Daily on Defense: US-Ukraine to sign defense pact, Austin seeks more air defense for Ukraine, Orban pledges not to block aid to Kyiv

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BY JAMIE MCINTYRE

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BIDEN, ZELENSKY TO SIGN US-UKRAINE SECURITY PACT: At the end of a long day of working sessions at the summit of world leaders of the Group of Seven democracies in Fasano, Italy, President Joe Biden will sit down with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to deliver on a commitment made last year to pursue separate security agreements while Ukraine waits for NATO membership.

After 15 nations have signed such agreements, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Denmark, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Latvia, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, and Sweden, it's now America's turn. After months of negotiations, Biden and Zelensky will sign the U.S.-Ukraine agreement tonight (1:45 p.m. Eastern time).

"By signing this, we’ll also be sending Russia a signal of our resolve," national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Italy. "If Vladimir Putin thinks that he can outlast the coalition supporting Ukraine, he’s wrong. He just cannot wait us out, and this agreement will show our resolve and continued commitment."

DEEPENING COOPERATION SHORT OF AN ALLIANCE: The agreement, which could be altered by a future president, outlines steps for a deepening cooperation with Ukraine and is focused on working with the U.S. Congress "to find a path to sustainable resources for Ukraine."

"It does not include specific dollar figures. It includes a commitment to work with Congress on sustainable funding going forward, which we will do," Sullivan said. "And it lays out a framework for how we work with Ukraine and with other allies and partners to ensure Ukraine has what it needs in terms of the fiscal capacity as well as the intelligence and other capacities to be able to defend itself effectively and to deter Russia."

"They have asked for our weapons and assistance as they fight to defend their territory. They have not asked our forces to join the fight," he added. "So this agreement does not include any commitment to using our own forces to defend Ukraine."

A 'BRIDGE' TO NATO MEMBERSHIP: While Zelensky is disappointed Ukraine will not get an invitation to join NATO at next month's leaders summit in Washington, the security agreement is meant to ease the sting. 

"This would be a bridge from now to Ukraine’s ultimate membership in NATO when conditions are met and all allies agree," Sullivan said. "That bridge involves us helping Ukraine have the capacity that it needs for its own security and for sustaining its own sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"We want to demonstrate that the U.S. supports the people of Ukraine, that we stand with them, and that we’ll continue to help address their security needs not just tomorrow but out into the future."

BIDEN JETS BACK TO EUROPE AFTER HUNTER'S CONVICTION

Good Thursday 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

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HAPPENING TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers, but as has become the custom, the first order of business was another gathering of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which has welcomed Argentina as its newest member.

In his opening remarks to the 50 member nations, Austin said Ukraine's war with Russia is at a critical point. "As we gathered this morning, Ukraine’s forces are in a tough fight in Kharkiv and elsewhere. The Kremlin continues to intensify its bombardment of Ukraine's cities and civilians, and Ukraine urgently needs more air defense capabilities to defend its skies," Austin said.

Austin did not announce the delivery of a second Patriot missile system that U.S. officials say is in Poland and will soon be sent to Ukraine, but he'll be joined by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. at a post-meeting news conference at 9 a.m., when we may hear more.

"This is a critical moment. The stakes of this war are high, and Ukraine survival is on the line, but so is all of our security." Austin said. "None of us would want to live in a world where Putin prevails — we would all be less secure if tyrants think that they can trample borders and cow their neighbors."

THE G7's WORKAROUND: Leaders of the G7 countries have come up with a scheme to get around the legal problems of confiscating frozen Russian assets and sending the money to Ukraine. The first step was a move by the European Union to seize the interest generated by the frozen assets, which is easier legally to appropriate.

But to turn those assets into cash for Ukraine, the G7 nations have devised a plan to loan Ukraine $50 billion by using the interest earned on the roughly $300 billion in Russian money frozen in European banks.

The money would be in the form of a loan from the U.S. government that would be secured by the windfall profits on the Russian assets. "The goal is not to wait until some indefinite point in the future," Sullivan told reporters on the flight to Italy. "It’s to provide the necessary resources to Ukraine now for its economic, energy, and other needs so that it’s capable of having the resilience necessary to withstand Russia’s continuing aggression."

STOLTENBERG'S ORBAN FINESSE: Hungary's pro-Putin autocratic leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has increasingly become an obstacle as NATO seeks to do more to help Ukraine. Since the alliance requires unanimity of its 32 member nations to do anything of consequence, it can be blocked by a single recalcitrant member, such as Turkey or, in this case, Hungary.

