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Defense & National Security — Ukraine to get new air defense system from US

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Genya Savilov, Pool Photo via AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 8, 2022.

The U.S. government for the first time will send Ukraine a new air defense systems as part of its latest $400 million weapons package.

We’ll share what’s in the latest lethal aid tranche for Kyiv, plus a new estimate for Russian military casualties in its war with Ukraine and the sentencing for the couple charged trying to sell secrets about nuclear submarines to what they believed was a foreign government.

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.

Ukrainian air defense system part of $400M package

The Biden administration for the first time will send Ukraine four Avenger air defense systems as part of its latest $400 million weapons package, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

The most recent lethal aid tranche — which comes less than a week after the Defense Department on Nov. 4 announced a $400 million military assistance package — comes as the Russian military has announced a withdrawal from the southern city of Kherson, though the move is viewed as a possible ruse to inflict massive casualties on Ukrainian forces. It also drops during a brutal Kremlin missile barrage on major Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, which began last month.

What’s in the package: The weapons package includes the four Avengers, missiles for Hawk air defense systems, Stinger missiles, additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 400 grenade launchers, 100 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, and other artillery rounds and small arms ammunition, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters.

This marks the first time the U.S. will send Ukraine the vehicle-mounted Avenger, a surface-to-air missile system meant to provide short-range air defense for ground troops.

A ‘net’ for Ukraine: Singh said the system is meant to complement weapons Western nations have already provided Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

“We’re basically creating … a net of air defense systems of different ranges that allows them to — whether it’s the Hawk missiles or the [IRIS-T medium range infrared homing missile] that the Germans provided or what we are providing today with the four Avenger air defense systems — all of them have different ranges, all of them contribute differently on the battlefield, which makes the Ukrainians effective,” she said.

The midterm effect: There has also been some speculation as to whether Congress, once back from the midterm elections, will continue to work with the administration to keep military, financial and economic support flowing for Ukraine. A vocal minority of Republicans critical of sending American dollars to Kyiv has pushed back against the aid, and even a slim GOP majority in the House could throw a wrench in U.S. efforts to support Ukraine’s fight.

But Singh said she believes that “there is in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, a commitment to Ukraine that we’re in this for the long haul.”

Read the full story here

Milley’s highest US estimate of Ukraine war death

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday said about 40,000 civilians have been killed in the war in Ukraine, the highest estimate yet from a U.S. official.

Speaking at a conference hosted by the Economic Club of New York, Milley also said more than 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the war, according to various news reports on the general’s comments.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine’s military: He added that the number of troop casualties was probably the “same” for Ukraine’s army.

Milley added that the war had brought about “a lot of human suffering,” explaining that up to 30 million Ukrainians have also been displaced from their homes.

His comments underscore the devastating toll the war has had on both Ukraine and Russia as fighting continues unabated and has no end in sight.

A higher estimate: Milley’s estimate on the number of civilian casualties is much higher than the 15,246 casualties reported by the United Nations last month.

His comments on the number of Russian troop casualties are in line with the roughly 70,000 to 80,000 losses estimated by the Defense Department in August, although estimates on how many soldiers Ukraine has lost have been less clear.

Russia launched a full-force invasion in late February and was met with a surprisingly stiff resistance from Ukraine, which pushed Russian forces back from the west around the capital of Kyiv over the spring, and in the fall launched a counteroffensive in the southern region of Kherson.

Read the rest here

Couple sentenced in pilot to sell nuclear submarine secrets

A Navy engineer and his wife were sentenced Wednesday to more than 19 years in prison after they pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to sell secrets about nuclear submarines to what they believed was a foreign government representative.

Jonathan Toebbe, 44, was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison and his 46-year-old wife, Diane Toebbe, was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Gina Groh of the Northern District of West Virginia.

Some background: The Toebbes were arrested in October 2021 after Jonathan Toebbe received $100,000 in cryptocurrency from an FBI agent posing as a representative of a foreign government to whom he had sent secrets about nuclear submarine reactors in return for the money. The secrets were not classified but considered confidential.

The couple pleaded guilty in August 2022 to conspiracy to communicate restricted data related to the design of nuclear-powered warships.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen said the couple “conspired to sell restricted defense information that would place the lives of our men and women in uniform and the security of the United States at risk.”

The arguments: During the sentencing hearing, defense attorneys for the couple had argued the Toebbes struggled with mental health issues and alcohol and were worried about the political climate in the U.S., while prior to sentencing Toebbe himself said he believed his family was in “dire threat” and that “democracy was under collapse.”

But Groh, the judge, said Toebbe’s “actions and greedy self-serving intentions placed military service members at sea and every citizen of this country in a vulnerable position and at risk of harm from adversaries.”

Read that story here

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • Friends of the National World War II Memorial and the National Park Service will hold a wreath-laying ceremony to honor those who served with the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II at 9 a.m. at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  • The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, will host a discussion on “Russia and the Future of Europe: Lessons Learnt and Future Prospects,” at 10:30 a.m.
  • The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft will discuss “Paths of Dissent: American Veterans and U.S. Foreign Policymaking,” at 1 p.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!

Tags Department of Defense Diane Toebbe Federal Bureau of Investigation Jonathan Toebbe Mark Milley Mathhew Olsen Russia Sabrina Singh Ukraine Ukraine aid United Nations United States

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