Daily on Defense: Ukraine facing another year of war, Blinken at NATO, then to Israel, Somali pirates suspected in hijacking attempt, Tuberville’s latest

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'THE FRONT LINE HAS NOT MOVED': As NATO foreign ministers gather in Brussels, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is urging allies and partners not to lose heart even as months of fierce fighting have failed to produce significant territorial gains for Ukraine.

"Yes, the front line has not moved so much, and of course, we would like them to liberate as much territory as possible as quickly as possible," Stoltenberg said ahead of today's ministerial at NATO headquarters. "But even though the front line has not moved, the Ukrainians have been able to inflict heavy losses on the Russian invaders, both measured in personnel and casualties but also in taking out fighting capabilities."

"We see high casualty numbers. And some of the most intense fighting that we have seen throughout the whole war has actually taken place over the last weeks and couple of months," Stoltenberg said.

The heaviest fighting has been in eastern Ukraine around the town of Avdiivka, where a firsthand report recorded by a Ukrainian commander and aired on CNN shows the grim reality of trench warfare, where both sides are taking heavy casualties.

"My goal was for people to watch this and know what this war is really like," Oleh Sentsov told CNN's Anna Coren. "It's very important to record it so that people know now and know later what a cruel and terrible war it is."

The gritty video, recorded on a GoPro, shows only Sentsov's unit surviving an assault by four Russian tanks. "We failed to hold our position and had to retreat," he told CNN. "We had injuries but survived, but the other two groups were almost completely destroyed."


RUSSIAN LOSSES MOUNT: According to Ukrainian estimates cited by the British Defense Ministry on social media, Russia is now suffering more than 900 killed and wounded a day, higher than during the bloody "meatgrinder" assault on Bakhmut in March. "The last six weeks have likely seen some of the highest Russian casualty rates of the war so far."

"Throughout November 2023, Russian casualties, as reported by the Ukrainian General Staff, are running at a daily average of 931 per day," according to the British intelligence assessment. "Previously, the deadliest reported month for Russia was March 2023 with an average of 776 losses per day, at the height of Russia's assault on Bakhmut."

While the U.K. Defense Ministry says it "cannot verify the methodology," it calls the figures "plausible."

Nevertheless, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems intent on continuing the fight to hold on to the territory his forces now occupy. "We have seen no sign that President Putin is planning for peace; he is actually planning for more war," Stoltenberg said.

Ukraine does not release casualty figures for its own forces.

US DENIES PRESSURE FOR PEACE: Last week, the German newspaper Bild reported that while expressing full support for Ukraine's war effort, behind the scenes, the Biden administration is planning to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to consider talks with Russia to freeze the war on its current front lines.

In a conference call briefing for reporters ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's arrival in Brussels, James O'Brien, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, denied there would be any effort to force Ukraine to the bargaining table.

"The Bild story I thought was intriguing, but no, there's no U.S. policy. We've always said that this is a matter for Ukraine to decide," O'Brien said. "We decide nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. And I think the other reality here is we see no indication that Russia is willing to entertain substantive, real peace negotiations."

"It seems to us President Putin is talking about waiting for at least another year or more before he will contemplate an end to this war," O'Brien continued. "And it would be pointless to have a discussion on Ukraine's side. It's not a dialogue. It's, you know, a monologue of surrender. So it's nothing that is part of our policy."

"Our responsibility is to support Ukraine and to enable them to liberate as much land as possible and to put them in the best possible place when or if negotiations may start," Stoltenberg said at his pre-ministerial news conference.

"Ukraine has recaptured 50% of the territory that Russia seized. It has prevailed as a sovereign, independent nation. This is a big win for Ukraine," Stoltenberg said. "Meanwhile, Russia is weaker politically, economically, and militarily. Ukraine continues to fight bravely. We continue to support them.


Good Tuesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre's Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by 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: Today's meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels is scheduled to discuss a number of issues aside from the war in Ukraine, including plans for next July's NATO summit in Washington and increased tensions in the Western Balkans, where there are concerns that hostility between Serbia and Kosovo could escalate to outright conflict.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has a series of bilateral meetings scheduled with his NATO counterparts, including Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, where the main topic will be the ratification of Sweden's membership in the alliance.

"Our point to our Turkish allies has been that there's no reason to delay any further," O'Brien told reporters yesterday. "We anticipate seeing some positive action very soon."

"We think Sweden's fully capable now of contributing to the alliance. We think it will be a great NATO ally and we expect it to be an ally very soon," O'Brien said. "Hungary has always said it will not be the last to ratify Sweden's accession to the alliance. And so we'd expect that Hungary will move forward very soon as well."

Blinken will also be attending the first foreign minister-level meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, a new body created to foster greater cooperation and coordination and help prepare Kyiv for eventual membership.

