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tv   Pentagon Press Secretary Holds Briefing  CSPAN  March 11, 2022 1:34pm-2:12pm EST

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to congress, it would be, thank you. i don't want to see anymore men or women die in this conflict. i see a lot of parallels with vietnam. vietnam begged for our help. they wanted to be free and independent. and everyone who remembers so how that turned out. i don't want to see anymore deaths. i don't want to see anymore injured. that may be very difficult, but that would be the word i add to congress. host: and how do you think that would be achieved? caller: i guess i'm tired of the word diplomacy, but i guess that is the way. do we have some real innovators? >> thank you. a day or so ago i announced that
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the secretary was heading to brussels next week for the nato defense ministerial in person. he will follow-up his visit to brussels for the defense ministerial with it visit to slovakia. or will visit with the senior civilian and military leaders there. two, again, make clear our firm commitment to nato's eastern flank and to talk about ways to deepen the u.s., slovakia elation ship. a quick exercise note if i might. u.s.-africa commands exercised expressed the largest multinational maritime exercise in western africa will kick off its 11th year today. 32 nations are participating in the exercise, which is hosted by senegal. the exercise is signed to
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increase information-sharing practices and interdiction expertise to enhance the capabilities of all the participating nations with respect to countering sea-based illicit activity. that is starting today. with that we will take questions. bob? >> a couple of questions on ukraine. the airstrikes on the two west airfields, to you does that suggest a widening of the war effort by russia? in the second question has to do with the much-discussed convoy north or west of kyiv. do changes in the positioning of elements of that convoy portend an eminent assault on kyiv or any significant military movement? sec. kirby: i would say people of kyiv would tell you they are under assault right now. there is russian involvement -- compartment going on as we speak. and we do assess that the
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russians are getting to make more momentum on the ground towards kyiv, eagerly from the east. not quite so much from the north. i don't want to make too much of the fact that there is satellite imagery talking about this convoy, you, weaving often to tree lines or disbursing. they could just be force protection. because the ukrainians have continued to threaten that convoy and its progress. essentially, bob, we don't see any progress by yet to resupply and support operations to the south, not, again, i would be careful making too much about this dispersal stuff. i feel like i missed one. >> the west. the attacks on the west. sec. kirby: difficult to know with great certainty what the russians are doing here. our assessment is that they struck a couple of airfields in the west. it is not like there has not been any airstrikes in western ukraine since the beginning of
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this operation 16 days ago. it is just that we have not seen that as a routine matter. now you have two in one day. that is notable. what it means, what it portends, where the russians are going with this, we don't know. we believe the targets were airfields. so from a military's perspective you can see a logic there, to deny the ukrainians some airstrips in the western part of the country. but by a large, and to the vast majority and the combat power they are exercising in ukraine, it is in the east. it is everything east of kyiv. that is where the violence is the worst, that is where they are putting a lot of their resources in. those other population centers they are going after. they are still fighting in the donbass. so it is more to the east. >> is that a marginal change? sec. kirby: again, i think it is
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too soon to know. you're talking about two strikes on two fields, and it is not like we have not seen anybody -- any in the past. we are not able to define some larger purpose here. again, the vast majority of their combat power is being spent in the east. >> what kind of weapon was used to fire at those airfields? was it a missile that came in from belarus? sec. kirby: we don't have a point of origin here. the russians themselves admitted they used long-range, precision guided weapons. certainly we would agree with the long-range aspect of this, since they don't have force structure in ukraine that is really concentrated in the west. there ground power is in the east, so i'll think we pushed back on the notion that it is long-range, but what kind of missile, what kind of munitions, you know, what the warhead was, we don't have that level of detail. >> is it your assessment that
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the fields were targeted because there have been talk -- there has been talk of these made 29 -- mig-20's? sec. kirby: we don't know. >> with the u.s. do if russia used a chemical weapon in ukraine? sec. kirby: i want to speculate. you heard the president very clearly say there would be severe consequences for russia should that happen. and i don't think it would be helpful for me to go beyond that right now. >> you have any indications those attacks on the airfields in the west could have been because in a foreign military equipment or anything has been flowing through there and they were trying to target? sec. kirby: i'm not going to speak for russian targeting procedures here. we know those airfields were hit , exactly why and what was in the russian mindset is difficult for us to know. >> has there been any developments or changes on the nuclear front? are you seeing any indications that russia may be considering
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planning for the use of a tactical nuclear weapon. then on the chemical biological weapons, are there any indications they have been bringing any of those into ukraine or into the area and potentially preparing to use them? sec. kirby: on the new stuff i want to be kept -- i want to be on the -- on the new stuff i want to be -- nuke stuff i want to be careful. we are confident in the strategic returned posture that we have in place. in order to defend the homeland, our allies, and our partners. i can't -- i would not speak to anything specific on the russian side. i would just tell you that we have seen nothing that gives us cause or a reason to change our deterrent posture at this time. i think that is about as far as
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i can go. on the chemical/bio thing, i don't want to get into intelligence assessments. i don't have anything to report with respect to specific russian chem/bio capabilities in ukraine. i would say this is a company that has a reputation for using those kinds of weapons on people . and we know they have a program. and two, we continue to watch for the potential -- and i want to stress the word potential. potential that they could be banging this drum with the intent of creating some sort of false flag event that they could use as an excuse to escalate the conflict even more. again, we are watching this everyday. i don't have any specific indication now to talk about, but it is something we are
