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By ALEXANDER WARD
Since the money is coming from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), and not the Presidential Drawdown Authority, the weapons won’t make it to Ukraine for a while. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo
With help from Paul McLeary, Connor O’Brien and Daniel Lippman
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PROGRAMMING NOTE: National Security Daily won’t publish from Monday, Aug. 29, to Friday, Sept. 2. We’ll be back on our normal schedule on Tuesday, Sept. 6, after the holiday.
President JOE BIDEN is giving Ukraine quite the Independence Day gift: $3 billion in security assistance, signaling the United States is committed to the war for the long haul.
It’s the biggest one-time package to date in the six-month-old war, far exceeding the $1 billion delivery earlier this August. Some, though, are reserving their judgment until the official announcement on Wednesday. “We will have to see what’s in it,” said retired Gen. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, the former Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Two people familiar with the package confirmed it’s coming together ahead of tomorrow’s rollout. Earlier today, the Associated Press’ LOLITA BALDOR and MATTHEW LEE, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reported “[t]he money will fund contracts for drones, weapons and other equipment that may not see the battlefront for a year or two.” And CNN’s NATASHA BERTRAND tweeted that “Western air defense capabilities & a large quantity of ammunition” will also feature in the transfer.
We’ll all have to wait until tomorrow to hear what’s in the rest of the tranche.
But since the money is coming from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), and not the Presidential Drawdown Authority, the weapons won’t make it to Ukraine for a while. That’s because they won’t come from current U.S. military stockpiles and instead will come from defense contractors fulfilling orders.
Congress typically allocates several hundred million dollars to the Pentagon-run account annually. But lawmakers just supersized the fund, granting a whopping $6 billion as part of a $40 billion emergency Ukraine aid package that passed in May.
A Pentagon document seen by POLITICO showed that, as of Aug. 1, only $1.8 billion of the $6.3 billion appropriated to USAI had been used, leaving a delta of $4.5 billion to play with. Which means the $3 billion will eat up a sizable chunk of the remaining funds.
The news comes as Ukraine and Russia have fought to a stalemate as the harshest weather fast approaches. “Winter is coming. And it will be hard. And what we see now is a grinding war of attrition. This is a battle of wills. And a battle of logistics,” NATO Secretary General JENS STOLTENBERG dramatically said Tuesday.
SAP DOCS IN MAL: Drink this in from our own KYLE CHENEY: “The National Archives found more than 700 pages of classified material — including ‘special access program materials,’ some of the most highly classified secrets in government — in 15 boxes recovered from DONALD TRUMP’s Mar-a-Lago estate in January, according to correspondence between the National Archivist and his legal team.”
The May 10 letter, first posted on Just the News, “showed that NARA and federal investigators had grown increasingly alarmed about potential damage to national security caused by the warehousing of these documents at Mar-a-Lago, as well as by Trump’s resistance to sharing them with the FBI.”
Trump and his allies insist that he declassified all the documents in his possession because of the extraordinary powers to do so given to the president. But even former Trump officials say the former president’s claim of a “standing order” is nonsense.
COMMISSION TO KEEP VETS OUT OF JAIL: The Council on Criminal Justice has announced the formation of the Veterans Justice Commission, charged with examining why so many military veterans end up in prison or jail, including the 180,000 currently incarcerated across the country.
CHUCK HAGEL, the former secretary of defense, will chair the group. He told NatSec Daily that the commission will hold meetings and engage in deep research over the next six months, then compile a set of recommendations for the Council. After that, they hope to brief the VA, DOD, and veterans-focused committees on the Hill.
Hagel served in Vietnam and shared that many who fought in that war returned troubled. “You’re not thinking straight. You’re not a stable person because of whatever it is,” he said. He and his brother Tom struggled mentally when they returned from the war, he said, though they were able to overcome their issues. Others aren’t so fortunate, Hagel lamented, and that can lead to problems, whether it’s drug or alcohol abuse or violence against their partners.
A close friend of Hagel’s died by suicide, asphyxiating himself in the garage. His wife and three children found him.