TWO MORE DAYS, 20 MORE HOSTAGES, NO MORE AMERICANS: After his NATO meetings, Blinken is set to travel to Israel and the West Bank, arriving just past the two-day extension of a ceasefire that has been agreed to by Israel and Hamas to allow for the release of 20 more hostages.

Blinken will "discuss Israel's right to defend itself consistent with international humanitarian law, as well as continued efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages, protect civilian life during Israel's operations in Gaza, and accelerate humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Last night, Hamas released 11 Israeli hostages, including 3-year-old twins and their mother, but no more Americans have been released, despite hopes that Americans would be part of the last batch of hostages freed under the original four-day truce agreement.

"We think the number is less than ten, probably in the neighborhood of, you know, about eight to nine," said NSC spokesman John Kirby when asked how many Americans were still being held captive. "But we don't necessarily have firm, solid information on each and every one of them."

In an interview on Fox later in the day, Kirby said that while the U.S. is pressing for two American women to be included, it is not in control of the process. "The modalities of who's on the list every day … is something that's drawn up by Hamas and by our Israeli counterparts. We will keep working very, very hard to make sure that the Americans that we know are being held hostage get home to their families, where they belong."

"Now, it's important to remember … the only kinds of hostages that Hamas is willing to let go right now are women and children. We think the majority of Americans that are being held hostage are male. So, the chances of them getting out soon are not as good as the chances of getting out … [the] two American women that are still left to be released."

"President Biden spoke with the prime minister of Qatar," Kirby said. "I would have imagined that, in that conversation, he's saying to him, I want those Americans out in this group. We want them out now. That's the priority. Make sure they're on the list."


PIRATES, NOT REBELS: The Pentagon is suggesting that the attempted hijacking of a commercial cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden may have been conducted by Somali pirates, not Houthi rebels, as was originally suspected.

The motor vessel Central Park was boarded by five armed attackers and put out a distress call. The USS Mason, along with allied ships from the combined Maritime Forces Counter-Piracy Combined Task Force 151, responded, demanded the ship be released, prompting the hijackers to flee via a small boat.

"The Mason pursued the attackers, resulting in their eventual surrender," Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a meeting with reporters.

But Ryder cast doubt on the idea that the failed hijacking was the work of Houthi forces. "On the five-armed individuals, an obvious question is, what is the disposition of those five individuals?" said Ryder. "They're currently aboard the USS Mason. We're continuing to assess, but initial indications are that these five individuals are Somali. But again, we'll continue to assess that, as well as next steps in terms of the disposition of those five individuals."

"Clearly, a piracy-related incident in that this vessel was boarded by these five individuals. They attempted to access the crew cabin," Ryder said. "The crew essentially were able to lock themselves into a safe haven. These individuals attempted to access and take control of the ship. But when the combined task force responded, they essentially fled."

One reason Houthis were suspected is that shortly after the incident, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the general location of the Mason and the Central Park.

"The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden approximately ten nautical miles from the ships," said Ryder. "It is not clear at this time what they were targeting."


TUBERVILLE: US MILITARY 'WEAKEST IT HAS EVER BEEN': In an interview on Newsmax, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) asserted that the U.S. military is in decline because of the woke policies of the Biden administration.

"We've got the weakest military that we've had in probably my lifetime," Tuberville told Newsmax's Eric Bolling. "Infiltrating our military is all this wokeness, and it's coming from the top, coming from Joe Biden, coming from Secretary of Defense [Lloyd] Austin. It's coming from [former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark] Milley, who is recently gone. It's a disaster."

The comments come as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is working to get the votes to override Tuberville's hold on more than 350 military nominations and promotions before the Senate takes a holiday break next month.


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Ukraine aid hangs in balance as lawmakers return to Washington

Washington Examiner: 'Pointless' for Ukraine to have peace talks with Russia: US

Washington Examiner: US troops in Iraq and Syria experience lull in attacks by Iranian proxies

Washington Examiner: Israel war: 11 hostages released by Hamas

Washington Examiner: Israel and Hamas extend truce as hostage talks continue

Washington Examiner: Israeli foreign minister says UN response to war 'betrayal' of mandate

Washington Examiner: More Democrats open door to conditions on aid to Israel

Washington Examiner: Border Patrol takes drastic action as thousands of immigrants illegally enter Tucson daily

AP: Israel and Hamas extend their truce, but it seems only a matter of time before the war resumes

AP: Qatar is the go-to mediator in the Mideast war. Its unprecedented Tel Aviv trip saved a shaky truce

Reuters: 'At What Cost?' Ukraine Strains To Bolster Its Army As War Fatigue Weighs

