10 Mar 22. Latest Updates.
- Ukrainian forces today, 10 March, confirmed that Russian troops have reached the village of Skybyn, very close to the last checkpoint marking the north-eastern limits of Kyiv. The governor of Kyiv oblast has stated today that north-west of Kyiv remains the most dangerous area in the region, where the key towns of Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel, and Vorzel are often cut off by fighting. On 10 March, however, Ukrainian forces successfully evacuated around 1,000 civilians from Irpin and Bucha to central Kyiv. The Russian advance on the eastern side of the Dnieper continues to make steady progress, and with fighting now reported in Skybyn, pressure on the east of the city will increase in the coming days as the encirclement continues. Today the mayor of Kyiv, Vitaliy Klitschko, stated that half of the capital’s population, representing “a little less than 2 million people”, have now left the city.
- A representative of the Operational Headquarters of the Odesa Regional Military Administration has stated on 10 March that Russian squadrons that had been stationed in north-western Black Sea have begun withdrawing from waters off Odesa back to occupied Crimea. The Ukrainian authorities maintain that an expected amphibious landing has subsequently been postponed, aligning with intelligence assessments provided by the US earlier this week that stated they saw no indications of an imminent amphibious landing. As Russian efforts to invest Mykolaiv continue, the unconfirmed at time of writing withdrawal of the Russian ships would lessen the pressure on Odesa over the coming week, though an amphibious landing designed to take Mykolaiv remains possible in the coming days.
- According to unconfirmed reports, Russia intends to change its conscription laws. According to proposals seen by Nexta TV, authorities would be able to send conscription letters via registered mail, and if the recipient does not receive the letter and come forward to the local recruitment office, this would be considered a criminal offence. While this remains unconfirmed at this stage, it suggests the Kremlin is preparing for large-scale mobilisations should it need them – though this has not been enacted so far. Yesterday, 9 March, the Russian Ministry of Defence acknowledged for the first time that conscripts were taking part in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, though President Putin had previously denied this several times. Notably, however, the Ministry stated that the deployment of conscripts was a mistake and will not happen again, indicating continued reticence on the Kremlin’s part to commit conscripts openly to the invasion at this stage.
- On 10 March, the French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune stated that Ukraine would “probably” join the European Union in a few years, nothing that accession to the bloc “is not for tomorrow”. Similarly, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also stated today that there is no accelerated accession progress available to Ukraine. Despite mounting pressure for the EU to increase still further its support for Ukraine, these comments underline that membership for Ukraine is a long-term prospect, which will remain entirely hostage to the outcome of the current war in any case. This also remains the case for Moldova and Georgia following their own applications for membership. Even candidate member status remains a remote prospect, which would have escalatory potential given Moscow’s readiness to use force to reverse similar Western integration in Ukraine.
- With the Russian currency losing more than half of its value since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and inflation increasing to 9.2% in February – up from 8.7% the previous month – economists predict that the pace of annual price rises will surpass 20% by the end of this month. Prices of goods have skyrocketed as a result, with the data from Russia’s Economic Ministry showing that between 26 February and 4 March the largest increase in prices took place over a seven-day period since 1998. The trend is set to continue as the pressure on the Russian economy will only grow the longer the war with Ukraine goes on. Related to this, the Russian government today issued a ban on the export of certain key products, underlining mounting supply chain pressures and shortages across numerous domestic sectors. The products now banned from being exported include: telecommunication equipment, medical equipment, vehicles, agricultural machinery, electrical equipment, locomotives, containers, turbines, metal and stone processing machines, monitors, projectors, consoles and panels.
- Officials in Russia’s Economic Development Ministry have reportedly drafted legislation aimed at preventing the mass exodus of foreign companies leaving the country, effectively laying the groundwork for nationalising their properties. More specifically, once passed, the law would allow the state to take over foreign businesses for up to three months in instances where the company’s management has de-facto stopped directing the company. Whilst it has not yet been announced which particular companies will be targeted, Russian media reports suggest that some 60 companies that departed from Russia may face nationalisation risk. This is in line with our previous assessment of increasing nationalisation risks to foreign businesses amid an unprecedented corporate flight out of Russia in light of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The business operating environment will only deteriorate in Russia in the weeks and months ahead as the government is likely to turn to more drastic measures in order to stabilise the economy and prevent more capital from fleeing the country. As such, the regulatory environment is becoming ever more opaque, with the risk of arbitrary targeting of companies perceived to be critical of the government set to increase further. The beginnings of shortages are starting to be felt in key sectors, influencing the decision to ban the export of certain products from today, but as these shortages worsen and more multinationals pull out of Russia, disrupting supply chains still further, nationalisation of foreign assets will become an increased risk. The situation on the Western borders and along western evacuation routes remains largely unchanged since yesterday. Russian advances towards Kyiv remain stalled, and the increasing use of rockets and missiles will continue to threaten civilian areas in and around Kyiv, maintaining security risks along most evacuation routes out of Kyiv. Russian troops advanced along the E40 and toward P04 today, and fighting is expected to continue around Buzova, Makariv and Zhytomyr, rendering the E40 unsafe. In addition, Russian forces (mostly infantry) have pushed southward from Makariv in the past 24hrs toward the outskirts of Byshev Airport on the westbound P04. No fighting in the airport’s premises has been observed but we consider this to be a likely target for Russian forces in the coming 24-48hrs. In comparative terms, the H01/P01 may represent the safest route out of the city, although any travel is undertaken at one’s own risk as all approaches to Kyiv are vulnerable to shelling or missile fire. This is further highlighted by the red alerts issued for potential aerial strikes in Vasylkiv, Vinnytsia and Bilka Tserkva today, following social media accounts suggesting missile strikes landed near Vasylkiv on 7 March. Russian forces have already conducted aerial attacks against Bila Tserkva along the P32 west to H01 on Saturday (5 March).
China-Russia: Ukraine War Fallout Will Test Resolve Of “No Limits” Friendship.
- The escalating conflict in Ukraine presents serious challenges to one of China’s most important foreign relationships. While Beijing has expressed an understanding of Moscow’s security concerns over NATO’s expansion, the Chinese government will view the unfolding war as a major disruptor to its desire to uphold stability in domestic and foreign affairs.
- The fallout from the war has further underscored that the Sino-Russian close partnership is not based on a common set of fundamental values. Rather, it is anchored by the two autocratic governments’ shared view on their mutual adversary, the United States. As such, China’s holding a different position on the crisis may drive a wedge between the two countries, especially if the conflict becomes entrenched.
- While Russia’s growing international isolation will likely push it closer to China, Beijing will treat this with caution. China will support Russia economically by boosting trade in natural resources and helping Moscow to facilitate the transition away from dollar-denominated transactions.
