Russia’s war in Ukraine entered its 100th day on Friday, a bloody milestone that speaks to the resilience of Ukrainian forces in the face of a much larger enemy.
We’ll detail Ukraine’s position in the fight, as well as a senator’s suggestion to use retired military personnel to protect schools and Biden’s possible trip to Saudi Arabia.
It’s Defense and National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend sent you this newsletter? Subscribe here.
100 days of war: where is Ukraine?
An unprecedented diplomatic campaign preceding Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine failed to prevent war. But the weeks of meetings, led by the United States, succeeded in repositioning the world order in one of the biggest shifts since World War II.
European nations, including Germany, Sweden and Finland, have abandoned decades of cautious military policy to join more fully with the United States and its allies in providing Ukraine with the military means to fight, impose far-reaching sanctions, strengthen their own defenses and work to sever energy ties with Moscow. .
While Ukraine and its supporters have declared victory in the battle for Kyiv, which US intelligence first predicted would fall within 72 hours, Moscow’s forces retain their advantages in the fight for the eastern territory of Ukraine.
Russia’s gains: Russia has taken control of a key port city, Mariupol, and is moving closer to dominating Severdonetsk. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that Russia controls about a fifth of his country.
“We are now in a situation where, obviously, Ukrainians are going through a difficult period,” said Angela Stent, an expert on American and European relations with Russia. “I’m not saying the tide is turning, but it’s getting harder for the Ukrainians to sustain the counteroffensive.”
And its weaknesses: Bearing in mind Russia’s slow progress, the United States is stepping up arms deliveries, sending advanced rocket systems for the first time to help the Ukrainians repel Russian advances more effectively.
A turning point?: Zelensky, speaking at a European security conference on Thursday, said the struggle could reach a “turning point” if all nations increase their military, economic and political support for Ukraine.
“We are grateful for the help we are already receiving, to all those who help us. But the arms deliveries must be increased. Because it is on the battlefield in Ukraine that we decide whether freedom in Europe will be preserved for all nations without exception,” he said.
“Right now, these days, when Russia loses the war against Ukraine, the freedom of Europeans will prevail for decades to come.”
The transition of a leader: Ukrainian president’s remarks show his transition over the past 100 days from a militarily beleaguered and assassination-risk leader – who rejected a US offer to flee Kyiv as the assault began – to one vote powerful world.
Uncertainty reigns: There is still a great deal of uncertainty about the end of the war, with a negotiated solution of some sort appearing a long way off.
Ukrainian officials, grappling with the horrors of civilian deaths and alleged Russian war crimes — extrajudicial executions, rape and forced migration — are loath to come to the table or concede territory to the Russians.
“Russia attacked us. They are the ones who try to occupy as much as possible, to destroy and kill, to rape and torture. So we will defend ourselves and we will not surrender,” Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova told The Hill.
Read the full story here
Graham: ‘mobilise’ ex-servicemen
Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) on Tuesday called on retirees and former military personnel to step up security in schools following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last week.
Graham wrote in a thread posted on his Twitter account that the United States has “hundreds of thousands” of ex-servicemen “who could bring a lot to the table” in protecting schools and that trained ROTC instructors should be able to carry firearms to make schools more sure.
Graham’s Thought: The senator also said he is working to create a certification process for ex-military personnel that will allow them to undergo safety training and prepare them to help schools across the country.
“It’s time to mobilize our retirees and ex-military who are ready to help secure our schools,” Graham added in a follow-up tweet. “Our schools are easy targets. They contain our most precious asset – our children, the future of our country – and must be protected.
A Growing GOP Push Graham’s remarks reflect a GOP-led push to make schools safer — and reject gun restriction proposals demanded by Democrats and gun control advocates — in the wake of the massacre of the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde which killed 19 students and two teachers.
A redundancy: Texas officials and media said some of the security measures Republicans are calling for were already in place at Robb Elementary before the attack.
Federal programs designed to keep schools safe, such as the Student, Teachers and Officers Preventing School Violence Act (STOP), which provided more than
$125 million in school grants are in place across the country.
Learn more here
Biden says there are no definitive plans for his visit to Saudi Arabia
President Biden said on Friday he had no “direct plans” to visit Saudi Arabia anytime soon, but acknowledged the trip was a possibility.
The Hill and other news outlets reported earlier this week that Biden administration officials were preparing the ground for a presidential visit to Saudi Arabia later this month, but the visit was not finalized.
“I don’t have any direct plans at the moment,” Biden said Friday when asked by reporters, adding that he was focused on bringing “more stability and peace to the Middle East.”
A Travel Controversy: Biden did not respond directly on Friday when asked if he would meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He also defended the possibility of such a trip as he pledged in 2019 to make Saudi Arabia a pariah on the world stage following the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A declassified US intelligence report released by the Biden administration last year said the Saudi crown prince approved of the killing of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family.
“I’m not going to change my views on human rights, but as President of the United States, my job is to bring peace if I can,” Biden said. “And that’s what I try to do.”
Other reviews: It’s unclear when Biden’s trip to the Middle East will be finalized, but it’s widely expected to take place later this month.
Israeli media reported Friday that Biden is expected to visit Israel on June 23 ahead of the trip to Saudi Arabia.
The travel plans have already drawn some criticism. An organization representing families and survivors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks wrote an open letter to Biden on Thursday urging him to hold Riyadh accountable for the role Saudi officials allegedly played in those attacks.
Read the full story here
Also from The Hill: Biden sets the stage for a risky meeting with the Saudis
WHAT WE READ
That’s all for today. Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. See you next week!
SEE THE FULL VERSION HERE