A 2021 report by the VA showed that 6,261 veterans died by suicide in 2019, the latest figures available, 399 fewer than in 2018.
Hagel fears that the military’s lagging recruitment numbers will lead the services to welcome people who have no business being in uniform. That could lead to other issues down the line that could see them incarcerated or worse.
“We need to pay more attention,” the former secretary said. “We haven’t done a good job responding to their needs.”
ADVANTAGE, UKRAINE: Six months into the war, it’s increasingly looking like Ukraine is gaining upper hand against Russia, The Wall Street Journal’s MARCUS WALKER and GORDON LUBOLD reported.
“The Russian military has lost much of what momentum it had and has redeployed a lot of its forces in anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive in the southern part of the country,” MICHAEL KOFMAN, director of Russia studies program at CNA, told WSJ. “I don’t think there is a natural stalemate on the ground,” he said. “I think there is at least another chapter to play out before winter.”
But, but, but: “Russia still has far more artillery and shells. The difficulty of advancing over open ground makes it hard for Ukraine to retake occupied land. Western military aid, especially from Europe, remains slow and stuttering from Kyiv’s perspective. Many Western policy makers continue to doubt that Ukraine can achieve military victory short of a level of Western support that might risk escalation into a direct war with Russia,” per the WSJ.
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STATE TO AMCITS: LEAVE UKRAINE: The State Department issued a dire warning Monday night, urging Americans to leave Ukraine ahead of suspected Russian efforts to target civilians.
Russia is “stepping up efforts” to strike civilian infrastructure “in the coming days,” the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said in an alert message.
It’s unclear what intelligence is leading the U.S. to believe Russia is going to escalate its attacks on civilian targets in the coming days. One possibility could be in retaliation for the assassination of DARYA DUGINA, though Ukraine denies any role in the killing. Or Moscow could be trying to ruin Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday.
“Kyiv has been warning for some time now that Russia might launch missile attacks on that day,” our own CHRISTOPHER MILLER tweeted. Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY said in a Monday night video address that Russia had launched around 3,500 rockets at Ukraine since the war began.
CYBER IS NORWAY OIL FUND’S TOP THREAT: Cybersecurity, not the volatility of financial markets, is the biggest threat to the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund (which is something considering its historic losses this month).
“I’m worried about cyber more than I am about markets,” NICOLAI TANGEN, chief of Norway’s $1.2 trillion Norges Bank Investment Management oil fund, told the Financial Times. “We’re seeing many more attempts, more attacks [that are] increasingly sophisticated.”
The fund takes on about 100,000 cyberattacks a year, 1,000 of which the group considers serious.
The FT’s ADRIENNE KLASA and ROBIN WIGGLESWORTH add important context: “Cyber attacks targeting the financial industry have risen sharply in recent months. Malware attacks globally rose 11 per cent in the first half of 2022, but they doubled at banks and financial institutions, according to cyber security specialist SonicWall. Ransomware attacks dropped 23 per cent worldwide, but increased 243 per cent against financial targets in the same period.”
It’s probably a good thing that Stoltenberg, the current NATO boss, will take the reins of the fund soon. That may scare off some hackers.
DOUBLING DOWN: Our friends at Morning Defense (for Pros!) report the Army announced on Monday that it plans to more than double the contract ceiling with Raytheon Technologies — to $1.1 billion from $495 million — to increase production of 155mm Excalibur artillery projectiles, according to a notice published Monday.
The precision-guided munitions will be included in the next batch of U.S. military aid for Ukraine, two people with knowledge of the transfer told our own LEE HUDSON, PAUL McLEARY and your host.
The munitions will provide the Ukrainian forces with another means to precisely target dug-in Russian positions and command posts behind the front lines.
WHERE ARE THEY?: Three Senate Republicans wrote to FBI Director CHRISTOPHER WRAY demanding answers about the at least 50 Afghan evacuees labeled by the National Ground Intelligence Center as “potentially significant security concerns.”
“The American people deserve answers about President Biden’s decision to parole individuals into the country without adequate screening and to understand the FBI’s role in assessing and investigating these security concerns,” wrote Sens. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-Iowa), ROB PORTMAN (R-Ohio) and JAMES INHOFE (R-Okla.).