- However, Beijing’s priority will be to mitigate the war’s fallout, including sweeping international sanctions, and protect China’s key political and commercial interests. To this end, Beijing is unlikely to risk a complete decoupling from the West by siding with Moscow. Given the heightened sensitivity and intense international scrutiny on China, Beijing may put high-profile political and military engagements with Moscow on the back burner for the coming months.
The Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine has laid down serious challenges to the prospects of Sino-Russian relations, the most high-profile and closest strategic partnership for Beijing. More importantly, Moscow’s actions will test the limits of the partnership and what risks Beijing will be willing to take. Not soon after Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed the “no limits” friendship between the two neighbours when he met Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Beijing Winter Olympics, the unfolding conflict in Ukraine, and the escalating international fallout, will no doubt represent one of the toughest stress tests on the bilateral relations. From the outset, Beijing has supported what it sees as Russia’s “legitimate security concerns” regarding NATO’s eastward expansion and apportioned some blame on the West’s containment of Russia for the cause of the unfolding war. Nonetheless, Beijing stops short of condoning Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine, despite the Chinese government continuing to refrain from calling the conflict an “invasion”. China has also abstained, while not joining with Russia to veto or oppose, in two United Nations resolutions in condemning Moscow. China’s unique position in the conflict underscores the increasingly difficult dilemma faced by Beijing. On the one hand, shared by the antagonism and distrust towards Washington and its allies, Beijing treasures its strategic alignment with Moscow that has evolved into comprehensive bilateral cooperation in many areas, such as economic, trade and military. On the other hand, publicly supporting Moscow would mean an abandonment of Beijing’s long-held principle of non-interference in internal affairs – a cornerstone of China’s foreign policy. Accepting the narrative of Russian military intervention in support of a separatist movement in another sovereign state would also prove to be highly problematic for Beijing. China faces its own issues with separatist movements – albeit often overstated by Beijing for political purposes – in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, as well as what it regards as a breakaway province of Taiwan. Beijing routinely criticises Western governments for “interfering” in its domestic affairs on these contentious issues. While Russia’s growing international isolation could help China gain more of an upper hand in the relationship, the unprecedented condemnation and sweeping sanctions against Moscow mean that China’s close association with Russia will be fraught with risks going forward. Either way, the unfolding conflict will have profound and long-lasting implications to bilateral economic, political and strategic ties.
Ukraine conflict will add complexity to economic and trade relations
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine followed soon after President Xi and President Putin’s signing of a string of commercial agreements on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics, including oil and gas supply deals worth an estimated USD 117.5 billion. Despite calls for China to use its influence to mediate in the Ukraine conflict, Beijing has pledged to continue with “normal” trade cooperation with Russia. The deepening economic relationship is reflected by the steady increase in trade, which reached a record USD 146.9 billion in 2021 – a 35.9 percent increase year-on-year. As the graphics below show, Russia is one of only a few economies running a significant trade surplus with China – a market that accounted for around 18 percent of Russia’s total trade in 2021.
Faced with increasing international isolation, Moscow will likely look eastward to further expand its trade with China, with natural resources, including energy, minerals and agricultural commodities, set to remain the dominant exports to the world’s second-largest economy. For China, Russia’s limited options for trade in light of sweeping international sanctions will likely boost Beijing’s leverage in securing more favourable terms and prices for energy and commodity supply contracts as well as foster greater yuan-denominated transactions. Indeed, China has recently lifted restrictions on Russian wheat imports, in a move aimed at addressing food security concerns amid price spikes linked to the war in Ukraine. Recent government policy documents and President Xi’s remarks made multiple references on safeguarding food security. For example, for the past two years, the central government’s number one document (first policy statement released at the beginning of the year) highlighted food security as a key priority. Beijing is also likely to look to Russia to compensate for the loss of grain trade with Ukraine due to the ongoing conflict. Ukraine has been a major supplier of corn to China in recent years, mostly used in animal feeds.
Likewise, securing reliable oil and gas imports from Russia will also help improve China’s energy security, while the long-term gas supply contracts may speed up its transition to cleaner energy sources. However, it is unlikely that China would be able to completely offset Russia’s loss in energy trade, as the US bans Russian oil imports whilst Europe seeks to reduce its dependence on Russian energy. In addition to capacity constraints to the existing energy infrastructure connecting China and Russia, the Chinese government would also be keen to maintain a diverse portfolio of oil and gas suppliers, including other major producers in the Middle East and Latin America, seeing it as another critical element in safeguarding energy security.
The unprecedented international sanctions on Russia will also present fresh challenges to Beijing’s economic relations with Moscow. Reports of some disruption and delays in bilateral trade due to sanction-induced transaction issues highlight the potential blowback of Russia’s increasing international isolation on its close ally. With some Russian banks now excluded from SWIFT, Chinese export and import operators may be forced to change systems and financing options for Russian goods. Although a considerable increase in yuan-denominated transactions is expected, such a transition will take time to facilitate, as the bulk of the bilateral trade has been undertaken in US dollars. Indeed, Chinese and Russian indigenous payment and clearing systems, the CIPS and the STFM respectively, currently are not widely connected to the two countries’ banks. Doubts remain as to whether either homegrown system could replace the dominance of SWIFT for the foreseeable future.
Furthermore, Beijing’s close ties with Moscow are set to bring added international scrutiny on Chinese banks and other large businesses, many of which have significant presence and stakes in the West. These companies could be caught or targeted by existing or future international sanctions for their commercial links to Russia, even if they attempt to conduct business through yuan-denominated transactions. The Chinese-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB) halting of its operations in Russia and Belarus and TikTok limiting its services in Russia all serve to illustrate the Ukraine conflict’s far-reaching impact on Chinese businesses. The US government has also warned of sanctioning Chinese companies for supplying critical technology to Russia (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 9 March 2022).
In addition, the ongoing war has also caused some disruption to the China-Europe Railway Express – the collective term for regular direct rail freight services that play an important role in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Routes through Ukraine have either been suspended or diverted while widening sanctions will affect the predominantly US dollar-denominated freight settlement systems between China and Russia.
Misalignment on conflict exposes the underlying fracture in political and strategic ties
Although the Chinese government still has not condemned Russia’s military offensive, calls for a peaceful resolution have become louder in recent days, underlining Beijing’s growing unease over the escalating fallout from the conflict and its potential implications on its core interests (see Sibylline Alert – 25 February 2022). China-Russia strategic partnership is largely built on shared interests and world vision, rather than underpinned by a common set of engrained values. Most importantly, the shared perception of the US being a common threat and mutual adversary serves as the critical glue binding the two countries together. To this end, it is no surprise that Beijing has forged closer ties with Moscow when it also endures the most testing relations with Washington for decades. The fact that Chinese state media has often portrayed the Ukraine conflict from a critical perspective of the US and NATO also provides some clues on Beijing’s anti-US hegemonic narrative.
