Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Daily on Defense: Putin on Ukraine’s counteroffensive, House takes up DOD budget, Tuberville prods Schumer, White House defends Iran deal

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PUTIN: 'THERE ARE NO RESULTS': As Russian President Vladimir Putin offers Kim Jong Un help with North Korea's space program in return for desperately needed artillery ammunition, Putin continues to project outward confidence that Ukraine's counteroffensive is failing and that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will eventually be forced to sue for peace.

"Let's refrain from calling it a failure or not a failure. There are no results. There have been significant losses. Since the start of the counteroffensive, they have lost 71,500 troops," Putin said at a session of the Eastern Economic Forum. "They have suffered significant losses, including 543 tanks and nearly 18,000 armored vehicles of various classes."

"It appears that they want, as their Western curators are telling them, to bite off as much territory as they can, pardon my language. And then, when all resources, both personnel and equipment and ammunition, are close to zero, they will seek to stop the hostilities," Putin continued, "but use these talks only to buy time and to replenish their resources."

Putin repeated "boilerplate information operations" and likely presented "very inflated numbers of claimed Ukrainian personnel and equipment losses" to falsely frame the Ukrainian counteroffensive as "a failed endeavor," the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment.


ATTACK ON SEVASTOPOL: Meanwhile, fires burned this morning in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, the main base for Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the result of what appears to have been a pre-dawn attack by Ukrainian sea-borne drones.

The attack damaged two ships undergoing repairs and wounded two dozen people, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

It is not the first attack Ukraine has mounted against Russian ships in port or at sea around Crimea, but it's not lost on observers that it's the kind of operation SpaceX CEO Elon Musk blocked last September by denying Ukraine access to his Starlink internet service for fear of sparking World War III.

"I think we need an investigation both from the Department of Defense and from Congress to look into the arrangement with Elon Musk and his company that would give him the ability to, in effect, turn off or restrict in any way access for Ukraine or anyone else in contravention of specific policies of the United States of America," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said on CNN. "No one is supposed to make foreign policy for the United States other than the United States government. It is not up to one billionaire to go off in secret and change our foreign policy."

In interviews this week, Musk biographer Walter Isaacson corrected the version of the story he revealed in his just-published book, in which he said Musk switched off access to Starlink just as Ukraine was launching an attack on Sevastopol. "I made a mistake," Isaacson said on Fox. "But I think it's the same point, which is he decided not to allow Starlink to be used for this offensive attack."

"But the main thing is, this one person had a lot of power," Isaacson said while questioning why the U.S. military can't build satellites that can withstand Russian hacking. "Starlink was the only one who could withstand the hacking. So, he was the only way they could communicate. He had sent a whole lot of Starlinks to help the Ukrainians, but then he had decided, secretly, without telling the Ukrainians … that it wasn't going to be able to be used for an offensive attack. And he considered Crimea to be an offensive attack. Of course, the Ukrainians considered Crimea to be part of their territory."


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 Conrad Hoyt. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn't work, shoot us an email and we'll add you to our list. And be sure to follow me on Threads and/or on X @jamiejmcintyre



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HAPPENING TODAY: Elon Musk will be among the headliners appearing at a closed-door confab on artificial intelligence, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The AI Insight Forum, Schumer said last week, "will be one of the most important conversations of the year."

"It will be a meeting unlike any other that we have seen in the Senate in a very long time, perhaps ever: a coming together of top voices in business, civil rights, defense, research, labor, the arts, all together, in one room, having a much-needed conversation about how Congress can tackle AI."

The list of participants includes Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft; Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI; Rumman Chowdhury, CEO of Humane Intelligence; Clement Delangue, CEO of Hugging Face; Eric Fanning, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association; Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology; Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia; Alex Karp, co-founder and CEO of Palantir; Arvind Krishna, CEO of IBM; Janet Murguia, president of UnidosUS; Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft; Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google; Deborah Raji, researcher at the University of California, Berkeley; Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association; Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google; Elizabeth Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO; Meredith Stiehm, president of the Writers Guild of America West; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Maya Wiley, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights; and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta.


ALSO TODAY: The House meets at 10 a.m. to begin consideration of the fiscal 2024 defense appropriations bill, which, in its current version, is strongly opposed by President Joe Biden and faces a veto threat.

The House Rules Committee sent the bill, with its 183 amendments, to the floor on a vote of 8-5 last night.

The bill, which contains provisions to rescind the Pentagon's abortion travel policy and gut its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, as well as defund surgery and hormone treatments for transgender troops, is opposed by House Democrats and virtually certain not to pass the Senate.


TUBERVILLE: 'YOUR MOVE, CHUCK SCHUMER': At yesterday's Senate confirmation hearing for Gen. David Allvin to be Air Force chief of staff, Sen. Tommy Tuberville threw out an offer to Schumer: bring Allvin's nomination to the floor, and he'll vote for him.

Tuberville also called for a floor vote on Gen. Charles Q. Brown to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "This job is too important not to receive consideration by the Senate or to simply be confirmed without a vote," he said.

