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LANGUAGE

Zelensky frustration boils over in New York Times interview: ‘What’s the problem?’

‘WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?’: Monday it was the New York Times’s turn to get an “exclusive” sit-down interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, following interviews in recent days with Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Zelensky was described as “animated” as he expressed growing frustration that Western allies were not doing more to support Ukraine to repel Russian forces, in particular by shooting down Russian missiles in flight over Ukraine, as the United States did when Iran attacked Israel last month. 

“I asked, can we first shoot down, from the territory of a NATO country, from the territory of our neighbors, the missiles flying towards our energy facilities without crossing into Ukraine’s airspace?” Zelensky said in a wide-ranging 50-minute interview. “Technically, all of this is possible. Shooting down Russian missiles already in Ukrainian territory from their planes. This is what we saw in Israel.”

“So my question is, what’s the problem? Why can’t we shoot them down? Is it defense? Yes. Is it an attack on Russia? No. Are you shooting down Russian planes and killing Russian pilots? No. So what’s the issue with involving NATO countries in the war? There is no such issue,” Zelensky said, insisting that intercepting missiles and drones over Ukrainian airspace would be a purely defensive action. “Shoot down what’s in the sky over Ukraine. Let’s take the first practical step. Shoot down what’s in the sky over Ukraine, and give us the weapons to use against Russian forces on the borders.”

‘WE NEED APPROPRIATE WEAPONS … AND PERMISSION’: “We have our own weapons, our own drones, and we use them,” Zelensky said, noting Ukraine is unable to respond when Russia shells cities from across the border, beyond the range of Ukraine’s artillery. “We don’t have long-range shells. You must understand that for the last year and a half, Ukraine hasn’t had any long-range shells.”

“They are stationed in the villages nearest to the border of Ukraine in Russia. They strike from there, knowing that we will not return fire, but they proceed calmly, understanding that our partners do not give us permission,” Zelensky said. “When we talk about ATACMS or HIMARS or we talk about artillery shells or relevant missiles, Storm Shadow, Scalp, etc., we do not have permission to strike the territory of the Russian Federation, their military locations, headquarters, etc.” 

“What we have always asked of President Biden, and not only President Biden but the leaders of many countries, is that we want to use the weapons for defense,” Zelensky said. “We can either strike the missile that is entering Ukrainian territory or strike the aircraft before launch. To strike the missile, we need air defense. To strike the aircraft, we need appropriate weapons — weapons and permission.”

According to a post on X, Ukraine was able to use a French Scalp missile to strike a Russian Police Academy building in occupied Luhansk at the precise time “high-level” Russian officers were meeting there, reportedly killing 13 Russians and wounding 26, including Col. Gen. Gennady Anashkin, commander of the Southern Military District.

Ukraine also claimed to have attacked another Russian warship in the Black Sea, a “Cyclone” Karakurt-class corvette. “Satellite imagery indicates that Ukrainian forces likely damaged the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Tsyklon small missile ship in occupied Sevastopol,” the Institute for the Study of War reported.

RATTLING THE NUCLEAR SABER AGAIN: The Russian Defense Ministry said yesterday it has begun “practical training in the preparation and use of non-strategic nuclear weapons,” in the Southern Military District, which includes occupied Crimea and other regions of Ukraine captured by Russia since the start of the war in February 2022.

The drills are said to include practice deploying nuclear-capable Kinzhal and Iskander missiles that can be armed with so-called tactical nuclear weapons.

“Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons tests are part of a Kremlin reflexive control campaign that often uses nuclear saber-rattling to influence Western decision-makers to engage in self-deterrence,” the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest Ukraine war assessment. “Reflexive control is a key element of Russia’s hybrid warfare toolkit — it is a tactic that relies on shaping an adversary with targeted rhetoric and information operations in such a way that the adversary voluntarily takes actions that are advantageous to Russia.”

In his New York Times interview, Zelensky dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear posturing as an empty threat. “He could have used nuclear weapons when he failed to capture us in the first year of the war. He didn’t use them because he may be irrational, but he loves his own life very much and understands that the doors will be completely closed completely if he uses nuclear weapons. Because the use of nuclear weapons is not a red line. It’s a different level. So that’s it. This is World War III.”

