Overnight Defense & National Security — Russian military moves cause for concern

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The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is warning citizens away from the nation's borders and in the annexed peninsula of Crimea due to “unusual Russian military activity.”

We’ll share more about the warnings and new military movements by both Russia and Ukraine plus details of this year’s Thanksgiving meal for troops and the newly established Pentagon group meant to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena. 

For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Write to me with tips: emitchell@thehill.com.

Let’s get to it.

US Embassy issue Crimea travel advisory

In a travel advisory posted Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine advised U.S. citizens not to travel to Crimea due to “abuses by Russian occupation authorities," as well as in the eastern parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk.

A general warning: Overall, the embassy advises Americans not to travel to Ukraine in general due to COVID-19. 

An unpredictable situation: “U.S. citizens are reminded the security conditions along the border may change with little or no notice,” the embassy said. "Please check our website and social media pages for additional information.”

Ukraine fears that Russia may be preparing to invade, as it did when it annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

A looming attack?: Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency, told the Military Times last weekend that Russia had more than 92,000 troops amassed at the border and could attack as early as the end of January.

Conversations: Amid the growing concerns, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyThe bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns Overnight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine National Guard Bureau chief tests positive for COVID-19 MORE spoke via phone on Tuesday with Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s top military officer to discuss “several security-related issues of concern.” Milley spoke with Lt. Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces a day prior.

Read the full story here.

MORE MILITARY EXERCISES

Russia and Ukraine both conducted military exercises this week, according to a Wednesday report by Interfax.

The Kremlin’s drills: Russia reportedly had fighter planes and ships practicing airstrikes and combating air attacks, while Ukraine also held military drills, Reuters reported.

"About 10 aircraft crews and ships of the Black Sea fleet's Novorossiysk naval base ... took part in this combat training event," Interfax reportedly wrote, citing Russia's Black Sea fleet.

Russia's Black Sea fleet also told the news outlet that Russia's Sukhoi fighter jets carried out training flights over Black Sea waters as they practiced how to respond to air attacks.

Ukraine’s move: On Wednesday, Ukraine began strengthening its border with anti-tank and air units, Reuters reported.

Read more details here.

 

Pentagon ups troops' Thanksgiving meal

The Pentagon has upped the amount of entrees, sides and desserts distributed to troops on Thanksgiving this year by nearly 50 percent as in-person dining largely returns after being nixed in 2020 thanks to COVID-19. 

Food by the numbers: U.S. troops stationed overseas will receive nearly 60,000 pounds of roasted turkey, roughly 52,000 pounds of ham, 38,400 pounds of sweet potatoes and nearly 68,500 pounds of pies and cakes delivered by Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Troop Support. 

Altogether, DLA is shipping more than 360,000 pounds of Thanksgiving food to service members stationed in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Korea, Japan, Qatar and Philippines, Guam and Singapore, among other locations.

Returning to normal: The portions are an increase from 2020 numbers, when they were served nearly 51,000 pounds of turkey, half the ham and sweet potatoes and a third of the deserts in grab-and-go style takeout instead of large group gatherings in dining facilities, a move to cut down on the spread of the coronavirus.

“The holiday meal should look more normal this year, with in-person dining returning in many locations,” DLA Troop Support head Army Brig. Gen. Eric Shirley said in a statement released Monday. 

Supply chain issues be damned: Even with recent supply chain issues, Pentagon officials said they will get the food out in time for the holiday thanks to advanced planning that started as early as March. 

“We are currently dealing with the same supply issues that the commercial industry is dealing with,” said Robin Whaley, DLA Troop Support’s subsistence chief of customer operations for the continental U.S. “We have been working with our vendors well in advance of the holiday to reduce chances that the necessary items won’t be available on the big day.”

One major change of note: One other major change in distribution this year: DLA will not be shipping Thanksgiving foods to Afghanistan, a first in 20 years.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

Group to probe unidentified aerial phenomena 

The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it is establishing a new group to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), months after a U.S. intelligence report prompted calls for more research into sightings and possible signs of extraterrestrial life.

What they’ll do: The group will spearhead the U.S.’s efforts to “detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in Special Use Airspace (SUA), and to assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security,” according to a statement from the Pentagon.

In a memo to senior Pentagon leadership, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the new group is meant to "synchronize efforts across the Department and with other Federal departments and agencies" when it comes to objects of interest in Special Use Airspace.

The Defense Department (DOD) said invasions of any airborne objects in Special Use Airspace create safety and possible national security concerns.

A collaboration: The new group, while under the purview of the Defense Department, will be created in collaboration with the intelligence community. 

The Pentagon said Hicks, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence Avril HainesAvril HainesOvernight Defense & National Security — Russian military moves cause for concern New Pentagon group to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE, ordered the under secretary of Defense for intelligence and security, Ronald Moultrie, to create the group.

It will be called the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, and will succeed the U.S. Navy’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force.

The mystery continues: The establishment of the group comes after ODNI released a highly anticipated report in June that said that the U.S. government has encountered 144 UAP since 2004, with almost all of them remaining a mystery.

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. Overnight Defense & National Security will be off the rest of the week for the Thanksgiving holiday. See you Monday.