Daily on Defense: Zelensky’s lament, Johnson’s defiance, MTG’s ouster threat, ISW’s stark Ukraine warning, Austin’s China call finally goes through

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'OF ALL SAD WORDS…': In 1856, the American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier penned the famous lines, "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'" For Ukrainians watching President Volodymyr Zelensky's Monday night video address, the rueful sentiment of the couplet hit poignantly home. 

Over the weekend, Zelensky and his fellow Ukrainians watched from afar as a highly coordinated military operation by a multinational coalition of allies helped Israel throw up an almost impenetrable shield against a fusillade of more than 350 Iranian missiles and drones. It was a spectacular success, unprecedented in the annals of modern warfare.

"The entire world witnessed allied action in the skies above Israel and neighboring countries. It demonstrated how truly effective unity in defending against terror can be when it is based on sufficient political will," Zelensky said. "Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Jordan acted together and with maximum efficiency."

Wearing an olive drab T-shirt, hands clasped in front of him, Zelensky spoke from his office, and from his heart, noting that Israel, like Ukraine, is an ally but not a NATO member and that the onslaught Israel faced was conducted with the very same Iranian weapons Russia uses daily to wreak devastation and destroy lives in Ukraine.

"'Shaheds' in the skies above Ukraine sound identical to those over the Middle East. The impact of ballistic missiles, if they are not intercepted, is the same everywhere," Zelensky lamented. "European skies could have received the same level of protection long ago if Ukraine had received similar full support from its partners in intercepting drones and missiles."

"Israel is not a NATO member, so no action, such as triggering Article 5, was required, and no one was dragged into the war. They simply contributed to the protection of human life," Zelensky said. "Terror must be defeated completely and everywhere, not more in some places and less in others."


WHY THE DIFFERENCE? "Why did American and European jets scramble to help Israel, but not Ukraine? Why doesn't Ukraine have enough materiel to defend itself?" Anne Applebaum wrote in an essay in the Atlantic

There are both political and logistical reasons, including that Israel, an undeclared nuclear power, has the strongest military in the region and needed allied assistance for only a day. It was also easier for U.S. and allied ships with missile defense systems to operate close to the flight path of the incoming missiles. And the long distance the slow-flying Iranian drones had to travel over other countries before reaching Israel gave fighter jets ample time to track and kill their prey.

The Biden administration, especially at the outset of the Ukrainian war, has been wary of being dragged into a war with Russia and has been cowed by President Vladimir Putin's seemingly hollow threat to use tactical nuclear weapons.

But the other big difference, as Applebaum pointed out, is that while Republicans largely reject Iranian propaganda, a small but powerful faction embraces Russian propaganda. "A part of the Republican Party, including its presidential candidate, does sympathize with the Russian dictatorship, does repeat its talking points, and does seek to appease Russia when it invades and occupies other countries," she said.

In an April 2 interview with Puck News, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blamed conservative media for, in his words, having "infected a good chunk of my party's base."

"There are some more nighttime entertainment shows that seem to spin — like, I see the Russian propaganda in some of it and it's almost identical [to what they're saying on Russian state television]," McCaul said.

"It is absolutely true," Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN on April 7. "We see directly coming from Russia attempts to mask communications that are anti-Ukraine and pro-Russia messages, some of which we even hear being uttered on the House floor."

"The absence of bipartisan solidarity around Ukraine means that the Republican congressional leadership has prevented the Biden administration from sending even defensive weapons and ammunition to Ukraine," wrote Applebaum.


ZELENSKY'S FRUSTRATION BOILS OVER: In an interview that aired last night on PBS NewsHour, Zelensky could barely contain his anger. He cited the Russian destruction of the Trypilska thermal power plant, the largest supplier of electricity to Kyiv, last week.

"Eleven missiles were headed towards it. The first seven, we took down. Four destroyed Trypilska. Why? Because we had zero missiles. We ran out of all missiles," Zelensky said. "When someone says that our allies cannot provide us with this or that weapon or they cannot be in Ukraine with this or that force because that would be perceived as if Ukraine is engaging NATO in the war, well, after yesterday’s attack, I want to ask you a question: Is Israel part of NATO or not?"

