PUTIN ON ‘UNPREDICTABLE, POTENTIALLY ESCALATORY TRAJECTORY’: Despite being stalemated by a war of attrition in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to give up anytime soon, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday.

Putin, Haines testified, “faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia's current conventional military capabilities,” which over the summer will likely put him on “a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory.”

Despite his setbacks in Ukraine, including the embarrassing failure to capture Kyiv in the early days of the war, the current U.S. intelligence assessment is that Putin is digging in for a protracted conflict and hasn’t given up extending Russian control beyond the eastern Donbas region where his forces are bogged down by stiff Ukrainian resistance.

“We assess that Putin's strategic goals have probably not changed, suggesting he regards the decision in late March to refocus Russian forces on the Donbas is only a temporary shift to regain the initiative after the Russian military's failure to capture Kyiv,” Haines said in her opening statement. “We do not see a viable negotiating path forward, at least in the short term.”

“The current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means, including imposing martial law, reorienting industrial production, or potentially escalatory military actions to free up the resources needed to achieve his objectives as the conflict drags on or if he perceives Russia is losing in Ukraine,” she said, adding that “the most likely flashpoints for escalation in the coming weeks are around increasing Russian attempts to interdict Western security assistance, retaliation for Western economic sanctions or threats to the regime at home.”


PUTIN’S NUCLEAR SABER-RATTLING: Haines predicts that if the war continues to not go well for Putin, he may increase his nuclear rhetoric to try to deter the United States and the West from increasing lethal aid to Ukraine.

“If Putin perceives that the United States is ignoring his threats, he may try to signal to Washington the heightened danger of its support to Ukraine by authorizing another large nuclear exercise involving a major dispersal of mobile intercontinental missiles, heavy bombers, strategic submarines,” she said. “We otherwise continue to believe that President Putin would probably only authorize the use of nuclear weapons if he perceived an existential threat to the Russian state or regime.”

“With tensions this high, there is always an enhanced potential for miscalculation, unintended escalation, which we hope our intelligence can help to mitigate.”


CHINA TAKING NOTES: Testifying alongside Haines was Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who told the senators that right now he’s not seeing any indication that China would take advantage of the current situation to make a move on Taiwan, but they are studying Russia’s failures carefully.

“I think they're learning some very interesting lessons from the Ukrainian conflict, like how important leadership is, how important small unit tactics are, how important an NCO core is, and really effective training with the right weapon systems and what those systems with the right people would be able to do to thwart that,” Berrier testified.

“We think that seeing what happened in Russia may give them less confidence in some respects over what it is that's likely to happen,” said Haines. “Thus far, we have not assessed that the Russia-Ukraine crisis is likely to accelerate their plan vis-a-vis Taiwan.”

The U.S. believes that China will have the military capability to launch an invasion of Taiwan by 2027, and that the threat grows by the year.

“I think it's fair to say that it's critical … or acute between now and 2030,” said Haines.

“We're not really sure what lessons Xi Jinping is taking away from this conflict right now. We would hope that they would be the right ones,” said Berrier. “But I think it's going to take some time to sort out whether or not he believes this is a window or that his timeline would extend.”


Good Wednesday 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: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley testify on the president’s 2023 $773 billion defense budget request before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee at 10:30 a.m.

Then at 3 p.m., Austin welcomes British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace to the Pentagon, with public remarks scheduled before their private meeting.

CONGRESS BOOSTS UKRAINE AID TO $40 BILLION: Last night, the House passed a beefed-up package of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, adding nearly $7 billion to the legislation.

The nearly $40 billion package passed by a vote of 368 to 57. After a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House earlier in the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called passage of the aid bill “a matter of life and death.” Pelosi was joined by six other House members who accompanied her to Ukraine last week. “We can’t wait. Time is of the essence,” she said.

Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), a former Army Ranger, said with the war moving to a new phase, the Ukrainians need a new array of weapons.

“To meet the next evolution of this battle, they need greater rapid artillery standoff, they need some version of a multiple launch rocket system that’s going to extend the range they can defend their urban cities and push back Russian artillery but also retake territory that’s been seized by the Russians,” Crow said.

He noted they also need “more advanced drones” and “longer anti-ship missile systems,” as well as “a more consistent rotational training system, so they don’t have to take their most experienced soldiers off the frontlines.”


NO WAY OUT: One of the biggest obstacles for ending the suffering of the Ukrainian people is that even while his forces are being stymied on the ground, Russian President Vladimir Putin has no face-saving way to end the war.

Having staked his legacy on “victory” over his manufactured enemy, Putin believes he’s in a battle he can’t afford to lose, in the words of CIA Director William Burns. And that, says President Joe Biden, is a major impediment to peace.

“Putin is … a very, very, very calculating man,” Biden said at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser Monday night. “And the problem I worry about now is that he doesn't have a way out right now, and I'm trying to figure out what we do about that.”