"Coach Tuberville's position has not changed," Tuberville's office said in an email. "The Biden Administration's abortion-related travel policy is illegal. If Chuck Schumer is truly concerned about 'military readiness,' he should either get the White House to change the policy, or he can bring the nominations before the floor," Mallory Blount Jaspers, Tuberville's deputy communications director, said.

Yesterday, Schumer continued to resist Tuberville's calls for individual floor votes for the more than 300 officers whose promotions have been placed on hold, saying it would break with longstanding practice and consume an inordinate amount of Senate time.

"Look, the bottom line is this is a Republican problem," Schumer said. "Don't pawn it off on us. It was created by Tuberville solely himself and it's up to the Republicans to put pressure on him to back off, plain and simple."


UKRAINE AID IN JEOPARDY: Among the demands of far-right House Republicans is an end to military assistance to Ukraine.

Schumer said he's in lockstep with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that continuing aid to Ukraine is vital. "Leader McConnell and I have a very similar view on this. We think Ukraine aid is extremely important. We're going to do everything we can to do it," Schumer said yesterday.

"My guess is a majority in the House, if you just had a vote on the floor of the House, would support Ukraine aid, probably even a majority of Republican House members, although I haven't counted those," Schumer said. "And so we're going to push very hard for Ukraine aid because, look, Ukraine is struggling, they need the help, they're making some progress. It would be really wrong to shut that aid off just at a time when they're making some progress."

In a post on X, McConnell addressed the criticism that there is not sufficient oversight of how Ukraine is using the weaponry supplied by the U.S. "America's lethal aid to Ukraine is subject to unprecedented oversight," McConnell posted. "Extensive transparency and reporting requirements are giving the United States a deeper understanding of how our weapons are being used in Ukraine than in any previous conflict."

DEFENDING THE IRAN DEAL: The Biden administration is defending the deal that will unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues as a "tough decision" necessary to bring home five unjustly detained Americans after years in prison in Tehran.

"We're going to get five people back, five Americans that will be able to come home, be with their families, where they belong, and get them out of that evil Evin Prison," said NSC spokesman John Kirby on Fox. "Americans need to know that we're going to continue to look out for them over there — it means you have got to make some tough decisions. It means you have got to make some negotiations and you have got to make some compromises. And this is what it took to get these five Americans home."

The Biden administration insists the $6 billion comes with strings attached. "They can only use this money for humanitarian purposes," said Kirby. "And we will have the ability to stop transactions if we don't think they're going in the right direction."

But in an interview with NBC, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that's not their understanding. "This money belongs to the Islamic Republic of Iran," Raisi told Lester Holt. "And, naturally, we will decide, the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide to spend it wherever we need it."

"He's wrong. I mean, I don't know how else to put it. He's just wrong," said Kirby when confronted by the quote. "That's not the way the deal has been structured, and that's not the way these funds are going to get disbursed."

Republicans continue to argue that the deal will only lead to more hostage-taking in the future. "Let's remind everyone, in addition to the billions of dollars, they're also getting five Iranians back, and I can't get a straight answer on who these Iranians were, what they did, what their value is," Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) said in a separate appearance on Fox.

"While my heart breaks for these families and I'm sure that their hearts are beating through their chest right now to get their loved ones back, this is only going to incentivize future hostage-taking," Waltz said. "I mean, to the point, there is only upside for taking Americans hostage. There is no downside."


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Schumer AI forum draws ire of Big Tech foes in the Senate

Washington Examiner: US views China as biggest threat in cybersecurity, DOD warns

Washington Examiner: Vladimir Putin pleased Trump indictments reveal 'the rotten American political system'

Washington Examiner: Elon Musk's involvement in stopping Ukraine attack raises questions about military contracts

Washington Examiner: Biden Air Force pick says Tuberville hold hurting recruitment as branch falls short of goals

Washington Examiner: Kim Jong Un arrives by train in Russia for Putin meeting about arms deals

Washington Examiner: Opinion: US should help the Philippines replace the BRP Sierra Madre

AP: North Korea's Kim vows full support for Russia's 'sacred fight' after viewing launchpads with Putin

Yonhap: N. Korea Fires 2 Short-Range Ballistic Missiles Into East Sea Ahead Of Kim-Putin Summit

The War Zone: Sweden Considering Donating JAS 39 Gripens To Ukraine: Report

Reuters: Ukraine's Antonov Turns To Drones In Response To Russian Invasion

New York Times: Russia Overcomes Sanctions To Expand Missile Production, Officials Say

Wall Street Journal: Chinese Warships Gather In Pacific

AP: Taiwan Says China Is Bolstering Coastline Military Bases Facing the Self-Ruled Island

Defense News: China, Russia Will Use Cyber to Sow Chaos If War Starts, Pentagon Says

Defense One: Space Force Needs More Cyber Operators for Weapons Systems, Chief Says Air Force Says It Remains Confident in Osprey Aircraft Despite Recent Deadly Mishaps

Breaking Defense: Quantum Clocks Could Revolutionize Precision Warfare Within a Decade: Experts

