and policy stories that will keep you up to date with what's going on in Washington. SUBSCRIBE NOW: Just $1.00 an issue!

HAPPENING TODAY: President Joe Biden welcomes Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein to the White House at 10:45 a.m. “This visit will reinforce the close friendship and enduring partnership between the United States and Jordan,” the White House said.

At 3:30 p.m., the president takes part in the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit, the first meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be held in Washington in the group's 45-year history.

While the summit is ostensibly about strengthening ASEAN’s role in “delivering sustainable solutions to the region’s most pressing challenges,” according to the White House, Ukraine is also expected to be on the agenda.

“I will say that a number of the ASEAN participants have been important partners in calling out the aggressive action of Russia,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

The U.S. will also announce that the U.S. Coast Guard “will deploy assets and assign additional personnel to the Indo-Pacific to help meet partners’ requests for maritime training and capacity-building, to include a U.S. Coast Guard attache who will be assigned to the U.S. Mission to ASEAN,” a senior administration official told reporters yesterday.

ADMIRAL 1ST WOMAN TO LEAD COAST GUARD: A unanimous vote in the Senate has made Adm. Linda Fagan the first woman to lead a military service. Fagan will become the 27th commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. She already held the distinction of the Coast Guard’s first four-star admiral.

“It is with deep pride that I congratulate Admiral Linda L. Fagan,” said President Joe Biden in a statement. “She again makes history not only as the first woman to lead the Coast Guard — but also as the first woman Service Chief of any U.S. military service.”

“Admiral Fagan’s confirmation as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard signals to women and girls across our nation they have a place in protecting their country at the highest level,” Biden said. “My administration is committed to seeing more qualified women in senior leadership and command roles; making sure women can succeed and thrive throughout their military careers.”


‘YOU CAUSED THIS. LOOK IN THE MIRROR’: As expected, the Kremlin is furious about the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance, which is a stinging setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yesterday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned that Moscow “will be forced to take retaliatory steps of military-technical and other characteristics in order to counter the emerging threats to its national security.”

The fact that Russia will now be surrounded in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic by NATO nations is entirely the result of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

“You caused this. Look in the mirror,” he said.


THE ESPER FILES: Mark Esper’s memoir of his 18 months as President Donald Trump’s defense secretary, A Sacred Oath, is packed with behind-the-scenes vignettes on his contentious relationship with his commander in chief.

By Esper’s account, he spent a good deal of his time as secretary trying to talk Trump out of things that he thought were illegal, unethical, or just plain wrong.

Case in point: Egged on by “loyalists” in his inner circle, Trump once tried to recall retired four-star officers back to active duty to court-martial them for criticizing him.

“In early May 2020, stories appeared in outlets like Breitbart that alleged retired Army general Stan McChrystal was advising Democrats on ways to use AI to ‘track down and counter Trump supporters on social media.’ This spun the president up.”

“The next thing I knew, [Joint Chiefs Chairman] Mark Milley and I were sitting in front of the president trying to talk him out of recalling McChrystal to active duty. To make matters worse, by the time we had arrived at the White House, someone in the Oval Office had thrown retired Navy admiral William H. McRaven, the commander who organized the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, onto the bonfire.”

“‘So disloyal,’ he would say. Milley and I jumped to their defense, arguing that ‘both are distinguished officers,’ and that taking such an action was extreme and unwarranted.”

“The discussion went back and forth a little while longer in the Oval Office, with Milley finally figuring out a way to get the president to back down by promising that he would personally call the officers and ask them to dial it back.”

Read my review of Esper’s book in the latest edition of the Washington Examiner magazine: ‘MAKING LEMONADE’: MARK ESPER'S RATIONALE FOR DEFYING THE WILL OF HIS COMMANDER IN CHIEF

The Rundown

Washington Examiner: White House: US supports NATO application from Finland and Sweden

Washington Examiner: Russia will be ‘forced to take retaliatory steps’ if Finland joins NATO

Washington Examiner: Rand Paul blocks bipartisan push to pass Ukraine aid

Washington Examiner: 'Nobody attempts to save them': Relatives of trapped Ukrainian soldiers protest at Zelensky's palace

Washington Examiner: Satellite images show Russian ship trying to dodge Ukrainian missiles

Washington Examiner: Russia may annex a new Ukrainian city, US official warns

Washington Examiner: UN Human Rights Council votes to investigate war crimes in Ukraine

Washington Examiner: NATO vindicated: On the edge of the free world with the soldiers trying to prevent World War III.

