U.K. Foreign Secretary Warns Against Easing Pressure on Russia

The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary told attendees at a forum on NATO’s future it was crucial that Russia loses its invasion into Ukraine. Speaking a few hours before NATO begun its formal meeting in Madrid, Liz Truss warned against bargaining with Moscow for a false peace. “We have to defeat Russia first,” she said. Secretary of […]

Ukrainian National Guard soldiers in April 2022. Ukrainian National Guard Photo

The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary told attendees at a forum on NATO’s future it was crucial that Russia loses its invasion into Ukraine.

Speaking a few hours before NATO begun its formal meeting in Madrid, Liz Truss warned against bargaining with Moscow for a false peace.

“We have to defeat Russia first,” she said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, also participating in the public forum sponsored by American and European think tanks, said “it takes two to tango” in negotiating peace. So far, the Kremlin has made no moves to begin serious talks even for a ceasefire.

He termed President Vladimir Putin’s claims before the Feb. 24 invasion that “NATO was a threat; Ukraine was a threat” as Russian sovereignty fiction.

Speaking to the forum from Kyiv, Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said, “Russia understands more and more they cannot win on the battlefield.”

He added that as the war has moved into its fourth month the Kremlin has increasingly attacked civilian targets like malls, schools and hospitals. These missile and artillery strikes are “done on purpose,” he said.

“If we step back tomorrow, [the Russians] will go further,” Yermak said.

When the fighting began Russian-backed separatists and Moscow itself controlled about 7 percent of Ukraine. The percentage has grown to about 20 percent now, several participants in the forum said.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to NATO leaders late Tuesday, called upon the alliance, European Union and partners in the Indo-Pacific for more military aid, especially long-range artillery, and money to continue Ukrainian’s resistance to the invasion.

When asked in a later forum session Adm. Rob Bauer, of the Royal Netherlands Navy and chair of NATO’s military committee, said the most important issue is maintaining unity in support of Ukraine in this struggle.

“The combination of the E.U. and NATO is powerful,” he said.

In addition to rushing military equipment and ammunition to Kyiv, the moves being made by the alliance bolstering forces in the east and along the Black Sea and the pending admission of Sweden and Finland to NATO were “all the things [Putin] had nightmares about,” Bauer said. Now, “it is going to happen.”

Zelensky told alliance leaders the Kremlin was continuing to look beyond Ukraine to extend its influence and control by whatever means it chooses.

“The appetite of the aggressor is only growing,” Yermak said at the forum.

He added another Kyiv goal is “full-fledged membership” in NATO. “Our membership will only strengthen” the alliance.

Truss said the unity of the alliance in meeting Russian aggression in Ukraine should also send a message of China not to “draw the wrong calculation” about invading Taiwan.

Yermak also called for a sixth wave of sanctions to be levied on Russia for its aggression. Other speakers at the forum said the sanctions needed to be place on Moscow’s natural gas industry and export trade.

Yermak and others, like newly installed Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, acknowledged that there were consequences in imposing sanctions on Russia that comes in higher energy prices and in other economic sectors.

Australian “values didn’t change” in the wake of wide-ranging sanctions imposed by China on Canberra’s exports of coal, wine and beef, Albanese said.

While historically, democracies have not used economic power to achieve political results, “trade has gotten a lot more geopolitical,” Truss said.

Truss noted 50 percent of the world’s gross domestic product came from those nations.

Attending the NATO meeting as a non-member observer, Albanese said, “like-minded governments need to support each other.”

“Australia is the largest non-NATO member supporter of Ukraine,” he said.

The “norms of international engagement is being tested” in Europe and across the Indo-Pacific by China. He specifically mentioned Beijing’s new security arrangement with the Solomon Islands as being worrisome.

“We also need to learn that lesson that security is not simply “hard security,” meaning military capability, he said.

The 27-member EU announced last week that it has granted Ukraine and Moldova, another nation bordering Russia, fast-track candidate status for membership.

The economic/political world is no longer divided into capitalist-communist camps, Truss said. “There are others [nations that are not democracies} that want to stick to norms of order” that Russia and China are disrupting.

Report to Congress on Ukrainian Military Performance

The following is the June 29, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Ukrainian Military Performance and Outlook. From the report The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) continue to face disadvantages in seeking to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity against Russian military forces. On the one hand, since Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the […]

The following is the June 29, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Ukrainian Military Performance and Outlook.