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concerned about. he might have heard president zelensky last night say that exact thing. you have to be careful what you see. -- see the russians accuse others of, because that often ends up being what they are planning to do. we don't have firm indications right now, it is just something that could happen we want to watch out for. >> based on the ukrainian ministry of defense reported russia launched airstrikes inside belarus, potentially to drag belarus inside the war. has there been any outreach or attempt to try and keep belarus out of the war? you mentioned there have been missiles launched from within belarus into ukraine already. sec. kirby: we cannot confirm these reports. seeing the open source reporting on it, but we have nothing to corroborate that. i would just tell you that we have not seen any indications that belarusian troops or forces
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have moved inside ukraine. we did note that the president of belarus made comments the other day through state media that he felt it was important for belarus in forces -- belarusian forces to come to the relief of russian forces. that is the first time he has ever said anything about belarus perhaps getting involved, but no indications at this time that they have or that that is in the offing. >> separate topic, as these sanctions have gone into effect, you have started to see global food prices spike and there is concerns that this could raise additional risk of conflict in countries already facing hunger, such as afghanistan. is the dod looking at this? is there a greater risk of global conflict because it will become that much harder to feed people that already faced great
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food insecurity? sec. kirby: the administration is obviously looking at the humanitarian crisis that this war of choice is causing. excuse me, let me try that again. exploring. lots of opportunities to work inside the international community to alleviate that. i know of no plans in dod to augment or prevent or to subside the effects of food insecurity. so i don't have any dod role here to speak to. but i do want to just pivot off of one thing you had in your question, which was this risk of escalation. obviously that is something we are constantly concerned about, the risk of this conflict escalating beyond what it already is. and it is already dangerous enough inside ukraine.
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so, you know, to questions about the things we are looking at and what we are monitoring, we are constantly concerned about the potential escalation here. >> my question is the overall trickle-down effects. you have this conflict inside ukraine that is having global ripple effects, and whether or not the pentagon is taking a broader view of already-hot conflict sounds and if this will make it worse because hunger becomes worse, access to food becomes worse? sec. kirby: again, we haven't seen any -- i get where the question is going. often times when you have on stability -- instability in one area it can bleed over. whether within that region or without. i understand that. i would tell you, broadly speaking, we are constantly looking at threats and challenges around the world and we are not unmindful of the fact that rats and challenges to spillover and can cause instability, and therefore insecurity, in places that are not the origin of the conflict.
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so we are obviously taking up a global view. we do that every day. we are certainly doing that in light of what is going on in ukraine. i don't know -- let me put it another way. we have not seen any specific indications that there are going to be any imminent insecurity issues, challenges, threats in other regions as the result of this that we are going to have to address. i think that is what you are trying to get out. and i think it is just too soon to know that, too soon to tell. it obviously we are watching clearly, because of the potential for escalation here. and i just want to say, if i can, again, it is a war of choice. this to putin can stop this war right now by agreeing to a diplomatic solution, or at least just stopping the bombing and the death and the destruction that he is causing against a nation that provoked nobody,
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against a nation that presented no threat to russia. all of this is by his choice, and all of that blood is on his hands, and he could stop it right now if he wanted to. >> john, there is a discussion some nato allies -- is the u.s. involved in these discussions and will the u.s. greenlight should some allies move forward with that? sec. kirby: i have talked before that sovereign nations are making decisions for themselves about how to help ukraine, and we respect those sovereign decisions. it is not about the united states giving green lights are having vetoes here. what i will tell you -- and i said this the other day -- we are working with allies and partners to help get the kinds of capabilities that we know the ukrainians need and are using very well inside ukraine, get more of that stuff to them. some of that material we have and we are providing. some of that we do not have, but we know others have and we are
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helping coordinate that as well. and that security assistance is flowing. even in just the last 24 hours. i'm not going to talk about individual systems. you know that. i haven't done that yet and i'm not going to start today, we are working hard to canvas other allies and partners that we know could possibly help. and it is really up to those nations to make these decisions, and into speak to them if they want to speak the -- speak to them. and we have to respect that. what is important and what i do not want you to walk away not understanding is that we are having these conversations actively, you're helping coordinate the assistance, and we are going to talk to the ukrainians about what they need, to better defend themselves, ok? >> we have seen the u.s. batteries along the border with ukraine. i know you won't get into details, can you tell us that the rules of engagement have changed since the war began in that part? sec. kirby: we don't talk about
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rules of engagement. david? >> a couple of questions. can you update us on any uses of the deconfliction line, and has secretary austin attempted to communicate with his counterpart , the russian defense minister? and he just said you are helping coordinate assistance. does that include providing airlift from countries to shipment points? sec. kirby: the deconfliction line, no specific actions to speak to. in other words, no content has been needed, but we do test it once or twice a day, and that continues. thus far with maybe a couple of
