Pentagon Press Secretary Holds Briefing | February 28, 2022

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby briefs the news media at the Pentagon, February 28, 2022.


All right thank you. Uh Just a couple of one actually, just one administrative and personnel related thing to say at the top. The secretary has appointed Mr. Peter Levine and MS Lisa diss bro to serve on the Commission on planning, programming, budgeting and execution reform. Mr. Levine previously served as D. O. D. Deputy Chief management Officer and acting undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness that following his 20 years of service as Minority Counsel, general counsel and staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee and he is currently serving as a senior fellow at the Institute for Defense analyses. MS diss bro, who I think many of you know, previously served as undersecretary of the Air Force and prior to that Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and comptroller, she was also the vice director of the Joint Staff J eight. She currently serves as a director on the Board of Mercury Systems. The whole leadership team here looks forward to working with Mr. Levine and Miss Diss bro. And their new roles as members of the commission. We’re grateful for their willingness to continue to serve the country in this capacity and I certainly look forward to uh to the work the good work that the commission will help us do in in in terms of our own programming and budgeting and execution. Um So with that we’ll go to questions later. Thanks dan. Um two things. 11 of the things that the Russians said today was that they boosted their staff at some of their nuclear sites. I’m wondering if there’s anything that the pentagon has seen regarding any changes in their nuclear posture at all. And then secondly, can you provide any assessment on the convoy that’s headed to Kiev and what the security situation in Kiev is to the best that you all can tell right now. Um So on the nuclear question, I I have nothing to confirm these reports that they’ve changed their staffing. Um what I would tell you is we’ve seen Mr. Putin’s announcement. Um we believe it’s as unnecessary as it is escalatory, but we’re reviewing and analyzing that uh that announcement. Um, and I would only just tell you that that as we continue to review and analyze and monitor. Uh the Secretary Austin is is comfortable with the the strategic deterrent posture of the United States and our ability to defend the homeland, our allies and our partners on the convoy. I mean, I’ve seen the images that that you’re referring to um on on television, just like you. I mean, we we see them as well. I can’t speak to specifics about its makeup uh, in the timeline and the schedule that they’re on or what their ultimate destination is. But clearly we continue to see Russian forces uh move on or move try to move closer to so they can move on, Kiev from the ground. Um, we still assess that they’re outside the city center and but what we know clearly that they have, they have intentions with respect to Kiev. Um, what we also have seen is Ukrainians, uh, resisting quite effectively around Kiev and continuously, they they have made it a tough slog for the Russians to move further south. Um, and as I think you’ve seen in reporting of your own, that the Russians have not only experienced a stiff and determined resistance by the Ukrainians, but logistics and sustainment problems of their own. So I can’t speak with specificity about this convoy and what’s in it and what they’re and what their designs are, but it clearly appears to us just anecdotally as of a piece of their desire to continue to move on on the capitol, jen, john, what’s your assessment of the Russian military, What have you learned about the Russian military from this last five days? You know, I think it’s uh, it’s too soon for us to have some sort of sweeping conclusions about the Russian military here in day five. I would look very modern. I would uh, I would uh, just say a couple of things. Uh, first of all, um, make no mistake. Mr. Putin still has at his disposal, significant combat power. He hasn’t moved all of it into Ukraine, but he’s moved the majority of it, he still has a lot that he hasn’t moved into Ukraine. Um, it’s combined arms. Um, and it’s not insignificant, Jen. Um, number two, yes, they have faced setbacks and uh, and they have faced resistance, you gotta, you gotta hand it to the Ukrainians who have been fighting very hard for their country and making an impact and making a dent on Mr. Putin’s abilities. Uh But they will learn, the Russians will learn from this. We expect that they’ll uh that uh that there we haven’t seen any any change in in in what we believe their desires to move in Ukraine. Um And so um they have suffered setbacks but I don’t think we can just assume that they’re gonna stay set back if you will that they will that they will try to work through these the resistance and to work through the challenges they’ve had on the logistics and sustainment