Today’s D Brief: UK defense chief in Kyiv; After Putin visit, Kim vows more nukes; Taiwan unveils sub; Robot-wingman flap; And a bit more.

by Braxton Taylor

Britain’s new military chief visited Kyiv Thursday for discussions with President Volodymir Zelenskyy. Grant Shapps has been on the job less than a month, following the departure of his predecessor, Ben Wallace, after four years on the job. “We discussed further defense cooperation and steps to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense,” Zelenskyy said on social media about his meeting with Shapps. 

“As Ukraine retakes its territory, UK support remains unwavering,” Schapps said. “We will work tirelessly to bring our partners together to help Ukraine defeat Putin’s illegal invasion,” he continued. “Slava Ukraini.”

By the way: The British military thinks Russia won’t be able to muster the forces needed for a new offensive in Ukraine anytime soon. This is because Russia “highly likely committed elements of its new 25th Combined Arms Army to action for the first time” about two weeks ago, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday. Elements of that force “are reported to be fighting on the front in a sector west of Severodonetsk and Kreminna, along the border between Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.” 

The Brits said that suggests “a concerted new Russian offensive is less likely over the coming weeks” since several key elements are “apparently being deployed piecemeal to reinforce the over-stretched line” around Donetsk and Luhansk. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is in Kyiv for talks with Zelenskyy, too, alliance officials said Thursday. “Ukrainians are fighting for their families, their future, their freedom; Moscow is fighting for imperial delusions,” Stoltenberg said. 

“Russia could lay down arms and end its war today; Ukraine does not have that option,” said the alliance chief. “Ukraine’s future is in NATO,” he added. “As we work together to prepare you for that future, NATO will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

New: German arms maker Rheinmetall announced a cooperation agreement with Ukraine. “The joint venture is to be based in Kyiv and will work on service and maintenance for military vehicles,” Germany’s Federal Cartel Office said. Eventually, Rheinmetall and the Ukrainian Defence Industry group plan “to jointly produce selected Rheinmetall products in Ukraine,” the German firm said in a statement. Read more, here. 

After cutting oil production, Russia and Saudi Arabia are cashing in big, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday as Brent crude approaches $100 per barrel again and “could introduce fresh inflationary pressures into the U.S. economy.” 

How much are the two nations cashing in? “Oil revenues in Saudi Arabia this quarter are likely up by nearly $30 million a day compared with the April-June period, or an increase of about 5.7%, analysis by Energy Aspects shows. For the whole three-month period, that would equate to about $2.6 billion. Russian oil revenues are likely up by about $2.8 billion, the data shows.”

Russia can definitely use the money, since it has increased defense spending by 35%, or about $21 billion, in the first quarter of this year compared to 2022. “This is Russia weaponizing energy again,” one analyst told the Journal. Read more behind the paywall, here. 

Developing: Two weeks after meeting with his Russian counterpart, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un said his country will “exponentially” increase its production of nuclear weapons, state-run media KCNA announced Thursday. 

Trigger warning (if Communist vocabulary/propaganda is distasteful to you). Here’s a bit more from Kim’s spicy messaging, delivered in a speech this week before Pyongyang’s Supreme People’s Assembly: “The present situation, in which the structure of the ‘new Cold War’ is being materialized on a global scale and the existence of sovereign states and the right to existence of their people are seriously threatened by the reactionary imperialist forces keen on realizing their ambition for hegemony and expansionist fantasy, proves that our Republic was entirely just when it made a decisive decision to build a nuclear force in the face of all sorts of trials and fix it as an irreversible state law.”

North Korea also called Washington’s closer coordination with officials in Tokyo and Seoul an “emergence of the ‘Asian-version NATO’, the root cause of war and aggression.” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has more on that speech this week, here. 

Extra reading: “Drones Everywhere: How the Technological Revolution on Ukraine Battlefields Is Reshaping Modern Warfare,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday from Donetsk. 