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exceptions, the russians have picked up on the other end and we know that they know what the ringtone is and they will pick up and answer it. and so we know it is functional. i have no conversations between secretary oxman -- secretary austin and the russian secretary to speak to, and i have no idea that is going to change soon. i don't want to get into too much detail here. i think the coordination is in two planes. one, it is in the conversations with allies and partners about these capabilities and their willingness to provide. and then on another plane it is about helping with logistics. it really varies from country to country and capability to capability, but we are trying to
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help with that coordination function. and the brits have been too. they have been very vocal about their efforts to help coordinate and work through that, and we are grateful for their assistance. >> the russians have occupied a lot of area in ukraine. do you know if the ukrainians -- is there any assessment if they have gone into a guerrilla war in these occupied areas? and a separate question, imagine the russians have to have captured ukrainian service members. are they treating those service members as captured pows with geneva convention protection? sec. kirby: i don't have any information about captured soldiers on either side. i really don't, and i certainly cannot get into how they are being treated.
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obviously, we are not involved in this war. but our expectation would be that both parties would abide by geneva convention requirements and to treat any soldiers that are captured humanely and in accordance with the rule of law. that would be the united state'' expectation, as well as many others. but i don't have any information about what that looks like in terms of numbers and what that treatment actually is. and on your question about guerrilla attacks, again, i would let the ukrainians describe for themselves the manner in which they are fighting, but they are fighting. and they are fighting skillfully, bravely, quite creatively. and the fighting is not just by the armed forces. i mean, average citizens, you have seen it for yourself. picking up arms, you know? getting arms given to them by
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the government and learning how to use them, and using them. and some of the resistance has been nonviolent. you have seen it for yourself with crowds of ukrainians blocking city streets and actually stopping in their tracks some russian units. so, the resistance resides on many levels, and it is quite inspiring. either you would call that guerrilla tactics or not i don't know, and i don't even know if it is worth having that debate over. they are resisting, they are defending, and we are going to continue to waste -- to look for ways to help them do that better going forward. >> can you -- now that several parts of the administration have talked about your public announcement, can you tell us why the pentagon decided to take the seemingly unprecedented step of making a public statement to ensure the north koreans would see it that you were going to
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increase intelligence collection against them on their icbm program? why would you make that public statement letting the north koreans know you are going to collect -- increase your collection of classified intelligence? what is the state of your current concern about how close they are to an icbm? and is this disclosure, this candor about a potential adversary, is this potentially a lesson learned from the russia situation? put everything you know out there, hoping it will be a deterrent? sec. kirby: who just did? >> that was me. [laughter] >> but then i have other -- one other. sec. kirby: of course you do. there is a lot there. i think i said in my statement, we made these revelations
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public. we announced some of the additional lines and enhanced readiness because we believe it is important to call out the behavior that we have been seeing. particularly in the last few weeks. and that we believe it is important for the entire international community to speak with one voice about the concerns that we know they have. over the dprk's continued ballistic missile program. i'm not going to get into any more detailed terms of the assessments we have made. it is all there out in the public. i want to go beyond my public statements, but clearly these continued tests are a provocation. they are a violation of un security council resolutions. and they give us, as well as so many other nations, added concern about the kinds of capabilities that the north is trying to develop. and so, again, we feel it was important to make that case and
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to lay it out there. and as for whether it is a lesson learned, i would be careful drawing indirect bright line between these revelations about this program and revelations we made even before the invasion of ukraine. when we believe that information should be in the public, we are going to put it in the public. we are going to state it as best we can. obviously there is some stuff we know we are not going to talk about, but we believe calling them out publicly for these tests was the right thing to do. >> quickly on the deconfliction line. i take it they have never called the united states? it has all been you calling them, is that right? sec. kirby: to my knowledge it has been us using it to check in once or twice a day. >> he said they know you're tone, so can you tell us -- sec. kirby: it was a poor
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attempt at being -- it was a poor attempt at humor. i do not mean we have an exact ring tone here. just that we know they know how to use the system. >> thank you. sec. kirby: -- >> you mentioned the secretary trip to nato. what kinds of things is he going to be discussing with nato partners, and we have been talking about the nato response force thing activated and potentially some u.s. forces would be dedicated to it. what is the current count of how many u.s. personnel are actively participating in the nato response force? sec. kirby: again, we are still working that through with nato. what the response force would look like, be composed of, where it would go. i don't have any source requirements to speak to today. i'm sorry, you had another question? >> what exactly is going to be the tone of these meetings he is going to have with his
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counterparts in brussels next week? sec. kirby: i think this second defense ministerial now, in light of this issue, comes at a critical time here. two weeks -- it will be more like three weeks into this conflict and i don't know what things are going to look like next week, but obviously we can expect the defense ministers to talk seriously about what nato is doing to better shore up its defenses. and making sure that we all have a common picture of the threat environment and what needs to be done to meet article five commitments. >> is there something specifically on the agenda with regards to ukraine? sec. kirby: i will let nato and the secretary general speak to it. that is for him to speak to.