WHY IT MATTERS IF RUSSIA’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS EXERCISES OCCUR IN CRIMEA

Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Stacey Dec. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at DailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow me on Threads and/or on X @jamiejmcintyre

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HAPPENING TODAY: Secretary of State Antony Blinken is back on Capitol Hill this morning following up his Senate testimony with an appearance before a House appropriations subcommittee at 10 a.m. In what was a generally noncombative atmosphere, Blinken told senators on the Foreign Relations Committee that the attempt by a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court to obtain arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister was “​​extremely wrongheaded” and “jeopardized the fragile negotiations to secure ceasefire and release of hostages.”

“The shameful equivalence implied between Hamas and the leadership of Israel, I think that only complicates the prospects for getting such an agreement,” Blinken said, indicating the administration would be inclined to support a bipartisan congressional response.

“Sometimes we don’t agree on stuff, but I got to tell you, on the ICC, you got it exactly right,” Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) told Blinken. “Your characterization of it being shameful equivalents that they have engaged in yesterday is actually stunning.”

“As you know, in the last administration, the Trump people did an executive order to do sanctions on certain members of the ICC who were investigating us for things that happened in Afghanistan,” Risch said. “There’s a number of us up here that are working on a legislative approach to this that includes not only the Afghanistan question but also includes the question of the ICC sticking its nose in the business of countries that have an independent, legitimate, democratic, judicial system. … Do you think you can support a legislative approach to this?”

“We want to. Let’s look at it. We want to work with you on a bipartisan basis to find an appropriate response,” Blinken replied.

BLINKEN HINTS AT RETALIATION FOR ICC ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ISRAEL

RUSSIA’S PROVOCATIVE KILLER SATELLITE: The Pentagon confirmed yesterday that Russia launched an anti-satellite system into orbit last week in an in-your-face challenge to U.S. space dominance.

“On May 16, Russia launched a satellite into low Earth orbit that we assess is likely a counter-space weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low Earth orbit,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters at yesterday’s Pentagon briefing. “Russia deployed this new counter-space weapon into the same orbit as a U.S. government satellite. Assessments further indicate characteristics resembling previously deployed counter-space payloads from 2019 and 2022.”

“Obviously that’s something that we’ll continue to monitor,” Ryder said. “We have a responsibility to be ready to protect and defend the space domain and ensure continuous and uninterrupted support to the joint and combined force. And we’ll continue to balance the need to protect our interests in space with our desire to preserve a stable and sustainable space environment.”

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee yesterday, John Hill, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space and missile defense, warned that the United States is in a “time of rapid change” and that “the scale and scope of the threats in space present significant risks to the American people.”

“China and Russia are rapidly fielding space and counter-space capabilities to hold the joint force at risk and to deny us the space-based services on which we rely,” Hill said.

“Repeated actions by both the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China underscore the urgency for action,” Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. Michael Guetlein told the committee. “Although we still maintain control of the space over our competitors, they are working hard to close the gap and assert their dominance in space. We cannot afford to let this happen.”

“We cannot let our near-peer competitors overtake us or we will lose what we hold dear,” Guetlein said. “GPS alone is an essential part of every aspect of our daily lives, from our cellphones to our banking systems and even to our ability to get crops out of the field and groceries to the shelves.”

THE TALIBAN’S $11 MILLION WINDFALL: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) is fuming about the latest audit from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which found that Afghanistan’s Taliban government has diverted at least $10.9 million in U.S. taxpayer-funded humanitarian and development assistance for its own use.

“Since the Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, the United States government has provided over $2.8 billion to address the humanitarian crisis created by the Taliban takeover,” McCaul said in a statement. “Last year, I requested that SIGAR report on the extent to which U.S. taxpayer dollars are benefitting the Taliban. Unsurprisingly, SIGAR has found that at least $10.9 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars have been provided to the Taliban.”

“It is unacceptable for any U.S. funding to benefit the Taliban,” McCaul said. “The Biden administration must take immediate action to prevent U.S. taxpayer dollars from going to the Taliban.”

