[Editor’s Note: Jamie McIntyre is just back from two weeks of medical leave. He had a lot of catching up to do and thought you too would probably appreciate a quick review of where things stand as we head into the summer months.]

RUSSIA’S LONG WAR: Despite the disastrous beginning of Russia's conquest of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to sacrifice his own forces and destroy cities rather than capture them is slowly, painfully producing incremental gains in his scaled-down quest to take over more of the eastern Donbas region.

“The Russian campaign in eastern Ukraine — which previously aimed to capture the entirety of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts — is now focused almost entirely on Severodonetsk,” said the Institute for the Study of War over the weekend. “Russian forces continued to incrementally capture areas of Severodonetsk but have not yet fully encircled the city.”

In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian strikes on Severodonetsk have destroyed the “critical infrastructure of the city” and “two-thirds of the city's housing stock.”

The Associated Press describes the fighting as “block by block.”

Meanwhile in the south, Ukrainian forces conducted a successful limited counterattack a few days ago, forcing Russian forces onto the defensive, according to ISW.

British Intelligence, in its latest Twitter update, says, “Russia has likely suffered devastating losses amongst its mid and junior ranking officers in the conflict,” adding, “With multiple credible reports of localized mutinies amongst Russia’s forces in Ukraine, a lack of experienced and credible platoon and company commanders is likely to result to a further decrease in morale and continued poor discipline.”


ONE HAND BEHIND THEIR BACKS: Apparently there are Marquess of Queensberry-style rules in effect for the Ukraine war, which allow Russia to level cities and rain indiscriminate artillery fire on Ukrainian territory, but the Ukrainians must never fight back by attacking any Russian territory, which the U.S. deems too “escalatory.”

Ukraine is seeking a total defeat of Russia and has been begging President Joe Biden for longer-range systems, such as Lockheed Martin’s Multiple Launch Rocket Systems. Asked yesterday if the U.S. would send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine, Biden replied, “We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia.”

It was unclear if the U.S. would still send the launchers but with shorter-range rockets.

Over the weekend, Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., called the prospect of Ukraine fielding long-range missiles that could target Russian cities “unacceptable and intolerable,” without a hint of irony.

UKRAINE INSISTS IT CANNOT COMPROMISE: An adviser to Zelensky rejected the argument advanced by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that Ukraine trade land for peace with Russia.

“If Russia doesn't lose, it will accumulate weapons, prepare reserves, work on mistakes, remove generals who work very ‘effectively’ today, take young lieutenant colonels and colonels who understand how to fight, and we will get a much bloodier war in a year,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, one of the negotiators with Russia, in an interview.

“It's a ticket to a postponed war. We cannot talk about a ceasefire before the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. It is clear that they will dig trenches, create their own fortification lines, and it will be very difficult for us to drive them out of Ukraine.”


HOW DOES THIS END? In a Memorial Day interview, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said it will be up to Zelensky and Putin to determine how and when the war ends.

“You have got a very significant operational fight going on in the Donbas between the Ukrainian and the Russian militaries. How that shapes up in the next few weeks will probably in large part shape the outcomes of what will happen,” Milley told Fox’s Bret Baier. “It could end up as a grind and go on and on in a stalemate. It could end up with one side or the other just having a decisive victory. It could end up in a peace negotiation.”

“I think a negotiated outcome is a logical choice. But both sides have to come to that conclusion on their own,” said Milley. “They have lost well over 100,000 casualties killed and wounded on both sides. There's been seven million refugees, six million internally displaced persons, horrific damage to the infrastructure of Ukraine in only 90 days. This is a very, very serious war that's taking place, with high consumption of resources on both sides.”


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 Victor I. Nava. 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 us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.


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HAPPENING TODAY: President Joe Biden meets with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the Oval Office at 11 a.m. to discuss the U.S.-New Zealand partnership and “their shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to the White House.