That said, while the Kremlin seems determined to pursue its objectives in Ukraine regardless of the costs, Beijing would not want to risk a complete de-coupling from the rest of the world by siding with Moscow. Despite the notable animosity, China will be unwilling to give up its trade ties with the West. After all, the US and the European Union are by far China’s two largest trade partners, with Russia making up only two percent of China’s total trade volume. The unprecedented international exclusion of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine may prompt policymakers in Beijing to re-evaluate the risk-reward calculation for its partnership with Moscow.
The more China is affected by the “collateral damage” of West-led punishments against Russia, the wider a divergence in Beijing’s and Moscow’s national interests is likely to appear. Considering the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership’s mantra of upholding stability, in both domestic and foreign affairs, Moscow’s military actions will be viewed as a “major disruptor” in this particularly sensitive year, as President Xi looks set to seek an unprecedented third term at this autumn’s party congress (see Sibylline Annual Forecast 2022). In short, Beijing will carefully tread a fine line in propping up Moscow vis-à-vis its other important political and economic interests.
In a similar vein, Beijing’s hedging position in the Ukraine conflict has also raised questions about bilateral strategic and military cooperation. Prior to the invasion, increasing joint exercises between the Chinese and Russian armed forces heightened concerns amongst Washington and its allies. Some commentary even propagated the idea of a de-facto “military alliance”. However, here too, the close military cooperation is primarily anchored in the desire to challenge the mutual adversary – the United States – as opposed to a formal security/defence pact, which would undermine China’s non-interference principle. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including its official press, has been conspicuously quiet on the Ukraine conflict. This is a possible reflection of Beijing’s uneasiness on the matter, especially when Western media has drawn plenty of parallels to China’s quest for the unification of Taiwan (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 25 February 2022).
The ongoing war in Ukraine will highlight but also strain the multifaceted nature of Sino-Russian relations. While there might be “no limits” in areas of cooperation, underlying strategic misalignment will cast constraints on bilateral ties. From Beijing’s perspective, the escalating conflict has jeopardised its interests in East Europe, while the unprecedented unity shown by the West in condemning and punishing Russia will have also added further unfavourable elements to the already challenging geopolitical climate faced by Moscow’s close ally, China.
In this context, China will continue to respond to the ongoing conflict with a cautious approach, attempting to strike a balance between maintaining a close partnership with Russia and minimising the fallout’s damage to its own interests. To this end, Beijing will step in supporting Moscow economically through trade, and helping with the de-dollarisation of the Russian economy in light of severe international sanctions. Bilateral trade volume is set to rise further, though China will be in a stronger position in negotiating favourable terms and prices on commodity imports. Nevertheless, China’s trade alone can only dampen the sanctions’ crippling impact on the Russian economy, and the rapidly deteriorating socio-economic health in Russia may also have a spillover effect on bilateral commercial ties.
Beijing’s neutral position in the conflict will likely drive uncertainty in bilateral political and strategic relations. Despite directing criticism at NATO and the US, China will not publicly support Russia’s military actions. While Beijing has expressed its willingness to mediate in the crisis, it will be reluctant to use its political influence and economic leverage to exert pressure on President Putin to seek a peaceful solution. As the war continues to escalate, the priority for Beijing will be to manage the potential political fallout from the crisis, both from Russia and the rest of the world. To this end, it is plausible that China will be more willing to play an active role in a multilateral setting for mediation, such as with other major powers or via the United Nations.
The Ukraine conflict and China’s official stance in it will further undermine the prospects of a formal military alliance between the two countries. Although close defence cooperation will continue, Beijing may refrain from undertaking any joint military exercises in the coming months, given the heightened sensitivity and likely adversary reaction from the international community.
Russia: Anonymous’ information warfare set to further escalate despite its limited impact on Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine
On 9 March, the hacktivist group Anonymous claimed via Twitter to have sent 5 million text messages to Russian mobile numbers as a part of its information warfare against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These messages reportedly contained information about Moscow’s ongoing military offensives and encouraged its recipients to download the group’s 1920.in tool that they claim can “reach past Russia’s information wall”. This “information wall” appears to be a reference to the Russian Ministry of Digital Development’s recent request for all “owners of telecommunication services on the internet” to insulate Russia’s networks from the worldwide web by 15 March (see Sibylline Biweekly Ukraine Cyber Update – 8 March 2022). This incident is the latest Anonymous-led information campaign against Russian targets since the group claimed on 7 March to have replaced the programming of several Russian television channels with independent coverage of the war (see Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 9 March 2022). While Anonymous’ rudimentary attacks are unlikely to have any significant impact on Russia’s military capabilities, further such cyber operations will likely take place in the coming days to counter Moscow’s growing disinformation campaign about its military offensives in Ukraine.
- Attacks across the full breadth of the frontline have continued to disrupt humanitarian corridors, though once again evacuation attempts will take place throughout the day from key cities. Ukrainian authorities have stated that evacuation routes will remain open today from Trostyanets, Krasnopillya, and Sumy to Poltava; Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, Volnovakha to Pokrovsk; Izyum to Lozova, Kharkiv Oblast, as well as from Kyiv’s suburbs of Bucha, Borodyanka, Irpin to the capital. According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, 35,000 civilians successfully evacuated from Sumy, Enerhodar and areas around Kyiv on 9 March. Nevertheless, fighting in the besieged city of Mariupol remains ongoing, with reports that Russian forces attacked a children’s hospital in the city leading to accusations of war crimes – allegations the Kremlin has denied as “information terrorism”.
- The White House on 9 March issued a warning that Russia could use biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. The warning comes after Russia alleged, with no evidence, that the US and Ukraine were working together to develop chemical and biological weapons, and as assessed in previous alerts, the White House has also now stated that such claims are likely designed to justify Russia’s use of such weapons in the future. Russian operatives have made ready use of nerve agents and other biological weapons abroad, most notably during the Salisbury attack in 2018, with Moscow supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, which has regularly used chemical weapons during the civil war. Furthermore, according to the British Ministry of Defence, the Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed on 9 March that Russian forces have used the TOS-1A thermobaric weapon system in Ukraine. As the war drags on and Russian accusations of alleged Ukrainian weapons programmes continues, the risk of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons will increase.
- Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives approved a new spending package which includes USD 13.6bn for Ukraine and allied nations in Eastern Europe, as well as approving the executive order to ban Russian oil, gas and coal imports. The UK furthermore announced new sanctions on 10 March targeting numerous Russian oligarchs with asset freezes and travel bans, including previous UK-resident Roman Abramovich, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and Alexei Miller, CEO of Gazprom.
- On 10 March, the Russian government confirmed it will withdraw from the Council of Europe, the continent’s oldest rule of law and human rights body. The Council suspended Russian representatives from participating the day after the invasion of Ukraine, but Moscow’s formal withdrawal raises questions as to the possible reintroduction of the death penalty in Russia. Moscow introduced a moratorium on the death penalty in 1996 as a condition for membership of the Council, but former president Dmitry Medvedev has stated that it provides a “good opportunity” to reinstate the death penalty. The Kremlin has clamped down on any and all opposition, arresting over 13,500 anti-war protesters since the beginning of the invasion, and totally banned independent press and media. As such, the withdrawal from the Council of Europe will allow the government to introduce more draconian punishments that would otherwise be ruled out by membership of the Council.
