Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Officials warn Russia plans to annex more territory

The White House warned on Tuesday that the U.S. has “ample evidence” Russia is planning to annex more Ukrainian territory.  

We’ll break down the warning from the White House. Plus, we’ll talk about the National Archives demanding the Secret Service launch a probe into allegations of erased text messages from Jan. 5-6, 2021.

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 Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

US: Russia will annex additional Ukrainian territory

The United States has “ample evidence” that Russia plans to annex additional Ukrainian territory, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.   

The ‘annexation playbook:’ Kirby, speaking from the White House briefing room, said that U.S. intelligence shows Russian plans to install “illegitimate” proxy officials in Ukraine and arrange “sham referendums” on becoming part of Russia. Russia is preparing to focus its efforts on Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and all of Donetsk and Luhansk, he said.   

Kirby likened the “annexation playbook” to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, which triggered a wave of international sanctions. 

He added that the timeline of Russia’s annexation plans is unclear but that Moscow could put them in motion later this year, timed with regional elections. Russia’s war in Ukraine is about to enter its sixth month.  

Where the intelligence came from: Kirby told reporters Tuesday that the new assessment relied on both open-source information in the public domain and intelligence.   

Russia has already installed officials in areas of Ukraine it controls, including Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, and there has long been chatter that Russia could move to annex Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine’s east, where Moscow’s forces are currently focusing their military operations.   

Asked about what was new about the information he was citing on Tuesday, Kirby declined to provide specifics but insisted there would be a “concerted effort” by the part of Russia. 

Something to watch for: The administration plans to announce another tranche of military assistance for Ukraine later this week, Kirby told reporters, which will include additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and multiple-launch rocket systems.   

Read the full story here.

National Archives demands probe into erased texts

The National Archives is pushing the Secret Service to launch a probe into claims it may have erased text messages from agents from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021.  

The request comes after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accused the agency of having “erased text messages as part of a device replacement program.” 

Texts ‘improperly deleted:’ “If it is determined that any text messages have been improperly deleted (regardless of their relevance to the OIG/Congressional inquiry of the events on January 6, 2021), then the Secret Service must send NARA a report within 30 calendar days of the date of this letter with a report documenting the deletion,” Laurence Brewer, chief records officer for the U.S. government, wrote in a letter to the custodian of records at DHS. 

“This report must include a complete description of the records affected, a statement of the exact circumstances surrounding the deletion of messages, a statement of the safeguards established to prevent further loss of documentation, and details of all agency actions taken to salvage, retrieve, or reconstruct the records,” Brewer wrote in the letter from the Archives. 

Secret Service to comply: “The United States Secret Service respects and supports the important role of the National Archives and Records Administration in ensuring preservation of government records.  They will have our full cooperation in this review,” Anthony Guglielmi, the spokesman, wrote on Twitter. 

A subpoena deadline: The demand from the National Archives came just hours after a subpoena deadline from the Jan. 6 committee to turn over “the relevant text messages, as well as any after action reports” for Jan. 6. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) a member of the committee, said that while the Secret Service pledged to comply with the subpoena, the panel is likely to have outstanding questions about any missing data. 

“I suspect we will still have a lot of additional questions to be answered,” he said Tuesday. 

Read the full story here.

Senate panel advances Finland, Sweden NATO bid

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday advanced protocols to support the accession of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, setting up a full Senate vote on expanding the alliance. 

The text, called a resolution of advice and consent to ratify NATO accession protocols, passed by voice vote. 

‘Rock solid’ commitment: “Today’s vote is further proof that the answer to aggression is not isolation, but deeper engagement with likeminded democracies,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement.  

“As we look to expand NATO, the Senate also reaffirms its rock solid commitment to the Ukrainian people in their struggle for freedom from oppression. We must redouble our efforts to provide the Ukrainian people every weapon they need to fight this barbaric Russian war machine,” he added. 

One ‘present’ vote: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recorded his vote as present and has spoken out against expanding NATO, criticizing the alliance as provoking military aggression over diplomacy. In 2017, Paul blocked the Senate from voting for Montenegro’s accession to the alliance.  

What happens next: Each government of NATO’s 30-member countries must individually ratify the treaty to allow for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance. At least 10 countries have already ratified the treaty to allow Stockholm and Helsinki’s addition.  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is holding back full support of his government for Finland and Sweden, saying in a television address on Monday that Ankara reserves the right to “freeze” their NATO bids if its security concerns are not met. 

Read the full story here.

LOCKHEED, PENTAGON ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT FOR F-35 AIRCRAFT

The Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin announced a “handshake agreement” with the Department of Defense to procure 375 F-35 fighter jets.  

It’s unclear how much the deal will be worth based on both announcements. Reuters initially reported on Monday that the agreement would ultimately be worth $30 billion.  

In a statement, Lockheed said that both parties will work together to finalize the agreement over the next few months. When the deal is finalized, the company will share the final aircraft quantity and cost figures.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley will give remarks at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at 8 a.m. 
  • The Aspen Security Forum will continue at 10:45 a.m. 
  • The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “Biden’s trip to the Middle East: Outcomes and Opportunities” at 9 a.m.  
  • The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will hold a discussion on “Does the War in Ukraine Herald a New European Era?” at 9 a.m. 
  • The U.S. Institute of Peace will hold a discussion on “U.S. Leadership in Atrocity Prevention” at 9 a.m. 
  • The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, the Environment and Cyber will hold a hearing on “Accountability for Atrocity Crimes Committed by Russia in Ukraine” at 9:30 a.m. 
  • The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on “The Changing Election Security Landscape: Threats to Election Officials and Infrastructure” at 9:30 a.m. 
  • The House Intelligence Committee will hold a closed markup of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 at 9:30 a.m. 
  • The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and Technology Modernization will hold a hearing on “Modernizing Veteran Education in the Shadow of COVID-19″ at 1 p.m. 
  • The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration and International Economic Policy will hold a hearing on “Russia in the Western Hemisphere: Assessing Putin’s Malign Influence in Latin America and the Caribbean” at 2 p.m. 
  • The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing “Examining the Status of VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization Program” at 3 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!

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Tags Adam Schiff John Kirby

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