Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby briefs the news media at the Pentagon, March 21, 2022.
Look at you back in the pentagon. All right, a couple of things to hit at the top here. If you just spare with me today, all of us here in the department, I want to remember and honor four U. S. Marines who were tragically killed in a training flight crash south of Bodo in Norway Where they were supporting Exercise Cold Response 2022. Captain Matthew J. Tom koskovich of Fort Wayne Indiana. Captain Ross, Reynolds of Leo minster mass Massachusetts, gunnery sergeant James W Speedy of Cambridge Ohio and corporal Jacob, m more of Caitlin Rosberg Kentucky. We’re all assigned to Marine medium tiltrotor squadron to 61 numerous NATO allies and partner nations have offered an outpouring of operational support during and following uh this terrible crash. We are grateful for their efforts and professional commitment to, to these long and enduring relationships. The Marine Corps did assist the Norwegian led recovery effort. The deceased will be reunited with their families through a dignified transfer in coming days. And of course the cause of the crash is currently under investigation. The secretary had a chance to speak directly with the commandant of the Marine Corps General burger this morning to express uh not only his personal condolences, but the condolences of everybody here at the department and to pledge whatever support the Marine Corps and these Gold Star families as well as their fellow marines might need going forward as they deal with this incredible um incredible loss. So again, our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by this, but most particularly the family members of these four of these four aircrew um on uh travel, I can announce that the secretary will be returning to NATO headquarters in brussels this week to join President Biden at his meetings with NATO allies, G seven leaders uh in European union leaders as they discuss international efforts to continue to support Ukraine and imposed severe and unprecedented costs on Russia for its unprovoked and illegal invasion. Additionally, the secretary will be accompanying the president to Poland where the president, of course, as you know, is scheduled to also meet with his counterpart and other senior polish leaders. Finally, the deputy Secretary of Defense, Dr Hicks met today with the German state Secretary for the Federal Ministry of Defense or counterpart, Mr. Benedict Zimmer, they reaffirmed the US German bilateral relationship. The Deputy Secretary thanked Secretary Zimmer for Germany’s decision to provide defensive, lethal and non lethal aid to support the Ukrainian armed forces. She also thanks Secretary Zimmer for Germany’s leadership in NATO as the framework nation for the battle group in Lithuania and for troop contributions to support the defense of NATO’s eastern flank. She congratulated secretaries. Emma on Germany’s decision to increase their defense spending to 2% GDP meeting NATO obligations while also making significant investments into improving military readiness and capabilities and that includes Germany’s decision to procure 35 f 35 next generation fighter aircraft. She noted that Germany’s investments will be will be significant towards increasing capabilities within the NATO alliance. Mr. Zimmer and dr Hicks again expressed their commitment to continue collaboration on a range of issues, obviously to include NATO, interoperability, procurement challenges and the shared security concerns across Europe. And with that we’ll take questions lead to john. Um, two things the president talked today about cyber threats from Russia. Um, can you talk about anything the department is seeing in terms of any size, increased cyber activity by Russia and then secondarily, um, there’s been some discussion about Russia wanting to pull troops from places like Syria and other locations to go into Ukraine. What are you seeing sort of as of today in terms of any Russian troop movement at all. I don’t have any specific cyber threats to speak to with respect to the department’s infrastructure. Uh, as a result of the President’s statement today, as you know, lead to our systems get attacked every day. Uh, and so building cyber resilience and cyber defenses is something that’s an ongoing process here. We’re committed to it every single day. We remain so today, but there’s nothing specific to report, I’m sorry, yet another one. Oh, foreign fighters. Um, uh, we have not seen an influx into Ukraine of foreign fighters hired or recruited by by Russia. But we continue to see an interest by Russia in doing just that, particularly out of the Middle East to to I mean, they’ve they’ve as much as announced as announced it in Syria, but we haven’t seen any influx. So you haven’t seen any movement. And it’s are you including also Wagner group? We, well, the Wagner group is a a private military contractor for Russia. We know that uh, that they have interest in uh, in increasing their their footprint in Ukraine. Um, but we don’t necessarily count that as part of the foreign fighter effort. I mean, that they do hire people from foreign countries, but um, uh, but they are certainly interested in placing up their presence in Ukraine as well. Um, we know they’re there, uh, and we know that they want to increase their presence there in Ukraine, but I thought that I was referring to the question about separate foreign fighters. And again, we know the Russians want to do that particularly