Defense & National Security — Russia claims hit on HIMARS, US pushes back

As Russia continues its brutal barrage of airstrikes on Ukraine, the Kremlin has boasted that its military has destroyed a US-supplied heavy artillery system called HIMARS. The White House, however, said this had not been confirmed.

We will share the response of the Biden administration plus details about the Japanese Prime Minister’s upcoming trip to the United States and what it means for the two countries’ defense ties. And also: more about a rocket attack on an American base in Syria.

It is defense and national security, your guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Alan Mitchell. Friend forward this newsletter to you?

The Fed: There is no proof that Russia destroyed the US artillery system

The White House said on Wednesday there was no confirmation of reports from Moscow that the Russian military had destroyed a US-supplied heavy artillery system called HIMARS in Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a progress report on Tuesday that missile and air strikes launched in eastern Ukraine destroyed “two launch pads for US-made HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS).

Not so fast: National security spokesman John Kirby, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said, “I have seen Russian claims that they compromised the HIMAR system, and in response to that, we have no information to confirm that report.”

Kirby added that the Russians have issued similar reports in the past, suggesting it is part of President Vladimir Putin’s disinformation campaign that paints Russia’s more than 10-month-long assault on Ukraine as a defensive military operation.

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Earlier: The Kremlin’s claims followed a devastating attack on a Russian military base in territory it occupies in eastern Ukraine, where Russian officials said at least 63 of its soldiers were killed after coming under fire from what it said was a US-supplied HIMARS.

Pentagon responseReached for comment, a Pentagon spokesman said they were “aware of the reports but are unable to confirm the accuracy at this time.”

“We have refused Ukraine to talk to their operators as they defend themselves against Russian aggression,” a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

Resupply: Kirby said the Biden administration could supply Ukraine with another HIMARS, meaning High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

  • Congress approved a $45 billion aid package for Ukraine last month, coinciding with a historic visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the Capitol and meet with President Biden, who has also announced another visit.
    $2 billion in support, including the coveted Patriot missile defense battery.
  • “The United States is committed to ensuring that the brave Ukrainian people can continue to defend their country against Russian aggression for as long as it takes,” Biden said at the time.

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Japan’s prime minister sees a deeper defense alliance with the US

President Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House next week as Japan ramps up its defense spending amid growing security risks in East Asia over North Korea and China.

The president will welcome Kishida on Friday, Jan. 13, to discuss “a variety of regional and global issues” and to “deepen ties” between the two countries, according to a statement Tuesday from White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre.

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meeting details: During the meeting, they will discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons buildup and frequent missile tests, Russia’s war in Ukraine and Chinese aggression on the self-governing island of Taiwan.

“The leaders will celebrate the unprecedented strength of the US-Japan alliance and set the course for their partnership in the coming year,” Jean-Pierre said.

Why does it matter: The meeting comes just weeks after Japan announced a historic shift away from a purely self-defense military policy, adopting a national security strategy to enable counterattacks while shifting to a more offensive base.

Last month, Kishida’s cabinet also approved a defense budget for 2023 that increases security spending by 20% to an amount equivalent to $55 billion.

The new budget is part of a five-year plan that will push the annual expenditure to
73 billion dollars and make Japan the nation with the third largest defense budget after the US and China.

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Rockets are targeting the US base in eastern Syria

Two rockets struck a US base in eastern Syria on Wednesday but caused no casualties, the US military said.

This morning’s attack on the Conoco mission support site, used by US forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), “did not result in any injuries or damage to the base or coalition property,” according to a US Central Command statement.

timing: It is not yet known which group was behind the attacks and no one has yet claimed responsibility, although the attacks come shortly after the third anniversary of a US drone strike that killed the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.

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denunciation: “Attacks of this nature endanger coalition forces and the civilian population and undermine the hard-earned stability and security of Syria and the region,” CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joe Buccino said in a statement.

Earlier: Mission Support Site Conoco, a US military post near a natural gas field, was last attacked in August when several rockets landed within its perimeter, slightly injuring one service member.

About 900 US troops are based in Syria, and attacks on the bases that house them are not uncommon as Iranian-backed militia and Islamic State fighters remain in the area.

Read this story here

pressing for tomorrow

  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a virtual discussion on “Unanswered Questions About North Korea’s Leadership” at 9 a.m.
  • The Institute for Foreign Policy Studies will host a lecture on “Where Somalia is Heading”, at 10 am

what are we reading


That’s it for today! Check The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!


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