tv Pentagon Press Secretary Holds Briefing CSPAN March 31, 2022 2:04am-2:54am EDT
sec. kirby: hello, everybody. mr. boyle, how are you doing? good to see you. a couple things at the top here. early this morning i think you all know, secretary met with his german counterpart, defense minister, to reaffirm the u.s.-german bilateral relationship. the leaders discussed russia's unprovoked and premeditated invasion of ukraine with each leader, making note of the bravery and the skill with which ukrainian armed forces are defending their country. the secretary thanked the minister for german assistance to ukraine, including lethal and nonlethal assistance and he also
thanked the minister for german's support to helping bolster nato's eastern flank, including through their support to u.s. and nato-forced deployments to and through germany. german leadership as well for being a framework nation for the nato battle group in lithuania, their leadership of that and germany's decision to deploy patriot batteries to slovakia in support of the nato battle group there. the lead articles discussed security challenges in the indo pacific. secretary commended germany's decision to increase their defense spending to 2% of their gross domestic product. they agreed to remain in close contact on shared security concerns in europe and in the run-up to the nato summit in june. yesterday the secretary, catch you up to speed, had a chance to speak with his canadian counterpart, minister of national defense, anita. they spoke obviously by phone to discuss a range of bilateral and
global issues, including, of course, what's going on in ukraine and the future of the u.s.-canada cooperation in the arctic, as well as steps taken by both countries to implement for thissed a modernization -- norad modernization. i think you're aware but on friday general mackenzie will be relinquishing command of the u.s. central command to general can reula and the secretary will be going down there to officiate over that ceremony, to note the incredible work that central command continues to do for our national defense, but also the leadership of general mackenzie over these last several years. and in particular just in the last several months with respect to leading a truly historic evacuation out of afghanistan. so he's looking forward to that and to getting a chance to highlight general mackenzie's extraordinary military career as he gets ready to retire. with that, we'll take questions.
reporter: there was some discussion about the russian troops that have been sort of leaving the area surrounding kyiv and moving towards belarus. can you give us a better sense of what the department is seeing, is it dozens, is it hundreds, and is there actual business within belarus when it comes to get supplies, etc., to them? and my second question is, there's been a lot of discussion about putin's advisors not giving him accurate information, particularly about the state of the battle. does the pentagon believe those reports and do you have anything that you can point to that actually suggests that that is actually happening? sec. kirby: so on the withdrawal, we have seen over
the last 24 hours the repositioning of a small percentage of the troops that russia had arrayed against kyiv. probably in the neighborhood of 20% of what they had, they are beginning to reposition. some of those troops we assess are repositioning into belarus. we don't have an exact number for you. but that's our early assessments. none of them, we have seen none of them repositioned to their home garcon. and that's not a small point. if the russians are serious about de-escalating, because that's their claim here, then they should send them home. but they're not doing that. at least not yet. so that's not what we're seeing. and i don't know, you know, our assessment would be, as we said yesterday, that they're going to
refit these troops, we supply them and then probably employ them elsewhere in ukraine. but i don't believe that at this stage we've seen the refitting going on, you know, with any specificity. on the reports of putin not being well advised, i'm going to be careful here not to get into intelligence. but we would concur with the conclusion that mr. putin has not been fully informed by his minister of defense. at every turn over the last month. now, i want to caveat that. we don't have access to every bit of information that he's been given or every conversation that he had and i'm going to be very careful we're not getting into too much more detail on this. but i've seen these press reports attributed to a u.s. official and we would concur
with the basic finding. but i'm not going to get any more specific than that. reporter: i want to be clear, on the repositioning, the 20%, wraour not saying that all of those have gone to belarus -- sec. kirby: less than 20%. reporter: less than 20% of what's been arrayed around kyiv has now moved out? but all -- sec. kirby: has now been -- they started to reposition. i don't know that i'd say all of them moved out. we've seen them begin to reposition less than 20%, our assessment, today. and we think some of them, not all, but some of them have already moved into belarus. reporter: what do you mean by repositioned then? they're moving further away from kyiv? sec. kirby: yeah. they're leaving kyiv and heading more toward the north. yeah. away from the city. reporter: are they continuing as they're moving away, are they continuing to launch attacks on the city? are they launching artillery
from further away still? would you characterize -- sec. kirby: no. i think the troops that we're seeing move away, that's their focus, is moving away. but we still assess, as we did yesterday, that kyiv is still being attacked by bombardment, artillery fire, as well as air strikes. as i said yesterday, there's still a majority of the forces that mr. putin put around kyiv are still there. as i said a couple days ago, they're largely in defensive positions. we several days ago stopped seeing any advancement on their part. they weren't moving closer to the city. from a ground effort there was no more advancing on kyiv. but the air strikes have not stopped. not at all. so kyiv as i said yesterday still very much under threat. reporter: how many there were around kyiv before -- sec. kirby: we never gave a number of the total and i want to be careful about that. but again, our best assessment is less than 20% over the last
24 hours. now we've seen them start to reposition. i want to hit it again because i think it's an important point. if the russians were really serious about de-escalating and the way they spun this yesterday, that they're trying to take the pressure off, well, then send them home. and that's not what they're doing. at least not yet. reporter: just to be clear on the -- what troops you're talking about here, there were basically three lines of advance from kyiv. northwest, northeast -- sec. kirby: i would say from the north and northwest. those groupings are the ones that they're drawing from now. reporter: does that include cher chernaiv? sec. kirby: yes. we think some of those have been part of this repositioning. as well further to the east, there's a town called sumy and we think some of those troops have also repositioned into
belarus. reporter: is it wrong to say that, i mean, you're using the word reposition. i'm trying to understand the situation. is it wrong to say that russia withdrew some of its forces from around kyiv? sec. kirby: they are beginning to move some forces away from kyiv. if you want to call it withdrawal, i'm not going to argue with you on the verb. i'm using reposition on purpose because the way it's being spun by the ministry of defense is that they're pulling back and they're trying to de-escalate and depressurize the situation. and we just don't believe -- we haven't seen any evidence of that right now. reporter: -- [indiscernible] -- de-escalation. clearly you're saying there's still bombardment, they're using missiles. not necessarily in the center of the city but -- sec. kirby: i don't know where they're landing. reporter: this is according to our reporting. but the forces, regardless of the escalation, russia is withdrawing some of its troops away from kyiv.