AP: Ukraine Is Shipping More Grain Through The Black Sea Despite Threat From Russia

Asia Times: China's Fujian Carrier Flexes Next-Gen Launch Tech

New York Times: A.I. Firm's Ties To China Rattle Top U.S. Spies

Washington Post: Businessman accused of bribing Sen. Menendez had deep ties to Egypt

CQ Roll Call: This Holiday Season, NDAA Shaping Up as End-of-Year 'Christmas Tree'

Defense News: German Air Force Plans Major Asia-Pacific Tour in 2024

The War Zone: Aircraft Downed Inside Russia By Patriot System: Ukrainian Air Force

The War Zone: B-2 Spirit Now Operational with New B61-12 Nuclear Bombs

Air & Space Forces Magazine: F-35 Updates: TR-3 Ramps Up, Talks on Future Lots Continue, Logistics Contract Stalls

Breaking Defense: Campaign of Learning': 6 Questions about the F-35 with a Lead DOD Sustainment Official

Breaking Defense: Belgium to Join Europe's FCAS Next-Gen Fighter Program in June 2025

DefenseScoop: Hicks to Host First International Briefing on Replicator with UK Counterparts

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Security Forces Airmen Train on 'Game-Changer' Drone That Could Compete for Replicator

DefenseScoop: Space Force MEO Missile-Warning Satellites Pass Critical Design Review

Space News: Pentagon Looks to Commercial Space for an Edge

National Interest: Why Do New Recruits Love The U.S. Marine Corps?

Air & Space Forces Magazine: F-15 Eagles Train with the Philippines Over South China Sea

The Cipher Brief: Russia, Hamas, and a Moment of Global Challenge 

The Cipher Brief: A Former CIA Officer's Take on War in the Middle East and the Growing Global Challenge

Forbes: Why Block Buys Of Warships Are Needed To Match China's Naval Buildup



10 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave., NW — Hudson Institute in-person and virtual discussion: "How the U.S. Should Respond to China's Challenge to U.S. Geoeconomic Leadership," with Miles Yu, senior fellow and director, China Center; Thomas Duesterberg, Hudson senior fellow; Peter Hefele, policy director, Martens Centre for European Studies, Brussels; Leland Miller, co-founder and CEO, China Beige Book; and Craig Singleton, China program deputy director and senior fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies https://www.hudson.org/events/how-us-should-respond-chinas-challenge

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

4 p.m. 1777 F St. NW — Council on Foreign Relations in-person discussion: "A Conversation about Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Reform," with Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL); Stewart Baker, Steptoe and Johnson and former general counsel, National Security Agency; Glenn Gerstell, senior adviser, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former general counsel, National Security Agency; and Karen Kornbluh, distinguished fellow, German Marshall Fund of the U.S. RSVP: Ann Healy ahealy@cfr.org

4 p.m. 1763 N St. NW — Middle East Institute book discussion: The Problem of Democracy: America, the Middle East, and the Rise and Fall of an Idea, with author Shadi Hamid; and Thomas Carothers, co-director and senior fellow, Democracy, Conflict and Governance Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace https://mei.edu/events/problem-democracy-america-middle-east

4 p.m. — Vandenberg Coalition discussion: "The Future of Conservative Foreign Policy," with Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA) https://form.jotform.com/233096101318044

7 p.m. 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW — Politics and Prose Bookstore book discussion: State of Silence: The Espionage Act and the Rise of America's Secrecy Regime, with author Sam Lebovic, professor, George Mason University https://www.politics-prose.com/sam-lebovic


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

10 a.m. 310 Cannon — House Homeland Security Committee hearing: "The High North: How U.S. Arctic Strategy Impacts Homeland Security." http://homeland.house.gov

10 a.m. — Henry L. Stimson Center virtual discussion: "The Implications of the Gaza War," with Mairav Zonszein, senior Israel analyst at the International Crisis Group; Collin Meisel, associate director of geopolitical analysis at the University of Denver's Center for International Futures; Randa Slim, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute; Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center of Washington, D.C.; and Ali Vaez, project director for Iran at the International Crisis Group https://www.stimson.org/event/the-implications-of-the-gaza-war/

10 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: "Beyond the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility: Ukraine's priorities and needs in the fight and the role the U.S. and the West play in providing support," with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-OH); Catherine Sendak, director of the Center for European Policy Analysis's Transatlantic Defense and Security Program; and Rebeccah Heinrichs, director of the Hudson Institute's Keystone Defense Initiative. RSVP: press@atlanticcouncil.org

