Defense & National Security — Europe sends dire warning on Mariupol

A European official said Tuesday that Russia will control the Ukrainian city of Mariupol within days and warned the atrocities will far exceed what the world has witnessed thus far.  

We’ll dive deep into the warning, plus a Senate panel is preparing to release the findings of its investigation into the mistreatment of military families by private housing contractors.

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 WilliamsSubscribe here.

European official warns Mariupol will fall within days

The Ukrainian city of Mariupol will be controlled by Russia within days, according to an assessment by a European official, who warned that atrocities against civilians in the southern port city will likely far exceed the massacres witnessed in Bucha. 

“Mariupol will be controlled in the coming days,” the official said. 

The warning comes two days after Ukraine rejected Russia’s demands to surrender in Mariupol, and Russia looks to a renewed effort in eastern Ukraine.  

The ‘main objective’: The European official said that Mariupol is the “main objective” for Moscow, and the city is key for Russian forces to establish a land bridge from Crimea to the Donbas, from southern Ukraine toward its eastern territory.

Putin’s objectives are to seize all of the Donbas, including the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which Russia recognized as independent as a pretext for invading Ukraine, as well as capturing Mariupol and the Kherson region in the southeast to hold naval superiority.  

The European official said that a “reasonable, realistic assessment” is that Russia’s offensive into these regions will last between four to six months before reaching a stalemate with Ukrainian forces, but will provide Moscow with a strengthened hand in any negotiations.  

How Ukraine can fight back: The official said that Ukraine has an advantage with high morale among its troops, especially after the Ukrainian strike that sunk the Russian navy’s flagship Moskva in the Azov Sea. Ukrainian forces also have an advantage in the southeast of the country because they “know the terrain by heart,” the official said. 

Ukrainian forces will use tactics of “mobility and agility” to combat Russian troops in the east, with a combination of anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-tank munitions, and that will seek to bring Russia to a stalemate and force more negotiations. 

The damage already done: Early reports from Mariupol documented atrocities and alleged war crimes such as Russian bombing of a maternity hospital; shelters marked as housing children, and civilian infrastructure. 

Satellite imagery has reportedly showed about 90 percent of the city destroyed, and Ukrainian city officials estimate that civilian casualties are in the tens of thousands, through a combination of suffering under military attacks and starvation, with lack of access to food, water and electricity. 

The Pentagon’s take: A senior U.S. defense official said on Tuesday that Ukrainians are still fighting for Mariupol, adding that weather has impeded the ability of the U.S. to gather more information. 

“It’s clear that the Russians want to take Mariupol. It’s also clear that the Ukrainians are not willing to give it up, certainly not without a fight,” the official said. “And that fight continues. We just don’t have the level of specificity to tell you how many troops are in each part of the city and what they’re doing, we just can’t see that. But broadly speaking, Mariupol is still being fought over.” 

Read the full story here.

Biden huddles with allies on Russia-Ukraine war 

President Biden held a videoconference with allies to discuss international support for Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion. 

The leaders “affirmed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people and condemned the humanitarian suffering caused by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion,” a White House readout of the call stated.   

“They also discussed their coordinated efforts to impose severe economic costs to hold Russia accountable. They committed to continued close consultation, including working with and through the G7, EU, and NATO,” the readout continued.  

The call comes before Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meets with his Polish and Czech counterparts at the Pentagon later this week, during which the war in Ukraine will be discussed. 


Vice President Harris on Monday announced the U.S. will avoid testing anti-satellite missiles, urging other nations to follow the lead of the Biden administration after a Russian test last November created a field of debris in space. 

The goal: Administration officials expressed hope that the policy would become an international norm for other nations to abide by, calling the anti-satellite missile tests “one of the most pressing threats to the security and sustainability of space.” 

The administration believes reducing the missile tests in space will reduce the risk of conflict in space and keep space clearer of debris and materials that would prohibit exploration or damage the environment. 

The threat of satellite missiles: The threat of the anti-satellite missile tests came into the spotlight last November when Russia tested a missile that struck a defunct space satellite, leaving at least 1,500 pieces of trackable space debris and hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces in its wake. 

The test prompted outcry from U.S. officials and lawmakers, who said the debris could endanger astronauts and other satellites and warned of Russia’s potential interest in militarizing space. 

Harris’ trip to Vanderberg: Harris announced the self-imposed ban on the tests, known as direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing, during a visit to Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.  

While at the Space Force base, Harris received a briefing on the work of the Space Force and U.S. Space Command and met with members of the Space Force. 

Read more here.

Senate panel goes after abuse by military contractors

A subpanel of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing next week on the alleged mistreatment of military families in privatized housing. 

Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the panel’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, scheduled the hearing for April 26 after investigating the issue for eight months. 

Ossoff and Johnson plan to release a bipartisan report that day on their findings. 

A bipartisan issue: Abuse by private military contractors has been a bipartisan issue, and last year made headlines when one of the largest such contractors pleaded guilty to defrauding the military. 

In December, Balfour Beatty Communities was ordered to pay over $65 million after pleading guilty to lying to the Pentagon about poor housing conditions to get performance bonuses. The community provided housing to 21 Air Force, 16 Army and 18 Navy bases across the country. 

How the Pentagon manages contractors: A report from the Government Accountability Office released in March found that the Pentagon has largely stepped up its oversight of private contractors but will continue to face struggles because it cannot make changes to housing contracts without the consent of the company. 

Read more here.


  • President Biden will meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and the combatant commanders at 4 p.m. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will then host a dinner for them and their families at 5:30 p.m.  
  • The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association will host its Cyber Mission Summit at 8:45 a.m.  
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a discussion on Tracking Developments in Counterspace Weapons at 9 a.m. 
  • The  National Defense Industrial Association will host a discussion on “Fiscal Year 2023 Department of Defense Science and Technology Budget Priorities” at 9 a.m.
  • The Stimson Center will host an event on “Empowering Congress and the Executive to Promote Human Rights” at 9:30 a.m. 
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a discussion entitled “Elusive Balances: Shaping U.S.-Southeast Asia Strategy” at 10 a.m.  
  • The International  Press Centre will host a discussion on “The Future of Danish Defense” at 10 a.m. 
  • The SETA Foundation at Washington D.C. will host a discussion on “NATO’s Response and the US Policy on Ukraine” at 10 a.m. 
  • Palo Alto Networks will host a discussion on “The Role of Cyber in Hybrid Warfare and Great Power Competition/Conflict” at 10:30 a.m. 
  • The Association of the U.S. Army will host its “Noon Report: Leadership and Cooperation in Action: Allies and Partners in USARCENT/USCENTCOM” at 12 p.m. 
  • The Hudson Institute will host a discussion entitled “One-Size-Fits-None: Overhauling JADC2 to Deliver Customized Solutions to the U.S. Military” at 2 p.m. 
  • The Institute of World Politics will host the 10th Annual Ronald Reagan Intelligence Lecture on Strategic Deception and Active Measures at 5 p.m. 
  • The East–West Center will host “After the Invasion: How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine is Affecting U.S. Relations with the Indo-Pacific” at 6 p.m.


That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!


Source link