Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Presented by Lockheed Martin — Administration on defense after intelligence report 

AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

The Biden administration went on defense on Wednesday after reports emerged that the U.S. has provided Ukraine with intelligence that helped it target Russian generals as the invasion drags on.  

We’ll sort through the drama. Plus, we’ll talk about why fears are growing that Russia could escalate assaults on Ukraine ahead of May 9.  

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams.

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Officials go on defense over report 

The Biden administration sought to clear things up on Thursday after The New York Times reported that the U.S. has provided Ukraine with intelligence that helped it target Russian generals during Moscow’s invasion.  

Where this started: Senior administration officials told The New York Times on Wednesday that the U.S has provided intelligence to Ukraine’s armed forces and that it has been used to help kill Russian generals who have died during the country’s ongoing war. 

While not specifying how many Russian generals have been killed thanks to U.S. assistances, sources told the newspaper that the information was part of a classified program that aims to help Ukrainians provide real-time intel. Ukraine maintains that it has killed 12 Russian generals. 

The Times reported that Ukrainian officials have combined location details from the U.S. plus their own intelligence to conduct strikes that have helped kill members of the Russian forces. 

White House’s perspective: Asked about the report, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson acknowledged that the U.S. shares intelligence with Ukraine but slammed The Times for the way it framed its story.  

“The headline of this story is misleading and the way it is framed is irresponsible,” Watson said. “The United States provides battlefield intelligence to help the Ukrainians defend their country.  We do not provide intelligence with the intent to kill Russian generals.” 

Pentagon weighs in: Without directly criticizing the story, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby later told reporters that the U.S. provides intelligence to help Ukraine.  

Kirby declined to elaborate further from the podium. However, he added that Ukraine can also gather its own intelligence, and that it receives intelligence from other partners aside from the U.S. 

“Ukraine combines information that we and other partners provide with the intelligence that they themselves are gathering, and then they make their own decisions and they take their own actions,” he said.  

Multiple generals killed: Multiple generals from the Russian army have been killed by Ukrainian forces during the ongoing conflict between the two countries, which began on Feb. 24. 

Most recently, Russian authorities confirmed the death of the commander of the 8th Army, Maj. Gen. Vladimir Petrovich Frolov, last month, saying that he died during infighting with Ukrainian troops, with St. Petersburg Gov. Alexander Beglov citing the late general as a hero.  

Austin huddles with South Korea defense chief 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held a phone call with South Korea’s Minister of National Defense Suh Wook, the Pentagon said Thursday.  

The call comes several weeks ahead of President Biden’s scheduled visit to South Korea.  

What the leaders discussed: The leaders discussed North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launch, which they say “threatens the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific region,” according to a readout of the call from the Pentagon.  

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command confirmed the launch, which took place Wednesday.  

“The Secretary reaffirmed the ironclad U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK, leveraging the full range of U.S. military capabilities, to include extended deterrent capabilities,” the readout said.  

Upcoming travel: The phone call comes ahead of President Biden’s expected visit to South Korea and Japan from May 20-24.  

That trip will come one week after he hosts a gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington, D.C.  

During that trip, Biden is expected to meet with newly elected South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol and with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. 

Why fears are rising ahead of May 9  

Western officials speculated that Russia’s Victory Day on May 9 could see the escalation of the country’s assault on Ukraine.  

Russia honors May 9 as the day the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany in 1945, with the Soviet Union losing more than 24 million people during World War II.  

Russia commemorates the day with military parades, festivals and fireworks, but some fear this year the country will use the national holiday to intensify attacks on Ukraine. 

Officials say Russian President Vladimir Putin could declare an official war against Ukraine, after so far referring the invasion only as a “special military operation.” 

“I think he will try to move from his ‘special operation,’” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace previously told LBC Radio. “He’s been rolling the pitch, laying the ground for being able to say, ‘Look, this is now a war against Nazis, and what I need is more people. I need more Russian cannon fodder.’” 

Read more here 

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “Is humanitarian assistance reaching Ukraine?” at 10 a.m. 
  • The Reagan Foundation will host a virtual event entitled “Linking Resources to Strategy: A Discussion on the National Defense Strategy and FY23 Budget” at 10 a.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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