ALSO TODAY: In a surprise stopover to her Asian trips, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) showed up in Taipei yesterday and meets today with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Premier Su Tseng-chang. Last week, Duckworth introduced a bipartisan measure that she said would “assess opportunities to deliver lethal aid to Taiwan, enhance Taiwan's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets and increase needed prepositioned stocks in the region.”

BIDEN’S AMBIGUOUS STATEMENT ON AMBIGUITY: Duckworth’s visit to Taiwan is just the latest by U.S. lawmakers seeking to bolster Taiwan’s defenses. Last month, a bipartisan delegation including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) visited the island.

And it comes as comments from Biden have added more uncertainty to how the U.S. would respond if China were to try to take Taiwan by force. Since the 1970s, the U.S. has maintained a strategy of “strategic ambiguity” about whether it would come to Taiwan’s defense if Beijing invaded.

In an appearance with Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio a week ago, Biden was asked if he would be “willing to get involved militarily” to defend Taiwan, and he replied, “Yes.”

“That’s the commitment we made. That’s the commitment we made,” he said, despite the fact the U.S. has never committed to defend Taiwan directly, only to provide it with arms to defend itself.

Biden immediately began to backpedal. “We agree with the One China policy; we’ve signed on to it and all the attendant agreements made from there. But the idea that it can be taken by force — just taken by force — is just not appropriate.”


STRATEGIC AMBIGUITY NOT DEAD: The next day, Biden was asked point blank: “Is the policy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan dead?”

“No,” he said, refusing to provide a further explanation.

“Would you send troops to Taiwan if China invaded?” a reporter asked. “The policy has not changed at all,” he replied.


WILL TURKEY BE THE SPOILER? Turkey’s opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO shows the unwieldiness of an alliance that operates on total consensus. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the two NATO hopefuls of supporting Kurdish militants whom Turkey considers to be terrorists, and he has hinted that Turkey may veto their membership.

On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after a meeting with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, expressed confidence Turkey’s objections will be overcome.

“The most important thing is that Finland and Sweden are speaking directly to and with Turkey and working through some of the concerns that Turkey has raised and finding ways to address that,” said Blinken. “We're engaged with Turkey directly as well, but the focus is on the work that Finland, Sweden, and Turkey are doing together to address the concerns.”

“I'm confident this is going to move forward,” said Blinken. “We do have the NATO summit coming up in a few weeks, and our full expectation is this process will move as we head into the summit as well as at the summit itself.”


IRAN DEAL CIRCLING THE DRAIN: Back in January, Blinken was warning there were only "a few weeks left" to resuscitate the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran before it would have the ability to make a nuclear bomb rendering the deal would be pointless.

Now five months later, the Biden administration’s envoy to the negotiations admits prospects for reviving the deal appear grim. “It is a huge question mark. I'm not particularly optimistic, to put it mildly,” Robert Malley told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

But at the same time, Malley insisted that a military strike by the U.S. or Israel would be counterproductive.

“President Biden is unequivocal. Iran will not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Malley testified. “We believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this goal. And by the way, so do our Israeli allies, so does the defense minister of Israel, who just reiterated that when we met with him a week or two ago.”

The military option “cannot resolve this issue … It could set it back,” he said while insisting “no option [is] off the table.” So what’s the answer?

“We're happy to talk about it more in a classified setting,” Malley told the senators.


N. KOREA NOT DE-NUKING: Much of Biden’s trip to South Korea last week focused on strengthening economic ties between the two allies, but Biden and newly elected Korean President Yoon Sook Yeol did say they would expand joint military exercises to deter the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

“We are going to step up our exercises, and we will be coordinating between ourselves regarding the deployment of U.S. strategic military assets,” said Yoon.

“We are prepared for anything North Korea does,” said Biden. When asked if he had a message for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Biden said tersely, “Hello. Period.”

North Korea appears no longer interested in engaging in any negotiations about its nuclear program and is proceeding to build up long-range missile capacity and increase its stockpile of nuclear warheads. It fired off three missiles last week.