out of the Middle East. Uh, but we haven’t actually seen um, any flow to this at this point. Yes, sir. Um Thank you. The secretary last week was visiting Slovakia to try to see if Uh, they could give some S 300 to Ukraine. Um, did you make any progress into finding some missile defense for Ukraine in the last few days? Well, I want to Set one thing straight, he wasn’t going to Slovakia to press them to give S 300 missile systems. We went to Slovakia because they’re a key NATO ally and they’re obviously uh in a strategic location with respect to what’s going on to Ukraine. And they have a great interest in uh uh, in making sure that because they are on NATO’s eastern flank, that that the United States and NATO writ large remains committed to protecting that eastern flank. That it was not, he wasn’t, he wasn’t, it wasn’t a shopping trip for the secretary. You heard the defense minister after their meeting talk about their willingness to perhaps consider that. And you heard the Secretary say that that he’d be willing to stay in discussions with Slovakia about um, about what that could look like and if and when, if and whether they’re there ought to be some sort of offset capability provided to um to Slovakia. You saw even last week while we’re on the trip, that Germany announced that they were going to uh provide one patriot battery to Slovakia. So these are ongoing discussions that we’re having not only with that nation, but but but many others about how to provide Ukraine the kinds of defensive capabilities to include long range air defense, that we know that they’re comfortable using their trained on that they that they already have in their inventory and whether that can be bolstered. So these are active, active consultations. I don’t have any um specific arrangements to speak to today that that the United States is involved in. But we are obviously actively involved in those conversations going forward, how fast do you think you can provide such a defense to Ukraine. You mean long range. Yeah, well, again, we’d like to do it as fast as possible. Um but these are obviously sovereign decisions that other nations have to make. Uh these are systems that that they that they that they’re employing for their own defense. Um and so they have to think through all the permutations about whether or not they can provide that and how fast they can. And if there’s an offset, how fast can that offset be provided? I mean there’s a lot that goes in here. Obviously we’re all mindful of the clock. Um and that Russia is intensifying their bombardment and long range fires on on cities and population centers throughout the country. So we’re having these conversations literally actively every day at various levels, not just at the Secretary’s level but at other levels here at the department in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is in a tough situation currently being as their oil facilities are being targeted by missiles. We heard that the United States provided patriot batteries just recently to do Saudi Arabia. Can you please walk us through the new deployment. Can you confirm this name of deployment? No, I’m not going to do, I can’t confirm that deployment as we’ve talked about many, many times. We’re committed to helping Saudi Arabia defend itself against very real threats to their territory and to their people um uh coming out of out of Yemen. Um uh we’re in constant discussions with the Saudis about this about this threat environment and always looking for ways to to continue to help them defend themselves. But I’ve got nothing to say with respect to that press reports. Yeah. Um A defense official earlier today talked about how Russia has been escalating the Air War and is launching as many as 300 sorties a day now in the last 24 hours. Is this a new phase in their invasion of Ukraine? And um do you think that I guess my question would be, why do you think that there are additional sorties being launched? Is it because their convoys are still basically stuck miles outside of the city? Um What else are you seeing in the air to show that maybe just maybe a new phrase? Yeah, I can’t speak to the Russian air plan here. Um And I’m I’m reluctant to get into a discussion about phasing here on on their part. But let me just back up and tell you what what we think we’re seeing here. We’re on day 26, the Russians have clearly not achieved many or almost all of the objectives that they that we believe they were setting out to to achieve clearly. And we said this from the beginning, Tara, that they wanted to get after population centers so that they could uh take control of key ports, key cities, key government institutions and supplant the the the the government of Ukraine with one more friendly to Russia and then basically over time erased the sovereignty of Ukraine. Um, when you look at what they’ve managed to do in 26 days, it’s not that impressive. Uh, they, we believe that they’re in control of Carson. But even in Carson over the course of the last 48 hours ago, the Ukrainians launched a counterattack to, to go after them in person. And we know they moved up that coast towards Mary opal. So they we assess that there, you know, in control of a town called burdens, but Mario apple hasn’t fallen. And the Ukrainians are fighting, as you all have seen very, very easily for yourself. How bravely they’re fighting to defend that city, that very Keyport city. So, I think what we’re seeing here is the Russians have been, uh, flummoxed, they’ve been frustrated. They