10 a.m. — Asia Society Policy Institute virtual discussion: "Deciphering the U.S.-China AI Showdown," with Paul Scharre, executive vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security; Paul Triolo, senior vice president for China and technology policy lead at the Albright Stonebridge Group; and Lizzi Lee, researcher on the Chinese economy at the Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis https://asiasociety.zoom.us/webinar/register

11:30 a.m. 7801 Leesburg Pike — Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Northern Virginia Chapter discussion with Assistant Deputy Air Force Undersecretary Lora Muchmore, assistant deputy chief management officer at the Air Force. https://afceanova.swoogo.com/NOV23Lunch

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


8 a.m. 2401 M St., NW. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group in-person discussion: "Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the U.S.," with Madelyn Creedon, commission chairwoman; and Rebeccah Heinrichs, commission member https://nationalsecuritymedia.gwu.edu/events. RSVP: Thom Shanker at tshanker@email.gwu.edu

9:30 a.m. — Brookings Institution virtual discussion: "Israel and Gaza: Where Do We Go From Here?" with Natan Sachs, director of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy; Itamar Rabinovich, Brookings fellow; and Salam Fayyad, Brookings fellow https://www.brookings.edu/events/israel-and-gaza-where-do-we-go-from-here/

10 a.m. — Arab Center virtual discussion: "Assessing America's Response to the Gaza Crisis: The White House, Congress and the American Public," with Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace; Aaron David Miller, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Shibley Telhami, professor at the University of Maryland https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register

12 p.m. 7805 Regents Drive, College Park, Maryland — University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland discussion: "Russia's Nuclear Weapons and the War in Ukraine," with Anya Loukianova Fink, research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses https://cissm.umd.edu/events/cissm-global-forum-russias-nuclear-weapons

12 p.m. — SETA Foundation in Washington, D.C., virtual discussion: "Israel's War in Gaza: The Humanitarian Crisis and Prospects for Peace," with Khaled Elgindy, director, Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs, Middle East Institute; Trita Parsi, executive vice president, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft; Randa Slim, director, Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program, Middle East Institute; Kadir Ustun, executive director, SETA Foundation; and Kilic Kanat, research director, SETA Foundation https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register

2 p.m. HVC-210, U.S. Capitol — House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing: "The U.S. Border Crisis and the American Solution to an International Problem," with testimony from Gene Hamilton, vice president and general counsel at America First Legal, and former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, executive director, chief strategy officer and chairman of the America First Policy Institute http://foreignaffairs.house.gov

2 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE — Heritage Foundation discussion: "The Strategic Posture Commission: Defending America in a Modern World," with Madelyn Creedon, chairwoman of the U.S. Strategic Posture Commission; former Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; Rebeccah Heinrichs, senior fellow and director of Keystone Defense Initiative; and Robert Peters, research fellow for nuclear defense and missile defense at the Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense https://www.heritage.org/defense/event/the-strategic-posture-commission

2 p.m. 1763 N St. NW — Middle East Institute discussion: "Shabiha Forever: The Syrian Regime's Creation, Control, and Use of Militias Since 2011," with Hari Prasad, research associate at Critica Research and Analysis; Karam Shaar, nonresident senior fellow at the Newlines Institute; Kayla Koontz, researcher at the Syrian Archive; Gregory Waters, MEI nonresident scholar; and Charles Lister, director of the MEI Syria and Counterterrorism Programs https://www.mei.edu/events/shabiha-forever-syrian-regimes

3 p.m. 1957 E St. NW — George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs discussion: "Transatlantic relations, the role of Germany in the EU, Germany's aid to Ukraine, and the impact on Germany of the war between Israel and Hamas," with German Ambassador to the U.S. Andreas Michaelis https://calendar.gwu.edu/event/a_conversation_with_german_ambassador


9 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute discussion: "U.S. National Security and Ukraine," with Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE); Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA); Tamar Jacoby, director of the Progressive Policy Institute's New Ukraine Project; John Walters, president and CEO of the Hudson Institute; and Luke Coffey, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute https://www.hudson.org/events/us-national-security-ukraine

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

11 a.m. — Washington Post Live virtual book discussion: Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to the Present with co-author and former CIA Director retired Army Gen. David Petraeus https://www.washingtonpost.com/washington-post-live


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


8 a.m. 2401 M St., NW — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group breakfast conversation with Benedetta Berti, head of NATO policy planning in the office of the NATO Secretary-General. RSVP: Thom Shanker at tshanker@email.gwu.edu


"It seems to us President Putin is talking about waiting for at least another year or more before he will contemplate an end to this war. And it would be pointless to have a discussion on Ukraine's side. It's not a dialogue. It's, you know, a monologue of surrender. So it's nothing that is part of our policy."
James O'Brien, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, denying a report in the German newspaper Bild that the U.S. wants to force Ukraine to negotiate a peace agreement with Russia.
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