“North Korea is very much a serious threat,” said Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley in his Fox interview. “They have got significant capability. They have got a very large land army. They have got a capable missile and nuclear force. And that is of concern to us.”

“Will the regime last forever? No. No regime lasts forever,” Milley said. “So, at some point, my thought is that Korea will once again be a unified country at some point in the future. How far, how it happens, when it happens, who knows?”


TOP GUN: MAVERICK: By all accounts, the Tom Cruise Top Gun sequel is a nonstop thrill ride that is getting rave reviews from the naval aviator community for its verisimilitude, despite some obvious plot holes.

The long-awaited Top Gun: Maverick raked in an eye-popping $124 million in ticket sales, according to Paramount Pictures, the highest box office of any movie starring the seemingly ageless Cruise, who is 59.

The Navy is hoping the current blockbuster will have the same effect on recruiting as the 1986 original did. The Pentagon cooperated with Paramount in making the movie, allowing real F-18 Super Hornets to be outfitted with cameras.

But at the same time, the Navy is dealing with a less glamorous aspect of service on an aircraft carrier. Some 200 sailors were moved off the USS George Washington, which is in port for maintenance, after three suicides last month that may have been linked to harsh working conditions on the ship.

That comes on the heels of a pair of GAO reports that detail the harsh realities of life on U.S. Navy ships with sailors who are overworked or undertrained serving on ships that are understaffed.


A PERSONAL NOTE ABOUT CONFIRMATION BIAS: Pretty much everyone these days has heard about confirmation bias, that ubiquitous thinking error in which we humans tend to accept information that confirms what we believe and reject or ignore contrary evidence.

The insidious thing about confirmation bias is that even smart people fall victim to it because it can masquerade as critical thinking. Confirmation bias always seems right, right up to the point you find out you were wrong.

Which in large part explains why I was off on medical leave the past two weeks. I had a kidney stone. I knew it was a kidney stone because the intense pain was exactly like the pain I had a month ago when I had a kidney stone, which in turn was just like a kidney stone event three years ago.

So, I didn’t go to the emergency room right away, because I thought I knew the drill. You just wait for the stone to pass. Except it turns out I didn’t have a kidney stone. Didn’t have one last month either. I was suffering from an entirely different condition, hydronephrosis, which mimics the pain of a kidney stone.

When I did get medical attention, I told the doctors I had a kidney stone, and they began treating me that way. It took a few days and some tests to get the right diagnosis. I would have been much better off if I had gone right to the ER when the attack first hit and let the doctors figure it out. But I was sure I knew what was wrong. Blame it on confirmation bias.


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: 'Pain and pride are mixed together': Biden delivers 2022 Memorial Day address

Washington Examiner: Around 30,000 Russian soldiers 'eliminated,' Ukraine military says

Washington Examiner: Pentagon in ‘constant communication’ with Ukraine as new aid details emerge

Washington Examiner: 22 million tons of grain stalled at Ukrainian ports, Zelensky says

Washington Examiner: Mayor of Severodonetsk, in Ukraine’s Donbas, says 1,500 killed

Washington Examiner: Military has one officer posted at US Embassy in Kyiv

Washington Examiner: Russia has ‘suffered a not-insignificant amount of attrition,’ Pentagon says

Washington Examiner: Kissinger: Ukraine should give up territory to end war with Russia

Washington Examiner: US confident Finland and Sweden can resolve Turkey's NATO membership objections

Washington Examiner: US and allies seek 'asymmetric' power to beat China's People's Liberation Army

Washington Examiner: Heroes' reward: Small towns pay tribute to five World War II veterans on Memorial Day

Washington Examiner: Top Gun: Maverick soars as Tom Cruise’s best box office debut

AP: EU leaders agree to ban 90% of Russian oil by year-end

New York Times: ‘Hold On, Kherson’: Ukraine Begins Counteroffensive For Key Southern City