From the report

The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) continue to face disadvantages in seeking to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity against Russian military forces. On the one hand, since Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the UAF has successfully defended against, and in some areas pushed back, Russian forces. On the other hand, this resistance has come with losses in personnel and equipment, and the overall outlook for the war remains uncertain. The Biden Administration and Congress have expressed support for Ukraine’s defense of its territorial integrity against Russia’s invasion. An understanding of the evolving state of the UAF may be of interest to Congress as it continues to weigh policies potentially supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression.

Personnel
Some observers note that the UAF’s initially positive overall performance is due in part to the experience and motivation of its personnel. The UAF has continued to benefit from high levels of recruitment and motivation. High losses, however, pose an ongoing challenge to the UAF’s ability to maintain effective and sustained operations.

Since 2014, the UAF has gained important combat experience fighting Russian-led forces in the Eastern Ukraine regions of the Donbas, which has led to a large proportion of trained, experienced veterans among Ukraine’s population. These veterans and other volunteers (including foreign recruits, some with previous military experience) were quickly mobilized into Ukraine’s new, volunteer Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) and Reserve, without the need for lengthy training. Additionally, the high level of experience and training among the recruits meant they were able to operate artillery, tank, and support systems that traditionally require time for reservists or volunteers to master. These units were crucial in supporting and enabling regular UAF units to spearhead resistance and counteroffensives in multiple areas.

Since the beginning of the 2022 war, Ukraine reportedly has suffered high levels of casualties. In early June 2022, Ukrainian officials estimated losses of up to 100-200 killed in action each day, but officials have not provided precise figures. Losses are likely higher among regular UAF and Special Forces units, forcing a greater reliance on TDF and Reserve units. Due to losses and the need to rotate out troops, Ukraine has had to recruit and train a substantial amount of replacements. Unlike the initial period of war when most recruits were veterans, most new recruits and volunteers have little military experience. As a result, it takes longer for the UAF to train new recruits.

The UAF also faces two major hurdles to training and deploying new personnel. First, like many militaries, Ukraine was in the process of developing a professional noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps along NATO standards before Russia’s 2022 invasion. The UAF did not have a fully developed professional NCO corps by the time of the invasion and continued to deal with issues with retention, professional development, and funding. As described previously, the high proportion of trained veterans, many with combat experience, mitigated to some degree the need for an established NCO corps to train and command new recruits. However, with mounting UAF losses and recruits with no experience as replacements, continuing the development of an effective NCO corps will likely remain a major challenge and a key UAF priority.

Second, the UAF’s need for immediate reinforcements creates pressure to train new recruits to only the bare minimum levels. Training recruits to conduct complex operations and operate advanced weapon systems takes longer, but both areas are widely considered necessary for the UAF to sustain combat operations in the current conflict.

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DoD: Ukraine Sinks Russian Supply Ship With Harpoon Missile

Ukrainian forces used a Harpoon missile to sink a Russian resupply ship headed to Snake Island, a senior defense official told reporters Friday afternoon. The sinking of the ship helped Ukrainian forces retake Snake Island, which had been in Russian control since the early days of the invasion. The island, called Zmiinyi Ostriv in Ukraine, […]

Danish land-based Harpoon launcher in 2002.

Ukrainian forces used a Harpoon missile to sink a Russian resupply ship headed to Snake Island, a senior defense official told reporters Friday afternoon.

The sinking of the ship helped Ukrainian forces retake Snake Island, which had been in Russian control since the early days of the invasion. The island, called Zmiinyi Ostriv in Ukraine, was the symbol of Ukrainian resistance after a Ukrainian service member on the island told Russian warship Moskva to “go fuck yourself.” Ukraine later sank Moskva.

Ukrainian forces claimed it retook the island Thursday, CNN reported, although Russia claimed its forces left as a sign of good faith. The Russian claims are false, the senior defense official said.

“In fact, the way we view this development is that the Ukrainians were very successful at applying significant pressure on the Russians, including by using those harpoon missiles that they recently acquired to attack a resupply ship, and when you realize how barren and deserted Snake Island is, you understand the importance of resupply,” the defense official said. “So the Ukrainians made it very hard for the Russians to sustain their operations there, made them very vulnerable to Ukrainian strike.”