NATO is putting together a plan for long-term financial and security assistance to Ukraine that it plans to unveil at next month's Washington summit, but Orban's Hungary is standing in the way. So Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg paid a visit to Budapest yesterday and worked out a deal with Orban for what he called "modalities for Hungary’s nonparticipation in NATO’s support to Ukraine."

"Prime Minister Orban has made it clear that Hungary will not participate in these NATO efforts. And I accept this position," Stoltenberg said at a joint appearance with Orban. "No Hungarian personnel will take part in these activities, and no Hungarian funds will be used to support them. At the same time, the prime minister has assured me that Hungary will not oppose these efforts, enabling other allies to move forward."

"At the summit, I expect allies will agree on a leading role for NATO in coordinating and providing security assistance and training for Ukraine," Stoltenberg said. "I also expect allies will agree to a long-term financial pledge to provide military support. This will provide the predictability and accountability that Ukraine needs."

AUSTIN: RUSSIA PAYING HEAVY PRICE: This morning, Austin gave some new figures on the combat losses that Russia has suffered pursuing what he called "Putin’s imperial ambitions." The overall casualties are lower than what Ukraine and the U.K. have recently estimated but are staggering nonetheless.

"Since Putin’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, at least 350,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded. Ukrainian forces have sunk, destroyed, or damaged 24 Russian vessels in the Black Sea, and since September of last year, just before the Kremlin began its renewed offensive, Russia has lost more than 2,600 combat vehicles across the front lines," Austin said. "As Russian invaders moved forward west of Avdiivka, they lost more than 160 combat vehicles in May alone. So that’s just another reminder of the price that Russia has paid for Putin’s imperial ambitions, and it’s another reminder of Ukraine’s determination."

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

THE RUNDOWN: 

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AP: Yemen's Houthi Rebels Launch Drone-Boat-Borne Bomb Attack Against Greek-Owned Ship In Red Sea

Wall Street Journal: How An Iranian-Backed Militia Ties Down U.S. Naval Forces In The Red Sea

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THE CALENDAR: 

THURSDAY | JUNE 13

8 a.m. 7920 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, Virginia — Potomac Officers Club 2024 Army Summit, with Doug Bush, assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology, and Army Chief Information Officer Leonel Garciga https://potomacofficersclub.com/events/poc-9th-annual-army-summit/

9 a.m Brussels Belgium — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosts the 23rd meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. Post-meeting news conference livestreamed at https://www.defense.gov/News/Live-Events/

9:30 a.m. — U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission virtual hearing, “China’s Stockpiling and Mobilization Measures for Competition and Conflict" https://www.uscc.gov/hearings/chinas-stockpiling-and-mobilization-measures

10 a.m. 1501 Langston Blvd., Arlington, Virginia — Air and Space Forces Association discussion: "Air Force efforts to prepare for great power competition,” with Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Allvin https://www.afa.org/events/air-space-warfighters-in-action

11:30 a.m. (new time) 2172 Rayburn — House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee hearing: “The Plight of Americans Detained Abroad," with testimony from Rena Bitter, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs; Roger Carstens, State Department special presidential envoy for hostage affairs; and Raj Maan, director of the FBI's Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell http://foreignaffairs.house.gov

2 p.m. 310 Cannon — House Homeland Security Committee hearing: “A Cascade of Security Failures: Assessing Microsoft Corporation’s Cybersecurity Shortfalls and the Implications for Homeland Security," with testimony from Microsoft Vice Chairman and President Brad Smith http://homeland.house.gov

TUESDAY | JUNE 18

8 a.m. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Zoom discussion of the Congressional report: "Preventing, Countering, and Responding to Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism: Nuclear Threats," with Stephen Flynn, chairman, WMD Nuclear Terrorism Committee; and Michael Janicke, senior staff director RSVP: Thom Shanker at [email protected]. https://nationalsecuritymedia.gwu.edu/

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QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Prime Minister Orban and I today agreed [on] the modalities for how Hungary should not participate in the support efforts for Ukraine. … He also agreed that Hungary will not block any decision by other NATO allies on taking on the lead of the provision of training and security assistance."
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg after convincing Hungary's pro-Putin leader Victor Orban not to stand in the way of NATO plans to assist Ukraine in its war with Russia.
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