Austin in Ukraine: 'No third country has a veto over NATO’s membership decisions’

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DEFYING PUTIN’S RED LINE: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has made no secret of his desperation for his country to join the NATO alliance, which he sees as the only guarantee Ukraine will not fall to Russia’s revanchist aims. Welcoming Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Kyiv yesterday, Zelensky called the United States Ukraine’s “chief partner in security and defense.”

Moscow has warned Ukraine against joining NATO, calling its prospective membership a “red line” that would threaten Russia’s security. At a joint appearance with Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Taran, Austin was asked by a Ukrainian journalist about Russia’s opposition.

“I would just point out, no third country has a veto over NATO’s membership decisions,” Austin replied. “Ukraine has a right to decide its own future foreign policy, and we expect that they will be able to do that without any outside interference.”

CALLING OUT MOSCOW: Austin rejected suggestions the conflict in eastern Ukraine — where Russia supports separatists in the Donbas region and claims Crimea as its own — is “frozen.” He called U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty “unwavering” and pledged to continue military assistance to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself.

“We again call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea, to stop perpetuating the war in eastern Ukraine, to end its destabilizing activities in the Black Sea and along Ukraine’s borders, and to halt its persistent cyberattacks and other malign activities against the United States and our allies and partners,” Austin said.

“Let’s be clear, Russia started this war, and Russia is the obstacle to peaceful resolution. They can start by respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and in the meantime, we will continue to do everything that we can to support Ukraine’s efforts to develop the capabilities to defend itself and protect its sovereign territory. “


LONG WAY TO GO: Ukraine is not close to meeting NATO’s requirements for membership, and U.S. officials are pressing Zelensky to move ahead with reforms.

"Our relationship with Ukraine has steadily grown since 2014, and we're at a phase now where we're deepening cooperation in a number of areas," a senior defense official told reporters traveling with Austin, according to a report from the Pentagon’s internal media. “At the same time, we're at a phase where the Ukraine Ministry of Defense is deepening its defense reform agenda."

The discussions between Zelensky and Austin centered on U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework and specific reforms that would bring Ukraine more in line with European democracies.

“That means continuing to: enhance civilian control of the military; align defense industry institutions with global best practices; and introduce human resources management reforms,” Austin said. “The United States remains committed to helping Ukraine implement these reforms through a robust advisory effort.”

TODAY ROMANIA, TOMORROW BELGIUM: Austin visits his third Black Sea nation today with a stop in Romania before attending his first in-person NATO defense ministerial tomorrow at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Austin said the U.S. will continue to challenge Russia’s effort to exert control over the Black Sea and the vital link to the Sea of Azov, where in 2018, Russia seized three Ukrainian vessels trying to transit between the two bodies of water.

“We continue to operate in the Black Sea and many other areas across the region. We’ve done that on a regular basis, and we will continue to do that going forward,” Austin said. “This region remains critical to us, and we remain committed to security here and to helping our partners in any way possible.”

Unlike Georgia and Ukraine, Romania is already a NATO member in good standing. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will give his traditional pre-ministerial press conference at 9 a.m. Washington time. It will be streamed live on the NATO website.


Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Victor I. Nava. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.


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HAPPENING TODAY: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing at 10 a.m. on the nominations of R. Nicholas Burns to be ambassador to the People's Republic of China; Rahm Emanuel to be ambassador to Japan; and Jonathan Eric Kaplan to be ambassador to Singapore.

ALSO TODAY: The Heritage Foundation is out with its “2022 Index of U.S. Military Strength,” and it will discuss its finding at a 9:15 a.m. event with Alabama Republican House Armed Services ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers; Dakota Wood, senior research fellow for defense programs at Heritage; and Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Center for National Defense.

KEY FINDINGS: Heritage has been putting out its “Index of U.S. Military Strength” since 2015. It calls the voluminous product a “report card” on how well the U.S. military has adapted over the past year and how prepared it is for the future.

Among its many findings are ratings of the strength of the individual services:

  • Army is marginal — The Army is aging faster than it is modernizing. It remains “weak” in capacity, with only 62% of the force it should have.

