Daily on Defense: Russia gains ground, Biden meets big four, Zelensky doubts Trump, Sweden joins NATO, no one to blame for Austin’s blunder

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ZELENSKY: 'I HAVE TO TRUST': President Joe Biden and the top four leaders of Congress are scheduled to meet for about an hour in the Oval Office at 11:30 a.m. as Biden hopes to impress on one leader in particular the urgency of approving military aid to Ukraine and the necessity of averting a partial government shutdown March 1.

Attending will be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who have all expressed strong support for averting a shutdown and approving foreign aid. The wild card remains House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who under threat of removal by his caucus is refusing to allow a vote on Ukraine aid until vague border security demands are met.

As the latest battlefield assessment from the Institute for the Study of War concluded that "Russian forces have regained the theater-wide initiative and will be able to pursue offensive operations when and where they choose," no one is watching the events on Capitol Hill with more trepidation than Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has been sounding the alarm in a series of media interviews over the past few days.

"I had [a] meeting with him, with Speaker Johnson," Zelensky told CNN in an interview that aired last night. "When we spoke with each other, he said that he will do everything to support Ukraine and he’s on our side." Zelensky has warned that Russia has been emboldened by recent territorial gains, in which Ukrainian troops were forced to retreat due to ammunition shortages, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning a new counteroffensive in late spring or summer.

"Success forward will depend on the U.S. aid, yes," Zelensky told CNN's Kaitlan Collins. "People will be prepared. But ammunition will not be prepared. And brigades will not be ready. We’ll not be ready not only for our counteroffensive. They will not be ready to defend, to stay strong. It will be very difficult."

"We will lose a lot of people. We will lose territories," Zelensky said in a separate interview with NBC. "We will save as much as possible, people. But you have to understand … we don’t have long-distance, for example, long-distance rounds for our artillery."

"I can’t push the speaker. This is his decision. But I think he understands all the challenges, what we have," Zelensky told CNN. "I have to trust. I have to trust. But we’ll see."

'DONALD TRUMP DOESN’T KNOW PUTIN': In both the NBC and CNN interviews, Zelensky expressed worry that if former President Donald Trump wins the November election, he will end U.S. support for Ukraine.

"If he will be the president, that is the decision of your people, of course," Zelensky told NBC's Richard Engel. "And I hope that the policy of the country will not change, and it will depend on who will be the president."

"I can’t understand how Donald Trump can be on the side of Putin. So for me, it’s something unbelievable," Zelensky said in the CNN interview. "I think he can’t understand what’s going on here. He can’t solve it with Putin and with Russia because we’ll never be ready to give our territories just for the stopping of the war. … I think he doesn’t really understand that Putin will not stop."

"If Donald Trump doesn’t know whom he will support, Ukraine or Russia, I think that he will have challenges with his society because to support Russia, it means to be against Americans. I am sure," he said. 


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 Stacey Dec. 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


HAPPENING LATER THIS WEEK: President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump both plan to be in Texas Thursday as the crisis at the U.S-Mexico border continues to be a top concern in the presidential race.

Biden plans to travel to Brownsville, Texas, where, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, "he will discuss the urgent need to pass the Senate bipartisan border security agreement, with the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border in decades. He will reiterate his calls for congressional Republicans to stop playing politics and to provide the funding needed for additional U.S. Border Patrol agents, more asylum officers, fentanyl detection technology, and more."

Trump plans to go to Eagle Pass, Texas, a good 300 miles away from Brownsville, according to the Associated Press

"On Thursday, a tale of two presidents will unfold," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in a post on X. "President Trump: Implemented policies to provide the country the most secure border in over 40 years. … President Biden: Allowed a broken border to become an economic, social, and national security nightmare."


'THE BALTIC SEA IS NOW THE NATO LAKE': After 18 months of delay, Hungary's parliament on an overwhelming vote of 188-6 approved Sweden's bid to join NATO, prompting cheers and numerous social media memes crowing that the Baltic Sea, now almost completely surrounded by NATO countries, is effectively a "NATO lake."