- On 9 March, Rio Tinto announced it will cut commercial ties with Russia, the latest multinational to do so. Rio Tinto is the second-largest miner by market value in the world, and while the firm does not retain any operational assets or staff inside Russia, it is a notable corporate withdrawal. It will likely result in the termination of existing joint ventures between Rio Tinto and Russian firms, such as Queensland Alumina Ltd. joint venture with Rusal, which will place additional pressure on the aluminium market after Russia earlier this week announced it would be banning exports of key raw resources to countries it deems “hostile”. As more extractive and energy firms are likely to announce cessation of commercial ties with Russia due to mounting international pressure, prices of key commodities are likely to continue increasing in the weeks ahead. In further industrial developments, the Russian automobile producer Lada announced on 9 March that it has halted production at its factories due to a major shortage of necessary parts and other supplies. The announcement underscores the mounting supply chain issues for Russian companies, with widespread shortages across numerous sectors, as well as for consumer goods, likely to worsen as the war continues and Western sanctions begin to bite.
Today, 10 March, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Antalya, Turkey, for talks on the war in Ukraine. The foreign ministers also spoke about the creation of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians, especially from besieged Mariupol, where attempts to safely evacuate people have routinely failed. However, as anticipated, the talks did not result in any breakthroughs, with Kuleba reporting after the meeting that the two sides did not manage to agree on a ceasefire, but stated that he is open to another meeting “as soon as the Russian side is ready for a serious and substantive conversation”. Looking ahead, further negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegations are likely to continue at regular intervals in Belarus, but will likely remain focused on technical implementation of humanitarian corridors rather than meaningful progress towards ending the fighting and reaching a political settlement – though Zelensky has now stated he is ready to discuss certain Russian demands.
The situation on the Western borders and along western evacuation routes remains largely unchanged since yesterday. Russia is increasingly using long-range weapons as advances towards Kyiv remain stalled, and the increasing use of rockets and missiles will continue to threaten civilian areas in and around Kyiv, maintaining security risks along most evacuation routes out of Kyiv. Russian troops advanced along the E40 and the P04 today, and fighting is expected to continue around Buzova, Makariv and Zhytomyr, rendering that route unsafe. In comparative terms, the H01/P01 may represent the safest route out of the city, although any travel is undertaken at one’s own risk as all approaches to Kyiv are vulnerable to shelling or missile fire. This is further highlighted by the red alerts issued for potential aerial strikes in Vasylkiv, Vinnytsia and Bilka Tserkva today. Russian forces have already conducted aerial attacks against Bila Tserkva along the P32 west to H01 on Saturday (5 March). Social media accounts indicate several missiles may have hit the village of Vasylkiv on 7 March, further rendering the E95 an unsafe route. (Source: Sibylline)
10 Mar 22. Despite problems during Ukraine invasion, do not underestimate Russia’s subs: Del Toro.
The early, poor performance of Russia’s ground forces stunned many, but Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro advised caution in assuming Russia’s navy, especially its subs, were not formidable.
The early underwhelming performance by the Russian military in Ukraine should not put doubt in anyone’s mind about the threat the country’s submarine forces still pose, according to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro.
“The shortcomings that we’ve seen with regards to the Russian army and Ukraine — that same disadvantage doesn’t necessarily translate over to the Navy, and their submarine force groups,” he said while speaking at the McAleese and Associates conference Wednesday.
The Navy secretary added that Russia has continued to invest “strategically” and “wisely” in its submarine force at a rate that “approaches ours.”
US Navy officers hardly ever shy away from sounding the alarm Russia’s naval fleet poses. As recently as this month, the Marine Corps second-most senior officer, Gen. Eric Smith, told reporters that while China remains the “pacing threat” in most domains, he still views Russia as the biggest cause for concern undersea.
But since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago, there has been a litany of public commentary about the ostensible ineptitude of the Russian ground forces: insufficient logistics to supply troops, armored vehicles being stolen by local farmers and the general failure to move nearly as fast as US believes Russian President Vladimir Putin expected.
Earlier this week the leaders of the US intelligence community said the failure showed Putin’s calculus for starting a war “profoundly flawed.”
“Looking at the Russian operation so far, they’re having tremendous problems with logistics and communications. The whole effort seems shambolic. Some structural, some probably more specific to this operation,” tweeted Michael Kofman, a researcher focused on the Russian military at the Center for a New American Security as well as the Center for Naval Analyses.
When asked if these shortcomings imply anything about Russia’s capability to do harm undersea, Del Toro said he is leaning on the side of caution.
“Never underestimate their capabilities to cause damage,” he said.
Because most navies are far less transparent about their force compositions than the US, it is difficult to know precisely how many submarines Russia has in its fleets at any given time, but recent public reporting suggests it is currently in the high 60s or low 70s. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
10 Mar 22. Russia rejects Ukraine ‘neutrality’ proposals at deadlocked talks. Turkey hosts meeting between foreign ministers from Moscow and Kyiv. Ukrainian forces evacuate civilians from Irpin, near Kyiv, as Russian troops bomb the city. Russia rebuffed Ukraine’s proposals for “neutrality” backed by international security guarantees on Thursday in high-level talks that made little progress on a ceasefire to rescue civilians from besieged cities. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, blamed the west for using Kyiv to threaten Moscow while telling his Ukrainian counterpart that Russian president Vladimir Putin may enter negotiations if “specific” proposals were on the table. His 90-minute meeting with Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, in the Turkish coastal city of Antalya was the most senior interaction between Moscow and Kyiv since Putin invaded the country on February 24. Kuleba said he proposed that Ukraine adopt a position of neutrality backed by security guarantees from world powers, but the idea was rejected by Lavrov, who said he had no interest in discussing the idea. “The list of demands that Russia put together and forwarded to Ukraine — it is not a negotiation position, it is really an ultimatum,” he said after the talks, adding: “We shall not surrender”. The meeting came after more than two weeks of war in which Russia’s faltering campaign has laid waste to urban areas but remains well short of its main objectives, with the biggest cities still under Ukrainian control and its skies contested. More than 2.1mn civilians have fled the country. (Source: FT.com)
10 Mar 22. Russia rejects Ukraine charge of genocide as invasion enters third week.
- Russian invasion enters third week
- Zelenskiy accuses Russia of genocide
- Russia bombs children’s hospital, city council says
- Russia says hospital bombing ‘fake news’
- Russia’s foreign minister arrives in Turkey for talks
Russia’s war in Ukraine entered the third week on Thursday with none of its stated objectives reached despite thousands of people killed, more than two million made refugees, and thousands forced to cower in besieged cities under relentless bombardment.