  • Navy is marginal, trending toward weak — The Navy’s current battle force fleet of 296 ships and intensified operational tempo combine to reveal a service that is much too small relative to its tasks ... It desperately needs a larger fleet of 400 ships.

  • Air Force is weak, a downgrade from last year — Though the Air Force possesses 86% of the combat aircraft that this Index recommends, public reporting of the mission readiness and physical location of these planes would make it difficult for the Air Force to respond rapidly to a crisis.

  • Marine Corps is strong, up from last year — Because the 2021 Index changed the threshold for capacity, lowering it from 36 infantry battalions to 30 battalions and because of the Corps’ extraordinary efforts to modernize ... However, in the absence of additional funding in FY 2022, the Corps intends to reduce the number of its battalions even further from 24 to 21, and this reduction, if implemented, would harm the Corps’ overall ability to perform the role it has set for itself.

  • Space Force is weak — The service has done quite well in transitioning missions from the other services without interruption in support, but it does not have enough assets to track and manage the explosive growth in commercial and competitor-country systems being placed into orbit.

  • Nuclear capability is strong, but trending toward marginal or even weak — Current forces are assessed as reliable today, but nearly all components of the nuclear enterprise are at a tipping point with respect to replacement or modernization and have no margin left for delays in schedule.


RECOMMENDED SIZE OF THE FORCE: The Heritage Index still measures U.S. capability to wage and win two major wars simultaneously. Here’s what it says the U.S. needs to meet future challenges:

  • Army: 50 brigade combat teams (BCTs);

  • Navy: 400 battle force ships and 624 strike aircraft;

  • Air Force: 1,200 fighter/ground-attack aircraft;

  • Marine Corps: 30 battalions; and

  • Space Force: satellite platforms, ground stations, and personnel sufficient to support warfighting requirements.


  • China is the most comprehensive threat — It remains “aggressive” in the scope of its provocative behavior and earns the score of “formidable” for its capability because of its continued investment in the modernization and expansion of its military and the particular attention it has paid to its space, cyber, and artificial intelligence capabilities.

  • Russia remains the primary threat to American interests in Europe — Moscow remains committed to massive pro-Russia propaganda campaigns in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries ... It also has sustained its increased investment in the modernization of its military and has gained significant combat experience while continuing to sabotage U.S. and Western policy in Syria and Ukraine.

  • Iran represents by far the most significant security challenge to the United States, its allies, and its interests in the greater Middle East — Its development of ballistic missiles and its potential nuclear capability also makes it a long-term threat to the security of the U.S. homeland.

OVERALL CONCLUSION: “The 2022 Index concludes that the current U.S. military force is likely capable of meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while also attending to various presence and engagement activities but that it would be very hard-pressed to do more and certainly would be ill-equipped to handle two nearly simultaneous MRCs — a situation that is made more difficult by the generally weak condition of key military allies. The presidential decision to withdraw forces from Afghanistan might provide some breathing room for force recovery but only if other operational demands do not retask the military services.”


The Rundown

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Reuters: N.Korea Confirms Submarine Launch Of New Ballistic Missile

Air Force Magazine: Right on Cue, North Korea Testing Ballistic Missiles, as Predicted by DIA

USNI News: 10 Chinese, Russian Warships Sail Through Japanese Islands

Defense News: Ukraine Defense Minister: Don’t Compare Us To Afghanistan

Washington Post: Afghanistan’s war is over, but the Taliban faces a new hurdle: Enforcing the law — and protecting Afghans from ISIS

New York Times: Trump’s Pentagon Chief Quashed Idea to Send 250,000 Troops to the Border

Washington Post: White House has weighed tapping National Guard to address mounting supply chain backlog

CNN: Pentagon Outlines Punishments For Civilian Employees If They Fail To Get Vaccinated

Task & Purpose: Sailors Who Refuse COVID-19 Vaccine Could Have To Repay Bonuses

New York Times: Couple in Submarine Spy Case Stewed Over Money and Politics

Defense Daily: Senators Skeptical Of DDG(X) And Unmanned Vessel Development Speed

Air Force Magazine: KC-46, F-35 Provide Lessons for Future Testing, Pentagon Nominee Says

Reuters: U.S. Needs More Mines To Boost Rare Earths Supply Chain, Pentagon Says Analysis: China Doesn't Need Hypersonic Missiles to Nuke America Russian Arctic Patrol Ships Will Carry Containerized Cruise Missiles Is China Preparing to Invade Taiwan with Civilian Ferries?