Zelensky fumed that his forces are losing ground every day to a merciless Russian advance that is flattening cities in its wake, leveraging a total disregard for its own casualties and a 10-to-1 ammunition advantage to crush war-weary Ukrainians. All while anti-Ukraine Republicans block the U.S. from coming to the rescue.

"I can tell you, frankly, without this support, we will have no chance of winning," Zelensky said. "We are fighting against a large army. They don’t care about their soldiers’ lives. They’re not training them. They’re not as trained as our soldiers. But there’s a lot of them. They have an unlimited number of people and a lot of shells. They use thousands of drones against us. Tell me, please, how can you fight against these thousands if you don’t have weapons to take them down?"

"Today, our artillery shell ratio is 1-10. Can we hold our ground? No. In any case, with these statistics, they will be pushing us back every day. To defend 100% of what’s in our control, we would need to go from one to comparing numbers, 10-10."

A POETIC CODA: American author and poet Bret Harte wrote a parody of Whittier's famous poem in which added an even more wistful concluding couplet.

"If, of all words of tongue and pen, The saddest are, ‘It might have been,’

More sad are these we daily see: ‘It is, but hadn’t ought to be.’" 


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 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 TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. take center stage at a 10 a.m. hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. At the same time, the House Armed Services Committee will hear from Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Allvin, and Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman.

Both hearings are about next year's budget, but the questioning is a free-for-all and will no doubt cover a wide range of topics, including Ukraine funding, Israel's promised response to Iran, U.S. munitions shortages, and operations in the Red Sea, to name a few.


JOHNSON: 'I AM NOT RESIGNING': House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is facing an open revolt and threats to force his ouster as speaker as he pushes ahead with a plan to advance aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan in a series of separate bills that in theory could be stitched back together before being sent to the Senate.

"I am not resigning," Johnson told reporters who dogged him in the Capitol hallway after a testy morning meeting with fellow House Republicans. "We're going to work this out."

Johnson continues to face a threat of ouster from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has picked up a co-sponsor for her motion to vacate the chair from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY). At the closed-door meeting, which Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) called an "argument fest," Massie suggested Johnson resign.

"Mike Johnson will not be speaker. He just will not be," Greene posted on X. "There may be only two of us public right now. But he does not have the support of the conference at all."

There are several Democrats who have pledged to save Johnson's job if he comes through on Ukraine aid. "I don’t know speaker Johnson well. Our politics and policy beliefs are completely different. But there is no way I’m going to let Marjorie Taylor Greene, who wants to secede from the Union, take over the House," Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) said on CNN. "There’s no way I’m going to let Thomas Massie, who has never voted to help any of our allies — he would let the ayatollah go right into Israel. He’d let Putin take all of Europe. There is no way I’m going to side with these people and stand by while they let the world burn."

Meanwhile, it's unclear if Johnson's scheme, which is an attempt to mollify his hard-right flank, will succeed, and senators of both parties keep calling for Johnson simply to allow a vote on the $95 billion aid bill that cleared the Senate on a bipartisan vote.

"It seems like what the speaker is doing is talking about taking the bill that we did, splitting it into pieces, putting them up separately, but with a rule that would allow them once voted upon to be assembled and sent back over to us," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said on CNN. "If the speaker’s effort to do this kind of jerry-rigged, you know, split it into four doesn’t come to pass, at least he might have tried, and then maybe the plan B will be just put the Senate bill on the floor."

"It does appear at first blush that the speaker's proposal will, in fact, help us get aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, and needed resources to the Indo-Pacific for a wide range of contingencies there," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said yesterday.

"We've got to be open-minded and see what they do," Kaine said. "We know the votes are there in the House."


ISW'S OMINOUS WARNING: THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING: In a special edition of its daily Ukraine war assessments, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War warned the U.S is facing a stark choice: Act decisively now, or let Russia win.

"The United States thus has only two real choices today. It can quickly resume providing military aid to let Ukraine stabilize the front lines near the current locations. Or it can let the Russians defeat the Ukrainian military and drive toward the NATO borders from the Black Sea to central Poland. There is no third option," the think tank concluded.