have failed to achieve a lot of their objectives on the ground and because they are essentially still stalled outside Kiev, outside Kharkov, Outside chair, naive, um, and so many other places that they are stepping up their, what we were in the pentagon here called long range fires, bombardment from afar, whether that’s cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, artillery fire. They’re lobbying an awful lot of hardware into these cities to try to, to, to force their surrender. Um, and it’s increased over the last few days. Again, I’m not telling you anything that you guys haven’t seen for yourselves. And so many brave reporters on the ground there. Um, and that’s resulting in more civilian casualties more damage to residential areas, hospitals, schools um and and and and innocent victims. Um uh at greater rates and greater and greater numbers. Um And it’s it’s too in many ways it’s it’s largely indiscriminate. Um and so what we’re seeing again, we think is is the Russians reacting to this lack of progress by stepping up these attacks to try to force forcing this violence on the Ukrainian people uh to to force the surrenders of of cities and towns that they have not been able to make any progress on the ground. Um So again I below to call it a phase a new phase. But clearly they have they have stepped up this particular tactic tom along those lines of ports and long range fires. What are you seeing in Odessa? There have been some strikes from the sea. And also we understand there are about a dozen Russian ships in the North Black Sea. Can you give us a sense of the breakdown of those ships? How many L. S. T. S. How many might be used for some sort of an amphibious landing. Yeah. Again, I I’m gonna be careful, we’re not not not not to be a spokesman for the Russian navy but we have seen increased naval activity in the Northern Black Sea. We have seen we have indications that that some of the bombardment around Odessa is coming from the sea from surface combatants. I couldn’t tell you exactly what munitions and how many and what they’re hitting. But we just see those indications that they have increased their activity in the northern black sea. That’s not something that we have observed over the last few days. Clearly we’re observing that now it’s difficult to know tom what this indicates. Is it is it the prelude to an assault on Odesa? Is it a diversionary tactic to sort of hold and fix Ukrainian troops in the south so that they can’t come to the relief of, of their comrades in Mario po or in Kiev. It’s difficult to know. All we can do is tell you what we’re seeing and and we’re seeing some of that increased naval activity. As for the breakdown of ships? Again, our knowledge is imperfect. Um, the best I could do is tell you that it’s a mix of surface combatants, um, and um an amphibious ships, the kinds of ships that you would use to put naval infantry or in our case the marines ashore involved and the number of people on these ships don’t know, couldn’t begin to guess that? I just don’t know. Can you give us a little idea of how the Russians are using their aircraft, are they when Russian troops are pinned down? Do they come in and provide close air support or is this sort of from a distance even from outside Ukrainian airspace and then also in Mariupol, if you could just give us an idea of where things stand at the moment between the Russians and the Ukrainians. Um I’m probably gonna forget both questions. So let me start with Mary opal and remind me if I forget on the other one. But ah yeah, the Ukrainians are very much defending Mario opal. The Russians have tried to encircle Mario opal uh surrounding it both from the north and from the south or up the coast. Um and the bombardment of Mario opal and again, I’m not telling you anything you guys haven’t seen through your own sourcing um has got has intensified over recent days that they clearly want to take Mario opal. And if you just look at a map then you can understand why that is, it’s a Keyport city there in the sea of Azov. Um um It’s a it’s a link between the Don boss area and Crimea. Um and it could also be used if they want to squeeze off eastern Ukraine uh and to try to prevent Ukrainian armed forces from uh from their own flexibility and maneuverability. You can see why uh Mary opal might be of interest but the Ukrainians are are defending it bravely. Um and uh and have have been able to stymie the Russians efforts to to take it on the aviation questions, I didn’t forget. Um um Again, I want to be careful not to speak for a Russian airplane that we don’t own them and we don’t have perfect visibility in it. Um I would say a couple of things. We still assess that the airspace over Ukraine is contested, that the Russians have not achieved air superiority. Um, uh, they, they still have a significant surface to air missile coverage over over much of Ukraine. That is true. A lot of that uh, comes from systems that are outside the country. Um, and uh, I would say the Ukrainians have been extraordinarily effective at preventing the Russians from achieving air superiority by the agility and the nimble way in which they are marshaling their own air defense resources. Um, and that includes everything from aircraft, surface air missile systems, both short range and long range. Um, and that’s why to Sylvia’s question, we’re continuing to not only provide short range air defense systems to them ourselves, but to uh, work with allies and partners to provide longer range air