Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense & National Security — Biden says no US troops going to Ukraine

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. 

President Biden said Tuesday that no American forces are going to Ukraine as tensions persist over the possibility of a Russian military incursion.  

More on that, plus the leader of the Oath Keeper’s not guilty plea to seditious conspiracy charges related to the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021 and the State Department’s approval of $2.5 billion in weapons to Egypt.

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

Let’s get to it. 

Biden rules out US forces in Ukraine

President Biden on Tuesday said there will be no American forces moving into Ukraine as tensions flare over the urgent threat of a Russian military incursion. 

“There is not going to be any American forces moving into Ukraine,” he told reporters. 

The U.S. and its allies have warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent as Moscow has amassed at least 100,000 troops near its border with Kyiv. 

But where might they deploy? Biden’s comments come a day after the Pentagon announced on Monday that it is readying up to 8,500 troops to potentially deploy to Eastern Europe. 

Asked about what would lead to the deployment of those troops, Biden said it depends on “what Putin does or doesn’t do.” 

“It’s not provocative,” the president said, pointing to concerns among NATO allies in Eastern Europe about Russia’s troop buildup. 

“Everyone from Poland on has a reason to be concerned about what would happen and what spillover effects could occur,” he said. “We have no intention of putting American forces or NATO forces in Ukraine. But … there are going to be serious economic consequences if he moves.” 

No NATO troops to Ukraine: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg similarly said Tuesday that the alliance would not be sending combat troops to Ukraine.   

“NATO will not deploy NATO combat troops to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. 

“But we need to be sure that there is no misunderstanding about our readiness, our commitment to protect and defend all allies, especially in the eastern part of the alliance,” he continued. 

Read the full story here.

 

Oath Keepers leader pleads not guilty 

Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the right-wing Oath Keepers who was charged earlier this month with seditious conspiracy for his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 riot, pleaded not guilty to the various charges on Tuesday. 

Rhodes and most of his co-defendants facing the sedition charge all entered not guilty pleas at a preliminary hearing before a federal judge in Washington, D.C. 

The not guilty pleas were expected at this early stage of the proceedings, and all of the defendants could still plead guilty if federal prosecutors offer plea agreements. 

Recapping the allegations: The Justice Department is accusing Rhodes, a 56-year-old Yale Law graduate, with leading the alleged conspiracy to use force in order to deny President Biden the White House in the weeks after the November 2020 presidential election. 

The grand jury indictment details his efforts to rally fellow Oath Keepers to travel to D.C. for the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. According to the charging documents, Rhodes’s preparations included purchasing thousands of dollars’ worth of firearms and weapons equipment and telling other militia members to prepare themselves for violence. 

During the attack on the Capitol, Rhodes reportedly remained outside the building while groups of Oath Keepers moved through the crowds in military-style “stack” formations and an armed “quick reaction force” remained just outside of D.C., awaiting an order to bring weapons to the mayhem. 

‘Bald-faced myth’ is ‘inexcusable’: An attorney for Rhodes told The Hill last week that the government’s accusations are baseless. 

“The bald-faced myth that anyone wanted to stop the certification is inexcusable,” attorney Jonathon Moseley said in an emailed statement.

“The claims in the detention motion of Stewart Rhodes — which apply to other Oath Keepers as well like Kelly Meggs — are fiction. We know that the prosecutors know that what they claim is totally false. We have the documents. We have the videos. The prosecutors know that we know that they know that their narrative is a John Grisham novel, totally false.” 

Read the full story here.

STATE DEPARTMENT APPROVES $2.5 BILLION IN ARMS SALES TO EUROPE

The State Department on Tuesday announced that it has approved $2.5 billion in proposed arms sales to Egypt, to include several aircraft and air defense radar systems.  

The agency approved a $2.2 billion sale to the Egyptian government for 12 C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft and related equipment, and a separate $355 million sale for three SPS-48 Land Based radars and equipment. 

Answering to last year’s controversy: The U.S. has provided Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid annually, of which $300 million are attached to certain conditions.  

Last year, due to human rights concerns, the State Department decided to release $170 million of the $300 million due to human rights concerns, and place conditions on the remaining $130 million.  

Earlier on Tuesday, Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee led by Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) urged the State Department to stand by its decision citing concerns over political prisoners and human rights abuses.  

State Department spokesperson Ned Price dodged questions on Tuesday as to whether the arms sales part of the embattled military aid.  

“Our relationship with Egypt is fundamentally important across any number of realms — when it comes to regional security when it comes to counterterrorism,” Price said. “And so of course, we would like to see that relation, that relationship strengthen even more and one way to do that is additional progress in human rights.” 

Read the full story here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

 

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for latest coverage. See you on Wednesday.

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