Daily on Defense: Austin in Kyiv, possible hostage deal, the Biden-Xi summit, and Biden turns 81

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AUSTIN IN KYIV: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Kyiv this morning for meetings with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials on an unannounced visit intended to reassure Ukraine that despite dysfunction in Congress, America will not abandon its commitment to aid Ukraine as long as it takes to defend its sovereignty against Russian aggression.

"I'm here today to deliver an important message," Austin posted on X, formerly Twitter. "The United States will continue to stand with Ukraine in their fight for freedom against Russia's aggression, both now and into the future."

The Pentagon said Sunday that ahead of his overnight train trip from Poland to the Ukrainian capital, Austin conferred by phone with Defense Minister Rustem Umerov to discuss "the latest battlefield developments in Ukraine," as well as plans for the next Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting to be held virtually later this week, during which additional military aid will be announced.

With winter setting in, the battlelines in Ukraine have been largely static in recent weeks, despite pitched battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces in the east.

"Over the last week, the most intense ground combat has been taking place in three areas," the British Defense Ministry said in a post on X. "Neither side has achieved substantial progress in any of these areas. Russia continues to suffer particularly heavy casualties around Avdiivka. … As colder winter weather sets in earnest in eastern Ukraine, there are few immediate prospects of major changes in the frontline."

But Zelensky insists the war is not at a stalemate. "For some reason, people treat it like a movie and expect that there will be no long pauses in the events, that the picture before their eyes will always change, that there will be some surprises every day," Zelensky said at a meeting today with Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch. "But for us, for our warriors, this is not a movie. These are our lives. This is daily hard work. And it will not be over as quickly as we would like, but we have no right to give up, and we will not."

BIDEN: 'AMERICA WILL LEAD': In an essay published in the Washington Post on Sunday, President Joe Biden argued the United States is "the essential nation" and has a duty "to solve the problems of our time."

"That is the duty of leadership, and America will lead," Biden argued. "We know from two world wars in the past century that when aggression in Europe goes unanswered, the crisis does not burn itself out. It draws America in directly. That's why our commitment to Ukraine today is an investment in our own security. It prevents a broader conflict tomorrow."

"We are keeping American troops out of this war by supporting the brave Ukrainians defending their freedom and homeland. We are providing them with weapons and economic assistance to stop Putin's drive for conquest, before the conflict spreads farther," Biden wrote. "The United States is not doing this alone. More than 50 nations have joined us to ensure that Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself. Our partners are shouldering much of the economic responsibility for supporting Ukraine."

Since the war began in February 2022, Ukraine has received more than $44 billion in military assistance from the U.S. and more than $35 billion from other countries.

FUNDS RUNNING LOW: Whatever new U.S. arms package is announced this week, it's likely to be smaller than some of the billion-dollar packages of the past year. The reason is that with additional authorization from Congress, the Pentagon is running low on available funds.

The Pentagon has about $5 billion in "drawdown authority," that is to say, the ability to send weapons and ammunition from current stocks. But it needs Congress to allocate money to replace what is sent to Ukraine.

The Biden administration has requested $61 billion in Ukraine aid for the current fiscal year, with about half of that going to U.S. defense contractors to replenish U.S. military stockpiles. But aid for Ukraine is stalled in the House of Representatives, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) wants to link Ukraine aid to Republican priorities to beef up security on the border with Mexico.

The Biden administration also wants aid for border security, about $14 billion worth, but the competing proposals are starkly different. House Republicans want to resume building a border wall and sharply restrict the ability of immigrants to claim asylum. The Biden plan would fund 1,300 Border Patrol agents, 375 immigration judge teams, 1,600 asylum officers, and over 100 fentanyl detection machines.


Good Monday 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 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 me on Threads and/or on X @jamiejmcintyre


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HAPPENING TODAY: Joe Biden, the oldest president in U.S. history, turns 81 today. According to the White House, the only thing on his schedule, aside from his regular daily intelligence brief, is the annual tradition of pardoning a pair of Thanksgiving turkeys in a South Lawn ceremony at 11:15 a.m.

POSSIBLE HOSTAGE DEAL: Israel and Hamas are reportedly close to reaching a deal for a temporary ceasefire so that some hostages can be released, but in a series of appearances on Sunday shows, Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser, cautioned there is "no deal currently in place."