Retaking Snake Island can help the Ukrainians better defend Odesa as well as potentially begin to look at reopening shipping lanes, which would help Ukraine send out its grain.

However, the Russian blockade of the Black Sea continues to be the biggest naval challenge for Ukraine, the official said.

The United States on Friday announced an additional $820 million in aid for Ukraine, with some coming from the existing U.S. stock and the rest providing funding for equipment that will be built by the defense industry.

The U.S. will send additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rock Systems (HIMARS) through the presidential drawdown, which means the U.S. will pull from its existing supply.

It will also send two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, 155mm artillery ammunition and four additional counter-artillery radars through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

The most recent package did not include any maritime elements, although the U.S. announced it was sending 18 coastal and riverine boats, as well as a vehicle-mounted Harpoon launcher in past assistance.

Of the 19 boats, six are Metal Shark maritime combat vessels and 10 are 34-foot, Dauntless Sea Ark patrol boats, according to the Department of Defense.

Estonian Defense Minister: Baltic Can Become ‘Internal NATO Sea’ With Sweden, Finland in Alliance

When Turkey dropped its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the transatlantic alliance this week, it opened up the path to turn the “Baltic [into an] internal NATO sea,” Estonia’s top defense official said Wednesday. Kalle Laanet, Estonia’s minister of defense, said the agreement “was very good news for us.” At a think-tank sponsored forum […]

U.S. Marines with Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to board a landing craft, air cushion in light armored vehicles during BALTOPS 22 in Ventspils, Latvia, June 12, 2022. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

When Turkey dropped its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the transatlantic alliance this week, it opened up the path to turn the “Baltic [into an] internal NATO sea,” Estonia’s top defense official said Wednesday.

Kalle Laanet, Estonia’s minister of defense, said the agreement “was very good news for us.” At a think-tank sponsored forum on NATO’s future, he also welcomed NATO’s plan to increase the size of its rapid reaction force to 300,000 from 400,000, introduce at least brigade-sized forces for rotational tours into the three Baltic states and establish an American corps headquarters in Poland. 

Other increases from the United States include basing two more destroyers in Rota, Spain, and stationing two squadrons of F-35 Lightning II Strike Fighters in the United Kingdom.

“Allies have committed to deploy additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on our eastern flank, to be scaled up from the existing battlegroups to brigade-size units where and when required, underpinned by credible rapidly available reinforcements, prepositioned equipment and enhanced command and control,” NATO leaders agreed in their summit declaration in Madrid this week.

The changes mean “we can defend immediately,” Laanet said. “We are making quick decisions to make our defenses stronger” by building up ammunition stocks and modernizing equipment and systems.

“Putin accepts only power; we have to give power to Ukraine” to end Kremlin aggression, he said.

For months before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Baltic leaders were in Washington and Brussels arguing that their region needed more than “trip-wire” defenses to deter Russian military attack.

Expanding NATO was also a challenge the alliance had to overcome before the Madrid summit; and it had to be a unanimous decision to grow NATO. That is “how we agree to solve problems,” Adm. Rob Bauer of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the chair of NATO’s military committee said at the forum.

It was not an easy path forward for Sweden and Finland after both Nordic nations saw how much Moscow’s attitude toward its neighbors had changed late last year.

Starting with the Kremlin’s bullying over any expansion of NATO and demanding a sphere of influence at a European security meeting in December, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Swedish governmental officials no longer believed its 200 years of neutrality would protect them against Russian aggression.

“That rang alarm bells” in Stockholm, she told attendees at the forum. Still, many Swedes and other Europeans, including Ukrainian leaders, still didn’t believe that Moscow would launch an all-out military attack on a neighboring country until it did on Feb. 24 in Ukraine.

“We came to the conclusion that we weren’t safe anymore,” Linde said.

She added that 85 percent of the parliament agreed with the change from neutrality and partnership with NATO to full membership. Sixty percent of the population supported the application.

Linde said there was a similar shift of opinion in Finland at the same time.

But Turkey objected to the two Nordic countries’ admission, saying they harbored Kurdish terrorists and had imposed controls on arms sales to Ankara in retaliation for its treatment of the Kurds.

“We had to take [Turkish objections] very seriously” in what turned out to be a four-and-a-half hour meeting of two presidents, one prime minister, three foreign ministers and other high officials before reaching a memorandum of understanding,” she said.

The three countries came to the meeting with the intention to solve the problem, she said.