Washington Examiner: Russian ransomware attack raises concerns about future actions

Washington Examiner: Senior Senate Democrat faults Biden for not using US energy to counter Russia

Washington Examiner: ‘Making Lemonade’: Mark Esper's rationale for defying the will of his commander in chief

Washington Examiner: Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Kevin McCarthy and four other House Republicans

Washington Examiner: Navy chief supports Biden defense budget shelving Trump-era sea nuke

Wall Street Journal: Ukrainian Forces Hold Line In Donbas, Thwarting Russia

Washington Post: Steel Plant A Symbol Of Valor And Terror

Stars and Stripes: The Navy Is Unprepared To Fight In Two Conflicts At Once With Current Fleet Size, The Service’s Top Officer Tells Senators

USNI News: Congress Wants Potential 15 Hull, 5-Year Destroyer Deal At 3 Ships A Year

Defense Daily: Columbia, Dreadnought Subs ‘Bounced Back’ From Faulty Missile Tubes, U.S. Admiral Says

Seapower Magazine: Marine Infantry to Become More Commando-Like

Military Times: Lawmakers Press DOD To Provide Troops Access To Abortion If Roe V. Wade Is Overturned

Air Force Magazine: A Dozen Senators Introduce Legislation to Establish a Space National Guard

Air Force Magazine: What Happens If GPS Goes Dark? The Pentagon Is Working on It, Space Force General Says

Air Force Magazine: Guard F-16 Skids Off Runway in South Dakota, Pilot Safe

Washington Post: John Canley, awarded Medal of Honor 50 years after Tet Offensive, dies at 84

Navy Times: Navy Hush-Hush After Secret Boat’s Unexplained Sinking Russia Is Watching: More F-35 Stealth Fighters Are Headed to Europe Finland's Military Will Make NATO Even Stronger Are the U.S. and Russia Destined for War over Ukraine?

Foreign Affairs: Alexander Vindman: America Must Embrace the Goal of Ukrainian Victory



9:30 a.m. 2359 Rayburn — House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing: “FY2023 United States Air Force and Space Force Budget,” with testimony from Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.; and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond

10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces hearing: “Fiscal Year 2023 Marine Corps Modernization Programs,’ with testimony from Frederick “Jay” Stefany, principal civilian deputy, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition; Lt. Gen. Mark Wise, Deputy Marine Corps Commandant for Aviation; Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for combat development and integration

10 a.m. — Hudson Institute virtual event: “Dialogues on American Foreign Policy and World Affairs” with Robert Kagan, senior fellow, Project on International Order and Strategy, Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution, contributing columnist at the Washington Post; and Walter Russell Mead, distinguished fellow, Hudson Institute


German Federal Foreign Office — Informal meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, May 14-15, 2022 in Berlin, Germany.


9 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies Schriever Spacepower Forum with Lt. Gen.  Stephen Whiting, commander of Space Operations Command


2 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces hearing: “Fiscal Year 2023 Army Modernization Programs,” with testimony from Douglas Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics, and technology; Lt. Gen. James Richardson, acting commanding general, U.S. Army Futures Command; Lt. Gen. Erik Peterson, Deputy Army Chief of Staff

4:30 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing: “Fiscal Year 2023 Budget for Nuclear Forces and Atomic Energy Defense Activities,” with testimony from Jill Hruby, undersecretary for nuclear security, Department of Energy; Deborah Rosenblum, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological Defense Programs; John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy; Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, director, Strategic Systems Programs, U.S. Navy; Lt. Gen. James Dawkins, deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, U.S. Air Force

4:30 p.m. Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu — Press Conference by Gen. Charles Flynn, who has commander, U.S. Army Pacific, as part of the Association of the U.S. Army LANPAC Symposium and Exposition, which runs through the 19th. Email Russell Shimooka at Russell.k.shimooka.ctr@army.mi for more information on remote access.


8 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces hearing: “Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for Seapower and Projection Forces,” with testimony from Jay Stefany, PTDO assistant secretary of the Navy, research, development, and acquisition; Vice Adm. Scott Conn, deputy chief of naval operations, warfighting requirements and capabilities; Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps, combat development and integration

2 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel hearing: “Professional Military Education and the National Defense Strategy,” with testimony from Shawn Skelly, assistant secretary of defense for readiness; Vice Adm. Stuart Munsch, director for joint force development, the Joint Staff; retired Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, non-resident senior fellow, CSBA; Joan Johnson-Freese, professor, national security affairs, Naval War College


8 a.m. 2401 M St., N.W. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group breakfast conversation with Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, deputy chief for operations, U.S. Space Force

2 a.m. (8 a.m. CET) — Brussels, Belgium meeting of the NATO Military Chiefs of Defense with opening remarks by Dutch Adm. Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee, followed by a press conference with Bauer; Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Gen. Tod Wolters; and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, French Gen. Philippe Lavigne at 12:25 p.m Washington time.


“You caused this. Look in the mirror.”

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto’s response to Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s objections to Finland joining NATO.