Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Germany unite in face of Russian threat

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

President Biden sought to project indivisible unity with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a meeting at the White House amid concerns of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

We’ll break down the meeting and what was said, plus provide an update on the U.S. troops sent to Eastern Europe and more details on the deadly SEAL candidate training accident over the weekend.   

For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Write to me with tips at emitchell@digital-stage.thehill.com. 

Let’s get to it.

 

Biden seeks unity with German leader

Biden on Monday sought to project indivisible unity with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a meeting at the White House amid concerns that Germany’s pursuit of Russian gas delivery could threaten a coordinated response to deter Moscow’s potential invasion of Ukraine.  

“Germany’s completely reliable, completely, totally, thoroughly reliable,” Biden said in a press conference Monday afternoon. “I have no doubt about Germany at all.”  

Avoiding the issue: Scholz reinforced solidarity between the two countries, but avoided acknowledging by name the thorniest issue between the two allies: Germany’s commitment to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is poised to deliver gas from Russia — but that the U.S. vigorously opposes.  

“You can be sure that there won’t be any measures in which we have a differing approach. We will act together jointly,” he said in German, responding to a reporter’s question on if Berlin is committed to canceling the pipeline in the face of a Russian aggression against Ukraine. 

He reiterated his message in English, “We will be united, we will act together, and we will take all the necessary steps — and all the necessary steps will be done by all of us together.” 

Coordination: The Biden administration is coordinating furiously with its allies and partners in Europe to try to stave off a Russian invasion of Ukraine, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has amassed more than 100,000 troops close to its neighbor’s border. U.S. officials have warned that an offensive could be launched any day now. 

Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron met with Putin on Monday in an effort to diffuse the situation. 

Under scrutiny: Germany has come under scrutiny for its commitment to providing Ukraine with defensive materials to raise the cost on Russia should it invade, with Ukrainian officials pushing back on Berlin’s delivery of helmets and medical equipment while other countries are focusing on lethal military aid.  

Germany has also blocked the export of German-origin defensive materials from allied countries to Ukraine. German officials’ inconsistent messaging on the fate of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline — where the German defense minister has suggested the pipeline is not linked to the crisis — has further raised concern that there are gaps between Germany and the U.S. on a joint response to Russia’s provocations. 

Read the full story here 

 

A ‘couple hundred’ US troops arrive in Poland 

As Biden met with Scholz, over at the Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters that a “couple hundred” of the 1,700 troops the U.S. military is sending to Europe have arrived in Poland, with the rest to flow into the country in the coming days. 

The troops are being deployed to Poland and Germany from the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and are “only just now arriving on station and are getting set up,” Kirby said. 

The American troops first landed near the Poland-Ukraine border on Saturday amid escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Another 1,000 troops have been repositioned from Germany to Romania.  

What they’ll do there: Once they get settled in, the troops will begin to conduct exercises with their partners in Romania and Poland, Kirby added.  

The deployment and repositioning of troops is meant to bolster the capabilities of the NATO military alliance in the area as more than 100,000 Kremlin troops have been placed near Ukraine’s border in Belarus and Russia.  

A growing threat: Kirby said that while the U.S. military over the weekend observed Putin adding to his forces, it has not seen any troops directly aimed at NATO’s eastern flank. 

“He’s well north of 100,000 and it continues to grow, but what’s important is not just the numbers, it’s the capabilities and what we see is that he is really putting in place robust what we would call combined arms capabilities in Belarus and along that border with Ukraine in Russia,” Kirby said. 

“That means not just infantry or tracked vehicles but artillery and long-range fires and air and missile defense, as well as special operations,” he added.   

Read the full story here. 

 

Read today’s coverage of the Russia-Ukraine conflict: 

 

NAVY CONFIRMS LEAKED VIDEO OF F-35 CRASH ON CARRIER

The Navy on Monday confirmed the authenticity of leaked video showing an F-35 fighter jet crashing on the USS Carl Vinson and then falling into the South China Sea. 

The Navy said last month that an F-35C Lighting II had a “landing mishap” on deck while conducting flight operations for the Carl Vinson in January.  

A one-minute clip of the incident was leaked online and began appearing on several social media outlets.

An investigation: Cmdr. Zachary Harrell, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces, confirmed to The Hill that the video was from the crash and that an investigation was ongoing into the leaked footage. 

“We are aware that there has been an unauthorized release of video footage from flight deck cameras onboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) of the F-35C Lightning II crash that occurred Jan. 24, in the South China Sea,” Harrell said in a statement. “There is an ongoing investigation into both the crash and the unauthorized release of the shipboard video footage.” 

What the video shows: In the short video, screaming can be heard as the plane suddenly loses stability and slams onto the deck of the USS Carl Vinson. Later on in the video, the plane, which had burst into flames, is shown violently landing on the deck before sliding into the South China Sea.  

Read more here.

 

Navy confirms ID of SEAL candidate who died

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The Navy confirmed on Sunday the identity of a SEAL candidate who died after completing exhausting and high-intensity training during “Hell Week.” 

The Navy said that 24-year-old Seaman Kyle Mullen, a member of the Navy’s Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (BUD/S) class, died at Sharp Coronado Hospital in California on Friday after completing “Hell Week.”  

“We extend our deepest sympathies to Seaman Mullen’s family for their loss,” Rear Admiral H.W. Howard III said in the Navy’s statement.  

What we know so far: Mullen had completed the rigorous training, which marked “the first phase of the Navy SEAL attribute assessment and selection pathway.” 

He was not actively training at the time of his death, but the Navy said on Saturday that Mullen and another Navy SEAL candidate were taken to the hospital “several hours after their Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (BUD/S) class successfully completed Hell Week.”   

The Navy added that an investigation into the 24-year-old’s death was underway. 

The Pentagon’s response: Kirby told reporters Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was briefed on the incident and “he sends his deepest condolences to the family.”  

“I think the secretary wants to make sure that he gives the Navy the time to look at this carefully and thoughtfully before coming to any kind of conclusions. . . . we just don’t know what happened here.”  

Read the full story here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

 

Well, that’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. See you on Tuesday.

Tags Emmanuel Macron Jason Crow Joe Biden John Kirby Lloyd Austin Vladimir Putin

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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