"We look forward to Hungary signing and depositing the instrument of ratification without delay," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. "Like Finland, which recently joined our alliance, Sweden is a strong democracy with a highly capable military that shares our values and vision for the world."

“Sweden will enter NATO as an immediate security provider, having met the alliance's 2% of GDP defense spending target," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) said in a statement, noting that "Sweden has also provided more assistance to Ukraine than the U.S. as a percentage of GDP."

"Today is a historic day," Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson posted on X. "The parliaments of all NATO member states have now voted in favour of Swedish accession to NATO. Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security."

"I welcome the Hungarian parliament's vote to ratify #Sweden's membership in NATO," posted NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. "Now that all Allies have approved, Sweden will become the 32nd #NATO Ally. Sweden's membership will make us all stronger and safer."

And NATO's Allied Air Command chimed in, "Looking forward to welcoming JAS-39 Gripen as #NATO fighter jets." 


QUESTIONS ABOUT AUSTIN'S SECRET SURGERY: The Pentagon has released an unclassified summary of a 30-day review into circumstances surrounding the hospitalization last month of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and while it found there was no "indication of ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate,” it did raise enough questions that spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder spent most of yesterday's Pentagon briefing under fire from reporters.

The main point of contention surrounded whether there was ever a "gap" in the chain of command as Austin was moved into intensive care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and his staff made the decision to transfer authority to his deputy. "There was no gap," Ryder said at least eight different times in the briefing.

"As the secretary was admitted to the critical care unit, the aides recognized that he would not have access to secure comms. And so, once there was a recognition that he was going to not have access to secure comms, they did a standard procedure at the time was, if the secretary’s not going to have access, let’s go ahead and initiate a transfer of authorities, which they did," Ryder said. "His was an unprecedented situation and the staff was doing the — using the process and procedures that they have employed previously. And again, to the best of their abilities, ensuring that … there were no gaps in command and control."

Reporters weren't the only ones questioning how the review blamed no one for the decision to keep Austin's cancer diagnosis and treatment secret.

“Unsurprisingly, the review of Sec Austin’s actions, conducted by his own subordinates & subject to his approval, HELD NO ONE ACCOUNTABLE,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) posted on X. “This is why we are conducting our own investigation. We will seek answers at our hearing w/ Sec Austin on Thursday.”

Austin is scheduled to testify before Rogers’s committee at 10 a.m. Thursday.



Washington Examiner: Schumer and McConnell issue urgent warnings against potential weekend government shutdown

Washington Examiner: Speaker Johnson quarrels with Democrats despite needing them to avoid government shutdown

Washington Examiner: Zelensky: Trump 'doesn't know' or understand Putin

Washington Examiner: Sweden cleared to join NATO after Hungary votes to ratify bid

Washington Examiner: Poland says Russian nuclear threat 'mostly empty'

Washington Examiner: India pushes Russia to return Indian citizens forced to fight Ukraine war

Washington Examiner: Biden optimistic Gaza ceasefire will be in effect by the weekend

Washington Examiner: Trump and Biden to make dueling southern border appearances

Washington Examiner: Majority supports construction of border wall for first time: Poll

Washington Examiner: Mayorkas Senate impeachment trial to be delayed amid shutdown frenzy

Washington Examiner: No 'ill intent' behind Austin's secret hospitalization: DOD review

Washington Examiner: Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green reconsidering House retirement

Washington Examiner: Airman who lit himself on fire outside Israeli Embassy dies of injuries

Washington Examiner: IDF noticed terrorists activating Israeli SIM cards hours before attack

AP: Navalny aides say the Russian opposition leader was close to being freed before his death

The Guardian: Macron Refuses to Rule Out Putting Troops on Ground in Ukraine in Call to Galvanize Europe

New York Times: European Leaders Meet In Paris To Back Ukraine At A 'Critical Moment' In The War

Reuters: Zelensky Says Black Sea Grain Corridor In Doubt Without U.S. Aid

AL Monitor: Yemen's Houthis Undeterred By Strikes, Senior U.S. Navy Commander Says

New York Times: After U.S. Strikes, Iran's Proxies Scale Back Attacks On American Bases

Bloomberg: U.S. Used AI to Help Find Middle East Targets for Airstrikes

Defense News: South Korea Eyes Mixed Fleet of Manned, Unmanned Warplanes

Wall Street Journal: While The World Was Looking Elsewhere, North Korea Became A Bigger Threat

Defense One: Rocket Lab Won't Be Ready to Launch Its New Rocket by Year's End, Documents Suggest

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Autonomous Cargo Planes: Is This the Future of ACE?

