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Defense & National Security — Pentagon denies giving Ukrainians specific intelligence

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Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Friday again denied that the U.S. gave the Ukrainian military specific information to allow them to sink the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva, in April. 

We’ll break detail the Pentagon’s response, plus a recent shift of funds to replenish U.S. missiles sent to Ukraine, an upcoming meeting including top Western leaders and Jill Biden’s trip to Europe. 

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 Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Pentagon denies providing ‘specific targeting’ info

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Friday again denied that the U.S. gave the Ukrainian military specific information to allow them to sink the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva, in April. 

Kirby first denied late Thursday that the U.S. gave the Ukrainian military “specific targeting information” that allowed them to sink the Moskva. 

“We did not provide Ukraine with specific targeting information for the Moskva. We were not involved in the Ukrainians’ decision to strike the ship or in the operation they carried out,” Kirby said in a statement. 

“We had no prior knowledge of Ukraine’s intent to target the ship. The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case.” 

An earlier report: The comment from Kirby came after officials told NBC News and The New York Times that intelligence given from the U.S. to Ukraine helped sink the ship. 

The outlets reported, however, the officials said the U.S. was not aware Ukraine’s military would attack the Moskva and was not consulted before the decision occurred. 

The Pentagon’s response: In a press briefing Thursday, Kirby said Ukraine uses a range of intelligence to make decisions on the battlefield. 

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

“We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military. The Ukrainians have, quite frankly, a lot more information than we do. This is their country, their territory, and they have capable intelligence collection abilities of their own.” 

Read the full story here

Pentagon moves $1.45B for weaponry for Ukraine 

The Pentagon has shifted $1.45 billion to the Army and Marine Corps to restock Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles the United States has sent to Ukraine, the Defense Department’s top weapons buyer said Friday.   

The funds come from the $13.6 billion supplemental funding granted by Congress in March for Ukraine-related assistance — $3.5 billion of which is meant to replenish U.S. weapons stocks.  

“Following the required 30-day notification to Congress, the first tranche of funds, roughly $1.45 billion, was transferred to the Army and Marines earlier this week to procure replenishment stocks of Stingers, Javelins and other key components,” William LaPlante, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters.   

Numbers breakdown: Inside Defense first reported on the transfer, which includes about $1.1 billion for the Army — split between $809 million for Javelin missiles and $303 million for Stingers — with the Marine Corps getting $370 million for Stingers, according to a document the outlet obtained from the Pentagon comptroller.    

The U.S. has given Ukraine more than 1,400 Stinger systems and 5,500 Javelins along with billions of dollars’ worth of other weapons since Russia began its attack on Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

The missiles, which can be man-carried and launched, have been used to great effect against Kremlin forces.  

Issues: But with the U.S. having provided a third of its stockpile of Javelins and a quarter of its Stingers in just under three months of war, the Biden administration is scrambling to refill those depleted supplies. 

To that end, the administration has requested a second supplemental from Congress, another $33 billion to support the Ukrainian military and economy and address the humanitarian crisis prompted by the war. About $5.4 billion of that would go toward additional weapons replenishment.   

Compounding the issue, however, is Raytheon Technologies, the maker of Stinger missiles. Last week it revealed it will not be able to quickly produce more of the weapons due to lack of parts and materials.  

Upcoming contracts: LaPlante noted that the Army is “actively negotiating” with industry for Stingers and related components, with an award expected at the end of May.  

For Javelins, an award is imminent, he added.   

In addition, the Pentagon will award a $17.8 million contract for industry to produce and ship Switchblade unmanned aerial systems to Ukraine.  

“That’s an award that’s going to be seen later today, later this afternoon,” LaPlante said. 

Read the full story here.

Biden, Zelensky to take part in G-7 meeting

President Biden will participate in a virtual meeting with Group of Seven (G-7) leaders on Sunday morning that will also include Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. 

The virtual meeting will take place one day before Russia’s Victory Day, timing that Psaki emphasized on Friday when disclosing plans for the engagement in a gaggle with reporters on Air Force One.  

Who else will participate?: The G-7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.   

The leaders are expected to discuss the response to Russia’s war in Ukraine and potential additional sanctions on Moscow in response to the invasion. 

Meeting goals: Psaki wouldn’t preview any actions on Friday, but said the administration was considering sanctions on additional individuals and companies as well as steps to prevent sanctions evasion.   

She said the leaders during the virtual meeting would demonstrate the unity of Western countries against the Russian invasion.   

Waiting, watching: The international community is closely watching Russia’s actions on Victory Day, the May 9 holiday marking the country’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Some have speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the day to formally declare war on Ukraine; Putin has previously referred to the war only as a “special military operation.” 

Biden administration officials have warned that Russia could try to annex more Ukrainian territory on May 9, which is Monday.   

Read more here

Jill Biden in Romania, serving meals to US troops 

First lady Jill Biden arrived in Romania on Friday to start her four-day trip across Eastern Europe, which will include a visit with Ukrainian refugees amid Russia’s war in Ukraine

The first lady’s plane touched down at Mihail Kogalniceanu International Airport in southeastern Romania around 5:02 p.m. local time. She was greeted by military officials before going to Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, where she served food to U.S. troops, according to reporters traveling with the first lady. 

Work with military families: The first lady also discussed with troops the hardship that deployments have on families, referencing her own experience during her late son Beau Biden’s deployment. Since Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, the total number of personnel at the base has roughly tripled in size to about 2,700, military leadership on site told reporters. 

Biden filmed a virtual story-time at the base as part of her Joining Forces initiative to support military families in partnership with United Through Reading,  an organization that connects military families with deployed service members through video recordings and virtual book readings. 

Travel plans: Biden next plans to travel to Bucharest and on Saturday will meet with members of the government of Romania, U.S. Embassy staff, humanitarian aid workers and educators who are helping teach displaced Ukrainian children. 

She will then visit Slovakia’s border with Ukraine on Sunday to mark Mother’s Day, visiting a city-run refugee center and a school, where she will tour and learn about services for Ukrainian refugees and hear from those refugees. Biden will also visit a public school in Kosice that is hosting Ukrainian refugee students. 

On Monday, she is slated to meet with President of Slovakia Zuzana Caputova at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava before returning to the U.S. 

Read the full story here.

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 next week!

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