“The atmosphere was respectful of each other,” she said.

Pekka Haavisto, her Finnish counterpart, said, “we had quite a sweaty two hours” before there was a break. After the parties returned, the agreement was reached, and Turkey withdrew its objection. Going in, he said it was “very important we [the Nordic nations] do this together” in applying for admission and resolving Turkish objections.

“The most important issue is unity,” Bauer said.

When asked whether former Warsaw Pact nations that had been sending Soviet-era weapons to Ukraine were weakening their own defenses, Bauer said this really allows a switchover to more modern Western systems in the next 10 years.

The catch is that “production is slower than we want” as demand increases, he said. “This is an important topic that needs to be addressed” in coming months.

Speaking on the eve of Sweden’s and Finland’s admission to the 30-member transatlantic alliance, Linde said Russians have been committing “war crimes from the beginning” that captured Western attention. She cited the attack on a red-roofed theater in Mariupol that was sheltering a thousand civilians and was deliberately destroyed in the long siege of that port city. About 600 civilians were believed to have been killed in the attack.

She and others said that public support for Kyiv may be waning in the wake of higher prices for goods and energy and a shift in priorities back to everyday concerns.

Kajsa Ollogren, the Netherlands’ minister of defense, said sanctions “cost us something” to impose. But it was “important to have this debate with our public” over why they are important in defense of Ukraine.

“You can already see in the media” declining interest in coverage of Ukraine, Linde said. “We have seen this so many times, it just slides away.”

Report to Congress on U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine

The following is the June 24, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine.  From the report After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, the Obama Administration provided Ukraine nonlethal security assistance, such as body armor, helmets, vehicles, night and thermal vision devices, heavy engineering equipment, advanced radios, patrol boats, rations, tents, […]

The following is the June 24, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine. 

From the report

After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, the Obama Administration provided Ukraine nonlethal security assistance, such as body armor, helmets, vehicles, night and thermal vision devices, heavy engineering equipment, advanced radios, patrol boats, rations, tents, counter-mortar radars, uniforms, medical kits, and other related items. In 2017, the Trump Administration announced U.S. willingness to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine.

Since 2018, Ukraine used FMF, as well as some of its national funds, to procure U.S. defense equipment, including Javelin anti-armor missiles and Mark VI patrol boats purchased through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system. Ukraine also used a combination of FMF and national funds to refurbish former U.S. Coast Guard Island- class patrol boats provided through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA; 22 U.S.C. §2321j) program. On April 24, 2022, the State Department notified Congress of a potential FMS sale of up to $165 million for nonstandard ammunition for Ukraine. In addition, Ukraine has purchased firearms, ammunition, ordnance, and other laser, imaging, or guidance equipment directly from U.S. suppliers via Direct Commercial Sales.

According to DOD, USAI packages prior to FY2022 provided sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, counter-artillery radars, Mark VI patrol boats, electronic warfare detection and secure communications, satellite imagery and analysis capability, counter-unmanned aerial systems (UAS), air surveillance systems to monitor sovereign airspace, night vision devices, and equipment to support military medical treatment and combat evacuation procedures.

In 2022, the United States has provided more advanced defense equipment to Ukraine, as well as greater amounts of previously provided equipment. According to DOD, U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine as of June 17, 2022, has included the following:

    • High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and ammunition;
    • 1,400+ Stinger anti-aircraft systems;
    • 6,500+ Javelin anti-armor systems and 20,000+ other anti-armor systems;
    • 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical UAS and 700+ Switchblade Tactical UAS;
    • 126 155 mm Howitzers with 260,000 artillery rounds;
    • 20 Mi-17 helicopters
    • hundreds of Armored Humvee Vehicles;
    • 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
    • 7,000+ small arms and 50+ million rounds of ammunition;
    • laser-guided rocket systems; and
    • other essential nonlethal equipment, including communications and intelligence equipment.

Several NATO and European Union (EU) members also have provided weapons and military assistance to Ukraine. In addition, the Biden Administration authorized third-party transfers of U.S. defense articles and equipment from several NATO and EU members to Ukraine.