The War Zone: Just How Fast Is The F-15EX Really?

Air & Space Forces Magazine: What Will 'Airman Development Command' Look Like?

SpaceNews: Space Force Bucks Fixed-Price Trend for Nuclear Command Satellites

Air & Space Forces Magazine: 'Proliferation Everywhere': How Space Force Will Answer New Threats

Breaking Defense: 'Tactical ISR' from Space Requires DOD, NRO Policy Changes: Calvelli

DefenseScoop: What's Next for the New CJADC2 Minimum Viable Capability

New York Times: Opinion: China Is Running Out of Lines to Cross in the Taiwan Strait

Breaking Defense: Opinion: Why the Pentagon Needs a Quantum Czar



9 a.m. 1150 22nd St. NW — FedScoop, CyberScoop, and Trellix Cybersecurity Summit, with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA); Robert Silvers, Homeland Security undersecretary for strategy, policy, and plans; Rob Joyce, director, National Security Agency’s Cybersecurity Directorate; Hemant Baidwan, deputy chief information security officer, Homeland Security Department; Deputy Health and Human Services Secretary Andrea Palm; Cynthia Kaiser, deputy assistant director, FBI Cyber Division; Anjana Rajan, assistant national cyber director for technology security, Executive Office of the President; Tony Plater, Navy chief information security officer; and Deputy Defense Chief Information Officer for Cybersecurity David McKeown https://cybersecuritysummit.upgather.com/

9 a.m. 2301 Constitution Ave. NW — U.S. Institute of Peace and Atlantic Council discussion: “Two Years In: Analyzing the War in Ukraine,” with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst; senior director, Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center; former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steve Pifer, Brookings Institution senior fellow; former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, chairman in diplomacy and security, Rand Corporation; former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, senior adviser, USIP Russia and Europe Center; and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, vice president, USIP Russia and Europe Center https://www.usip.org/events/two-years-analyzing-war-ukraine

9 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “A Decade of Crimea’s Temporary Occupation: Turkey’s Role in Supporting Ukraine,” with Ukrainian First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Emine Dzhaparova; Alina Frolova, deputy chairwoman, Center for Defense Strategies; former Turkish Ambassador to Ukraine Yagmur Ahmet Guldere, Ukraine coordinator, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Tamila Tasheva, permanent representative, president of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/a-decade-of-crimeas-temporary-occupation

9:15 a.m. Reston, Virginia — National Security Space Association Defense and Intelligence Space Conference, with Derek Tournear, director Space Development Agency; Gen. DeAnna Burt, deputy chief of space operations for operations, cyber, and nuclear; Lt. Gen. Shawn Bratton, deputy chief of space operations for strategy, plans, programs, and requirements; and Frank Calvelli, assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration https://nssaspace.org/event/disc24/

9:30 a.m. 2401 M St., NW — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group breakfast conversation with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George. RSVP: Thom Shanker [email protected]

9:30 a.m. — Stimson Center virtual discussion: "Japan's National Security Strategy: The Role of Alliance and Partnerships," with Chikako Kawakatsu Ueki, visiting scholar, MIT Security Studies Program, and professor, Waseda University, and Yuki Tatsumi, senior fellow and director, Stimson Center Japan Program https://stimsoncenter.zoom.us/webinar/register