Ukraine said Russia was carrying out “genocide” by bombing a children’s hospital in the city of Mariupol. Russia said the reports were “fake news” as the building was a former maternity hospital that had long been taken over by troops. read more
Moscow’s stated objectives of crushing the Ukrainian military and ousting the pro-West elected government of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy remained out of reach, with Zelenskiy unshaken and Western military aid pouring across the Polish and Romanian borders.
The UK Defence Ministry said on Thursday that a large Russian column northwest of Kyiv had made little progress in over a week and was suffering continued losses. It added that as casualties mount, Russian President Vladimir Putin would have to draw from across the armed forces to replace the losses.
Putin has said the advance by his forces in Ukraine was going according to plan and to schedule. Russia calls its incursion a “special operation” to disarm its neighbour and dislodge leaders it calls “neo-Nazis.”
Western-led sanctions designed to cut the Russian economy and government from international financial markets were also beginning to bite, with the Russian share market and rouble plunging and ordinary Russians rushing to hoard cash.
Zelenskiy accused Russia of carrying out “genocide” after Ukrainian officials said Russian aircraft bombed a children’s hospital on Wednesday, burying patients in rubble despite a ceasefire deal for people to flee Mariupol.
“What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, is afraid of maternity hospitals, and destroys them?” Zelenskiy said in a televised address late on Wednesday.
The attack, which authorities said injured women in labour and left children in the wreckage, underscored U.S. warnings that the biggest assault on a European state since 1945 could become increasingly attritional after Russia’s early failures.
The White House condemned the hospital bombing as a “barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians”.
“That’s how fake news is born,” Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said on Twitter.
Russia had earlier pledged to halt firing so at least some trapped civilians could escape Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands have been sheltering without water or power for more than a week. Both sides blamed the other for the failure of the evacuation.
HOLES WHERE WINDOWS WERE
Ukraine’s foreign ministry posted video footage of what it said was the hospital showing holes where windows should have been in a three-storey building. Huge piles of smouldering rubble littered the scene.
The Donetsk region’s governor said 17 people were wounded in the attack. The U.N. Human Rights body said it was trying to verify the number of casualties at Mariupol. The incident “adds to our deep concerns about indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas,” it added through a spokesperson.
Among more than 2 million total refugees from Ukraine, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday that more than 1 million children have fled the country since the invasion started on Feb 24. At least 37 had been killed and 50 injured, it said. read more
The International Committee of the Red Cross said houses had been destroyed all across Ukraine. “Hundreds of thousands of people have no food, no water, no heat, no electricity and no medical care,” it said.
FIRST RUSSIA/UKRAINE TALKS
Foreign ministers from Russia and Ukraine will meet in Turkey on Thursday in the first high-level talks between the two countries since Moscow invaded its neighbour, with Ankara hoping they could mark a turning point in the raging conflict. read more
“I will say frankly that my expectations of the talks are low,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a video statement on Wednesday.
Ukraine is seeking a ceasefire, liberation of its territories and to resolve all humanitarian issues, Kuleba said.
Moscow demands that Kyiv take a neutral position and drop aspirations of joining the NATO alliance.
Zelenskiy repeated his call for the West to tighten sanctions on Russia “so that they sit down at the negotiating table and end this brutal war”.
He told VICE in an interview on Wednesday that he was confident Putin would at some stage agree to talks. “I think he will. I think he sees that we are strong. He will. We need some time,” he said.
Russia has been hit by Western sanctions and the withdrawals of foreign firms, the latest including Nestle, cigarette maker Philip Morris and Sony. Rio Tinto (RIO.L), (RIO.AX) on Thursday became the first major mining company to announce it was cutting all ties with Russian businesses. The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to rush $13.6bn in aid to Ukraine, sending the legislation to the Senate. A majority of the U.S. House of Representatives also voted to impose a ban on imports of Russian oil and other energy products in retaliation for Moscow’s ongoing attack on Ukraine. The World Bank’s chief economist said Moscow was edging close to defaulting on its debt. (Source: Reuters)
09 Mar 22. Vladimir Putin ‘plotting chemical weapons attack in Ukraine.’ ‘Serious concern’ in West that Russians could resort to Syrian-style assault, as maternity hospital hit by air strike during ceasefire. Vladimir Putin is plotting to use chemical weapons in Ukraine, Western officials fear, after his air force bombed a maternity hospital in a “depraved” attack that shocked the world.
There is now “serious concern” that the Russian president will order an “utterly horrific” attack using chemical or biological weapons, as Moscow ramped up allegations that Kyiv is itself planning to deploy them in the battlefield.
It comes after the Russian leader was accused of “crossing the line of humanity” following an air strike on a children’s hospital during a ceasefire in the besieged city of Mariupol.
Boris Johnson described the attack on Hospital No 3 as “depraved” and said Britain would step up its supplies of weapons to the Ukrainian armed forces.
Pregnant women were carried out of the building on stretchers, while others looked on in a daze at the destroyed hospital building and a huge bomb crater in the grounds outside.
Women, children and medics were initially said to be trapped under the rubble. Dmitry Gurin, a Ukrainian MP, told the BBC that there were “a lot of dead and wounded women”, adding: “We don’t know about children and newborns yet.”
Local officials later reported that 17 staff had been injured, but that no one had been killed. Most of the pregnant women were hiding in the basement at the time of the strike. The toll, officials said, could rise.
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, called on the West to “close the skies” after the strike, reigniting demands to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine and send its air force more fighter jets.
“You have the power but you seem to be losing the humanity,” he said.
Mr Zelensky Tweeted: Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, called the attack on the hospital “absolutely abhorrent, reckless and appalling”. However, she and Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, rejected Mr Zelensky’s renewed calls for a Nato-patrolled no-fly zone over his country.
Ms Truss said: “The best way to help protect the skies is through anti-air weaponry which the UK is now going to be supplying.”
Mr Blinken said a no-fly zone would put US pilots in “direct conflict” with Russia, adding: “Our goal is to end the war, not to expand it.”
Vadim Boichenko, the mayor of Mariupol, said the air strike was a “meaningless act of evil”.
“How can it be explained? How can it be described? It can’t. It is cynicism and genocide.”
The Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday that Russia had admitted firing a thermobaric weapons system in Ukraine. However, a Pentagon spokesman said it had “no indication” that the devastating bombs had been used so far.
Hours before the bombing, Maria Zakharova – the Russian foreign ministry spokesman – claimed Ukrainian fighters had ejected patients and staff from the maternity hospital before setting up firing positions there, without providing evidence.
Putin has become increasingly frustrated by the resistance mounted by Ukraine. The West now fears he will turn to increasingly extreme measures to complete the invasion.
On Wednesday, the state-owned Russian news agency RIA Novosti claimed that 80 tons of ammonia was delivered to the village of Zolochiv, near Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, by “Ukrainian nationalists”.