"The current U.S. debate about providing additional military assistance to Ukraine is based in part on the assumption that the war will remain stalemated regardless of US actions. That assumption is false. The Russians are breaking out of positional warfare and beginning to restore maneuver to the battlefield because of the delays in the provision of US military assistance to Ukraine," the ISW analysts wrote. "Ukraine cannot hold the present lines now without the rapid resumption of U.S. assistance, particularly air defense and artillery that only the US can provide rapidly and at scale."

The report included maps outlining how a Russian-occupied Ukraine could serve as a launching point for a future attack against Poland and other NATO countries bordering Ukraine. "The challenge of defending the Baltic States in particular could become almost insurmountable," the ISW said, arguing that if "Ukraine just holds the frontlines roughly where they now are … [it] would make a successful Russian attack on Poland or the Baltic States much harder and riskier."

"These long-term risks and costs far outweigh the short-term price of resuming assistance to Ukraine."

HELLO CHINA? IT'S ME, LLOYD! For two years, when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tried to call his Chinese counterpart to discuss ways to avoid military conflict, no one picked up the phone. After months of back-channel diplomacy and a meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the call finally went through yesterday.

"This morning, I spoke via video teleconference with PRC Minister of National Defense Admiral Dong Jun," Austin posted on X. "We discussed U.S.-PRC defense relations, regional and global security issues, and the importance of open lines of military-to-military communication."

Austin "underscored the importance of respect for high seas freedom of navigation guaranteed under international law, especially in the South China Sea, and reiterated that the United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate safely and responsibly, wherever international law allows,” Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters.

It's the latest thaw in the frosty relations between the two countries. In December, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. met virtually with his Chinese counterpart, People’s Liberation Army Gen. Liu Zhenli. And in January, senior U.S. and Chinese defense officials met for two days in person at the Pentagon. 



Washington Examiner: Zelensky questions why Ukraine doesn't get same international defense efforts as Israel

Washington Examiner: Russia could take Kyiv in 'not too distant future' due to aid delays

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Sen. Michael Bennet: Backing Ukraine will help, not hurt, US deterrence

Washington Examiner: Navy down $1 billion in munitions and has fended off 130 direct attacks in six months

Washington Examiner: Austin speaks with new Chinese counterpart for first time

Washington Examiner: US-Israel Rafah in-person meeting remains unscheduled

Washington Examiner: Army secretary: Low pay doesn't scare off recruits, but makes it tough to keep them

Washington Examiner: Navy pledges more accountability following child abuse allegations

Washington Examiner: House rebels ignore Trump as Johnson faces ouster threat

Washington Examiner: House delivers Mayorkas impeachment articles to divided Senate

Washington Examiner: Republicans confront Mayorkas for giving illegal immigrants freedom over detention

Washington Examiner: Romney calls for Senate debate on Mayorkas articles of impeachment

Washington Examiner: Bob Menendez may blame bribery charges on his wife, documents show

Washington Examiner: Opinion: The US must not obstruct necessary Israeli retaliation

Washington Examiner: Opinion: CIA doubles down on see-no-Russian Havana syndrome spin

Washington Examiner: 'Pro-Palestinian' protesters think they are above the law

AP: Iran president warns of 'massive' response if Israel launches 'tiniest invasion'

Washington Post: U.S. To Levy Sanctions Against Iran Over Attack On Israel

Reuters: Ukraine’s Zelensky Signs New Army Draft Law to Reinforce Exhausted Troops

Wall Street Journal: Ukraine's Chances of Pushing Russia Out Look Increasingly Grim

Wall Street Journal: Israel's War Leaders Don't Trust One Another

Defense News: Navy, Senators Argue Over Who Is To Blame For A Too-Small Fleet

Washington Post: Philippines Plans Ambitious Exercise With U.S. As Concerns Over China Grow

Wall Street Journal: Australia to Boost Defense Spending Amid U.S.-China Tensions

The War Zone: Deck of China's Nearly Complete Carrier Now Hosting Multiple Aircraft Mockups

Stars and Stripes: Navy Seeks Urgent Replenishment of $1 Billion in Munitions Spent Countering Iran-Led Attacks in Middle East

Wall Street Journal: Drone and Missile Warfare Tests Supply-Strapped Defense Systems

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Allvin: USAF Sticking to 100 B-21s as It Considers Something New