defense systems. I really don’t want to talk about how many flights either. Air force is flying again. We don’t have perfect visibility and knowledge in that. I would tell you that that that’s certainly not all of the air launched cruise missile strikes that the Russians are, are perpetrating are coming from inside Ukrainian airspace. They don’t need to, they can they can launch air assaults from outside the country as well. And uh, and uh, and we’ve seen them, we’ve seen them do that. But again, the Ukrainians have worked Really creatively in the last 26 days to prevent the Russians from from absolutely dominating the skies. Damon of those 1100 Russian missiles. Had the Ukrainians been able to intercept any of them? Uh Yeah, first of all, I I can’t confirm the number and I I think they have certainly um they have certainly I would just put it this way, David, they’ve used their air defense very effectively. But I couldn’t give you an accurate count of exactly how many uh that they’ve been able to to strike and prevent. I think I’m just gonna leave leave it at that. Yeah, we’ve been talking a lot about the resilience of the Ukrainian forces. Are we seeing them shift into having the upper hand here. And how are those weapons shipments helping? And could this potentially turn the course of the war? I I don’t want to get predictive here about what’s going to happen. And when I would just say that we remain committed to helping Ukraine defend itself, that means helping them get the systems that they’re trained on and are competent in uh to defend not only uh there actual ground, but also the airspace over that ground. And they have done a very good job of that. Um so we’re gonna keep doing that as as much and as fast as we can. The president just signed another $800 million dollar drawdown package that we are actively now filling out. And uh and hopefully shipment, well not hopefully shipments will be arriving very, very soon. seems to be a 5050, are they pulling ahead in terms of, you know, any success or, or you know, again, I want to be careful not to get into a qualitative assessment here of, of of of who’s winning on any given day. It depends on where you are. I mean, um, one of the brilliant things that Ukrainians have done is be thoughtful about where they’re defending and with what and when to be there. Um, and, and that is what has stymied the Russian advance. I mean, we’re at day 26, 26 and they’re still well outside Kiev. They haven’t taken Kharkov, they haven’t taken Chernihiv. Um, uh, they haven’t taken Mary opal. Um, and we’re seeing them react to this frustration by ever more bombardment. And so, um, I really don’t think it’s a useful exercise on a daily basis to say, you know, who’s up and who’s down the point is that the Ukrainians are actively, uh, and very effectively defending their territory and and their and their people. Um, now that doesn’t mean they can, they can defend against every single bomb and every single missile. Clearly you’ve seen the pictures for yourself, the damage that the Russians are doing across the eastern part of the country. It’s significant and they are killing thousands of people in the, in the process of it, but the, but the Ukrainians with what they have there, They’re being very smart about marshaling their resources and effectively defending and and also, you know, again, we need to be careful how much information we’re putting out there to we, you know, we have to be observant of of the Ukrainians ability to uh to defend themselves and that. And that doesn’t mean that we, the United States are are actively putting information out there that that could work to their detriment. Yeah, over here, Travis, thanks john um it looks like the last time D O D publicly reported its covid case numbers was March 11th. I’m just wondering if you’re going to continue reporting those numbers or if there was a decision to kind of ease back on that reporting. And secondly, could you just kind of characterize where the department is as far as the pandemic now and finally. Um do you have any idea when we might go back to normal seating? Ha ha ha. Um we’ll come all for the normal seating uh and we’ll get you back there. We as you know, we’ve we’ve increased the numbers here just recently. Um We’re still in a heightened health condition here at the at the pentagon. So um so we’re still trying to observe a measure of social distancing here in the briefing room. But look, I love nothing better than the get back to back back to normal and Off of calling people on the phone. Um and we’ll do that, believe me as soon as I can. Um but as for the COVID cases there’s been no decision not to report or to to to slim down. Are the flow of information? I can tell you that as of the 11th. I mean we’ve had And that’s our last update and I think it’s out there publicly. We’ve had more than 606. and 8000, Yeah, cases. We’ve had just over 680 total de od deaths. That includes military civilians, dependents and contractors. Um As of 16 March, we’re still working to get shots in arms. We’ve administered more than seven million shots um uh in uh in arms. Um I can give you the breakdown of all the services here as of 16 March, I won’t give you the numbers but we can certainly do that after the briefing. But Active duty personnel with at least one dose administered now is at 97.7 percent. Active duty personnel that are fully vaccinated stands at 92.15%. And the total force, this is reserves and guard as well. At least one dose stands at 93.8%. And