The report quoted Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defence ministry spokesman, alleging that Ukraine was “preparing a provocation with the use of poisonous substances … in order to then accuse Russia of using chemical weapons”.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said recent Russian claims that the US is developing biological weapons in Ukraine were “an obvious ploy” by Moscow to try to justify its “premeditated and unprovoked” attack on the country.
She said: “Now that Russia has made these false claims … we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them. It’s a clear pattern.”
Western analysts believe the reports indicate that Putin is preparing to order the use of chemical weapons in his most lethal “false flag” operation to date.
One Western official said: “I think we’ve got good reason to be concerned about possible use of non-conventional weapons, partly because of what we’ve seen has happened in other theatres, for example what we’ve seen in Syria, and partly because we’ve seen a bit of setting the scene for that in the false flag claims that are coming out, and other indications as well.
“So it’s a serious concern for us.”
Wednesday’s claims about ammonia follow allegations from Russia earlier this week that it had found evidence of Ukraine “concealing traces of a military biological programme implemented with funding from the United States”.
Ms Zakharova said Ukraine had been secretly developing “highly hazardous pathogens of plague, anthrax, rabbit-fever, cholera and other lethal diseases”.
The Ministry of Defence has also said there had been a notable “intensification of Russian accusations that Ukraine is developing nuclear or biological weapons” since the invasion began.
There are parallels with Moscow’s groundwork ahead of a chemical attack on Douma in Syria, when Russia used its state media to disseminate allegations that Syrian rebels were preparing chemical weapons with the help of the West.
Bob Seely, a Tory MP and long-term Russia-watcher, said such an attack in Ukraine would be disastrous.
He said: “You can’t live in the Kyiv and Kharkiv metros when you have chemical weapons being used, because chlorine and sarin are heavier than air.
“They will seep and flow like water into basements and suffocate those people. Putin’s risk threshold is higher. His willingness to endure civilian and military casualties is almost out of our comprehension.”
The UK has already sent Stinger anti-aircraft weapons and Nlaw anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. On Wednesday, the Government announced it would also be sending supersonic Starstreak surface-to-air missiles – the most advanced short-range anti-aircraft system in the world.
Mr Johnson said: “There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless.
“The UK is exploring more support for Ukraine to defend against air strikes and we will hold Putin to account for his terrible crimes.”
On Wednesday, Mr Johnson said Mr Zelensky had “earned the admiration and love of the British people”.
The Prime Minister praised Mr Zelensky for his “deeply moving address to the House of Commons” the previous day and committed to a further tightening of sanctions on Russia, a Downing Street spokesman said.
Mr Zelensky earlier accused the US and Poland of “playing ping pong” with the lives of Ukrainians, after the apparent collapse of a proposal to send MiG fighter jets to his air force.
A Polish proposal to hand its MiG-29 fighter jets to a US military base in Germany, with the expectation they would be handed to Ukrainian pilots, was dismissed in Washington.
Allies fear that such a move would risk provoking a wider conflict. The Western official said that while the short-range weapons currently being sent to Ukraine could only ever be used for defence, fighter jets were a different proposition – as they had the capability to attack long-range targets.
After rejecting Warsaw’s offer to send its jets to Ukraine via the US, on Wednesday the Pentagon said it would oppose any Nato plan to deliver fighter planes. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesman, said it was too “high risk”.
Meanwhile, Maksym Dotsenko, the head of the Ukrainian Red Cross, said the Russian attack on the maternity and paediatric hospital in Mariupol could cause the “complete collapse” of children’s medicine in the city.
Dr Oleksandra Shcherbet, a neurologist currently based in Lutsk who is helping to coordinate the distribution of supplies across the country, told The Telegraph: “The Russians are bombing children’s centres and maternity hospitals? It’s hard to believe. It’s horrible.”
Pavlo Kyrylenko, a local government official, said the exact toll from the strike could take time to ascertain.
He said the attack was carried out during an agreed ceasefire period to allow the safe passage of civilians. He said Russia had “not only crossed the border of unacceptable relations between states and peoples” but had “crossed the line of humanity”. He added: “Stop calling yourselves human beings.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr Zelensky, said: “Women in labour and children are under the wreckage. Instead of new lives – deaths.
“Isn’t this enough to close Ukranian air space? Isn’t it an argument to stop the killing?”
Sergei Orlov, the deputy mayor of Mariupol, told the BBC World Service: “We don’t understand how it is possible in modern life to bomb a children’s hospital.”
He warned there was a genocide taking place, with 1,170 people killed, with 47 of them buried on Wednesday alone in a mass grave.
There is no water, heat, power or gas, meaning locals are forced to eat snow to slake their thirst and burn wood to keep warm. “It’s medieval,” Mr Orlov said.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian foreign minister warned that almost 3,000 babies in Mariupol could die as they were running out of food and medicine.
Dmytro Kuleba said that more than 400,000 people were being held “hostage” in the south-eastern port city, unable to access humanitarian aid or be safely evacuated.
“I urge the world to act,” he said. “Force Russia to stop its barbaric war on civilians and babies.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
09 Mar 22. UK mulls giving ‘Starstreak’ air-defense weapons to Ukraine. Britain has stepped up its supply of weapons to the Ukrainian military, adding Starstreak anti-air missiles to a list that already includes significant numbers of anti-tank weapons.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told lawmakers Mar. 9 that the government was “exploring” the supply of Starstreak but later confirmed that the decision had already been taken in principle to provide the Thales UK-built, short-range weapon.
Issues such as training still had to be resolved, however, said the defense secretary.
Wallace also told Parliament that Britain would supply limited numbers of Lockheed Martin- and Raytheon-built Javelin anti-tank missiles alongside non-lethal items such as ration packs and medical supplies.
“We believe that this system will remain within the definition of defensive weapons but will allow the defending force to better defend the skies,” Wallace said, referring to the Starstreak capabilities.
Wallace told lawmakers that Russia was now using unguided bombs, and that with 95 percent of its forces around Ukraine committed, Moscow was trying to encourage private Russian troops from organizations like the Wagner Group to join the fight.
Citing Ukrainian data, he said Russia is believed to have lost 285 tanks, 985 armored vehicles, 44 aircraft, 48 helicopters, 109 artillery pieces. Some 11,000 Russian troops had been killed, he added, noting that the Ukrainian figures were unverified.
Starstreak is a high-velocity missile designed to provide air defense against helicopters, low flying fixed wing jets and unmanned air vehicles out to a range upwards of 4 miles.
The British have fielded the weapon since 1997, first mounted on an armored vehicle, but more recently as a lightweight, multiple-missile launcher and in shoulder-launched configurations.
Starstreak is the second significant weapon system supplied to the Ukrainian military by the British recently.
Just ahead of the Russian invasion Royal Air Force C-17 airlifters delivered Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapons (NLAW) to Ukraine.