DefenseScoop: Air Force Research Lab Explores Entanglement Distribution, a Key to Future Quantum Networks

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Saltzman Reveals New Space Units That Put Operations and Sustainment Under One Roof

Air & Space Forces Magazine: CSAF Shows Off New Images of the B-21; Raider Begins Engine Runs

Air & Space Forces Magazine: ACC Boss: Russia and China Are Intercepting USAF Aircraft as 'Batting Practice'

Air & Space Forces Magazine: At Nomination Hearing, Allvin Says Chance to Be CSAF 'Comes at a Very Important Time'

Inside Defense: LaPlante Makes Case for Production Readiness to Drive Contract Awards, Highlights Replicator

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Air Force 'Very Opposed' to Lawmakers' Proposed Cost Limits for CCAs

Air & Space Forces Magazine: 'Change Must Continue': Brown Reflects on Time as Air Force Chief of Staff

Air Force Times: Air Force Creates Task Forces to Pilot Modern Deployments

The Cipher Brief: What's Impacting Assurance in the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile?



8:15 a.m. 165 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Maryland — Air and Space Forces Association Air, Space & Cyber Conference, with Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass; and Adm. Christopher Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

8:30 a.m. Fort Moore, Georgia — Army 2023 Maneuver Warfighter Conference with Army Gen. James Rainey, commanding general, U.S. Army Futures Command

9 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: "What's next for Ukraine's 2023 counteroffensive?" with former Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk, fellow at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center; former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, senior director of the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center; and Debra Cagan, senior adviser at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center

9 a.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual discussion on a new report: "Strengthening the Shield: Japan's Defense Transformation and the U.S.-Japan Alliance," with Zack Cooper, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; Jimbo Ken, managing director of the International House of Japan; Yuki Tatsumi, director of the Stimson Center's Japan Program; Jacob Stokes, senior fellow at the CNAS's Indo-Pacific Security Program; and Joshua Fitt, associate fellow at the CNAS's Indo-Pacific Security Program

10 a.m. — Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies Brzezinski Lecture Series event, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken

10 a.m. 2128 Rayburn — House Financial Services Committee hearing: "Oversight of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. and Other Efforts to Strengthen National Security in the U.S."

11 a.m. — Washington Post Live virtual book discussion of Elon Musk, with author Walter Isaacson

12:30 p.m. — Atlantic Council discussion: "Three years on: The regional impact and future of the Abraham Accords," with Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL); Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN); Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC); Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC); Bahrain Ambassador to the U.S. Abdullah bin Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa; National Security Council Senior Director for the Middle East Army Lt. Gen. Terry Wolff; and David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Koret Project on Arab-Israel Relations

1:30 p.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual discussion: "Cyber Resiliency: Discussing the 2023 DOD Cyber Strategy," with John Plumb, assistant defense secretary for space policy; Mieke Eoyang, deputy assistant defense secretary for cyber policy; and Richard Fontaine, CEO of CNAS

2:30 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Wilson Center Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies discussion: "Scenarios for Post-Putin Russia," with Sergey Aleksashenko, member of the Anti-War Committee of Russia; Vladislav Inozemtsev, special adviser at the Middle East Media Research Institute; Denis Bilunov, researcher at the Charles University in Prague; and Irina Olimpieva, founder and executive director of the Center for Independent Social Research in the USA


9:30 a.m. G-50 Dirksen — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be chief of naval operations

10 a.m. HVC-210, U.S. Capitol — House Foreign Affairs Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia Subcommittee hearing: "Iran's Escalating Threats: Assessing U.S. Policy Toward Iran's Malign Activities," with testimony from Norman Roule, former national intelligence manager for Iran; Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Masih Alinejad, author and activist; and Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution

11 a.m. — National Endowment for Democracy virtual book discussion: Beijing Rules: How China Weaponized Its Economy to Confront the World, with author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, China reporter at Axios

1 p.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual discussion: "The Ukrainian Counter-Offensive: Implications for U.S. Policy," with Dara Massicot, senior fellow at the CEIP Russia and Eurasia Program; Michael Kofman, senior fellow at the CEIP Russia and Eurasia Program; and Aaron David Miller, CEIP senior fellow

1:30 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion: "Integration of the U.S. Missile Defense Enterprise," with William Greenwalt, nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; and Roger Kodat, senior project director of the National Academy of Public Administration


9 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW — Brookings Institution discussion: "Ukraine, the West, and the World: Breaking Point or Transformational Moment?"

9:30 a.m. 2401 M St., NW — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group conversation with Mieke Eoyang, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy. RSVP: Thom Shanker

11 a.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual fireside chat of CNAS report: "'Production is Deterrence': Investing in Precision-Guided Munitions to Meet Peer Challengers," with William LaPlante, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment; and moderator Stacie Pettyjohn, senior fellow and director of the CNAS Defense Program


"I believe there will be no fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy towards Russia, regardless of who becomes president. It is true that we hear Mr. Trump say he can resolve many serious problems, including the Ukraine crisis, in a few days. Well, that is something to be happy about. It would be good."
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum Tuesday.
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