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U.S. Sending Metal Shark Maritime Combat Boats to Ukraine, Company Says

Louisiana-based company Metal Shark announced Tuesday that the U.S. would send six of its maritime combat vessels to Ukraine as part of the $450 million aid the White House announced last week. The White House said it would send 18 patrol boats to Ukraine as part of the latest assistance package, but would not identify […]

Armed Forces of Ukraine personnel conduct Freedom of Movement Detachment training at Camp Novo, Oct. 7, 2021. US Army Photo

Louisiana-based company Metal Shark announced Tuesday that the U.S. would send six of its maritime combat vessels to Ukraine as part of the $450 million aid the White House announced last week.

The White House said it would send 18 patrol boats to Ukraine as part of the latest assistance package, but would not identify the vehicles beyond giving their size and general description. Asked whether it would provide the boats, the Navy referred the question to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, USNI News previously reported. OSD did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Metal Shark’s announcement.

The latest assistance is going to Ukraine through the presidential drawdown authority, which means the U.S. is sending supplies it already has.

According to a news release from Metal Shark, the company is producing 17 additional vessels that can be sent to Ukraine. These include 10 38-foot Defiant pilothouse patrol vessels, four 38-foot Defiant center console patrol vessels and three 36-foot Fearless high-performance military interceptor vessels.

While the plan to send these boats to Ukraine was already in place, Metal Shark sped up its timeline due to the Russian invasion, according to the release.

“Metal Shark has been working closely with the US Embassy in Kiev since 2019 to develop the strategy now being implemented to support Ukraine’s maritime capabilities, so it is fulfilling to see that the vessels will arrive when they are most needed,” Metal Shark Vice President of International Business Development Henry Irizarry said in the release. “Metal Shark provides next-generation, proven platforms to partner nations, but most importantly, we create long term partnerships with end users to train boat crews and provide seamless technical support to assure 24/7 operational readiness.”

It’s unclear from where the other 12 patrol boats are coming. A senior defense official previously told reporters that the U.S. is sending two small riverine patrol boats and 10 medium force protection boats.

Some of the patrol boats could be Mark VI patrol boats, recently decommissioned by the Navy, USNI News previously reported.

The 18 boats will be used for river patrol and protection, a senior defense official told reporters last week. There will be limited coastal defense use, with Ukraine relying on anti-ship missile systems, like Harpoons, for defense against the Russian Navy.

Biden Administration Basing Two More Destroyers in Rota, Spain

The Biden administration plans to station two more forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in Rota, Spain, the White House announced Tuesday. Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan disclosed the plans while traveling to Madrid, Spain, for the NATO summit. “Those will help increase the United States’ and NATO’s […]

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) departs Naval Station Rota, Spain, June 1, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The Biden administration plans to station two more forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in Rota, Spain, the White House announced Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan disclosed the plans while traveling to Madrid, Spain, for the NATO summit.

“Those will help increase the United States’ and NATO’s maritime presence and all the relevant maritime domains in the Euro-Atlantic area,” Sullivan said of the destroyers, according to a White House transcript.

It’s unclear which ships will head to Rota or when they will depart. The Office of the Secretary of Defense did not immediately return a request for comment on the destroyers.

The two additional Arleigh Burke-class ships will join USS Ross (DDG-71), USS Roosevelt (DDG-80), USS Porter (DDG-78) and USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), the four ballistic missile defense destroyers currently based at Naval Station Rota as part of Forward Deployed Naval Force-Europe (FDNF-E).

Lawmakers have previously questioned U.S. officials about the potential to base more destroyers in Rota, according to a March 2020 Defense News report.

The announcement from the Biden administration comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its fifth month.

Several weeks before the invasion, the U.S. sortied four East Coast-based destroyers to Europe, USNI News previously reported. Officials at the time were careful not to link the surge to Russia’s massing of troops on its border with Ukraine, but sending the additional destroyers to U.S. 6th Fleet amounted to the largest naval presence in Europe since 2018, according to the USNI News carrier deployment database.

After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the U.S. Navy’s Rota-based destroyers would regularly operate in the Black Sea for deterrence missions. But no U.S. warships have entered the Black Sea since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group has been operating in the Mediterranean since December and has gone under NATO command twice. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in December ordered the CSG to remain in the Mediterranean as Russia massed troops on its border with Ukraine. In March, Austin extended the Truman CSG’s deployment, which could go until August, USNI News previously reported.