After Wray told lawmakers he couldn’t provide the exact location of some of the 50 at any given time, the senators wrote that they lack “confidence that the FBI knows the exact location of at least 50 Afghan evacuees with significant security concerns.”
They now want an in-person briefing with Wray and for the FBI to provide more information on the individuals.
WE NEED UPDATES: The Biden administration needs to update Congress on the status of Iran deal negotiations, Rep. MICHAEL McCAUL (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to Biden Tuesday.
“It is completely unreasonable for this administration to think that a review could be favorable without a robust history of engagement with Congress, to include an increased tempo of briefings as negotiations reach their purported end game,” McCaul wrote. “I urge you to provide a series of briefings to Congress, as soon as possible,” he continued, asserting those consultations must continue until lawmakers approve or reject the revived deal.
In March 2021, Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN told lawmakers “we’re determined to consult on the takeoff, not on the landing, across the board.”
TRUSS DEFICIT: Much of the world isn’t excited that LIZ TRUSS is set to become Britain’s next prime minister.
“More than a dozen conversations with senior diplomats and insiders from power centers around the world suggest Truss is not exactly a popular choice on the global stage. She will be met with deep skepticism across much of western Europe, and within the Biden White House. There are questions about relations with the new Australian government. She is despised in Moscow and Beijing,” POLITICO’s CRISTINA GALLARDO and LEONIE KIJEWSKI reported. “On the other hand, Truss is quite popular in eastern European states, and parts of the Indo-Pacific. So it’s not all bad.”
Truss’ ties to European capitals are particularly fraught after she unveiled controversial legislation to allow U.K. ministers to switch off parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, a key element of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, leading to accusations that Britain is preparing to breach international law.
“We have a negative impression, not based on her intentions but her actions,” a London-based diplomat from a large EU country said. “A new leader is always a new opportunity for a reset, but we will have to see if she takes steps towards rebuilding trust, which is very needed.”
— BRIGHAM McCOWN is now senior fellow and director of the Hudson Institute’s Initiative on American Energy Security. He is also chair and CEO of consulting firm Nouveau and most recently was CEO of Alyeska, the operator of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.
— TESS McENERY is the Project on Middle East Democracy’s new executive director. Before joining POMED, McEnery led a State Department team in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
— ANTONIA FERRIER is now VP for external affairs at the International Republican Institute. She most recently was chief strategy and communications officer at CGCN Group and is a MITCH McCONNELL, ORRIN HATCH and JOHN BOEHNER alum.
— YEGOR FIRSOV, The New York Times: Ukraine’s Russian ‘Liberators’ Are Seeing That We Live Better Than They Do
— SEAN MONAGHAN, War on the Rocks: The Sword, The Shield, and the Hedgehog: Strengthening Deterrence In NATO’s New Strategic Concept
— JESSICA EVANS, We Are The Mighty: The delicious history and evolution of MREs
— Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, 8 a.m.:2022 Chemical Security Summit
— Potomac Officers Club, 8 a.m.:7th Annual Army Summit
— National Defense Industrial Association, 10 a.m.:NDIA International Division Attaché Roundtable Series
— Wilson Center, 10 a.m.:Ripples of War: Six Months Since Russia’s Invasion into Ukraine
— Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, 10 a.m.:Nuclear Deterrence and Missile Defense Forum: RADM SCOTT W. PAPPANO
— George Washington University, 10 a.m.:After the KE-ASAT Moratorium: What Next?
— Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1 p.m.:The Future of Army Vertical Lift
— Atlantic Council, 2 p.m.:State of the Space Industrial Base 2022: Advancing Prosperity, Sustainability, and US Leadership in Outer Space
–– Asia Society, 9 p.m.:The Past, Present, and Future of U.S.-India Relations
Have a natsec-centric event coming up? Transitioning to a new defense-adjacent or foreign policy-focused gig? Shoot me an email at [email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.
And thanks to my editor, Ben Pauker, who also gets nervous when he doesn’t know where I am at all times.
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