Like the Starstreak, the NLAW was built at a Thales UK factory just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, although the anti-tank weapon was largely developed by Saab in Sweden as a collaborative effort between the two countries.
Wallace updated lawmakers on the volume of NLAWs supplied to the Ukraine, saying Britain had initially provided 2000 weapons but had now increased that number to 3615 missiles, with efforts continuing to deliver more.
The weapons are coming from British military stockpiles. Wallace said work was underway to replenish them.
The weapons supply is part of a wider aid contribution from the British, which includes a big increase in humanitarian donations by the government.
Although Britain is pouring money into aid and the supply of weapons Wallace didn’t address the broader issue of increased defense spending during his statement.
The government announced a £16.5bn ($22.3bn) increase over four years in 2021, but a yet-bigger increase would appear to have broad support across Parliament.
The parliamentary Defence Committee has been advocating a substantial rise in Britain’s underfunded military for several years.
A plan for increased spending could come as soon as the next few weeks.
How much is enough is a difficult question, said John Louth, an independent defense analyst here.
“They will have to consider going back to the 1980s spending levels if not before,” he added. “Certainly I can see it going up to 3.5% of gross domestic product [from 2percent now], maybe a little more. The lesson from the Cold War though is that it’s no good doing that unless you are taking an integrated approach with allies.”
Like other analysts here Louth reckons the government’s integrated defense review, released just 12 months ago, will need a rethink, if not shredding, in the wake of the Russian invasion.
Louth said rethinking the role and capabilities of Britain’s shrinking army Army was the immediate priority.
“The British Army have to wake up to the fact that the future isn’t going to be exquisite, highly technical stand-off weapons. It is probably going to be lots of people in traditional looking vehicles with the ability to maneuver. It changes the sense of the Army just being a recruiting ground for the special forces,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
09 Mar 22. U.S. Doesn’t Want Warfare in Ukraine to Escalate, Says DOD Official. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III thanked Poland’s willingness to continue to look for ways to assist Ukraine, but he stressed that the U.S. does not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force at this time, said a Defense Department official. Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby spoke at a press conference today.
“The best way to support Ukrainian defense is by providing them the weapons and the systems that they need most to defeat Russian aggression; in particular, anti-armor and air defense,” he said.
“We, along with other nations, continue to send them these weapons and we know that they’re being used with great effect. The slowed Russian advance in the north. And the contested airspace over Ukraine is evidence alone of that,” he said.
Although Russian air capabilities are significant, their effectiveness has been limited due to Ukrainian strategic operational and tactical ground-based air defense systems, surface-to-air missiles and man-portable, air-defense systems, Kirby said.
The Ukrainian Air Force currently has several squadrons of fully mission capable aircraft, he said.
“We assess that adding aircraft to the Ukrainian inventory is not likely to significantly change the effectiveness of Ukrainian Air Force relative to Russian capabilities,” he said.
The intelligence community has assessed that the transfer of MiG 29 jets to Ukraine may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO, Kirby said.
“We are grateful for the superb support and cooperation of our Polish allies who continue to host thousands of our troops,” he said, along with millions of Ukrainian refugees.
“Polish generosity is clearly on display for the whole world to see,” he added.
“We know the Ukrainian Armed Forces, as well as average Ukrainian citizens are defending their country with great skill and bravery. We will continue to look for ways to help them do that,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
09 Mar 22. Budget deal would fully fund Defense Department, add $13.6bn in Ukraine aid. Congressional leaders on Wednesday unveiled a compromise budget bill which includes Defense Department funding for the rest of fiscal 2022 and $13.6bn extra in emergency assistance for Ukraine and NATO allies. Now they have to pass it. House and Senate appropriators worked late into the night on the $1.5trn measure, which includes $728.5bn in military spending for the year. That’s a 5.6 percent boost over fiscal 2021 funding levels, and above what President Joe Biden had requested in his federal spending plan. But Democratic leaders said the budget also includes an even larger boost (6.7 percent) for non-defense spending and represents a needed balancing of spending priorities for the government. In a statement, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the compromise plan “responsibly addresses our national security with funding for a robust mix of diplomacy, defense, and global development.” If lawmakers can finalize the deal in the next few days, they’ll both stave off a partial government shutdown (current agency funding is set to run out on March 11) and provide budget stability for the rest of fiscal 2022, which runs through Sept. 30. In recent months, Defense Department leaders have been forced to move money between various accounts to offset funding shortfalls caused by short-term budget extensions passed by Congress. The current fiscal year began on Oct. 1, meaning federal agencies have been operating without a permanent budget deal for nearly six months. The latest budget breakthrough will require lawmakers to pass one more short-term budget extension — through March 15 — to give lawmakers time to finalize the larger, year-long deal. Chamber leaders said they’ll work on that over the next few days.
In addition to the base budget, lawmakers added $13.6 bn to the budget package to provide additional aid and assistance to Ukraine and NATO countries alarmed by Russia’s aggression in eastern Europe over the last few weeks.
Ukrainian leaders have pressed for additional military and humanitarian aid to combat the full-scale Russian invasion of their country which began on Feb. 24. Since then, thousands of Russian troops, Ukrainian military members and Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the fighting.
Congress plans to divide the emergency funding among several agencies. About $6.5bn will go to the Department of Defense, with more than half of that total set aside to restore military stocks of equipment already transferred to Ukraine.
About $3.1bn will cover “deployment, operational, and intelligence costs” for U.S. forces deployed to Europe in response to the Russian actions. Nearly 15,000 American service members have been deployed to the region in support of NATO allies in recent weeks, but none have been sent into Ukraine itself.
The bill also funds the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative — used to help train and equip the Ukrainian military — at $300m.
The State Department will receive about $4bn for “the rapidly expanding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.” Officials say more than 12 m people in the region are in need of food, shelter, and other basic necessities because of shortages caused by the fighting.
Another $650m would be provided for military support and “an expansion of existing authorities to bolster the defense capabilities of the Ukrainian military and regional allies.”
Other money would be set aside to enforce sanctions against Russia for the military assault and for economic assistance for Ukraine and other European allies.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the plan “provides critical assistance to Ukraine and our NATO allies at a time when they need it the most.” DeLauro echoed that sentiment, saying American lawmakers must react to “Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression” against its neighbor.
The military spending totals in the budget compromise bill include funding for the 2.7 percent military pay raise that went into effect on January 1 and enough personnel support for an end strength of 1.34 m troops, slightly below the fiscal 2021 total.
Lawmakers also included $278m in housing assistance for military families facing rental cost increases and other housing issues caused by ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and $686 m to deal with the continuing water contamination issue linked to the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii.
About $1.4bn would be set aside for “Countering China and investing in the Indo-Pacific,” to include new missile tracking efforts in the region and establishing new defense monitoring stations in Hawaii and Guam.
