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Defense & National Security — Russia lashes out over West arming Ukraine

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Russia reportedly warned the US in a letter that shipments of sensitive weapons to Ukraine could lead to “unpredictable consequences.”

We’ll break down the letter and the assistance that Washington has sent Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began. Plus, we’ll talk about the Pentagon backing Ukraine’s claim that it hit a key Russian warship with two missiles.

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.

Russia warns of ‘unpredictable consequences’

Russia has sent a formal letter to the US warning that shipments of sensitive weapons from the United States and NATO were exacerbating tensions in Ukraine and could lead to “unpredictable consequences,” The Washington Post reported.

The letter, which was viewed by the Post, added that the US has floated the rules governing the transfer of weapons to conflict zones.

Russia further accused NATO of impeding early peace negotiation with Ukraine “in order to continue the bloodshed.”

The State Department declined to confirm any private diplomatic correspondence.

However, a spokesperson added that it can confirm that along with allies and partners that “we are providing Ukraine with billions of dollars’ worth of security assistance, which our Ukrainian partners are using to extraordinary effect to defend their country against Russia’s unprovoked aggression and horrific acts of violence.”

How Washington is arming Ukraine: The Biden administration on Wednesday unveiled $800 million in additional military equipment to Ukraine as Russia prepares to launch an offensive in the eastern part of the country.

The US has rushed more than $3.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including $2.6 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The most recent round of US security assistance includes a mixture of arms and other supplies that Washington has already provided Kyiv, as well as new capabilities that had not previously been sent over.

HAWKS MAKE INROADS OVER ARMING UKRAINE

Biden administration officials hawkish on arming Ukraine with more advanced and deadly weaponry are making inroads to shift to White House policy that has come under criticism for being too slow and cautious in its decision making.

While President Biden’s announcement of the new $800 million security assistance fell short of the specific requests made by Ukraine, it also represented a real shift.

Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the recent package of military assistance is a “significant change” and is a sign that the administration and US allies “have consistently turned up the heat” against Russia.

Are there still red lines? Yes,” he added, but said the US has walked right up to those lines without crossing them.

Read more here

Pentagon backs Ukraine’s claim on Russian warship

Ukrainian forces hit the Russian warship Moskva with two Neptune missiles, causing it to catch fire and sink in the Black Sea, the Pentagon told The Hill Friday.

The US assertion backs up the account of Ukrainian forces, who on Thursday claimed to have struck the Moskva with the anti-ship cruise missiles, seriously damaging what’s known as the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

Has Russia acknowledged this? Russia only acknowledged that the entire crew of the vessel was forced to evacuate after an overnight fire caused the ship’s stored ammunition to explode but did not mention an attack.

The Russian navy later attempted to tow the ship into port on the Crimea peninsula for repairs, but it sank.

Possible ramifications: The Moskva — which can carry a crew of about 500 — gained prominence at the start of the invasion when it told Ukrainian troops on Snake Island to surrender, only to be told to “f—” itself. The moment was widely shared as a rallying cry and sign of Ukrainian resistance.

Its sinking could prompt a ramp up of the Kremlin’s attacks on Ukraine. Russia’s Defense Ministry warned it will increase strikes in retaliation for hits on Moscow’s assets, even as it continued to deny the ship had been successfully attacked.

Read the story here.

Graham leads bipartisan trip to Taiwan

Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) led a six-member group of US lawmakers on a two-day visit to Taiwan this week, a visit that has sparked anger from Beijing.

Graham tweeted that the people of Taiwan are “great allies of the United States” and called Taiwan “a beacon of freedom in a troubled region.”

Who went to Taiwan? Graham along with Sen. Bob Menendez (DN.J.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sens. Richard Burr (RN.C.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) landed in Taiwan’s Songshan Airport in Taipei on Friday.

China reacts: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian in Beijing denounced the visit on Thursday, saying “China is firmly opposed to any form of official exchanges between the US and Taiwan.”

“Relevant US lawmakers should abide by the one-China policy upheld by the US government. The US should … stop official contacts with Taiwan, and avoid going further down the dangerous path,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

“We will continue to take strong measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao said.

China’s military also announced it had conducted military drills around Taiwan on Friday as the two-day visit by the delegation of US lawmakers was underway.

Recent fears over Taiwan: China cautioned the US against supporting Taiwan and trying to build a Pacific version of NATO earlier this year amid the crisis in Ukraine, which is resisting a Russian invasion.

Moscow’s actions raised fears about the future of Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty.

More generally, worries about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan had stepped up over the last year.

Read the full story here.

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will host a virtual events entitled “Aerospace Nation: Understanding AFRL’s WARTECH” at 9 am

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 Monday!

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