sec. kirby: they are repositioning sopls of their troops away from kyiv, yes. reporter: do you see more troops going in the direction of dos i. sec. kirby: we haven't seen any of them go elsewhere inside ukraine. i would say the russians have said themselves. we have seen them become much more active there in the last few days. for instance, we think that the vogner group now has 1,000 people dedicated to that area. we have seen them prioritize air strikes in the area.
i can't count every single -- and i'm not going to count every single artillery shell or missile strike because they continue to bombard population centers through the air. that's certainly kyiv. but generally where we see them prioritizing the air strikes now, it's in the north. with the exception of mariupol, it's largely in the north. it's kyiv, it's still kharkiv. it's when we're talking about what they're doing, we know they've added private military contractors. we know that they're prioritizing some of their air strike activity there in ways they weren't doing before. and we know that they're considering other ways of reinforcing, as well as what i said yesterday is, we can see them make a concerted effort to try to occupy more territory in
the area. reporter: can you explain what the reason would be for them sending troops from that group there? i'm with fox news. can you explain maybe the kefrpbs that the u.s. would have about -- concerns the u.s. would have about them sending those private troops to the region? and their reasons for doing it? sec. kirby: this is a group where the srog in her group is experienced -- vogner group is experienced. it's not a surprise that they would look at trying to use private military contracters there. number two, we think it's a reflection of the very tough fighting that continues to go on there. in the donbas and mr. putin's desire to reinforce his efforts there. you asked me yesterday, you know, show me how we think he's
prioritizing. that's one of the ways we think he's trying to prioritize the donbas region. reporter: budget season is going to the hill, justifying what you want to do, annual budget. i'm sure lawmakers will want to know what the department is doing vis-a-vis russia and this new reality of the russian invasion of ukraine and being an acute threat. what would be the department's response to congress? how would it describe what it's doing to kind of counter this new reality with russia? sec. kirby: i think if you look at the budget itself, the reason why we wanted to do a national defense strategy in concert with the budget was to show that the budget is strategically aligned with what we're trying to do in this department. and of course china remains the pacing challenge, the number one concern for the department. there's no doubt about that. but as you said, we refer to
russia as an acute threat. you don't have to look any more than what you've seen over the last month, to see the threat, the kind of threats that russia can pose to international security. and so if you take a look at the budget and the investments we're making, for instance, in research and development, and scientific and technology, $130 billion, the highest water mark ever for this department in terms of r&d investments. a lot of those capabilities, cyber, space, 5-g, artificial intelligence, hypersonics, you look at all that stuff and, yes, it will certainly help us against the pacing challenge of china. but it absolutely will help us against what we consider the acute threat of russia. let me go to the phones here. reporter: thanks for doing this. so with the movement of the forces away from kyiv, are you also seeing a movement of equipment and artillery, or it
just personnel? thank you. sec. kirby: no, i mean, we're seeing units go. so it's our assessment that they are also bringing much of their equipment with them. again, for refit, we believe, for refit and repurposing for future operations inside ukraine. but i can't count every vehicle, you know, every rubbing sack that these guys are moving -- ruck sack these guys are moving with them. but it's our assessment that their intention is to reposition these units so that they can refit them for future operations. reporter: a question specific to mariupol. given the destruction that you're seeing there, would you characterize that as the russian carpet bombing the city or conducting a scorched earth campaign there? or would you not use that sort of terminology in terms what have you're seeing? sec. kirby: devastating what we're seeing there. i'll let experts decide how they
want to characterize it or label it. but it is obviously devastating. you don't have to look any further than the imagery that your network is showing, as well as so many other news outlets to see just how significant the damage the russians are doing in mariupol, and the devastating effects that it's having there on what can only be described as civilian infrastructure. residential buildings, hospitals, recreation, parks, everything. the place is just being decimated. from a structural perspective. by the onslaught of russian air strikes. kaitlin, stars and stripes. reporter: i'm just trying to break down some of the jargon in the budget -- [indiscernible] -- can you describe for us what's the difference between an acute
threat and a pacing threat? sec. kirby: ok. we'll try this again. [laughter] we called china a pacing challenge because in many of the military kinds of capabilities that we know we are going to need to respond to what is an increasingly aggressive china in the indo pacific specifically, and the potential threats that those capabilities mean for us, that we're going to have to stay ahead of those capabilities. and again, you look at the budget, you can see the kind of capabilities we're investing in for the future. to make sure that we are not just keeping a pace with china's military modernization, but that we are staying ahead of it. we are ahead of it now, we believe. we need to stay ahead of it as for acute threat, what we're talking about here with russia