the total force fully vaccinated is at 77.7%. So I mean we’re still working on this very very hard and again, there’s no decision not to share that information that we’ve made it through the worst and like how much caution is there for the potential of another wave? Yeah nobody’s doing any uh spiking any footballs here? Uh We know this pandemic is still ongoing um That the that the virus is still dangerous and deadly um because we still are reporting is it’s much smaller numbers but we’re still experiencing deaths because of Covid. Um So we’re watching this every single day and we’re we’re not afraid to make adjustments. You know just recently. We we relaxed a little bit. Uh none of you are masked today uh and we put more seats in the briefing room but it wasn’t long ago when we asked you to be masked in here and we only had like eight seats in here. So we’re gonna keep adjusting as as things change. Obviously we all share everybody’s the desire to get back to normal and to get to a post pandemic life. But we have to keep taking it seriously. Yeah good afternoon we go through the readouts that came out Friday that both President Biden as well as China’s President spoke a lot about Taiwan during their call. I’m just curious since the invasion by Russia. Have you seen any change in China’s military posture towards Taiwan? And also I don’t know if you saw over the weekend the Chinese ambassador to the U. S. Said that china could be part of the solution? Not the problem. So what’s going on overseas? I’m just curious. Have you seen any efforts on their part to do just that to be part of the solution? No, no changes specifically with respect to Taiwan to speak to? Um, obviously nothing’s changed about our one china policy. Um, and uh, and our and our efforts and our intention to continue to help Taiwan with its self defense needs. Uh, and uh, yeah, I took note of the ambassador’s comments over the weekend as well. Uh, certainly, uh, should they have a sincere desire to help bring an end to this war? They would find the United States uh, to welcome that. We just, we just haven’t seen that yet. The Chinese military spokesperson called the decision of the rock Johnson to go through the strait as provocative, any response to the international waters. Freedom of navigation doesn’t just exist for whales and icebergs. And those are international waters. Um, and we’re going to continue to fly, sail and operate where international law allows us to do that. Yeah, I have a follow up the latest question and a separate one. Uh, when she asked about the foreign fighters used twice, we have not seen an influx into Ukraine? I just want to be accurate about this influx tends to mean large numbers going in. Are you saying you’re not seeing large numbers, Are you saying you haven’t seen any indication? We have not seen any indications that that foreign fighters outside of private military contractors have have flowed into Ukraine and and tom I want to be very clear with all of you, there’s a limit to our knowledge here. Right? So can I definitively tell you that by onesies and twosies? Nobody’s gonna I can’t we don’t have that level of granularity, but I’m saying we just haven’t seen any indications of it. I just want to make it clear because as time goes on, things might change and our our knowledge, you know, will be as transparent as we can about what we know, but we’re not going to know everything. I appreciate that. My my my second question is there have been reports over the weekend that the Russians are now planning to use some land mines in and around the major cities of Ukraine. I’m not asking you to verify that or substantiate that. My question, it focuses on the use of landmines in a conflict like this. What impact will that have on the pentagon’s ongoing review of its landmine policy? I don’t know that that would have any effect on our own review of our of our policy, I need to get to some. But obviously again, I’m not verifying the reports, but if but I know you don’t but but if true, it’s just another example of of the degree to which the Russians are willing to sacrifice innocent lives for a completely unprovoked a war of choice here Phil Stewart. Thanks. I was just hoping you could revisit this idea of targeting civilians in uh in Ukraine. And given all the images that have gone out there now about apartment buildings and churches and other structures that have been targeted theater in, uh, in Mario Paul. Um, is it your visit the U. S. Assessment at this point that, um, targeting civilians is part of the strategy by by Russia in this war. Thanks. Again, fill without perfect knowledge of what the Russians, what they’re, what have their their plans. We continue to see indiscriminate attacks on civilians, which, uh, we believe, uh, in many cases, is intentional. Um, and, um, again, I can’t, there’s no justification for it. So I don’t mind being going to try to do that. But clearly, uh, they are, they are causing increased numbers of civilian casualties. Tony. Capasso, John had a couple of quick questions. One, can you clarify a little bit what you’re doing right now to fulfill the president’s $800 million dollars order basically. Are you looking at Army and Marine Corps inventories for stingers, javelins, and the switch blades and body armor? Or are you going out and buying it? Please give it clarify that a little bit. And then I had to follow on. Yeah, Tony. We’re working very hard right now in both The policy lanes as well as the operational lanes, uh, to