PUSHING BACK ON THE ESPER NARRATIVE: Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper faced a grilling in an interview segment that aired last night on Fox. In part two of his interview with Esper, Bret Baier, a former Pentagon correspondent, questioned Esper’s account that President Donald Trump suggested covertly attacking Mexican cartels and destroying their drug labs with missiles.

“We could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly,” Esper quotes Trump as saying in his book A Sacred Oath, “adding preposterously that ‘no one would know it was us.’”

“What do you say to critics who say what's wrong with using missiles to take out Mexican factories that are making drugs that ultimately kill Americans?” asked Baier.

“Well, to begin, it's an act of war. It's illegal,” Esper replied.

“You said that President Trump suggested it. But really, wasn't it the strategy originally floated by a Senate-confirmed Cabinet member?” Baier pressed.

“I'm not aware of that,” said Esper.

“Why would sending troops as necessary to seal the border in a year when fentanyl is killing tens of thousands of people be bad or extreme?” Baier continued.

“I supported troops to the border. I think we should have a secure border. I supported the building of the fence and still do … but 250,000 troops — it's a ridiculous number.”

“My point is that there are other people in the administration besides the president making these suggestions, making these pitches,” said Baier. “You portray it like President Trump was off his rocker and you were the sole person pushing back.”

“Well, I didn't say that President Trump proposed 250,000 troops. That was Stephen Miller,” said Esper. “It wasn't just me. At times, it might have been Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. There were different players at different times in different situations pushing back on what we thought were bad ideas.”


PENTAGON PULITZER PRAISE: Spokesman John Kirby opened yesterday afternoon’s Pentagon briefing with praise for the New York Times, which was awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for its series documenting the human toll of U.S. air and drone strikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

“That coverage was, and it still is, not comfortable, not easy, and not simple to address. We know that we had more work to do to better prevent civilian harm. And we're doing that work,” said Kirby. “We knew that we had made mistakes, we're trying to learn from those mistakes. And we knew that we weren't always as transparent about those mistakes as we should be.”

The Times review of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties revealed America’s air wars have been “marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.”

“I cannot say that this process was pleasant. But I guess that's the whole point. It's not supposed to be. That's what a free press at its very best does, it holds us to account and makes us think even as it informs,” he said. “The talented staff and reporters of The New York Times, some of whom work in this very press corps alongside you, have done all that. And, yes, we are grateful to them for it.”

Kirby noted the Pulitzer committee also recognized “The Journalists of Ukraine” with a special citation for their “courage, endurance and commitment to truthful reporting during Vladimir Putin’s ruthless invasion of their country.”

“The bravery and skill that they are showing every day is truly inspiring, just as the fighting of the Ukrainian soldiers is.”

SOF MAG SOLDIERS ON: The venerable Soldier of Fortune magazine — which generations of women have left prominently displayed on the seats of their cars to ward off potential thieves, has a new lease on life following its acquisition by a sharpshooting Army veteran, who once tried in vain to excise all the typos from this newsletter.

Susan Katz Keating, my former editor who earned an expert marksman rating during her stint in the Army, has taken over as publisher and editor in chief from Robert K. Brown, who is passing the torch after what he called “47 adventure-filled years of publishing.”

Keating has contributed to the magazine since the 1980s, and now she owns it. You can read her backstory here.

The Rundown

Washington Examiner: House passes $39.8 billion Ukraine aid bill

Washington Examiner: Putin ‘still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,’ intel director says

Washington Examiner: Putin's Victory Day speech reveals man 'out of ideas' for winning war in Ukraine

Washington Examiner: Putin avoids Ukraine escalation in Victory Day speech experts see as fearful

Washington Examiner: Russian ships taking stolen Ukrainian grain to Syria: Ukraine Ministry of Defense

Washington Examiner: Russia close to triggering famine that will kill millions, Cindy McCain says

Washington Examiner: UN: There is 'credible' information Ukrainian forces are torturing Russian POWs

Washington Examiner: Belarus deploying special forces near Ukraine border

Washington Examiner: Biden urged to strike better balance between Asia and Europe to counter threats

Washington Examiner: Colorado Springs was first choice for Space Command headquarters, OIG report concludes

Washington Examiner: US officials concede errors on 'will to fight' in Afghanistan and Ukraine

Washington Examiner: Iran looking to attack US for ‘revenge’ over Soleimani assassination

Washington Examiner: Al Jazeera journalist shot and killed while reporting in the West Bank

Washington Examiner: Former Defense Secretary Esper says onetime boss Trump is 'threat to democracy'

Washington Examiner: 'More and more' Chinese officials want to inform on regime: Australian spy chief

Washington Examiner: UFOs go to Congress: Five questions that need answering

AP: Crucial NATO decisions expected in Finland, Sweden this week

AP: Russia pummels vital port of Odesa, targeting supply lines

Wall Street Journal: Encircled Ukraine Stronghold Holds On, Hopes for Survival

New York Times: New South Korean President Vows To Take Harder Line With North

Air Force Magazine: Top Lawmaker: Space Force at Risk of Being ‘Stifled’ by Air Force

