Today’s D Brief: Russia wants more of Ukraine; Spain’s defense spending boost; The risks of arming Ukraine; And a bit more.


Russia’s military is reportedly preparing for a new phase of its gradual Ukraine invasion, and after nearly five months of sustained personnel and equipment losses, a key Russian official just reconfirmed Vladimir Putin’s initial goals of capturing and occupying Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv.

According to Putin’s state-run media RIA, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said Tuesday that the aims of Russia’s invasion “are to ensure the protection of people from genocide by the Ukrainian neo-Nazi regime, to demilitarize and denazify the territory of Ukraine,” allegations that are not at all true—especially since Kyiv’s duly elected president is in fact Jewish; but nevermind the truth. 

Patrushev also insisted the war must continue because of “the spread of neo-Nazism in Ukraine, the functioning on its territory of biological laboratories involved in the U.S. military biological program [which is part of a decades-old deception engineered the Kremlin going back even to the Soviet era], as well as the plans announced by the Kyiv authorities to create nuclear weapons [not true] and join NATO [won’t happen for a long time, if ever] created significant threats security not only of Russia, but of the whole world.” Patrushev also accused Ukraine’s leaders of “bullying and genocide” in the country’s east—all of which, taken together, amount to a brazen (if sadly unsurprising) combination of disinformation, projection, and machismo. And they also, of course, point to extended economic pain for Ukraine and its allied partners across Europe and the West as sanctions against Russia are unlikely to end anytime soon.

Bigger picture: “Patrushev’s statement significantly increases the burden on those who suggest that some compromise ceasefire or even peace based on limited additional Russian territorial gains is possible, even if it were acceptable to Ukraine or desirable for the West (neither of which is the case),” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War wrote Tuesday evening. 

Coverage continues below the fold…

From Defense One

The Air & Space Brief: Air defenses for Ukraine; Rocket in a box; F-35s to Lakenheath  // Tara Copp: 

The Risks of US Military Assistance to Ukraine // Rachel Stohl and Elias Yousif: With arms pouring into a wartorn country, we must take steps to ensure they are not stolen or misused.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1995, more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up and executed around the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica, during the Bosnian War. American journalist David Rohde called it “Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.”

About that “new” phase of Russia’s invasion: The British military says the battle for Ukraine’s city of Sloviansk “will be the next key contest in the struggle for the Donbas,” which is where Kremlin planners seem to have set their sights after failing to take Kyiv in March. The city of Bakhmut, southeast of Sloviansk, could see a Russian offensive soon, too, according to the Wall Street Journal

Russia is attempting what seem to be combined arms movements, but they are not terribly successful yet, according to the Ukrainian military’s latest battlefield update. That includes an offensive near Bakhmut, which in the past day saw artillery strikes “of varying calibers” along with airstrikes and ground troops in “assault operations.” Ukraine’s military claims they have “inflicted losses on the occupiers and pushed them back,” and “The enemy is trying to regroup” after that assault, which happened “in the area of Spirne,” near Vershyna—a city halfway between Bakhmut and the recently-captured town of Lysychansk, on the western edge of the Luhansk oblast. 

Ukraine says its air force has been busy lately, using bombers and attack aircraft to strike “two field ammunition depots, two platoon strongholds of the Russian occupiers, and more than 10 units of enemy equipment,” though no locations were specified for those alleged attacks, which Ukraine says took place from “several strategic directions” on Tuesday. 

Russia’s military says it blew up two U.S.-made HIMARS artillery systems this week using “air-launched, high-precision missiles,” the Associated Press reports, though it’s too early to be able to confirm that allegation from Moscow. Ukraine allegedly has nine such systems, and eight of those are from the U.S. 

  • For the record: The Pentagon updated its fact sheet on military aid to Ukraine so far. You can find that tally here

Putin’s invaders have turned a Ukrainian nuclear plant into a military base, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday regarding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, on the southern banks of the Dnipro River. Several artillery systems, mines, tanks, and military dog teams now form a ring around the facility. “We’re not going to storm the plant,” a former Ukrainian military chief told the Journal. “The only way to do it would be to surround it, to take the surrounding areas, and ask them to leave.”

Get a better understanding of how Putin’s invasion has set back Yandex, which the New York Times calls “the Russian version of Google.” Neil MacFarquhar of the Times profiled Yandex in a useful tech explainer on Wednesday that helps account for why a sixth of the company’s employees have quit and fled the country since Putin’s invaders crossed the border more than four months ago in their lethal and clumsy bid to capture Kyiv. 

Spain is bumping up its military spending as it aims to reach the NATO goal of 2% of gross domestic product for defense by 2029, AP reported Tuesday from Barcelona. The country’s cabinet recently approved nearly 1 billion euros in a “one-off expenditure,” to cover expenses related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but will need to double its military spending from 13 billion euros to 26 billion euros in seven years to meet the pledge it made last week at the NATO summit. Just nine of NATO’s 30 members meet or surpass the goal of 2% of GDP for defense.

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