front. Um Go ahead. You seen any new threat To Article five nations from Russian forces and not Tara? Um Russia has said it will now hold accountable any nation that supplies weapons to Ukraine that lead to the death of its own forces. Is there a risk here that this could escalate if Russia decides to retaliate against nations that are providing Tara, that there’s been a risk of escalation since uh since before Mr. Putin decided to move in with tens of thousands of troops and tanks and mechanized forces and aircraft and um and ballistic missiles. Um You want to talk about escalation. Let’s talk about escalation. Mr. Putin is the one escalating this and continues to do so uh we’re going to stand by the Ukrainian armed forces as we have as other NATO allies have and we’re going to continue to find ways to help them defend themselves. Turkey today announced that they’re closing the straits to the old worship for the literal and monetary countries. Do you have anything One of you have any comments? I am I don’t I don’t I don’t have anyone that Abraham. Thanks john is D O D coordinating air defense assistance with partners. And can you comment on the EU offer to give Ukraine combat jets? I can’t comment on the EU offer. We’ve seen that. I mean that’s really for the European union to speak to uh but uh separate and distinct from that. And I think this gets really more your first question. Uh We absolutely remain in close consultation and coordination with allies and partners about security assistance. Um and uh I don’t have a coordination mechanism to speak to, like all of it’s being funneled through a single point or that kind of thing, but we continue to coordinate closely with allies and partners about the security assistance that the Ukrainians continue to get, not just from us, but from from them as well. Yeah. Yeah. So um many European nations are providing the Ukrainians with the advanced uh weapons. They’re not they’re not shy and revealing what types of weapons they’re they’re providing uh to Ukraine in the past. The U. S. Has been reluctant and providing lethal weapon, but now, you know, openly we’re talking about these things. However, you know, we’re still talking anti airborne anti-armor but there’s no specificity is this because of intelligence reasons or as some might say, you don’t want to provoke the Russians more. I mean what is the reason that it’s open? The U. S. Will support the Ukrainian forces. We’re going to continue to do that as as you said and other officials. But what on the specific side of these weapons Freddie? I um I don’t think we’ve been inconsistent at all. I can’t speak for what other nations are saying and doing. They can speak for the security assistance. They’re providing the Ukrainians which is welcome. Uh and and and and certainly encouraged. We’ve been pretty consistent about a acknowledging we’re doing it and going to continue to do it. Be giving you a sense of the size and scale and the scope of it in terms of the dollar figures apply to it. Um and see been pretty I think transparent about what’s generally in the package, we’re not going to give you an inventory list. We’re not gonna put that out to the public because as I’ve said from this podium many times before, we don’t think there’s a value to operational security for the Ukrainians to to have that out in the public that what the shopping list looks like on any given day. I just don’t see a value to doing that, I think I think we need to think about, we should always think about operational security, certainly in this case on the Ukrainians part, so we’re doing that um the the kinds of material that are gonna be in these uh security assistance packages going forward. I think you’ve rightly said we’ve detailed it’s going to be some weapons that can support them on the ground as well as weapons that can support The airborne challenges that they have. And I think I think we feel comfortable going about that far on the images coming from Max are the satellite images of this convoy that extends for 17 miles. Um Do you believe the Russians, Russian forces advancing on give are planning on basically encircled the city or storm this type of um this type of troops and armaments at this size. Are you able to draw any conclusions from what you’ve seen? I think the main conclusion we can draw this gets the leaders. Question is that we that that they continue to to want to move on, Keith to capture Keith to take Keith um and although we don’t know everything about this convoy, it is certainly in keeping with what we believe to be their intent with, with respect to the capital city, how they’re going to do that, whether its encirclement or or bombardment or or street to street fighting. I mean I just don’t think we have that level of dexterity now to give you that kind of detail in terms of Russian planning, we don’t we don’t have insights to everything that they’re planning on doing, um what we can talk about is what we’re seeing now and and that’s what we’re seeing now and we’re also seeing the Ukrainians put up a