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

THE RUNDOWN: 

Washington Examiner: Norway, Ireland, and Spain to formally recognize Palestine as a state

Washington Examiner: Blinken hints at retaliation for ICC allegations against Israel

Washington Examiner: Senators warn ICC pursuit of Israeli warrants jeopardizes ‘sustainable peace’

Washington Examiner: Netanyahu: Resettlement of Gaza was ‘never in the cards’

Washington Examiner: Blinken laments revelation of threat to withhold weapons from Israel

Washington Examiner: Israel reverses decision to shut down Associated Press live footage

Washington Examiner: Border bill boxes in Senate progressives as Schumer forges ahead with doomed vote

Washington Examiner: Speaker Johnson gives Schumer ultimatum on inviting Israel’s Netanyahu to Congress

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Biden’s Gaza pier omnishambles

Washington Examiner: Analysis: Why it matters if Russia’s nuclear weapons exercises occur in Crimea

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Did the State Department have intelligence to support its LGBT terrorist threat warning?

AP: UN Halts All Food Distribution In Rafah After Running Out Of Supplies In Southern Gaza City

CNN: Pentagon Says None Of The Aid Unloaded From U.S. Pier Off Coast Of Gaza Has Been Delivered To Broader Palestinian Population

Washington Post: Netanyahu Refuses To Change His Gaza Tack

Bloomberg: China Condemns Blinken Over Taiwan, Sanctions Ex-U.S. Lawmaker

Navy Times: Inside The USS Carney’s Harrowing And Unprecedented Deployment

Wall Street Journal: Secretive Son Of Iran’s Supreme Leader Quietly Wields Power After President’s Death

Defense One: DOD: Russia’s Use of Starlink Will Be a ‘Continuous Problem’ in Ukraine

Defense News: ‘They’ve grown back’: How Russia surprised the West and rebuilt its force

AP: Russia is waging a shadow war on the West that needs a collective response, Estonian leader says

Aviation Week: US Needs to Train More Ukrainian F-16 Pilots, Lawmakers Say

DefenseScoop: Pentagon Prepares to Issue New Classification Rules for Replicator

Breaking Defense: CENTCOM Bound: Army Soldiers Slated to Test High-Power Microwaves Against Drone Swarms

The War Zone: US Military Laser Weapon Programs Are Facing a Reality Check

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Top Lawmaker Wants Report on Dogfight Missiles, Whether to Extend AMRAAM

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Space Futures Command, New Integrated Mission Deltas Launch This Summer

SpaceNews: Global Navigation Jamming Will Only Get Worse. The US Needs to Move Fast

Air & Space Forces Magazine: B-52s Land in UK to Kick Off Another Bomber Task Force

Air & Space Forces Magazine: 5,500 Airmen Selected For Master Sergeant as Promotion Rate Ticks Up

THE CALENDAR: 

WEDNESDAY | MAY 22

8 a.m. 3111 Fairview Park Dr., Falls Church, Virginia — Potomac Officers Club 2024 5G Forum, with Kevin Mulvihill, acting deputy chief information officer for command, control, and communications in the Office of the Secretary of Defense https://potomacofficersclub.com/events/poc-2024-5g-forum

8:15 a.m. 2121 Crystal Dr. Arlington, Virginia — National Defense Industrial Association Integrated Precision Warfare Review conference: “National Defense Industrial Strategy, Balancing Capacity, and Capability: Challenges and Opportunities for the U.S. Industrial Base,” with Anthony Di Stasio, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy https://www.ndia.org/events/2024/5/21/ipwr-24

9 a.m. 2172 Rayburn — House Foreign Affairs Committee markup of legislation to provide for congressional oversight of proposed changes to arms sales to Israel http://foreignaffairs.house.gov

10 a.m. 192 Dirksen — Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee hearing: “A Review of the President’s FY2025 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Energy, including the National Nuclear Security Administration,” with testimony from Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Jill Hruby, energy undersecretary for nuclear security and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration http://appropriations.senate.gov

10 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW — Atlantic Council discussion: “How U.S. Forces are Readying for New Global Threats,” with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.; Michael Andersson, head of strategic affairs and international affairs at Saab; and Courtney Kube, NBC News national security and military correspondent https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/general-cq-brown-jr

10 a.m. 2359 Rayburn — House Appropriations State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing: “FY2025 Request for the Department of State,” with testimony from Secretary of State Antony Blinken http://appropriations.house.gov