10 a.m. 562 Dirksen — Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Investigations Subcommittee hearing: “The U.S. Technology Fueling Russia’s War in Ukraine: How and Why,” with testimony from James Byrne, director, Royal United Services Institute’s Open-Source Intelligence and Analysis Research Group; Damien Spleeters, deputy director of operations at Conflict Armament Research; and Elina Ribakova, director, International Affairs Program and vice president for foreign policy, Kyiv School of Economics http://www.hsgac.senate.gov

1:15 p.m. — Foundation for Defense of Democracies virtual discussion: "Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program: Previewing the March 4-8 IAEA Board Meeting," with David Albright, physicist and founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security; Richard Goldberg, former National Security Council director for combatting Iranian weapons of mass destruction and FDD senior adviser; Andrea Stricker, FDD research fellow, and deputy director of FDD's Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program; and Anthony Ruggiero, former NSC senior director for counterproliferation and biodefense and senior director of FDD's Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program https://www.fdd.org/events/2024/02/27/irans-nuclear-weapons-program

2 p.m. — Brookings Institution virtual discussion: “Iran’s regional network and the crisis in the Middle East," with Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director, Brookings Foreign Policy program; Jeffrey Feltman, visiting fellow in international diplomacy, foreign policy, Brookings Institution’s Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology; Allison Minor, visiting fellow in global economy and development, Brookings Institution’s Center for Sustainable Development; Renad Mansour, senior research fellow, Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa program and project director, Chatham House’s Iraq Initiative; and Natan Sachs, director, Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and senior fellow in foreign policy, Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy https://www.brookings.edu/events/irans-regional-network

2:15 p.m. 419 Dirksen — Senate Foreign Relations Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism Subcommittee hearing: "Yemen and Red Sea Security Issues,” with testimony from Timothy Lenderking, U.S. special envoy for Yemen, and Daniel Shapiro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East http://foreign.senate.gov

2:30 p.m. 37th and O Sts. NW — Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service discussion: “Indo-Pacific Strategy & the Quad,” with Camille Dawson, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs https://www.georgetown.edu/event/fireside-chat

3 p.m. — Advanced Nuclear Weapons Alliance Deterrence Center virtual forum: "Nevada National Security Site: a Premier National Security Asset and its NNSA Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Stewardship Mission," with retired Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, president, Mission Support and Test Services; David Funk, vice president, enhanced capabilities for subcritical experiments, Mission Support and Test Services; and Melissa Hunt, director, Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation for Global Security, Mission Support and Test Services https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nnsa-nevada-national-security-site

5 p.m. 1521 16th St. NW — Institute of World Politics lecture: “Military Implications, August 2022 Taiwan Strait Crisis,” with Wayne Hugar, director, China intelligence education programs, National Intelligence University https://www.iwp.edu/events/military-implications


9 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute discussion: “Taking Stock of Ukraine in 2024,” with Lt. Gen. Karel Rehka, chief, Czech General Staff; Lt. Gen. Leonard Kosinski, director of logistics for the Air Force Joint Staff; Jan Jires, director general for defense policy and planning, Czech Ministry of Defense; Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova; Mark Newton, defense minister counselor, British Embassy; Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov; and Maria Tomak, head, Crimea Platform Department, Mission, President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea https://www.hudson.org/events/taking-stock-ukraine-2024

9 a.m. — Counter Extremism Project webinar: "CEP Webinar: Violent Extremism And Terrorism In The Sahel," with Riza Kumar, research analyst, Counter Extremism Project; Anna Wasserfall, policy adviser for West Africa at Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung; Delina Goxho, associate fellow at EGMONT, Royal Institute for International Relations; and Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior Director, Counter Extremism Project https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register 

9:30 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW — Brookings Institution discussion: “Optimizing Air Power,” with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin https://www.brookings.edu/events/optimizing-air-power

9:30 a.m. 216 Hart — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: "Evolving workforce dynamics and the challenges for defense acquisition and defense industrial base personnel" http://www.armed-services.senate.gov

10 a.m. 419 Dirksen — Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing: “Tehran’s Shadow Army: Addressing Iran’s Proxy Network in the Middle East,” with testimony from Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director of foreign policy, Brookings Institution, and Brian Hook, vice chairman of Cerberus Global Investments, Cerberus Capital Management https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings

11 a.m. — Wilson Center Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies virtual discussion: “The Political Landscape in Russia,” with Maria Lipman, visiting scholar, George Washington University’s Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, and Michael Kimmage, professor of history, Catholic University of America https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/kennan-long-view-series-political-landscape-russia

3:30 p.m. 222 Russell — Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee hearing: "Traumatic brain injury and blast exposure care" http://www.armed-services.senate.gov

3:30 p.m. 418 Russell — Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing: “Sacred Mission: Honoring America’s Veterans and their Families at VA Cemeteries" http://veterans.senate.gov

5 p.m. 1521 16th St. NW — Institute of World Politics lecture: “Wagner Group: The Privatization, Instruments of National Power,” with John McCarthy, senior program adviser to the Navy’s Technical Exploitation Command https://www.iwp.edu/events/wagner-group


9:30 a.m. — Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies virtual discussion: “Diplomacy and Iran,” with former U.K. Ambassador to Iran Nicholas Hopton https://sais.jhu.edu/campus-events

10 a.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual discussion: “Governing Gaza After the War,” with Jonathan Rynhold, professor at Bar-Ilan University; Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University; Muriel Asseburg, senior fellow, German Institute for International and Security Affairs; Amr Hamzawy; director, Carnegie Middle East Program; Zaha Hassan, CEIP fellow; and Yasmine Farouk, nonresident scholar, CEIP Middle East Program https://carnegieendowment.org/2024/02/29/governing-gaza-after-war

10 a.m. — German Marshall Fund of the U.S. virtual discussion: “Black Sea Security: Bulgaria’s Role and the Need for a Regional Strategy,” with Bulgarian Ambassador to Turkey Nadezhda Neynsky; Yordan Bozhilov, founder and president, Sofia Security Forum; Richard Hooker, professor of national security strategy, National War College; and Asya Metodieva, visiting fellow of GMFUS’s Engaging Central Europe Initiative https://www.gmfus.org/event/black-sea-security

10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: "A Review of Defense Secretary Austin's Unannounced Absence," with testimony from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

10 a.m. 310 Cannon — House Homeland Security Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee hearing: “Port Cybersecurity: The Insidious Threat to U.S. Maritime Ports” http://homeland.house.gov

11:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies "Smart Women, Smart Power" virtual discussion: "Navigating the Seas," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Kathleen McInnis, director, CSIS Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative https://www.csis.org/events/navigating-seas-admiral-lisa-franchetti

11:50 a.m. 1700 Army Navy Dr., Arlington, Virginia — Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association discussion: “The Critical Importance of Data in Contested Environments," with Gen. James “Jim” Slife, vice chief of staff, Air Force; Army Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Bruce, senior enlisted leader, U.S. Cyber Command; Space Force Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Lerch, senior enlisted leader, Space Systems Command’s Intelligence Directorate; and retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Stalker, founder of Stalker Solutions and former command senior enlisted leader, U.S. Space Command https://afceadc.swoogo.com/contested24

1 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW — Henry Stimson Center discussion: “Examining Implementation, Child Soldiers Prevention Act,” with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL); Daniel Ohlstein, senior adviser for children and armed conflict, State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Jo Becker, advocacy director, Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division; and Rachel Stohl, director, Stimson Conventional Defense Program https://www.stimson.org/event/taking-stock

1:30 p.m. 291 Wood Rd., Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland — Center for Strategic and International Studies International Security Program and U.S. Naval Institute Maritime Security Dialogue in-person and virtual discussion: "DoD's Warfighting Concept" with Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. Christopher Grady and retired Rear Adm. Raymond Spicer, CEO and publisher, U.S. Naval Institute https://www.csis.org/events/dods-warfighting-concept

"I don't know how more clear I can make that I don't want vice president. I have said multiple times … I am a Republican. I am not running as any other party or independent. And I will continue to say this is not about my political career. This is about the future of America. … I've said no over and over again. I have no interest in a third-party candidacy."
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley tells Fox News correspondent Grady Trimble
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