Report to Congress on Middle East, North African Implications of War in Ukraine

The following is the June 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Middle East and North Africa: Implications of 2022 Russia-Ukraine War. From the report The 117th Congress is examining the global implications of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war while considering Ukraine-related legislation and FY2023 authorization and appropriations proposals, and conducting […]

The following is the June 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Middle East and North Africa: Implications of 2022 Russia-Ukraine War.

From the report

The 117th Congress is examining the global implications of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war while considering Ukraine-related legislation and FY2023 authorization and appropriations proposals, and conducting oversight of Biden Administration policies. This report provides information and analysis on the effects that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war are having on the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region of continuing strategic and foreign policy salience to Congress and to U.S. strategic interests.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has both direct and indirect effects on the countries of the MENA region, imposing costs on the region’s populations and posing dilemmas for its leaders. The Russia-Ukraine war and its side effects amplify the risk of instability in the MENA region and introduce new complexities to some regional relationships. The most practical and immediate implications may come as a result of fiscal, societal, and humanitarian effects in the MENA region, particularly through energy and food commodity market changes.

  • Many MENA countries are net importers of food products and agricultural commodities, and several rely on imports from Russia and Ukraine that Russia’s invasion and blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have disrupted. Higher food prices and limited commodity availability are creating economic, public health, and political challenges in some MENA countries. Increased humanitarian needs in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon, compounded by food and energy price inflation, are generating corresponding calls for increased donor contributions. The Administration has pledged to increase food assistance for some affected countries, including Yemen, amid competing needs in other areas of the world.
  • The Biden Administration has sought diplomatic and energy market support from MENA partners in responding to the war. These partners’ responses have varied, as governments have considered their discrete interests, priorities, and ties to Russia and the United States. Higher energy prices in 2022 are putting pressure on energy importers like Jordan and creating opportunities for exporters like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Some regional governments may seek to use their relative coordination with or resistance to U.S. requests as leverage in discussions with the United States on other issues. Congress may assess the responsiveness, alignment, and needs of U.S. partners in the region as it considers the Administration’s proposals for foreign assistance, defense aid, and arms sales.
  • Russia’s military presence and the operations of Russian private military companies in the MENA region reportedly have not changed significantly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, though the press has reported some personnel movements. Congress and the Administration may continue to monitor the presence and operations of Russian forces, along with the war’s second-order effects on Russia’s defense exports and security ties to the MENA region.
  • Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and U.S. efforts to coordinate multilateral responses invite scrutiny of MENA countries’ defense and security ties to Russia, their economic and energy cooperation with Moscow, their positions on sanctions against Russian targets, and their diplomatic posture in international institutions. Emergent dynamics (e.g., the decision by some U.S. regional partners to abstain from U.N. votes related to Russia’s actions in Ukraine) may be rooted in deeper shifts and may outlast the immediate conflict.

To date, Congress and the Biden Administration have acted to make additional food assistance funding available to meet developing needs. The Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 (P.L. 117-128) appropriated more than $4.3 billion in International Disaster Assistance funding, including for food assistance in Ukraine and “in countries impacted by the situation in Ukraine,” along with support to global food security programs through the Economic Support Fund (ESF), the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It remains to be determined whether these funds will be used to assist MENA countries.

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CNO Gilday: Sweden, Finland’s NATO Membership Poised to Change Allied Arctic Strategy

WASHINGTON NAVY YARD — Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance would fundamentally alter naval strategy and operations in the Baltic Sea and Arctic Basin, the heads of the French and American navies said today. Because the two Nordic nations – which have officially applied for NATO membership – already work closely with NATO countries, […]

CNO Adm. Mike Gilday arrives at the BALTOPS22 closing reception aboard the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) in Kiel, Germany, June 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON NAVY YARD — Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance would fundamentally alter naval strategy and operations in the Baltic Sea and Arctic Basin, the heads of the French and American navies said today.

Because the two Nordic nations – which have officially applied for NATO membership – already work closely with NATO countries, their shift to joining the alliance would likely be “seamless,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday told reporters.

“They’re high-end operating militaries that have worked with us for a long time in very close partnership. So their transition into NATO is – I would predict – is going to be virtually seamless in the military dynamic. I think about the Arctic Basin and I think about the real estate that their coastline [has] along the Arctic Basin,” Gilday said.

“And so I think that in the future, as we see the polar ice cap receding, we see trade routes between Asia and Europe change, and competition for resources get more competitive in that area, I think that’s an example where Sweden and Finland – where we leverage their geostrategic position in a powerful way for the good of many.”

French Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Pierre Vandier pointed to a potential new NATO border with Russia should Finland and Sweden join the alliance and said the effect climate change could have on sea routes in the Arctic.

“It’s a huge strategy change for northern Europe and so the strategy in the Baltics will change because there is a continuity of NATO, which now has a new border with Russia. And considering the Great North – the climate change will open routes and probably we’ll see more and more activity in the [Great] North, perhaps we will see one day [a] fleet crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic. And so it is for Europe a major strategy change,” Vandier said.

In a trip to the United States this week, Vandier said he had the chance to see Silicon Valley and visit San Diego, Calif., where he saw the U.S. Navy’s USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) and the unmanned surface vehicles based there.

Vandier said the French Navy is also pursuing unmanned systems, though it’s not as far along in development as the U.S. Navy.

“All the countries are working on unmanned issues. It requests a huge amount of money, especially for surface unmanned ships. We are going to unmanned ships for mint hunting and so the first system would be operational at the end of the year in France,” he said. “We don’t have [those] overseas big ships, which are able to do 10,000 miles autonomously. But we are working on it and what we’ve seen is very interesting.”

Following his trip to Silicon Valley, Vandier said the technology there is one of the U.S. Navy’s main advantages, as it’s focused on “data-centric operations” and the cloud.

“It is something I think Europe is late on and we need to make the good choice in the future to be interoperable in managing huge amounts of data,” he said.

Speaking to reporters at the same event, Gilday emphasized the importance of interoperability and interchangeability between the French and U.S. navies.

“I think that the cooperation we’ve seen across NATO during this Russia-Ukraine crisis, and the sharing of information, intelligence from the United States, has also given us momentum to break down barriers and trade information and technology with our close partners like the French. We have to,” he said.

For example, Gilday said the U.S. Navy’s fourth and fifth-generation aircraft needed to learn how to operate with French fighters before a potential conflict.

“With unmanned as another example, artificial intelligence and the software integration into those platforms is also really important,” he added.

On the unmanned front, Gilday noted the French participated in the International Maritime Exercise 2022 in U.S. 5th Fleet earlier this year. The drills focused on unmanned systems.

“We’re trading information and concepts of operations from the seabed to space so that we can operate more together,” Gilday said.

18 Patrol Boats Sent to Ukraine Set for River Duty, Says Pentagon

The 18 patrol boats being sent to Ukraine as part of additional aid announced Thursday will be used to monitor and protect Ukraine’s rivers, a senior defense official told reporters Friday. The United States will be sending two small unit riverine crafts that are 35 feet long, six maritime combat crafts that are 40 feet […]

A US Navy Mark VI patrol boat operating in the Persian Gulf. US Army Photo

The 18 patrol boats being sent to Ukraine as part of additional aid announced Thursday will be used to monitor and protect Ukraine’s rivers, a senior defense official told reporters Friday.

The United States will be sending two small unit riverine crafts that are 35 feet long, six maritime combat crafts that are 40 feet long and 10 medium force protection patrol boats that are 34 feet long, the senior defense official said.

It is unclear of where the in the inventory the boats are coming from, although because they are authorized through the presidential drawdown, they must come from existing Department of Defense supply.

The Navy referred a question about the patrol boats coming from the sea service to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which declined to comment further beyond the morning briefing.

2005 satellite image Ukraine. The Dnieper River in the center almost bisects the country. NASA Photo

The boats will have limited use for coastal defense, the senior defense official said. Instead, Ukraine is relying on systems like Harpoons, which Denmark has provided. The U.S. will also be sending vehicle-mounted Harpoon launchers as part of previously announced assistance.

The U.S. has not sent large naval vessels to Ukraine as part of assistance packages. Lawmakers proposed sending five littoral combat ships to Ukraine, but the country rejected the idea, Defense News reported.

The senior defense official was not able to provide a number of Russian ships currently in the Black Sea, although the official noted that the Russian blockade was still ongoing, which has cut Ukraine off from the Sea of Azov.

USNI News contributor H.I. Sutton tweeted satellite imagery showing seven Russian ships and a submarine near Novorossiysk Friday. They include three Ropucha-class landing ships, an Alligator-class landing ship, an Ivan Gren-class landing ship, a Grisha-III-class light frigate, a patrol ship and a Kilo-class diesel attack submarine.