Posted by on January 23, 2023 8:46 pm
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Defense & National Security — Still no decision on German tanks for Ukraine

International military leaders are still unable to come to an agreement on a push to provide battle tanks to Ukraine. The U.S. has been hesitant to send the M1 Abrams tanks to the country, citing the need for specialized training and expensive fuel. Instead, the U.S. has been angling for Germany to send its Leopard 2 tanks. 

We’ll share where the two countries are at today and new calls from lawmakers to move the needle, plus more members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia found guilty of seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and details of the U.S. weekend mission in Syria that captured two ISIS members.  

This is Defense & National Security, your guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell.

Germany still undecided on tanks for Ukraine 

As Russia continues its attacks on Ukraine in the nearly yearlong war, Poland is pushing to supply Kyiv with German-built Leopard tanks — but Berlin, as the weapon maker, needs to sign off on the move before the tanks are sent to a non-NATO country.  

Germany instead has asked for the U.S. to send its M1 Abrams tanks before it agrees to send allow its Leopards to be shipped over to Ukraine, though top defense officials have insisted the Abrams is not the right tool for the fight, citing its complex maintenance requirements.  

The Pentagon’s stance: On Monday the Pentagon’s top spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder reiterated the U.S. stance on the Abrams, telling reporters that “our focus has been on providing capabilities to the Ukrainians that they can use right now.” 

“The M1 is an extremely capable and effective fighting system. But it’s also a very complex system that requires a lot of maintenance, requires a lot of logistic support.” 

Under pressure: Western allied continue to push Germany to allow the Leopards to be delivered, with Poland among the most vocal countries in saying it will go ahead and send the tanks if other a “small coalition” of countries with the vehicle also agree to do so.  

Germany’s defense minister, meanwhile, said a decision on the tanks will come soon. 

MCCAUL CALLS ON US TO TAKE FIRST STEP ON TANKS

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) pressed the Biden administration and military leaders on Sunday to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine to aid the country in its war against Russia, arguing “we cannot slow-walk the weapons.” 

“Let’s give [Ukraine] what they need because when we do, they win,” McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Dana Bash on Sunday. “The tanks are vitally important.” 

Following suit: McCaul argued that if the U.S. were to send its Abrams tanks first, then Germany would follow by unleashing its Leopard 2 tanks, saying the U.S. doesn’t have to send “very many.” 

“All we have to do is send enough to unleash what Germany has and what the 10 other countries in NATO have,” McCaul said. “NATO has to share the burden.” 

No comment: On Monday, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said he would not speak to McCaul’s comments, telling reporters that the Defense Department’s focus “has been on trying to provide Ukraine with the capabilities that they need right now to be effective on the battlefield.” 

Read that story here 

More Oath Keepers found guilty for role in Jan. 6 

A jury on Monday delivered the Justice Department another victory in its prosecution of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, returning a guilty verdict on rarely used seditious conspiracy charges for all four members on trial in its second prosecution of the group. 

Ed Vallejo, Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett and David Moerschel all received guilty verdicts for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, in which members of the militia group used a “stack” formation to force their way into the building. 

Earlier: The verdict comes just two months after a separate trial for five other members of the group, with that jury laying down a seditious conspiracy verdict for Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the group. 

Seditious conspiracy — used to charge those who plot to overthrow the government — carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and hadn’t been used successfully since a 1990s terrorism case.  

A dramatic turn: But the trial brings a dramatic turn in the Justice Department’s record in such cases.  

The verdict comes after Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs were found guilty of seditious conspiracy in November. 

A split trial: Three other members tried alongside the two men were found not guilty of seditious conspiracy but received guilty verdicts on other charges that likewise carry up to 20 years in prison. 

The second trial, brought after the nine defendants were split given the complications of bringing such a large group to trial, proved to be an even greater success for the Justice Department. 

Their role: According to prosecutors, Hackett and Moerschel were among the Oath Keepers who first breached the Capitol while Minuta entered with a second line of militia members. Vallejo coordinated the quick reaction force (QRF) the Oath Keepers had staged at a hotel in Arlington, Va. stocking various rooms with weapons, ammunition, and other supplies. 

Hackett and Moerschel were among those who roamed the building in search of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Minuta engaged with officers before entering the building, telling them at one point, “Get out. Get these cops out. It’s our f—ing building.” 

Vallejo communicated with those in the building, telling them, “QRF standing by at hotel. Just say the word.” 

Read the full story here 

US forces capture two ISIS members in Syria 

U.S. forces conducted a raid in eastern Syria over the weekend and captured two members of ISIS described as facilitators. 

Saturday’s helicopter and ground assault raid left one civilian with minor injuries, but the person was escorted to a medical facility and was treated before being released back to his family, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said. 

Who was captured: The captured ISIS members are Abdallah Hamid Muslih al-Maddad, who is also known as Abu Hamza al-Suri, and Husam Hamid al-Muslih al-Maddad, al-Khayr. Both are described as ISIS facilitators. 

An ongoing mission: Col. Joe Buccino, a CENTCOM spokesperson, said “this operation reaffirms CENTCOM’s steadfast commitment to the region and the enduring defeat of ISIS.” 

“The capture will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to further plot and carry out attacks that threaten regional security and stability,” Buccino said in a statement. 

Timing: The raid came a day after three suicide drones struck a U.S. base in Syria, injuring two Syrian fighters working with the U.S. in the Middle Eastern country. 

Read the rest here 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics will hold its 2023 SciTech Forum at 8 a.m.  

The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement will kick off Day 1 of its Homeland Security Week Conference at 9 a.m. 

The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on “Japan in 2023,” with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Koji Tomita, at 9 a.m.  

The Intelligence and National Security Alliance will host a virtual conversation with Deputy CIA Director Linda Weissgold at 9 a.m.  

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will hold an event on “The importance of the Air Force’s nuclear enterprise to the nation’s security,” with Lt. Gen. James Dawkins, deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, and Maj. Gen. Michael Lutton, commander, 20th Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command, at 10 a.m.    

The Heritage Foundation will host a talk on “The Iran Threat: What to Expect in 2023,” at 12 p.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

US announces more sanctions on Iran over deadly crackdown on protests 

Bolton knocks Germany over ‘incredibly disappointing’ performance throughout invasion of Ukraine  

Comer asks Secret Service for visitor information from Biden’s Delaware home 

Former top FBI official charged with violating Russia sanctions 

Bipartisan group of senators meets with Zelensky, other Ukrainian officials in Kyiv 

Russia expected to increase cyberattacks in Ukraine war — to little effect 

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

Ukraine’s ‘decision-centric’ military needs more than armor to win 

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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