Defense and National Security — Russia is running out of options


With limited victories on the battlefield and its status as a global pariah firmly in place, Russia struggles to find leverage to undermine Western resolve to help Ukraine as the country’s war nears the end of its first year .

We’ll share what experts say about Russian President Vladimir Putin and his remaining options in the war, plus how Ukrainian officials are pushing the West to send tanks.

Also: Details on the Navy veteran recently released from Russian detention and President Biden’s words of praise at the service for the late former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

This is Defense & National Security, your guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Has a friend forwarded this newsletter to you?

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Putin exhausting options for draining aid to Ukraine

As the war between Russia and Ukraine nears the end of its first year, Moscow struggles to find leverage to undermine Western determination to help Kiev.

With battlefield victories sparse, an economy crippled by harsh sanctions, and increasing international isolation, Russian President Vladimir Putin is running out of options to extend his provocations beyond Ukraine to boost international support for the resistance of Ukraine, experts say.

‘Only worse’: The Kremlin has “basically lost on all fronts in terms of exhausting and creating rifts in the coalition between Ukraine and its Western allies,” said Joseph Dresen, a Russia expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute. “I think Russia is in a bad situation. It’s been bad for a while. It’s only getting worse.”

Early Roadblocks: When Moscow rolled its troops into Ukraine on February 24, Russia expected the country to surrender quickly, not expecting a mountain of resistance. One of the roadblocks for Moscow was the determination of the Ukrainian people, the leadership of then untested Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the ill-prepared Kremlin forces.

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In addition, the former Soviet country quickly received Western support, with the US and Europe funneling tens of billions of dollars worth of arms and humanitarian aid to the embattled country.

Failed attempts: Moscow has tried to weaken global resolve to help Kiev by using cyber-attacks, ship blockades to prevent crucial grain exports, freeze gas supplies for Europe and threaten to halt all energy imports, a move Putin says would ensure that the continent would “freeze”.

But a warm winter coupled with an international community that has collectively responded to every Russian threat with its own backlash — be it through beefed up cyber defenses, energy replacements or economic sanctions — has kept Putin on his back legs.

Limited Bandwidth: Now, after more than 320 days of a conflict that the Russian leader initially claimed would last less than a week, Moscow is virtually unable to wreak havoc outside of Ukraine.

  • “I just don’t think they have the bandwidth to project power elsewhere at this point,” Brian Whitmore, a Russian expert with the Atlantic Council, told The Hill.

  • “I think their play basically froze Europe and made them through the winter. That’s clearly not going to work now,” Whitmore said. don’t think we’ll get there, to be honest.”

Other losses: Further limiting Putin’s options has been the rapid loss of Russia’s economic relations with the West, forfeiting decades of painstakingly cultivated ties and displacing an information network that Moscow can no longer use to its advantage.

Read the full story here

Ukraine targets Western tanks to rout Russia

Ukrainian defense officials are targeting tank deliveries from US and European partners, saying the firepower and safety of the armored artillery vehicles will keep momentum in its efforts to rout invading Russian forces.

The Biden administration has increased the heavy artillery it supplies to Ukraine, but has done so slowly and incrementally to protect the perception that Washington is provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Push for tanks: Ukrainian officials have welcomed the Biden administration’s recent announcement to equip armored vehicles with machine guns — Bradley fighting vehicles — but are urging Washington to commit to sending Abrams tanks.

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“Bradley’s are like a sandwich, it’s good when you’re hungry. But an Abrams is like a full meal, it really fills you up,” Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told The Hill.

An important signal: Ukrainian officials say an announcement by the Biden administration that it would supply tanks would send an important political signal to Putin and Russia that the US and its allies are united in their support.

And it would also allay concerns that a new majority in the Republican House threatens bipartisan support for Kiev, or that European solidarity crumbles in the face of Moscow’s devastation, they say.

What is needed: Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, told The Economist last month that Kiev needs 300 tanks to win a decisive battlefield victory against Russia, along with 700 infantry fighting vehicles and 500 howitzers.

“I know I can beat this enemy. But I need resources,” Zaluzhnyi told The Economist.

Read more here

Biden: Ex-Defense Chief Carter a ‘force of nature’

President Biden on Thursday praised former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter as an innovative officer who promoted the strength and diversity of the military through his work.

Biden spoke at a memorial service at Washington National Cathedral for Carter, who died in October of a sudden heart attack. He was 68.

Pay tribute“This is beyond my ability to accurately assess what an incredible man Ash was,” Biden said. “Ash was a force. He was a force of nature. His brilliance was evident, his unfailing integrity and dedication to serve himself was literally inspiring.”

A legendary legacy: Carter began his career as a physicist and served for decades at the Pentagon, eventually leading the Department of Defense from 2015 to 2017 while Biden was vice president. During that time, Carter oversaw efforts to increase nuclear deterrence, manage emerging technologies, and develop strategies for fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Carter also tackled numerous personnel issues during his tenure, including ending a ban on transgender officers in the military and opening all military positions to women in 2016 — the first time in U.S. history that women could take on certain combat roles that had previously only been held by women. were accessible to men.

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An army made strongerBiden argued on Thursday that the military was “made stronger and more inclusive by Ash’s principles and beliefs.”

“I stand today as commander-in-chief of, as Ash used to say, the greatest fighting force the world has ever known, and that is no exaggeration,” Biden said.

Read the rest here


Russia released a US Navy veteran on Thursday after nearly a year of captivity in a Russian province between Poland and Lithuania.

“Today the Russian government released my client, Taylor Dudley, a Navy vet, to cross the Polish border,” said Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for the family. tweeted Thursday morningsaying that he and the family were on their way to Washington, DC

What we know: Dudley, 35, of Michigan, was detained in April after driving into Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic Sea province bordering Lithuania to the north and east and Poland to the south.

According to CNN, his detention received little publicity because his family wanted the negotiations private.

Secure release: The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a non-profit organization founded by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D), led the negotiations for his release.

The Steve Menzies Global Foundation, the US Embassy in Warsaw and the James Foley Foundation also helped secure Dudley’s release, according to a statement Franks issued to CNN.

Read that story here


  • President Biden will receive Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for meetings at the White House

  • Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service will host a discussion on “Displacement and Displacement in Ukraine. What Happened to Children with Disabilities in the Conflict?” at 12 o’clock



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