Strategic SitRep 7/25-7/31

Ukraine Counter Offensive Escalates, Haiti Kidnapping, U.S. Helps Australia develop Tech

Issue # 11

Ukraine Escalates Conflict to Russian Heartland with Drone Attacks

Ukrainian Drone Shot Down over black Sea

Ukraine launched a new wave of drone attacks on Sunday, taking the conflict far from the front line and deep into Russia, according to Russian reports. The authorities stated that two office buildings mere kilometers from the Kremlin and a pig breeding facility near the border were hit.

In accordance with its security protocol, Ukraine refrained from confirming the strikes. This follows a trend of more frequent and ambitious cross-border attacks from Kyiv ever since its counteroffensive against Russian forces commenced in June. The most significant of these strikes was one on the Kremlin itself, the epicenter of power in Moscow, that occurred in May.

The strike on Sunday marked the fourth such incident on the capital region in this month alone and the third within this week, highlighting Moscow's vulnerability as Russia's war with Ukraine enters its 18th month.

So What does this mean?

The Russian Defense Ministry ascribed the three drones targeting the city to an "attempted terrorist attack by the Kyiv regime." Air defenses managed to intercept one drone over Odintsovo in the neighboring Moscow region, while the remaining two, subjected to jamming, crashed into the Moscow City business district.

Imagery and footage showcased the damage inflicted by a drone on the modern skyscraper, IQ-Quarter, situated 7.2 kilometers (4.5 miles) from the Kremlin. The impact resulted in sparks, flames, and smoke erupting from the building, with debris falling onto the sidewalk and street. Windows were shattered, metal frames were contorted, and a security guard was injured, as reported by Russia's state news agency Tass. Ria-Novosti, another Russian news agency, stated that the building housed several government agencies.

As a result of these strikes, operations at Moscow's Vnukovo airport were temporarily suspended and airspace over Moscow and surrounding regions was temporarily closed.

Despite Ukraine not acknowledging the attacks, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted in his nightly video address that "Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia — to its symbolic centers and military bases, and this is an inevitable, natural, and absolutely fair process."

The Russian populace is beginning to feel the consequences of Russia's war in Ukraine, as noted by a Ukrainian air force spokesman. The frequency of these incidents is starting to stir unease in Russia, with the spokesperson Yurii Ihnat stating, “There’s already a certain mood in Russia: that something is flying in, and loudly.”

Further escalations occurred on Sunday with a reported drone attack on Crimea, a Ukrainian territory illegally occupied and annexed by Russia in 2014. Zelenskyy has pledged to reclaim all lands occupied by Russian forces, including Crimea, and these efforts have been bolstered by increasingly advanced Western weaponry.

In the midst of ongoing attacks, the war of words continues unabated. Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, issued his latest nuclear war threat on Sunday, claiming that Russian forces were preventing nuclear war and warning of the potential use of nuclear weapons. These developments highlight the escalating tension and potential danger of this ongoing conflict.

New Hampshire Woman and Daughter Kidnapped in Haiti Amid Rising Security Concerns

Alix Dorsainvil (right)

Amid escalating security threats in Haiti, a woman from New Hampshire working for a nonprofit and her young daughter have been reported kidnapped. This alarming incident coincided with the U.S. State Department's issuance of a “do not travel advisory” for the country and an order for nonemergency personnel to leave due to the worsening security conditions.

Alix Dorsainvil, a nurse employed by El Roi Haiti, and her daughter were reportedly kidnapped on Thursday, according to a statement released by the organization on Saturday. El Roi Haiti, which operates a school and ministry in Port-au-Prince, reported that the two were abducted from their campus. Dorsainvil is the spouse of the program’s director, Sandro Dorsainvil.

 So What does this mean?

The president and co-founder of El Roi, Jason Brown, described Alix as "a deeply compassionate and loving person who considers Haiti her home and the Haitian people her friends and family" in the statement. He praised her dedication and service as the school and community nurse, stating, “Alix has worked tirelessly to bring relief to those who are suffering as she loves and serves the people of Haiti in the name of Jesus.”

A State Department spokesperson confirmed on Saturday that they are "aware of reports of the kidnapping of two U.S. citizens in Haiti." The spokesperson assured that they are maintaining regular contact with Haitian authorities and are working alongside them and U.S. government interagency partners.

In the advisory issued on Thursday, the department highlighted that kidnappings are prevalent and that U.S. citizens are regularly targeted. It further mentioned that kidnappings often involve ransom negotiations, and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed.

Earlier in July, the National Human Rights Defense Network released a report warning about a surge in killings and kidnappings. The U.N. Security Council also held a meeting to discuss the deteriorating situation in Haiti.

Local station WMUR-TV revealed that Dorsainvil is originally from Middleton, New Hampshire, and attended Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts. The college has a program to support nursing education in Haiti. Toni Hays, the president of Regis College, expressed her lack of surprise that Alix chose to engage in this type of service work, describing her as "amazing," "passionate," and "compassionate."

US to Aid Australia in Developing Guided Missiles by 2025 and Boost Indo-Pacific Security with India

The United States has committed to aiding Australia in the production of guided multiple-launch rocket systems by 2025, according to American Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. This announcement followed a two-day meeting between officials from Canberra and Washington, focusing on regional security and military cooperation. During these discussions, the countries also agreed to engage with China but oppose its actions when necessary.

So What does this mean?

Secretary Austin, along with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is currently in Queensland, Australia, for the annual Australia-US ministerial dialogue (AUSMIN). Their Australian counterparts for these talks are Defence Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

Austin disclosed during a press conference that the US is working on several mutually beneficial initiatives with Australia's defense industry. These include assisting Australia in producing guided multiple-launch rocket systems by 2025. He also mentioned that Washington is fast-tracking Canberra’s priority munitions through a streamlined acquisition process.

Echoing Austin's sentiments, Marles noted that Australia aims to commence the manufacturing of missiles within the country in the next two years. He added, “We are really pleased with the steps that we are taking in respect of establishing a guided weapons and explosive ordnance enterprise in this country.”

In accordance with this project, Australia will develop guided multiple-launch rocket systems, or GMLRS. Austin said that this would assist the US in sharpening its technological edge and bolstering its defense industrial base.

Washington's assistance will enable Canberra to establish a budding domestic missile industry, effectively from scratch, while also securing a reliable pipeline for its own armed forces in the future.

As part of the agreement, the Australian defense minister mentioned an increased number of visits from American nuclear-powered submarines to Australian waters.

This news comes after the signing of the AUKUS security treaty, a significant military pact, which will help Australia develop its own nuclear-powered submarines. The progress of this initiative was also discussed in the recent meetings.

Regarding China and the Indo-Pacific, Blinken highlighted that the principal topic during the high-profile talks with Australia was a shared commitment to a free and secure Indo-Pacific region. He pointed out that they are achieving this partly by engaging China, but also by opposing its efforts to disrupt freedom of navigation and overflight in the South and East China Seas, upend the status quo across the Taiwan Straits, and exert economic coercion on countries.

Lastly, the United States and Australia reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing interoperability between the militaries in the Pacific through a series of exercises, and they welcomed the participation of Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga in the Talisman Sabre exercise for the first time. Inaugural observers included India, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines, reinforcing the commitment to cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.