AP: Russia Test-Fires Its Latest Hypersonic Zircon Missile

Wall Street Journal: China And The U.S. Are Arranging An In-Person Meeting Between Heads Of Defense

Reuters: Turkey Tells U.S. It Wants ‘Concrete Steps’ From Finland, Sweden For NATO Bids

Wall Street Journal: U.N. Says Iran Has Enough Uranium for Weapon

AP: Iran Seizes 2 Greek Tankers In Persian Gulf As Tensions Rise

Air Force Magazine: Senate Confirms More Than a Dozen Air Force, Space Force Generals to New Ranks, Positions

Air Force Magazine: Cavoli: Sweden and Finland As New NATO Members Would Be Big Plus, Small Drag

Air Force Times: Space race for an identity: Why the Space Force needs beards

The Drive: Captured Russian Weapons Are Packed With U.S. Microchips

Navy Times: Navy Ups Logistics Capability In High North, Arctic Region

Navy Times: ‘In The Crosshairs’: Department Of Navy Releases Climate Change Strategy

19fortyfive.com: Opinion: How the Quad Can Take on China in the 'Gray-Zone'

19fortyfive.com: Why India Loves to 'Rent' Russian Nuclear Submarines

19fortyfive.com: 'Sorry State': Germany's Military Has Been Exposed Thanks to the Ukraine War

19fortyfive.com: The Real Reason Turkey Will Never Voluntarily Leave NATO

Washington Post: John Bolton: Opinion: Biden must stop the promiscuous publicizing of U.S. intelligence



10 a.m. — Woodrow Wilson Asia Center virtual discussion: "The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and What It Means for the U.S.," with Deputy Assistant Commerce Secretary for Asia Pamela Phan; Becky Fraser, senior director of government affairs at Qualcomm; Matt Sloustcher, senior vice president for communications and policy at MP Materials; David Libatique, deputy executive director of stakeholder engagement at the Port of Los Angeles; and Amanda Blunt, counsel for legal affairs and trade at General Motors https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/indo-pacific-economic-framework

10 a.m. — Information Technology and Innovation Foundation virtual discussion: "Why the Bipartisan Innovation Act is Crucial for U.S. National Security," with Michael Brown, director of the Defense Department's Defense Innovation Unit; Arthur Herman, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John Shanahan; and Stephen Ezell, vice president of global innovation policy at ITIF https://itif.org/events/2022/05/31/why-bipartisan-innovation

1:30 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: "The Army's Role in the National Defense Strategy," with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth; and Vivian Salama, national security reporter at the Wall Street Journal https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/a-conversation-with-secretary-christine-wormuth


8:45 a.m. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group conversation with Amb. Julianne Smith, U.S. permanent representative to NATO https://nationalsecuritymedia.gwu.edu

9:30 a.m. — The U.S. Institute of Peace virtual discussion: "Exposing Atrocities in Ukraine: The Relationship Between Reporting and Accountability," with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, USIP vice president for Russia and Europe; Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press"; and George Moose, chair of the USIP Board of Directors https://www.usip.org/events/exposing-atrocities-ukraine

10 a.m. — American Security Project virtual discussion: "War in Ukraine," with retired Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, former NATO supreme allied commander https://www.americansecurityproject.org/event/war-in-ukraine

11 a.m. — McCain Institute virtual discussion: "A 21st Century Iron Curtain? Looking at the Future of NATO," with Estonian Undersecretary for Defense Planning Tiina Uudeberg; and Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Defense Yordan Bizhilov https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-21st-century-iron-curtain

11 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Avenue N.E. — Heritage Foundation discussion on "key indicators for capacity, capability, and readiness in the U.S. Air Force," with Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall. https://www.heritage.org/defense/event/conversation

12 p.m. — Woodrow Wilson Center Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies virtual discussion: "The Echo of Chechnya in Russia's War with Ukraine," with Thomas de Waal, senior fellow at Carnegie Europe; Anna Neistat, legal director at the Clooney Foundation for Justice's The Docket; Anna Nemtsova, Moscow correspondent at the Daily Beast; and William Pomeranz, acting director at the WWC Kennan Institute https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/echo-chechnya