"There will be a time and a place to lay out more detail about exactly what was agreed, if we get to an agreement, and exactly how this came about. But that time isn't now, when we are still in the throes of a lot of back and forth to try to finish this deal," Finer said on CNN.

"What I can say about this at this time is, we think that we are closer than we have been perhaps at any point since these negotiations began weeks ago," he said. "But the mantra that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed certainly applies here to such a sensitive negotiation."

"What I will say is, President Biden feels no higher obligation, no higher priority than the safety and security of Americans, all Americans here in the homeland, Americans overseas, but certainly Americans who are held in such a horrific and dangerous condition as those who are being held hostage in Gaza right now."


AT LEAST THEY'RE TALKING: One of the few deliverables that came from Biden's summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week in California, aside from a promise of more pandas, was an agreement to resume military-to-military communications to avoid miscalculation and foster cooperation at a time when tensions between the U.S. and China are at a low point.

"We shouldn't underestimate how bad the relationship has been, how difficult it is not just now but I think in the future," retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on ABC. "The meeting was a big deal, and in particular, as we've talked about how bad the military-to-military communications issue was, now that it's reestablished, to me, that's a big accomplishment."

"I think the military-to-military communications actually was important," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Fox News. "I was with Adm. [John] Aquilino, he is commander of INDOPACOM, the Pacific, and he told me, I can't even pick up the phone and talk to my counterpart in China."

"But there's a little bit of a problem," McCaul added. "They don't have a minister of defense in China. He has disappeared under Chairman Xi's reign, which kind of calls into question whether you can trust China on this stuff."


'WE HAVE NO CHOICE': The chairman and ranking member of the bipartisan House select committee on the Chinese Communist Party are warning that it's imperative that Congress approve the $4 billion that the Biden administration has requested for Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific allies to counter China.

"One thing that went almost unreported amidst Biden and Xi's summit is that Xi tripled down on his threats to Taiwan. He reportedly said to the president in their meeting that peace and stability in the region are less important than solving the Taiwan question," Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) said on CBS. "This should remind us that no amount of relentless diplomacy will make a difference if we don't fix the fundamental problem, which is that the balance of hard power across the strait and throughout the Indo-Pacific region is eroding, and with it, the risk of war is increasing."

"We have no choice. We have to pass this," ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) said in a joint appearance with Gallagher on Face the Nation. "The president's absolutely correct to ask for this funding, not only for Taiwan but for Ukraine, as well as Israel and other priorities. They're all inextricably linked. We have to make sure that we send the right message to Xi Jinping."

THE $40,000 A PLATE DINNER FOR XI: Both Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi denounced a dinner that Xi attended with some of the biggest CEOs in the United States, including from Blackstone, KKR, Pfizer, Boeing, FedEx, Apple, and BlackRock.

"Forty thousand dollars to eat coffee-rubbed flank steak and sip Cakebread sauvignon blanc with Xi Jinping. And what's worse than that is the fact that they gave him a standing ovation," Gallagher said. "This a communist dictator who's committed a genocide in Xinjiang, who's committing a cultural genocide in Tibet, who has completely destroyed civil society in Hong Kong, who's risking, as we just talked about, provoking World War III."

"To give him a standing ovation. And what's even worse than that is it wasn't just the people you'd expect, like Tim Cook from Apple or BlackRock. It was American defense contractors," Gallagher added. "All the more reason why Congress, I think, needs to step up to cut off the flow of U.S. capital to Chinese military companies."

"That particular dinner left a bad taste in my mouth. I don't think that people were paying $40,000 for the coffee-crusted steaks. They were paying for access," said Krishnamoorthi. "I'm very glad to be working with Mike on ways to work with the Biden administration to reduce our investments in entities in China that are fueling the PLA's military modernization and human rights abuses."


THE FENTANYL PROMISE: The other deliverable from the Biden-Xi summit was a promise by China to stop shipping precursor chemicals for deadly fentanyl to Mexico.

"That's probably about as valuable as Xi Jinping's promises to Joe Biden's old boss, Barack Obama, that China would stop cyberattacks or that they wouldn't put rockets and missiles on the islands they built in the South China Sea," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said on Fox News.

"On the fentanyl cooperation, I'm skeptical," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) said in a separate Fox interview. "And what they did in exchange, the Biden administration removed the Institute of Forensic Science from what's called our entities list, our sanction list. What did they do? They take biometrics and genetic information from the Uyghur Muslims and transport them to the forced labor camps."