very stiff and determined resistance on their capital city and they have made it very difficult for the Russians to to continue to move ahead. We believe that the, based on what we know of what their plans were, that they are behind schedule, that they have faced a different resistance than they anticipated. Can you update us on any efforts that deconfliction? And have there been any like close calls or specific cases in the last five days where there would be a need for a tactical deconfliction and then like how is are there calls that are being made from this building, from the White House, from the State Department? Whatever it is to try to establish that, I would tell you that uh there is no deconfliction mechanism uh in place right now, but but certainly we understand the importance of deconfliction particularly now that the airspace over Ukraine is contested and some of that airspace butts right up against NATO territory? Um and we’re exploring options for uh should there be a deconfliction mechanism, what would that look like? How would that be when we’re exploring those options court? I think that’s that’s where we are right now, when you say we you mean the pentagon pentagon, is there, is there a consideration of sort of like a larger NATO deconfliction. So like somehow NATO would be the one who would be communicating that that could be part of the calculus. Again, we’re kind of exploring the options right now. We don’t have we don’t have concrete decisions and we don’t have any indication right now from the Russians that they would also be interested in exploring those options. Uh, it’s got to be a two way street, but we are having discussions here about what that should look like could look like. And certainly one option could be that it’s done at, you know, inside the alliance rather than a unilateral thing at this point. This is Russia has shown no interest in establishing this. I think that’s a safe bet. Yes, ma’am, Carla. And now that we’ve seen civilian targets that have been hit as the US considering installing a no fly zone in Ukrainian airspace. And then to follow, can you tell us if there’s been any more requests from NATO allies for US military assistance and give us an update on the troops that are deployed for this potential inclusion in the NATO response force, What are they doing right now? Uh, there’s no additional request for allied support that I’m that I’m tracking Carla. But obviously this is a dynamic situation. We’re in constant touch with our allies and partners and will certainly continue to talk about that? I would not rule out in coming days Additional repositioning in Europe as appropriate. Um I don’t have any updates for for you on on the NATO response force or uh or the troops that we have contributed. The president spoke to the 7000 that we’re going over there. They could be elements of our contribution to the very ready joint task force uh that uh that NATO is working on putting together but but you do really have to talk to to to uh to NATO and the alliance there in brussels about their plans for that. What I would just tell you is that Secretary Austin has been very clear from the very beginning that should it be activated, we want to make sure we’re ready and that’s why we we’ve sent some additional forces to Europe to be in that posture and to be ready. Should should that be the requirement that comes from the alliance. Again, we haven’t gotten specific requirements laid out yet for for us and as for the troops that we have already repositioned and or deployed from the states unilaterally. Um they continue to work and train um with with the host nations as well as other NATO allies in wherever they are, whether it’s in the Baltic region or whether it’s down in the southeastern flank. Hungary Bulgaria Romania. They continued to work and train with with their host nations and allied partners And then the 82nd as you know in Poland. They are also there as a reassurance force but they are postured and prepared to assist if needed with any evacuation assistance for Americans coming across that border. Uh there’s been, there hasn’t been a heavy demand for that. They’re postured and ready to do that, but there just hasn’t been a large outflow of American citizens from Ukraine and those that have come by and large, by a vast majority have not needed any assistance from the United States military. They’ve already made their plans. They know where they’re going, that there’s obviously good transportation uh available to them in Poland. Okay, let me get to the phones here uh, Tony to paseo. Hi john, quick question. How by how many days do you think the Russians have been derailed or been delayed from their original plans? You’ve alluded to that? You referenced that today. That are behind what you think with your schedule were they intending to be in Kiev by today and have conquered the city under their original war plan. Tony I want to be reticent here to to get too much into Russian planning. I mean, I think they they’re far better to speak to what their plans