to, uh, to fill out that $800 million dollar package that the, that the president just signed a few days ago. Um, we’re, we we started working on it immediately. We’re doing that. Now. I can’t speak to any specific deliveries as you well know likely deliveries of this material will happen over A period of time. And we won’t, we’ll try to expedite that as fast as possible. I mean if you think about that $350 million, we think we’ll be able to close out on that by the end of this week. That’s just just a couple of weeks of work to get that’s unprecedented pace. And we’re gonna try to do it is just as quickly going forward with this 800 million. So it will be a series of installments and shipments over time. Obviously we’re going to prioritize the kinds of things that we know the Ukrainians need the most in the fight there in. Um, and just like we did with the $350 million. Uh, so it’ll be, it won’t just be a random rack and stack. We’re gonna try to get them the things they need as fast as possible and make sure it’s the right things. I can’t give you a delivery dates on stingers or javelins or or U. A. V. S or body armor. Again, we’re working all, we’re working that right now we’re in close consultation with with not only, um, the services but the combatant commands to try to fill this out. Um, Carla Babb. Take out the air defenses. Hey, did you hear Tony’s question? I think I missed it. Tony. Do you have a follow up? Yeah. And again on the Russian failure to suppress Ukrainian air defenses. Those defense, those those weapons are largely old soviet weaponry is the pentagon fairly astonished that the Russian air force has had such problems taking out basically some of their older equipment from the evil empire, so to speak, Tony. I mean, I would tell you, um, we We think that one reason that the Russians have been frustrated and in terms of the progress that they haven’t made, obviously a big reason is the Ukrainian resistance, but but also their, we’ve not seen them um properly plan and execute for logistics and sustainment. They’re still having fuel problems. They’re still having trouble feeding some of their troops. They’re having trouble with command and control on the ground. Uh, so they’ve, they’ve made missteps of their own. Uh, and that would also include what we in the pentagon called Jointness. We don’t see a level of integration between their air forces and their ground forces with any level of um efficiency. Um, and I would say the same for maritime, although we haven’t seen a lot of maritime activity. We’re talking about some increased maritime activity today. Um, it’s it appears as if a lot of these operations are are are are being conducted in in silos not necessarily integrated across the force. Carla. Hey, thanks. I’m sorry. Um, really quickly just to follow up on fills your comments to fill you just said that you saw indiscriminate attacks on civilians which the U. S. Believes is intentional. Well they’ll they’ll be um further repercussions to Russians uh in addition to it uh sanctioning them and supplying the Ukrainians after Russia invaded Ukraine. Will this new um you know, intentional attacking of civilians come with additional repercussions to the Russians? That’s question number one. And um sorry for my my lost Voice. Um Question number two, um is the S. 300 in Ukraine. And then question number three, Has the us been discussing with Turkey about sending an s. to Ukraine? Alright, on repercussions. I’m not going to get ahead of of where things are. Uh we certainly see clear evidence that Russian forces are committing war crimes and we are helping uh with the collecting of evidence of that. But there’s investigative processes that are going to go on and we’re gonna let that happen. We’re gonna contribute to that investigative process. As for what would come out of that. That’s not a decision that the Pentagon leadership would make. Um I’m not going to talk about specific systems that are that are in Ukraine and I think you guys can understand why we wouldn’t do that. Uh operational security matters to the Ukrainians right now. Um there um they’re fighting for their country and the pentagon is not going to be detailing publicly the tools with which they are doing that. So I’m not going to talk about specific systems one way or the other mike breast. Thanks for taking my question. The conversation about Ukraine’s bio labs really began during undersecretary Newlands testimony on the hill and during her testimony, she mentioned that the US was concerned that Russia could target these labs. Has the pentagon seen any evidence of that? I don’t have any indications to speak to today that uh, that there’s been uh specific specific targeting of uh, of the bio labs that were in Ukraine? No. Um, let’s see heather from us and I hi, thanks so much. Um two questions. Um first going back to covid 19. Um, I know you mentioned the numbers of people who are vaccinated, but any concerns about the the lawsuits that are currently making their ways to the different courts um becoming class actions and preventing about 4000. Um, so uh military personnel from getting vaccinated and then um on the maritime efforts, are you seeing anything of the other Russian fleets outside of the Black Sea fleet attempting to um go through the straits to the Black Sea. I have no additional Russian naval activity to to speak to you again, I’m not gonna become a spokesman for the Russian Navy. Um, I’m telling you what, what I as much as I can about what we’re