McCaul said the trade-off showed a disregard for human rights: "I'm not sure if this administration is into that."


XI'S TAIWAN THREAT: 'REUNIFICATION IS UNSTOPPABLE': In a readout of Xi's four-hour meeting with Biden from China's Foreign Affairs Ministry, the language on Taiwan was unyielding. Xi was said to have told Biden that "the Taiwan question remains the most important and most sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations."

"The U.S. side should take real actions to honor its commitment of not supporting 'Taiwan independence,' stop arming Taiwan, and support China's peaceful reunification," the readout said. "China will realize reunification, and this is unstoppable."

In a briefing Friday, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning was even more blunt. "The U.S. needs to deliver on its pledge of not supporting 'Taiwan independence' with concrete actions, stop arming Taiwan, stop interfering in China's internal affairs, and support China's peaceful reunification."


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: US and China agree to restart military communications after Biden-Xi meeting

Washington Examiner: Biden's Xi Jinping dictator reference 'extremely wrong and irresponsible,' China says

Washington Examiner: Biden official claims Hamas hostage deal 'closer than we have been at any point'

Washington Examiner: Palestinian civilians in Gaza face 'immediate possibility of starvation,' WFP says

Washington Examiner: Nearly 60 US troops injured in 55 attacks in Iraq and Syria in a month

Washington Examiner: Esper says US retaliation strikes against Iranian proxies in Syria not 'forceful enough'

Washington Examiner: Biden approval rating hits new low amid foreign policy challenges: Poll

Washington Examiner: Pompeo 'surprised' Biden administration is retaining Pentagon worker with Iran sympathies

Washington Examiner: Ukraine is facing an existential threat: The House GOP

Washington Examiner: Air Force's new nuclear stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, takes first test flight

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Osama bin Laden worship has to be the bottom, right?

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Consider Osama bin Laden's full letter, not TikTok videos

Wall Street Journal: Israel Shifts To Tougher Phase Of Its Gaza War

AP: Yemen's Houthi rebels hijack an Israeli-linked ship in the Red Sea and take 25 crew members hostage

AP: How the US strikes a delicate balance in responding to attacks on its forces by Iran-backed militias

AP: The world's attention is on Gaza, and Ukrainians worry war fatigue will hurt their cause

Breaking Defense: Still Ways to Go Before Mil-to-Mil Talks with China Restart: NSC Official

Defense One: Missile-Defense Platform Shows Warming Relations Between Japan, S Korea

Wall Street Journal: Era Of Total U.S. Submarine Dominance Over China Is Ending

Reuters: Australia Criticizes China For 'Unsafe, Unprofessional' Naval Interaction

Washington Post: Russia frees killers from prison to go to war and kill in Ukraine

Bloomberg: F-16 Shipments to Taiwan at 'High Risk' of Delays, Lawmakers Say

Bloomberg: Boeing Is at Risk for Still More Delays — and Losses — for Costly Air Force One Planes

The Atlantic: The U.S. Government UFO Cover-Up Is Real—But It's Not What You Think

Washington Post: No, Iran didn't deliberately avoid hitting a U.S. base, as Trump claims

Task & Purpose: 75th Ranger combat camera releases video on Afghan withdrawal

Air & Space Forces Magazine: In First Speech as Chief, Allvin Touts 'DNA' of Airpower in Responding to Pacing Challenge

Air & Space Forces Magazine: 'Not Just Coders': Why USSF's In-House Software Developers Are Key to a Digital Service

Air & Space Forces Magazine: NATO Picks E-7 as Its New AWACS; Six Aircraft to Start

Space News: Space Force Eyes a Future of Speed and Agility in Orbit

Space.com: SpaceX's 2nd Starship Launch Test Looks Amazing in These Stunning Photos and Videos

The War Zone: Electronic Warfare System Hunting Drones Wanted By SOCOM

DefenseScoop: Pentagon Unveils New Strategy for Operating in the Information Environment

Alaska Beacon: US Military Quietly Revokes Planned Contract for Small Nuclear Plant at Alaska Air Force Base

Forbes: If Ukraine Military Aid Is Cut, Some GOP Districts Will Be Big Losers

Forbes: Opinion: Israel Crisis Signals Need To Bolster U.S. Homeland Security—Including Internet Infrastructure