Inside Defense: Wedgetail Delayed a Year as Negotiations Continue with Boeing

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Air Force Unveils First Picks For New 'Quick Start' Funding Stream

Air & Space Forces Magazine: F-35 Program Says GAO Report Title Misleading; Sustainment Costs Coming Down

USNI News: In First, Drone Pilot Is Marine Corps' Top 'Aviator Of The Year'

Military Times: As Demand Rises, Marines Need Their Own School for MQ-9 Drone Crews

Space News: DOD Awards $14 Million to 5N Plus to Boost Production of Critical Solar Cell Components for Satellites

Defense One: DOD Doubles Investment in Cutting-Edge Geothermal Energy

Marine Corps Times: Retiring Marines Have To Give 6 Months' Notice, Up From 4 Months

Military.com: Arlington Horse-Drawn Funerals to Remain Suspended as Families Grapple with Burial Arrangements



8 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — National Defense Industrial Association 2024 Missile Defense Conference, with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA); Army Maj. Gen. Gregory Brady, chief of staff at U.S. Strategic Command; Air Force Gen. Stephen Whiting, commander of U.S. Space Command; and Air Force Lt. Gen. Heath Collins, director of the Missile Defense Agency https://www.ndia.org/events

8 a.m. 5000 Seminary Rd., Alexandria, Virginia — Potomac Officers Club CIO Summit, with Doug Cossa, deputy chief information officer of the Defense Intelligence Agency https://potomacofficersclub.com/events/poc-5th-annual-cio-summit/

8:50 a.m. 1615 H St. NW — U.S. Chamber of Commerce U.S.-Ukraine Partnership Forum, with State Department Special Representative for Ukraine’s Economic Recovery Penny Pritzker; Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal; and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo https://events.uschamber.com/2024usukrainepartnershipforum

9:30 a.m. G-50 Dirksen — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: "Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration atomic energy defense activities in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2025 and the Future Years Defense Program" http://www.armed-services.senate.gov

10 a.m. 2359 Rayburn — House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing: “FY2025 Request for the Department of Defense,” with testimony from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin; Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.; and Michael McCord, Defense undersecretary/comptroller and CFO http://appropriations.house.gov

10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: "FY 2025 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of the Air Force," with testimony from Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall; Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Allvin; and Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

10 a.m. 2154 Rayburn — House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing: “Defending America from the Chinese Communist Party’s Political Warfare, Part I,” with testimony from retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding, CEO of SEMPRE and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; retired Marine Corps Col. Grant Newsham; and Peter Mattis, president of the Jamestown Foundation http://oversight.house.gov

10 a.m. 419 Dirksen — Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing: “Modernizing U.S. Alliances and Partnerships in the Indo-Pacific,” with testimony from retired Adm. Harry Harris, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and former commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Walter Russell Mead, professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and columnist at the Wall Street Journal http://foreign.senate.gov

2 p.m. 2172 Rayburn — House Foreign Affairs Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia Subcommittee hearing: “The Despotic Duo: Russo-Iranian Cooperation and Threats to U.S. Interests,” with testimony from Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Gabriel Noronha, fellow, Jewish Institute for National Security of America; and Dana Stroul, research director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy http://foreignaffairs.house.gov

2 p.m. 2362-A Rayburn — House Appropriations Committee Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing: “FY2025 Request for Air Force and Space Force Military Construction and Family Housing,” with testimony from Ravi Chaudhary, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, energy, and environment; Brig. Gen. Brian Hartless, Air Force director of civil engineers, deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering, and force protection; and Bruce Hollywood, associate chief operations officer of the U.S. Space Force http://appropriations.house.gov

3 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee hearing: “Department of the Navy FY2025 Budget Request for Seapower and Projection Forces,” with testimony from Nickolas Guertin, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition; Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for combat development and integration; and Vice Adm. James Pitts, deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities http://www.armedservices.house.gov