were. Uh we think that there are a few days behind where they expected to be writ large in the country. I mean, I know we’re focused on Kiev now, but we think there, you know, there are a few days behind where they expected to be at this point Phil Stewart that we’ve provided to the Ukrainians. Can you broadly say, well, how effectively they have been used and how widely they have been used. And we’re talking javelins and other ones that have been in the news. I’m going to steer away from getting into a battlefield analysis of the weaponry that’s being used on any given day. Into what effect we know that the Ukrainian armed forces are using a lot of the systems and equipment that had been provided to them, not just by the United States, but by other nations and as I said, and you can see it for yourself and many of your outlets, you you’ve got reporters on the ground who are seeing it up close and personal, the Ukrainians have been effective at using these weapons in these systems um and about and that resisting and and pushing back the Russian forces. I want to remind again that this is a, you know, it’s this is a dynamic situation. It’s war and war can be unpredictable. And uh and and uh I don’t think that that anybody including perhaps especially Ukrainians are sniffing at uh at Russian capabilities that they’re facing um Phil Stewart john, what would the U. S. Or NATO allies do if Russia were to target these convoys or these shipments of these weapons that are going to Ukraine especially now that Russia has warned that they find these shipments unacceptable. Yeah, I’m not going to get into a hypothetical Phil we’re going to continue to provide security assistance to Ukrainian armed forces. Uh, and we’re still going to look for ways to do that in the most effective, efficient way possible. Our support for uh, for Ukraine continues as well as that of allies and partners. And I’m I’m going to refrain from hypothesizing about what ifs uh in terms of any disruptions or potential disruptions uh, to that assistance. Mike, Glenn. Yeah. Yeah. Hi john, thanks a lot. Question. The the Russians have violated basically every maximum rule of war you can think of. I mean under the 3 to 1 rule ratio ratio rule, they should have fielded about a million troops instead of the 200,000 or so. They fielded, they’re not concentrating forces, They don’t have, uh, you know, control of the airspace. They don’t they don’t they don’t have, they didn’t have a good situational awareness of their opponents. My question is our leadership in the building, Are they surprised about just how bad the Russians have done have bungled this invasion so far, we’re watching this as closely as you guys are on a day by day basis. Um, and and we’re we’re refraining from making some sort of broad assessments are assigning report cards to them on any given day. Um it is day five Mike, it’s day five and it’s clear the Russians have not made the progress that they wanted to make by day five, but that doesn’t mean uh that they aren’t going to adapt and try to overcome some of these challenges? Um And it doesn’t mean that the that that the Ukrainians aren’t going to also keep fighting for their country and what that looks like tomorrow and the next day, you know, we just don’t know. So uh it’s clear, yes the Russians um uh Mhm. Have have had their own challenges and they have met resistance that we don’t believe they fully expected. Uh But I think it would be dangerous territory for us to to read too much into this on any given day. And and uh and and uh and prognosticate about where it’s gonna go. I would also just add it. The one place that still could go is a peaceful diplomatic outcome. There’s nothing other than perhaps his own obstinance of preventing Mr. Putin from from doing the right thing here and trying to find a way to to stop this war to de-escalate the tensions um and to uh and to reengage uh in some sort of diplomatic peaceful path forward. Uh And we’ll see if that can bear out clearly doesn’t appear to be the path he wants to to choose. Louis. Can I ask you two questions. One, there have been reports that the Russians have used cluster munitions in Kharkiv. Um do you have anything to suggest that how would you view that if that was the case and seeing the imagery that you guys have seen that sort of leading to these questions Louie we can’t independently verify that. But look, um let’s not get hung up on a particular weapons system here. He’s perpetrating violence on a neighboring nation state that presented no threat to him and innocent lives are being killed, taken. And and we’ve seen casualties. We know there’s casualties on both sides of this conflict. All of this louis was avoidable. So the obviously certain weapons carry with them uh ramifications that others don’t. But let’s not get too wrapped up in whether it’s this or that this is a war of choice, completely and totally unavoidable and all the casualties are on his hands. All the blood is on Mr. Putin’s hands on a different matter. You spoke earlier about the