10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies in-person and virtual discussion: “The Next Generation of National Security Leaders: A Conversation with Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro,” with retired Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, former staff director, Senate Armed Service Committee; former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman; former Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; retired Gen. Jim Jones, former Marine Corps commandant, supreme allied commander, Europe, and national security adviser; and moderator Jennifer Griffin, chief national security correspondent, Fox News https://www.csis.org/events/next-generation-national-security-leaders

12 p.m. 14th and F Sts. NW — Friends of the Uniformed Services University discussion: “Imagining Combat Without Military Medicine: What Would That Look Like?” with retired Army Gen. Ronald Blanck, former Army surgeon general; former Army Maj. Gen. Jonathan Woodson, president of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and former assistant secretary of defense for health affairs; Carol Romano, USUHS dean and president of the USUHS’s Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing; retired Army Gen. Richard Thomas, associate vice president and dean of the West Virginia University School of Medicine’s Eastern Division and chief medical officer for WVU Medicine Berkeley and Jefferson medical centers; and retired Navy Command Master Sgt. Tyrone Willis, senior enlisted leader and a recruitment specialist, Uniformed Services University. RSVP [email protected] 

1:30 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW — Henry Stimson Center discussion: “The World’s Hotspots and Implications for the Future of the International Order,” with Kunihiko Miyake, president of the Foreign Policy Institute, and David Shear, senior fellow, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies’s Reischauer Center https://www.stimson.org/event/the-worlds-hotspots

1:30 p.m. — Wilson Center’s Global Europe Program virtual Winston Churchill Lecture to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Winston Churchill, with Nicholas Soames, grandson of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/winston-churchill-lecture

2 p.m. 2172 Rayburn — House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing: “The State of American Diplomacy in 2024: Global Instability, Budget Challenges, and Great Power Competition,” with testimony from Secretary of State Antony Blinken http://foreignaffairs.house.gov

4 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute discussion: “The Dangers of National Security Weakness,” with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley https://www.hudson.org/events/nikki-haley

4:45 p.m. 222 Russell — Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing: “The Department of Energy’s Atomic Energy Defense Activities and Department of Defense Nuclear Weapons Programs in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2025 and the Future Years Defense Program,” with testimony from National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Jill Hruby; William White, Energy Department senior adviser for environmental management; Navy Adm. William Houston, deputy administrator for the Office of Naval Reactors, National Nuclear Security Administration; Marvin Adams, deputy administrator for defense programs, National Nuclear Security Administration; Air Force Gen. Thomas Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command; and Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, director for strategic systems programs in the Department of the Navy http://www.armed-services.senate.gov

THURSDAY | MAY 23

9 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute discussion: “The Senate Perspective on the U.S.-China Rivalry,” with Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Roslyn Layton, senior fellow, George Mason University National Security Institute https://www.hudson.org/events/senate-perspective-us-china

9 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion, beginning at 9 a.m., on “Where Does the U.S. Go from Here — Gaza: The Human Toll,” with David Satterfield, senior State Department adviser on the Middle East; Nick Schifrin, PBS NewsHour foreign affairs and defense correspondent; Jon Alterman, director of the CSIS Middle East Program; Michelle Strucke, director of the CSIS Humanitarian Agenda and Human Rights Initiative; and J. Stephen Morrison, director of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center https://www.csis.org/events/where-does-us-go-here-gaza-human-toll

10 a.m. 2359 Rayburn — House Appropriations State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing: “FY2025 Request for the U.N.,” with testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield http://appropriations.house.gov

10 a.m. — Foreign Policy and International Community of the Red Cross virtual discussion: “Principles of Humanity Under Pressure: The Geneva Conventions at 75 and the future of international humanitarian law,” with retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, co-founder of the McChrystal Group and former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command; Oona Hathaway, professor of international law at Yale Law School; Udo Jude Ilo; senior director for advocacy, Center for Civilians in Conflict; Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross; and Mayesha Alam, vice president of research at FP Analytics https://foreignpolicy.com/events/principles-of-humanity-under-pressure/

5 p.m. 1521 16th St. NW — Institute of World Politics book discussion: Mao’s America: A Survivor’s Warning, with author Xi Van Fleet, Chinese immigrant who fled China during Mao Zedong’s reign. RSVP: [email protected] 

FRIDAY | MAY 24

10 a.m. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland — U.S. Naval Academy 2024 commencement ceremony with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin delivering the commencement address



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