3:30 p.m. G-50 Dirksen — Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee hearing: "Defense Department efforts to ensure servicemembers’ access to safe, high-quality pharmaceuticals,” with testimony from Lester Martinez-Lopez, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs; David Smith, deputy assistant secretary of defense for health readiness policy and oversight; Army Brig. Gen. Edward Bailey, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland; Matthew Beebe, director of acquisition (J7) in the Defense Logistics Agency; Melissa Barber, postdoctoral fellow in the Yale Law School and Yale School of Medicine and affiliate at the Yale Collaboration for Regulatory Rigor, Integrity, and Transparency; Bryce Mendez, specialist in defense healthcare policy at the Congressional Research Service; and retired Army Col. Victor Suarez, founder and principal growth partner at Blu Zone Bioscience and Supply Chain Solutions http://www.armed-services.senate.gov

4 p.m. 232-A Russell — Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee hearing: "Army modernization in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2025 and the Future Years Defense Program,” with testimony from Douglas Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology; Gen. James Rainey, commanding general of the U.S. Army Futures Command; and Army Lt. Gen. Karl Gingrich, deputy chief of staff http://www.armed-services.senate.gov

4 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Wilson Center Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies book discussion: New Cold Wars: China’s Rise, Russia’s Invasion, and America’s Struggle to Defend the West, with author David Sanger, New York Times national security and White House correspondent https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/new-cold-wars

4:45 p.m. 222 Russell — Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing: "Atomic energy defense activities and Defense Department nuclear weapons programs in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2025 and the Future Years Defense Program" http://www.armed-services.senate.gov


9 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute Central and Eastern Europe Strategy Summit with former Vice President Dan Quayle; Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice president of the European Commission; Kamil Sasko, first state secretary of the Slovakian Ministry of Economy; Jan Ruzicka, chief external affairs officer of the PPF Group; Marcin Piatkowski, World Bank senior economist; Michael Harms, executive director of the Eastern Committee of the German Economy; Jean Froehly, head of the Ukraine Recovery Conference 2024 Task Force; State Department Deputy Special Representative for Ukraine’s Economic Recovery Tyson Barker; Marek Mora, deputy minister of the Czech Republic Ministry of Finance; Sofia, Bulgaria, Mayor Vassil Terziev; Dragos Stefan Roibu, chief of staff of the Romanian Ministry of Energy; and Tibor Toth, state secretary at the Hungarian Ministry of Finance https://www.hudson.org/events/hudson-central-eastern-europe-strategy-summit-2024

9:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Unpacking the 2024 South Korean Elections,” with Jiyoon Kim, senior adviser at the Institute of Democracy Studies and Education, and Sue Mi Terry, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations https://www.csis.org/events/unpacking-2024-south-korean-elections

1:30 p.m. Santa Monica, California — Rand Corporation discussion: “How Gendered Perspectives Shape National Security,” with retired Navy Vice Adm. Carol Pottenger; Deborah Avant, professor at the University of Denver; Endy Daehner, Rand senior physical scientist; Kyleanne Hunter, Rand senior political scientist; and Mary Lee, Rand mathematician https://www.rand.org/events/2024/04/how-gendered-perspectives-shape

3:30 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW — Atlantic Council discussion: “An Innovative U.K. Strategic Command,” with Gen. Jim Hockenhull, commander of U.K. Strategic Command; former Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, Atlantic Council board director; Michael Andersson, head of strategic partnerships and international affairs at Saab and Atlantic Council board director; and Clementine Starling, director of the Atlantic Council’s Forward Defense https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/a-conversation-with-general-jim-hockenhull


9:30 a.m. 215 Dirksen — U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing: “The National Security Implications of the Economic Relationship between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China" https://www.uscc.gov

10 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: "Modernizing Army Software Acquisition," with Margaret Boatner, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for strategy and acquisition reform, and Brig. Gen. Ed Barker, program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare, and sensors https://www.csis.org/events/modernizing-army-software-acquisition

11 a.m. North Lacrosse, Wisconsin — House Veterans’ Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee field hearing: “Examining Transitioning Servicemembers Experience" http://veterans.house.gov

2:30 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW — Atlantic Council discussion: “Building a Stronger Relationship with the U.S.,” with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' al Sudani https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/iraq-prime-minister

"It may be too late in a year. Before talking about rebuilding Ukraine, we must avoid its destruction. It's cheaper to buy Patriot systems than to rebuild a power station targeted by the Russians."
Josep Borrell, European Union foreign affairs chief, lamenting the destruction of Ukraine's Trypilska power plant, due to a shortage of Patriot missiles.
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