Thousands of soldiers from the 82nd? Yeah. To help with the situation that has not emerged helping Americans get out. There’s a broader situation that’s taking place on the border. You now have almost 300,000 people who have crossed over the border in the last four days. Is there any discussion that those forces may be committed to a broader humanitarian mission and under whatever authority to ease that situation, given the limited resourcing that Poland may have, we’re in constant touch with the our State Department colleagues uh and with polish authorities. Um and uh if there’s such a demand signal outside of Ukraine If there’s such a demand signal, obviously the Department of Defense would, would, would do our part and help out. There’s no such demand signal right now, Jeff. Thank you. I just wanted to clarify when you answer Tony’s questions, I think you said something along the lines of no one is sniffing at these weapons. Was sniffing the right word. I think it was. Uh, let’s see heather from us. And I great, thank you. I was wondering if you can give us an update on any naval movements you might have seen on this afternoon as well as any update on whether Turkey is planning to close off the Bosporus to um, ships outside of the Black Sea fleet. Black Sea fleet. Turkey, I’ll let Turkey speak to their application of the Montreal convention. That’s that’s that’s for them to speak to um, in the maritime domain. Um, we know that the, the Russians still had, they still have a they still have warships as well, which includes an amphibious landing ships in the Black Sea. We know that they use some of those landing ships to conduct an amphibious assault late last week. I don’t have any updates, uh, specific things to speak about in the maritime domain in the Black Sea, but we do know that they clearly still have combat capability at sea available to them. Um, and I just don’t have anything more in terms of what we’re seeing anything. Anything more kinetic to talk to? Have you seen any evidence that the Snake Island sailors are alive? The Ukrainians, there was, we’ve seen some press reporting to that effect, but you have no way no way to verify that. One way or the other. Sorry, the assistance, security assistance, both lethal and nonlethal that the U. S. And others are sending in. Do you have indications that that’s getting where it needs to go? Are those lives working and how far in the country can they get key car key? I would just tell you, or in that, uh, that the the assistance continues to flow and we are comfortable that it’s it’s it’s getting into the hands that that needed. I think I’d leave it there, but I’ve already got you. No, no, I’m not. All right, Go ahead. Okay. I wonder if you could thank you so much, sir. I wonder if you could address some of the air policing mission. The United States has F sixteen’s F 30 five’s moving fifth gen capabilities to the eastern flank all the way from the Baltics down to Can you talk a little bit about the impact effect that has had and what they’re doing. Exactly. The Baltic air policing mission, I think, you know, is a longstanding, it’s something we’ve been doing for a quite a while. Um, and it remains a valid mission set for our pilots and aircraft that are based there at you calm. As I said, some of them are coming from the the Navy side as well. And um, and we’re going to continue to work with the, with the Baltic states on this air policing. But those, but those missions are happening. I mean, they are, they’re happening in real time and they and they have even before this crisis. And it’s important, especially, you know, back to um, to some degree, uh, back to courts question about deconfliction. I mean, this is airspace that now butts up against what is now contested airspace. So, uh, in many ways, these air policing missions are more important than ever before. If you’re feeling generous. Um, do you have the pentagon been able to assess anything additional from Putin’s orders, putting troops on the heightened nuclear deterrent posture? I kinda already dealt with that with with lita. I think I’ll just leave my answer like I left it with her. Okay. You’re, it, thank you very much what it was. So we know that Russians are using cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, advanced air technologies is the union, you know, NATO airspace being protected by advanced air defense systems right now, are you ready to intercept any Russian missiles crossing into the airspace? I will talk about the specifics of how NATO airspace is or will be protected. I would just tell you that uh, one of the reasons why we have and you’ve seen some of the air assets we’ve contributed now, uh, in just the last week or so, uh, is to make sure that we when we say we’re going to defend every inch of NATO territory, that means from the sky as well. We are working in close coordination with our allies and partners and their air forces to make sure that we can meet that need. Okay. Thanks everybody appreciate it.

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