For the Navy, lawmakers agreed to $26.7bn for 13 Naval vessels, including two VIrginia-Class submarines, two DDG- 51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers, one Constellation-Class frigate, one expeditionary sea base, two fast transports (including one medical variant), two oilers, two tugs, and one surveillance ship.
Navy and Marine aircraft procurement accounts rose more than $1 billon above Biden’s request, for 12 more F/A-18E/F Hornets, two more CH-53K King Stallions, four added MV-22 Ospreys and two more MQ-4 Tritons.
The Navy’s Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan won more than $500m above Biden’s request, largely split between industrial equipment and facility renovations.
For the Air Force, appropriators highlighted $1.8bn to buy 16 C-130J aircraft to modernize two Air National Guard operational wings. They added eight UH-N1 replacement aircraft and four MQ-9s among other moves.
For the Army, appropriators added about $500 m for Army aircraft, chiefly to add more UH-60 Blackhawks, CH-47 Chinooks and Grey Eagle drones. They also added more than $300m for Stryker and Abrams upgrades.
The bill’s security assistance funding included a sought-after $1bn for Israel to replenish the Iron Dome missile defense system, used earlier this year to counter rockets fired at the Jewish State from Gaza.
In addition to the Ukraine aid, the new defense budget plan also contains more money for other security cooperation programs, including $165 m for coordination with African nations, $500m to support Iraqi security forces, and $300m for work with Eastern European partners “facing Russian aggression.”
Veterans Affairs funding
Under the compromise budget, the Department of Veterans Affairs would see nearly $270 bn in available spending this fiscal year, the largest budget in agency history.
In fiscal 2001, the VA budget totaled about $45 bn. By fiscal 2011, it was about $125 bn, almost triple that total. Ten years later, in 2021, the department’s budget was nearly double that again, at $245 bn.
The new funding plan would invest more money in mental health care initiatives ($13.2 bn, up 28 percent from fiscal 2021), efforts to prevent veterans homelessness ($2.2 bn, up 12 percent) and women’s health care programs ($840 m, up 14 percent).
The plan also calls for $1.4 bn in spending for VA’s caregiver support programs, up about 14 percent from last year. The program is scheduled to undergo a major expansion this fall, potentially adding tens of thousands more veterans.
Lawmakers also allotted more money for major and minor construction projects (up 23 percent and 40 percent, respectively), but the roughly $2.1bn in total spending for those accounts still falls short of what advocates say is needed to update the department’s aging infrastructure.
Both chambers were expected to begin debate on the budget plans on Wednesday. The White House has already signaled support for getting the compromise finalized as soon as possible.
“The bipartisan funding bill is proof that both parties can come together to deliver for the American people and advance critical national priorities,” Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement.
“It will mean historic levels of assistance for the Ukrainian people … I urge Congress to send this critical legislation to the president’s desk for signature without delay.” (Source: Defense News)
09 Mar 22. For two days, Ukrainian air defense destroys eight air targets in Kyiv region, JFO area – AFU Air Forces Command. In two days, air defense systems of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces destroyed at least eight air targets in the area of the Joint Force Operation (JFO) and Kyiv region, the Air Force Command said.
“Over the past two days on March 8 and 9, the air defense systems of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed at least eight air targets in the area of the Joint Force Operation and Kyiv region. Fighter aircraft, units of the S-300 and Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile forces destroyed 4 attack aircraft Su-25, two helicopters of the Russian invaders, there is also confirmation of two downed cruise missiles,” the AFU said on Facebook.
Thus, according to operational estimates, there are such losses of enemy aircraft: aircraft – 56, helicopters – 82 units. (Source: News Now/https://en.interfax.com.ua/)
09 Mar 22. U.S., Finland Work Closely to Aid Ukraine, Defend Europe. In yet another sign of the world’s revulsion of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen told Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III that “in these troubled times, Finland stands ready to work together with the United States.” During Pentagon meetings today, Kaikkonen and Austin looked at ways to deepen the already strong sense of cooperation between the two nations. Kaikkonen told Austin that Finland was shocked at Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine. His nation, which shares a long border with Russia, is working with NATO and the European Union in response to the Russian invasion.
Austin, too, highlighted the need for more cooperation in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “war of choice” in Ukraine. The defense secretary expressed his admiration for the fight that Ukraine is making against the Russian invaders. “Their courage inspires all of us,” Austin said. “Now, all of us must, likewise, stand with Ukraine and stand up for the rules-based international system that we built together some 75 years ago. Your government’s decision to send assistance will certainly help the brave people of Ukraine, and I know that they’re grateful for it.”
The U.S.-Finnish bilateral relationship began almost 30 years ago when Finland upgraded its air force with U.S. F/A-18 Hornet jets. “Today, I’m looking forward to strengthening that relationship, and starting a process of new avenues of bilateral defense cooperation, including space and irregular warfare,” Austin said.
Kaikkonen said he and Austin would have a serious discussion on the defense of Europe. “Once again, United States has played a crucial role in strengthening deterrence through NATO and bilaterally,” he said at the beginning of the meeting. “In spite of, and even because of, these pressing issues, we need to think long term,” he said. “The war in Ukraine has profound implications for your security, for NATO, for Finland. This is not the European crisis, this is a global crisis.” (Source: US DoD)
09 Mar 22. Defense Official Says Russia Hasn’t Gained Superiority Over Ukraine. With little change in operations from yesterday, the Russians have still not gained superiority over the entirety of Ukraine, a senior Defense Department official said today.
On day 14 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, DOD officials have noted more than 710 missile launches of all varieties, nearly evenly split from being launched inside Ukraine and from Russia, the official said.
“We do believe that around Kharkiv, are reassessed to be just outside the city now. They appear to have gained about 20 km worth of distance. still heavy, heavy fighting there. We don’t assess that they’ve taken the city by any means, but they have closed in on it,” he said.
“The same can be said a little bit about Mykolayiv, down in the south . We didn’t see them over the last 24 hours advance farther to the north of Mykolayiv, and we estimate they’re about 15 km away, but to the north of Mykolayiv. And they have increased their shelling of the city.”
DOD continues to consult with its Polish counterparts, the official said, and referred to a department spokesman’s statement from last night. In part, the statement said:
“We are now in contact with the Polish government …. the decision about whether to transfer Polish-owned planes to Ukraine is ultimately one for the Polish government. We will continue consulting with our allies and partners about our ongoing security assistance to Ukraine because, in fact, Poland’s proposal shows just some of the complexities this issue presents. The prospect of fighter jets ‘at the disposal of the government of the United States of America’ departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance. It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it. We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one.”
“We believe we are working very hard to get the Ukrainians the capabilities they need, and that they are using with great effect. That’s what our focus is on,” the DOD official said. “They do have fixed-wing aircraft available to them; the majority of their fleet is still intact and operable. As I said, the airspace is contested … the Russians have surface-to-air missile umbrellas that virtually cover the whole country.” (Source: US DoD)