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1995, French mercenary Bob Denard and almost three dozen other fighters launched a coup in the island nation of Comoros, near Madagascar. It was Denard’s fourth coup in Comoros going back to the 1970s; however, unlike the other three attempts, this one was not sponsored by the French government—and Denard was forced to surrender the following week.

Taiwan unveils its first homegrown submarine. The Narwhal attack sub, built for T$49.36 billion ($1.53 billion), is built around a combat system by Lockheed Martin and will be armed with U.S.-made Mark 48 heavyweight torpedoes. Officials are aiming for sea trials next month and delivery to the navy by the end of 2024.

Reuters: “The indigenous submarine programme has drawn on expertise and technology from several countries—a breakthrough for diplomatically isolated Taiwan.”

Rewind: “During the 1980s, Taiwan bought two submarines from the Netherlands that remain in service today,” the Wall Street Journal reminds us. “In the 1990s, the Clinton administration rejected Taiwan’s request to sell it eight submarines on the grounds that the sale could inflame tensions with China. In the early 2000s, opposition lawmakers rejected a budget request to buy eight subs from the U.S.” But that changed after President Tsai Ing-wen took over in 2016. 

China’s take: Taiwan is “over-rating itself and attempting something impossible,” spokesman Wu Qian told reporters in Beijing. “As for talk about preventing the People’s Liberation Army from entering the Pacific Ocean, this is idiotic nonsense.” 

Air Force bristles at congressional cost limits for robot wingmen. A proposal by the House Armed Services Committee would force the service to classify its envisioned “collaborative combat aircraft” as “expendable,” “attritable,” and “exquisite”—each of which would carry a per-drone cost cap of $3 million to $25 million.

The service’s response: “We’re very opposed to those cost targets. I don’t know where those categories came from. They’re not what we’re doing,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said earlier this month. D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here.

Over in the Senate, the Armed Services Committee approved several thousand promotions that are unlikely to go anywhere soon. On Wednesday, the SASC voted by voice en bloc to report out favorably a list of 4,318 military nominations in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Space Force. The list includes 38 general officer and flag officer promotions, including: 

  • Adm. Lisa M. Franchetti to be chief of naval operations, a post vacant since Adm. Mike Gilday retired in August.
  • Gen. David W. Allvin to be chief of staff of the Air Force, a post vacant since Gen. CQ Brown received confirmation to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs earlier this month.

Already underway this morning: The Senate Armed Services Committee is considering the nominations of Derek Chollet to be defense undersecretary for policy, and Cara Abercrombie to be the next assistant defense secretary for acquisition. That began at 9:30 a.m. ET. Livestream, here. 

Few, if any, of these approved and proposed promotions and nominations will move forward in the Senate while the GOP’s Tommy Tuberville continues to block efforts to confirm multiple people at once.

Meanwhile, in the House: Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Space Command’s Army Gen. James Dickinson, and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman are meeting with the Armed Services Committee to discuss “the strategic basing process for U.S. Space Command,” which the Biden administration has decided to keep in Colorado instead of relocating to Alabama, where HASC’s Republican chairman Mike Rogers is from. Rogers has made no secret of his indignation over Biden’s Space Command decision. That hearing began at 10 a.m. ET. Catch the livestream here.

Elsewhere in the House, lawmakers are discussing war powers authorizations with the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Christopher Maier and Department of Defense General Counsel Caroline Krass. That, too, began at 10 a.m. ET. Catch the Foreign Affairs Committee’s livestream, here.  

The Coast Guard’s top Pacific commander Vice Admiral Andrew Tiongson is discussing “Lasers and Water Cannons” and “the Chinese Communist Party’s Harassment in the South China Sea” in a hearing before HFA’s Indo-Pacific subcommittee. He’ll be joined by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Lindsey Ford and the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Affairs Jung Pak. That gets underway at 2 p.m. ET. Details and livestream, here.

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