seeing. Um and as for lawsuits, um uh, I would just first of all, because there is active litigation. I’m not gonna comment in a way that would affect that litigation. I would only simply say that the secretary, the health and well being of the entire force is his paramount concern to Travis’s question. This is still an active pandemic. People are still dying. People in our family in the duty family are still dying from this. So uh we we we believe that the the vaccine literally saves lives. It is it is still a mandatory vaccine here in the department. It’s a lawful order uh, to uh to administer that that vaccine. Um, and we’re going to continue to administer that vaccine uh, to our to our troops and our civilians because we believe that it makes individuals more healthy, which makes units more ready and nothing has changed about that. I had time for just a couple more. A couple clarifications and I’ve got a question is D O. D. Is D O. D ready to confirm if hypersonic weapons into Ukraine? That’s one. Do you want to answer that? And then you want a second one. Look, we we’ve seen the Russian claim that they used a hypersonic missile missile. Um, we’re not in a position to refute that that claim, but we’re also not able to independently verify it. Okay, one of the fall upon on Carlos question is you talked about you’re not going to say what systems are in Ukraine but is D. O. D. Talking to Turkey about transferring S 400. That’s one follow up. And then I would like to have a little more clarity on uh like how the United States is howdy Doody is helping to get Ukraine the air defense systems it needs if we don’t in fact have those air defense systems and if this $800 million is used at all for that purpose, the drawdown package that the president signed is for the United States to procure the kinds of defensive assistance that we’ve, we’ve been procuring again in in lockstep with the Ukrainians and talking to them about what they need. Um And we put out a fact sheet the same day the president announced it. So you’ve seen, you’ve seen the list, the inventory list now, it’s just a matter of sourcing that getting him and and and getting him over there. So I’m not going to go beyond what the president already announced he’s going to be providing. Um look on the As 300 yes, 400 rumor that I saw in the press. I would just tell you our focus is on working with allies and partners uh to help get into Ukrainian hands additional systems that they know how to use, that they operate, that they’re trained on uh and that they can put two ready use and I think I just leave it at that. Yeah. Yeah. In the in the months since the invasion, have y’all noticed or observed any uh examples of force on force engagements between Russian units and Ukrainian units or beds have been mainly, you know, one side fires, artillery at schools and the other side ambushes the lone Russian tank wandering in circles somewhere. I mean if you’re asking me are Ukrainian armed forces in contact with Russian forces. Yes, they are organized. They Ukrainian armed forces are in contact with with Russian forces and have been, there’s no question about that. Um, I can’t give you specific units in specific locations. I just don’t have that level of detail. But what’s noteworthy to mike is that average Ukrainian citizens are coming to the defense of their cities and their homes and their and their and their villages. Um, it was quite touching. I spoke to a one of your colleagues a week or so ago who was in Poland near the border crossing and seeing busses and trucks and cars and literally thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the country, families in tow and this colleague of yours didn’t see a single a man who wasn’t turning right back around and going into the fight and there were many women doing the same thing. Once they made sure that their Children were safe, turning right back around to to take up arms and the sheer bravery of it is is inspiring. So there is contact between the armed forces clearly. Um, but there’s a there’s a lot of just average Ukrainian citizens of all stripes that are fighting bravely for their country? Yes, thank you. There’s been some reporting that Russia is planning to possibly locate nuclear weapons in Belarus. Have you seen any indication of that or? No? And if it were, if they were to do that, would you consider an escalation? Thank you. John Poland has stated that it plans to submit a proposal for a NATO peace keeping mission in Ukraine. Um as you have support that this is the first thing, The other thing. And what’s your position if these troops included NATO troops without us troops being involved? Can you say the second question again? And what’s what’s your position? These troops included NATO troops without US troops being involved? Look, I’m aware that Poland was going to make this proposal today. I think that’s a discussion for NATO leaders to talk about later in the week. I’m not going to get ahead of that. Um, thank you. It kind of goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. I mean, there shouldn’t be a need for a peacekeeping force because there shouldn’t have been a war of choice by Mr. Putin, and he can end it today by negotiating in good faith and getting his troops out of Ukraine and stopping the killing and the death and destruction that he and his forces are responsible for. But again, I’m not gonna get ahead of international discussions here in this particular proposal. Okay, thanks everybody. We will see you tomorrow