Air Force Magazine: As Space Force Grows, More Airmen May Be Needed for Support

Stars and Stripes: Marines Unveil Force Structure Update Amid Opposition From Retired Generals About Service’s Direction

Defense One: Marines Are Learning From The Ukraine Conflict—But Are Wary Of Adjusting Force Design Based On It

Defense News: How Digital Natives Will Change The Marine Corps

Navy Times: The Littoral Combat Ship’s Latest Problem: Class-Wide Structural Defects Leading To Hull Cracks

AP: Leonid Kravchuk, independent Ukraine’s 1st president, dies

19fortyfive.com: Russia's Progress in Donbas Means Ukraine Likely Won't Win the War

19fortyfive.com: Explained: How the NLAW Tank-Killer Missile Kills Tanks

19fortyfive.com: Dreadnought: The Royal Navy Has Big Plans for a New Missile Submarine

19fortyfive.com: Why Are Retired F-117 Stealth Fighters and F-35s Flying Together?

Foreign Affairs: How Not to Invade a Nation

The Cipher Brief: Opinion: U.S. Strategy for Addressing the Nuclear Deterrence and Assurance Gap



9 a.m. 2301 Constitution Ave. N.W. — U.S. Institute of Peace discussion: “Previewing the U.S.-ASEAN Summit What to Expect from the Special Meeting of ASEAN and U.S. Leaders,” with Kurt Campbell, coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs at the National Security Council; Lise Grande, USIP President and CEO; and Evan Medeiros, USIP special adviser https://www.usip.org/events/previewing-us-asean-summit

10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee Hearing: “Fiscal Year 2023 Defense Budget Request from the Department of the Navy,” with testimony from Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday, and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

10 a.m. — Hudson Institute virtual event: “NATO and Russia’s War on Ukraine: A Conversation with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana; and Kenneth Weinstein, distinguished fellow, Hudson Institute https://www.hudson.org/events

10:30 a.m. 2362-A Rayburn — House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing: Fiscal Year 2023 Department of Defense budget,” with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller)/CEO Michael McCord https://appropriations.house.gov/events/hearings

2 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Hearing: “Fiscal Year 2023 Strategic Forces Missile Defense and Missile Defeat Programs,” with testimony from John Plumb, assistant secretary of defense for space policy; Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director, Missile Defense Agency; Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander, U.S. Space Command; Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commander, U.S. army space and missile defense command; and John Sawyer, acting director, contracting and national security acquisitions https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

2:30 a.m. G50 Dirksen — Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing: “Review of the FY 2023 USAID Budget Request,” with testimony from Samantha Power, administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings

3 p.m. — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcome British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace to the Pentagon, with remarks before their private meeting

3 p.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual discussion: “Space National Guard,” with Brig. Gen. Michael Valle, assistant adjutant general at the Florida Air National Guard; and Brig. Gen. Steven Butow, primary adviser to the adjutant general at the California Air National Guard https://mitchellaerospacepower.org/event

4:30 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness Hearing: “Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for Military Readiness,”with testimony from Gen. Joseph Martin, Army vice chief of staff; Adm. William Lescher, vice chief of naval operations; Gen. Eric Smith, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; Gen. David Allvin, Air Force vice chief of staff; and Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings


TBA — President Joe Biden welcomes leaders of ASEAN countries and the ASEAN Secretary General to the White House for a dinner as part of the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit, commemorating 45 years of U.S.-ASEAN relations

9:30 a.m. 419 Dirksen — Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing: “U.S. Efforts to Support Ukraine Against Russian Aggression, with testimony from Jessica Lewis, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs; Erin McKee, assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia, U.S. Agency for International Development; Karen Donfried, assistant secretary of state for european and eurasian affairs; and Beth Van Schaack, ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings

10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: “Department of the Army Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request,” with testimony from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

2 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces hearing: “Air Force Projection Forces Aviation Programs and Capabilities related to the FY2023 President’s Budget Request,” with testimony from Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics; and Lt. Gen. David Nahom, deputy Air Force chief of staff for plans and programs https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

4:30 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems hearing: “Reviewing Department of Defense Science and Technology Strategy, Policy, and Programs for Fiscal Year 2023: Accelerating the Pace of Innovation,” with testimony from Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering; William Nelson, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Research and Technology; Kristen Baldwin, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology, and engineering; Paul Mann, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, test, and evaluation https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings


TBA — President Joe Biden participates in the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit at the State Department

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 https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

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 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-event


German Federal Foreign Office — Informal meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, May 14-15, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. https://www.nato.int/


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


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 https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

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 https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

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 https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

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 https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings


“I cannot say that this process was pleasant. But I guess that's the whole point. It's not supposed to be. That's what a free press at its very best does, it holds us to account and makes us think even as it informs.”

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby congratulating the New York Times, for winning the Pulitzer Prize for its series documenting the human toll of U.S. air and drone strikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.