Washington Post: Rachel Levine, openly transgender health official, sworn in as four-star admiral in Public Health Service



9 a.m. NATO Headquarters, Brussels — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg briefs reporters ahead of the meeting of the NATO Ministers of Defense, which takes place Oct. 21-22.

9:15 a.m. — Heritage Foundation releases its “2022 Index of U.S. Military Strength, with House Armed Services ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala.; Dakota Wood, senior research fellow for defense programs at Heritage; and Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Center for National Defense.

10 a.m. G-50 Dirksen — Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nominations of R. Nicholas Burns to be ambassador to the People's Republic of China; Rahm Emanuel to be ambassador to Japan; and Jonathan Eric Kaplan to be ambassador to Singapore.

12 p.m. — Henry L. Stimson Center virtual book discussion of Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace: The Rise, Demise, and Revival of Arms Control, with author Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center; Joan Rohlfing, president and COO at the Nuclear Threat Initiative; and Barry Blechman, co-founder and fellow at the Stimson Center.

1 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies International Security Program on the future of the National Guard, with Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard; and Mark Cancian, CSIS senior adviser.

1:30 p.m. — Justice Department Criminal Division virtual 2021 Cybersecurity Roundtable: “The Evolving Cyber Threat Landscape,” with Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco; and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite.

1 p.m. — Center for Security Policy online discussion: “Securing the Border in the Biden Era,” with Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas.


8 a.m. — International Institute for Strategic Studies virtual discussion: “Future U.S. Defense Strategy in East Asia,” with former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Strategy and Force Development Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal of the Marathon Initiative and author of The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict; and Meia Nouwens, senior fellow for Chinese defense policy and military modernization at IISS.

9 a.m. — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attends the in-person meeting of NATO Ministers of Defense in Brussels, Belgium.

11 a.m. — Ploughshares Fund virtual discussion: “Press the Button LIVE: Nuclear Policy in the Biden Administration and Beyond,” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash.; Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.; former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, member of the Ploughshares Fund Board of Directors; Lilly Adams, independent consultant; Jane Vaynman, assistant professor at Temple University; and Jon Wolfsthal, senior adviser at Global Zero.

12:30 p.m. — Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies virtual discussion: “Are We Living through Another Cold War?" with Sergey Radchenko, professor at SAIS Europe; and Francis Gavin, director of the SAIS Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs.

3 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “The recent nuclear submarine deal between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS), with former U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Thomas Schieffer.


9 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “U.S.-China Economic Competition,” with Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh; Anne Stevenson-Yang, co-founder and research director at J Capital Research; David Bank, senior adviser at the Cohen Group; Alexander Titus, head of healthcare and life sciences strategy for the global public sector at Google Cloud; and Remco Zwetsloot, research fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

10 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Women, Peace, and Security 2030: Integrating lessons learned from Afghanistan, with former NATO Special Representative for Women, Peace, and Security Clare Hutchinson.

3 p.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual discussion: “Japan's Growing Role in Indo-Pacific Security,” with former national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Japan chair at the Hudson Institute; Jeffrey Hornung, political scientist at the RAND Corporation; and Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at Heritage.


10 a.m. 300 First St. S.E. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in-person Aerospace Nation breakfast event with Gen. Mark Kelly, commander, Air Combat Command; and retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean, Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. RSVP:


“The current U.S. military force is likely capable of meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while also attending to various presence and engagement activities but that it would be very hard-pressed to do more and certainly would be ill-equipped to handle two nearly simultaneous MRCs.”

Heritage Foundation’s 2022 Index of U.S. Military Strength.

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Tags: National Security, Daily on Defense

Original Author: Jamie McIntyre

Original Location: Austin in Ukraine: 'No third country has a veto over NATO’s membership decisions’

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