Overnight Defense & National Security — Biden officials consider more Ukraine aid

It's Tuesday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

The Biden administration is considering sending military advisers and weaponry to Ukraine as concerns about a possible Moscow invasion intensify.

We’ll have more on that, plus the Bidens’ “Friendsgiving” at Fort Bragg and the status of his new presidential helicopter.

For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. Write me with tips at jwilliams@thehill.com

Let’s get to it.

US may send advisers, weaponry to Ukraine

The Biden administration is considering sending military advisers and weaponry to Ukraine amid concerns of another invasion by Russia, CNN reported.

What would the U.S. send? The proposed package could include mortars, air defense systems such as stinger missiles and new Javelin anti-tank and anti-armor missiles, according to the outlet.

Sources also told CNN that the Pentagon has pressed for equipment that would have gone to Afghanistan to be sent to Ukraine instead.  

Comes amid Ukraine concerns: The U.S. and NATO fear that Moscow is massing troops to prepare for a military operation over Ukraine’s eastern border similar to when it annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The head of Ukraine's defense intelligence agency has said that Russia could invade as soon as late January. 

The report comes a couple days after Bloomberg reported that the U.S. has shared intelligence showing that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine from multiple locations. 

Meanwhile, Russian officials have said that reports that they may soon invade Ukraine are “false,” and that the troops on the border are responding to threats from NATO.

The State Department weighs in: A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that the administration has “demonstrated that the United States is willing to use a number of tools to address harmful Russian actions and we will not hesitate from making use of those and other tools in the future.”

The Kremlin’s response: When asked about the possibility that the U.S. would send additional assistance to Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that such actions are already being undertaken, CNN noted.

“Military advisers are arriving there, weapons are supplied there -- not only from the United States, but also from other NATO countries. And all this, of course, leads to a further aggravation of the situation on the border line,” Peskov said. 

Read the full story here

 

Milley speaks with top Russian military official 

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyTrump goes after Woodward, Costa over China Russian military buildup puts Washington on edge Overnight Defense & National Security — Russian military moves cause for concern MORE spoke with Russia’s top military officer, Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov as concerns grow about Russia amassing troops near the Ukranian border.

What was the call about? Few details have been released about the call, but a readout from the Joint Staff said “the military leaders discussed several security-related issues of concern.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a separate statement that the chiefs “discussed the ongoing issues of international security,” Russian news agency TASS reported.

Just yesterday …. Milley spoke with Lt. Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, in which the two “exchanged perspectives and assessments of the evolving security environment in Eastern Europe,” according to a readout of that call.

Read the full story here

 

BIDENS HAVE 'FRIENDSGIVING' MEAL WITH MILITARY TROOPS

President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE and first lady Jill BidenJill BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud Bidens to attend Kennedy Center Honors following Trumps' absence The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump's pre-debate COVID-19 test sparks criticism MORE visited troops on Monday for a “Friendsgiving” meal with U.S. service members and military families at Fort Bragg, N.C.

What they said: The Bidens spoke with attendees about holidays their family spent without Beau Biden when he was deployed to Iraq and Kosovo. Beau Biden died after returning from deployment in 2015.

The president said he was proud to be commander-in-chief and thanked the service members. 

“You’re the finest the world has ever seen and I’m so damn proud to be associated with you,” Biden said. “We came because we wanted to thank you, tell you how much we care … we owe you big. Thank you.”

Who was there: About 250 people attended the meal, including elected officials, service members and family members of deployed soldiers. 

The Bidens were greeted by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), and North Carolina Democratic Reps. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceOvernight Defense & National Security — Biden officials consider more Ukraine aid Biden, first lady have 'Friendsgiving' meal with military troops Texas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term MORE, G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldDeFazio becomes 19th House Democrat to retire Overnight Defense & National Security — Biden officials consider more Ukraine aid Biden, first lady have 'Friendsgiving' meal with military troops MORE, Alma AdamsAlma Shealey AdamsAdams: Maternal health is in 'a crisis within a crisis' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Supreme Court weighs abortion restrictions MORE, Deborah Ross, and Kathy Manning.

Read more about the Friendsgiving meal

Biden's new helicopter faces reliability issues

The president's new helicopter is not “operationally suitable” for emergencies, according to report obtained by Bloomberg News

According to an unpublished September report from the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, the aircraft is “operationally effective” for routine missions such as a trip to Camp David or taking the president to Joint Base Andrews, but not yet for “contingency operational flights.” 

What’s the report based on? The report is based on the helicopter’s performance during three months of testing through April 15.

Jessica Maxwell, a spokesperson for the Pentagon’s testing office, told The Hill that the report was meant to evaluate if the helicopter is “effective and suitable to perform administrative transport of the president, vice president, members of the cabinet, heads of state and other parties.”

The report was also meant to evaluate whether the plane could perform contingency operations in support of the president and other personnel, Maxwell said.

What’s wrong with the helicopter? With regard to emergencies, the report found that the “Mission Communication System (MCS) often delayed critical communications at the beginning of contingency missions and did not adequately support timely, continuous and secure communications,” reads the report, according to Bloomberg. 

Overall, the helicopter is “failing to meet the reliability, availability or maintainability threshold requirements,” the outlet reported.

“Engine exhaust and fluid discharge cause landing zone damage limitations, limiting the number of available landing zones,” the report stated, adding that the Marines should “continue to reduce effects of engine exhaust and fluid discharges.”

The backstory: At issue is the VH-92 program, which was meant to replace helicopters currently used by the president, vice president and other top officials.

The Navy selected Sikorsky Aircraft, a Lockheed Martin company, to replace the aging VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters currently in use. The navy ordered five additional aircraft from Sikorsky in early February, bringing the total number of aircraft to 23.

Deliveries were expected to begin earlier this year.

Read the full story here

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The International Institute for Strategic Studies will be hosting a discussion on “China–US Competition in AI: Destabilising and Intensifying” at 9 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 Wednesday.