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the secretary is pleased to go and meet with other defense ministers, whoever is going to be there. we know that there's a lot to talk about. there's an awful lot going on inside the alliance. the alliance is more relevant than ever, more united than ever, and certainly a more viable alliance than it has ever been. again, there will be a lot of material to go through both in terms of what we are seeing happen in ukraine and the effect that needs to have on the alliance going forward, including the application of the nato response force and what that looks like, where and who and when? all that we expect we will discuss. >> north korea,[indiscernible] the missile tests in the region
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so can you tell us what steps the pentagon has taken since then, what has changed before and after? sec. kirby: what has changed is we increased isr coverage and endo ok, has increased -- we detailed every bit of that effort. sec. kirby: on their response, the recherche -- the russians told the swedish they would not fly over their territory. are the forces on guard or worried about any attempts at provocation or other interference? sec. kirby: we always take force protection as a premium. it is always a factor. it is an exercise. and here's the deal.
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we actually announced it. we've been talking about it for quite some time. it's a defensive exercise. and i stood up here the other day and walked through all the capabilities that we are going to be training to and what those marines and sailors are up to. we will continue to be as transparent about the exercises possible. there's no reason for any one to view this as some kind of threat and there would be no reason for anyone to threaten it. force protection is always of paramount concern. we don't anticipate at this time that there would be a specific threat to the exercise. >> a few minutes ago you mentioned you don't talk about the specifics of the security system but obviously a lot of that system was being publicized. there is mention of javelins so
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background, could you talk about the decision process and what the pentagon does and does not disclose about it? >> we have been very consistent since before mr. putin decided to launch a war on ukraine that we would help ukraine with the capabilities it needs to defend itself and we wouldn't get into a shopping list. i haven't done that yet and i'm not going to start today. i think you can understand why we don't believe it is helpful for the ukrainians to have us publicize and put out in great detail the kinds of capabilities we are getting into their hands. if they want to speak to what they have and what they are using, that's certainly their right but we aren't going to violate that for them and it wouldn't be the right thing to do. we always worried about our own operational security and in this case we want to observe ukrainian operational security. paul shankman from u.s. news.
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>> one question to follow-up on belarus, the ukrainian government or officials in ukraine have also warned about a pending invasion by belarusian forces as soon as this afternoon. you said there is no indication they were moving in response to real or imagined facts on their terror -- attacks on their territory? >> i haven't seen those ukrainian reports. i can only tell you what we are seeing and we are not tracking any imminent involvement by belarus. that's not to say that it couldn't happen or that it wouldn't happen or that they could get involved in a way that maybe we didn't see. i can just tell you what we see right now. >> other ukrainian officials claimed that ukrainian forces had killed a third russian
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general in the ongoing conflict. can you confirm whether that took place and any observations about what that indicates about the russian defenses? >> i can't confirm those reports. >> did you just call me? >> i did. >> sorry. one budget question and one air defense question. the president is about to sign the $13.5 trillion package -- excuse me the $1.5 trillion package and within that is $3.5 billion for ukraine offensive equipment. $3 billion will be new equipment to the ukraine. how quickly will the pentagon be able to send over this neutrons of equipment? >> i'm not -- this new tranche of equipment? >> i'm not going to get ahead of that process.
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as we've said before, we are still delivering assistance on the last drawdown package the president signed, $350 million. we are still delivering. even in the last 24 hours and in the next 24 hours. and obviously, as i've said before, we will continue to provide security assistance to the ukrainians for as long as we can, as fast as we can. that would include under the authorities and funding that would be provided by this spending bill when the president signs it, he has indicated he will sign it. obviously broadly speaking, we are grateful to be able to have an appropriations bill signed into law. and not have to live under the threat of yet more continuing resolutions. anymore in the room? ok, that will close us out. thank you very much. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2022] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute,
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