9:30 a.m. — Henry L. Stimson Center virtual discussion: "American Portrait: Taiwan's Perspective on U.S.-Taiwan-China Relations," with James Lee, assistant research fellow at Academia Sinica's Institute of European and American Studies, and Hsin-Hsin Pan, professor of sociology at Soochow University https://www.stimson.org/event/american-portrait-taiwans-perspective

10 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: "APEC 2023: Analysis and Outcomes," with Jude Blanchette, CSIS chairman in China studies; Scott Kennedy, CSIS chairman in Chinese business and economics; and Bonny Lin, director of the CSIS China Power Project https://www.csis.org/events/apec-2023-analysis-and-outcomes

3:30 p.m. 37th and O Sts. NW — Georgetown University discussion: "The Current Situation in Ukraine: Prospects for War Termination," with William Taylor, vice president of the U.S. Institute of Peace Russia and Europe Center, and Mary Glantz, senior adviser at the USIP Russia and Europe Center https://www.georgetown.edu/event/the-current-situation-in-ukraine


9 a.m. 2401 M St., NW. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group conversation with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks https://nationalsecuritymedia.gwu.edu/events

9 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: "The Republic of Turkey Turns 100," with Cansu Camlibel, editor-in-chief of Duvar English; Sinan Ulgen, director of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy and senior fellow at Carnegie Europe; Defne Arslan, senior director of the Atlantic Council in Turkey; and Pinar Dost, nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Turkey https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/the-republic-of-turkey-turns-100/

10 a.m. — Wilson Center virtual discussion: "The World in Wartimes," with Robert Daly, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Kissinger Institute on China and the U.S., and Robin Wright, columnist for the New Yorker and fellow at the Wilson Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace https://engage.wilsoncenter.org/a/world-wartime

12 p.m. — Wilson Center Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies and the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs virtual discussion: "Is Russia's Influence in Central Asia in Decline?" with Edward Lemon, president of the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs; Theresa Sabonis-Helf, professor at Georgetown University; Temur Umarov, fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center; and Kasiet Ysmanova, director of the Central Asia Barometer https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/russias-influence-central-asia-decline


2:15 p.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW — American Enterprise Institute discussion: "Election Day in the Netherlands," with Netherlands Ambassador to the U.S. Birgitta Tazelaar; Arthur van Benthem, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania; Matthias Matthijs, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies; Constanze Stelzenmuller, director of the Brookings Institution's Center on the U.S. and Europe; Erik Voeten, professor at Georgetown University; and Stan Veuger, AEI senior fellow https://www.aei.org/events/election-day-in-the-netherlands


Federal holiday — No Daily on Defense


Thanksgiving weekend — No Daily on Defense


6 a.m. EST Brussels, Belgium — Press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events


5 a.m. EST Brussels, Belgium — "Doorstep statement" by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as the meeting of foreign ministers at NATO Headquarters begins https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events

10:30 a.m. EST Brussels, Belgium — Press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the end of the first day of the meeting of NATO foreign ministers https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events


5:30 a.m. EST — Press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the conclusion of the two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events

3 p.m. — Advanced Nuclear Weapons Alliance Deterrence Center virtual forum: "Understanding the Modernization of the Land-based Leg of the U.S. Strategic Nuclear Deterrent, LGM-35A Sentinel," with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, and Air Force Brig. Gen. Colin Connor, director of ICBM Modernization https://www.eventbrite.com/e/us-strategic-nuclear-deterrence


10:15 a.m. EST Simi Valley, California — Reagan National Defense Forum with members of Congress, senior leadership of the Department of Defense, former officials, scholars, defense industry leaders, and members of the press https://rndf2023virtual.rsvpify.com

9 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute in-person and virtual discussion: "U.S. National Security and Ukraine: A Bipartisan Conversation," with Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE); Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA); Luke Coffey, Hudson senior fellow; and Tamar Jacoby, director, Progressive Policy Institute's New Ukraine Project https://www.hudson.org/events/us-national-security-ukraine-bipartisan-conversation


10:15 a.m. EST Simi Valley, California — Reagan National Defense Forum with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and Shannon Bream of Fox News Sunday https://rndf2023virtual.rsvpify.com


"The U.S. side should take real actions to honor its commitment of not supporting 'Taiwan independence,' stop arming Taiwan, and support China's peaceful reunification. China will realize reunification, and this is unstoppable."
Chinese President Xi Jinping, quoted in a Chinese Foreign Ministry readout of his meeting with President Joe Biden last week in San Francisco
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