12 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual book discussion: "Oil, the State, and War: Global energy security after the Russian invasion of Ukraine," with author Emma Ashford, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Center for Strategy and Security https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/oil-the-state-and-war

2 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: "How Powerful is Xi Jinping?" with Ling Li, lecturer in the University of Vienna's Department of East Asian Studies; Victor Shih, associate professor at the University of California San Diego; Jessica Teets, associate professor of political science at Middlebury College; and Neil Thomas, analyst for China and Northeast Asia at the Eurasia Group https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/how-powerful-is-xi-jinping/


7:15 a.m. 2425 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va — Association of the U.S. Army "Coffee Series” discussion with Gen. Paul Funk, commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command https://www.ausa.org/events/ausa-coffee-series

8 a.m. 1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean, Va — Potomac Officers Club 2022 Navy Summit on "critical modernization and fleet readiness initiatives, with Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro https://potomacofficersclub.com/events/2022-annual-navy-forum

9 a.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual discussion: “Revitalizing the U.S.-Philippines Alliance," with former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea retired Adm. Harry Harris; Patrick Cronin, Asia-Pacific security chair at the Hudson Institute; Satu Limaye, vice president of the East-West Center; Brian Harding, senior expert on Southeast Asia at the U.S. Institute of Peace; and Henry Howard, director of the U.S.-Philippines Society https://www.cnas.org/events/virtual-report-launch

9 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual discussion: "How the Space Force is planning to address the threats of today and tomorrow," with Space Force Lt. Gen. William Liquori, deputy chief of space operations, strategy, plans, programs, requirements, and analysis https://mitchellaerospacepower.org/event/schriever-spacepower-forum

11 a.m. 1740 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies discussion with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-conversation-with-jens-stoltenberg

2 p.m. — Foundation for Defense of Democracies virtual discussion with National Cyber Director Chris Inglis; retired Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, senior director of the FDD's Center on Cyber Technology Innovation and former executive director of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC); and Samantha Ravich, chair of the FDD's Center on Cyber Technology Innovation and former CSC commissioner https://www.fdd.org/events/2022/06/02/strengthening-americas-cyber-resiliency

2:30 p.m. — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the Pentagon.

3 p.m. — Virtual Pacific Climate Forum of the Americas with U.S. Southern Commander Gen. Laura Richardson https://iamericas.org/pacific-climate-forum


9 a.m. — U.S. Institute of Peace virtual discussion: "Preventing Mass Atrocities in Afghanistan: How the U.S. and International Community Can Protect Hazaras and other Vulnerable Afghans," with State Department Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls and Human Rights Rina Amiri; Farkhondeh Akbari, postdoctoral fellow at the Monash University Gender, Peace and Security Center; Lauren Baillie, senior program officer for atrocity prevention at USIP; Shukria Dellawar, legislative and policy manager for the prevention of violent conflict at the Friends Committee on National Legislation; Naomi Kikoler, director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Center for the Prevention of Genocide https://www.usip.org/events/preventing-mass-atrocities-afghanistan


TBA — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin departs for Singapore and Bangkok, Thailand, Singapore Austin will take part in the International Institute for Strategic Studies 19th “Shangri-La Dialogue.” https://www.defense.gov/News/Advisories


Aspen Meadows Resort, Colorado — Aspen Strategy Group three-day (19-22) Aspen Security Forum with Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown; former Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commander U.S. Special Operations Command; Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Kay Bailey Hutchison, former U.S. ambassador to NATO; and others. https://www.aspensecurityforum.org


“As we honor our fallen today, let us live by their dedication to democracy, to liberty, and to the Constitution. When choosing between what is easy and what is right, let us live by the example of our fallen warriors. And when the values that we hold dear are put to the test, let us live by the ideals that they gave their lives to defend.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in Memorial Day remarks at Arlington National Cemetery.