is this is a military that remains potent and if you want proof of being acute threat, a specific threat, a relevant, timely threat, if that's the way you want to describe askaout, that's the which -- acute, that's the way we would look at it, look at places like mariupol. you can see it for yourself, that they're very much posing a threat right now in this time frame, acutely, on the european continent. and that's what we refer to what we talk about an acute threat. reporter: the general told lawmakers that there needs to be some sort of repositioning of permanent rotational forces in europe. instead he talked to lawmakers about it. you said in the past couple of weeks that the pentagon has discretion. is that part of the posture review that was completed last year? can we expect in the next few months or this year any
announcements about moving permanent basing around or having different kinds of rotational deployments in europe? sec. kirby: i'm not going to get ahead of decisions that haven't been made but i think it's safe to assume that given what russia has done over the last month and the ways in which the security environment on the european continent have changed, and i use that as past tense, not present tense, you can bet that senior leadership at the department are going to take a look at our european posture going forward. again, i can't tell you when a decision's going to be made one way or the other and what that's going to look like but the secretary absolutely wants to keep an open mind about european posture going forward. clearly because of the acute threat of russia and clearly because of the way the security environment in europe has changed so. could it mean more troops more permanently based in europe? it could. but no decisions have been made right now. reporter: sounds like this has been a discussion with ucom for a lot longer than these last couple of months with russia.
sec. kirby: it was part of the posture review, sure. we spoke to general walters and our allies and partners as we sort of gamed that out. but of course that was completed well before mr. putin decided to invade ukraine. so we're going to keep an open mind. the security environment is different now. and however this war ends, and we don't know when and we don't know what that's going to look like, i think we are working under the assumption that europe's not going to be the same anymore and therefore we shouldn't have the same outlook to our posture in europe. what's the blend going to be between temporary and rotational deployments versus permanent posture? we don't have that figured out right now. the other thing i say, because it's really important, an important point to make, whatever decisions we make, they're going to be in lock step with the allies and partners. we're going to do this in full consultation. because some nations are simply going to be more eager for
additional u.s. force presence than others and we have to respect that. reporter: my question is, this isn't -- the discussion's been going on a lot longer than just the ukraine conflict, so you have already done some of those consultations and negotiations with those countries keeping in mind that you've been having this discussion for a lot longer than just this year? sec. kirby: yes, we had these discussions going on before the invasion, clearly. but in terms of postinvasion posture decisions, no. now, look, we've been to brussels twice in the last couple of weeks. the secretary has visited poland and germany and slovakia and bulgaria. in every one of those conversations, when he meets with his counterparts, there's a discussion about u.s. leadership in the region and what it means and what they want it to look like. so i'm not going to walk you away from the idea that informal discussions are happening. of course they are. you would expect that to be case. given what mr. putin has done.
but in terms of hard-nose, negotiating, sitting down with pen and paper and mapping out what it's going to look like long-term, no, we're not at that point right now. reporter: secretary walters told the house panel today that they're working with slovakia to -- [indiscernible] -- could you please give details of that a little bit to what are you guys doing -- sec. kirby: that's absolutely right. we are doing that. i'm not going to get -- to detail from the podium consultations we're having with an individual nation state about capabilities that they might be willing to provide ukraine and what the offset might look like but we are absolutely having discussions with them about that. reporter: also general walters responding to a question today acknowledged that the u.s. pulled out its destroyers --
[indiscernible] -- just before the rush rainyvation and he added that -- russian invasion and he added that -- [indiscernible] -- what are the consequences of pulling the troops out of the black sea and do you have a plan or any discussion with the department to -- [indiscernible] -- sec. kirby: i think, look, we move ships in and out of the black sea routinely. it's not unusual. we don't keep them permanently in the black sea. but we absolutely have -- move them in and out as needed. and it was deemed a prudent decision to do it as we continue to see an invasion as more imminent. to make it very clear to everybody that the united states was not interested in forcing a conflict by some posture decision that we were making. so it was a prudent thing to do at the time and i don't have anything to announce with respect to if and when u.s. ships will go back into the
black sea. we watch and monitor this every day and we'll make the best decisions based on what's in the best interest of our national security and that of our allies and partners as well. over here, way in the back. reporter: i know you can't go too much into this but how dangerous is it that putin is not being informed by his advisors on what's happening on the ground? are we in touch with the top russian military leaders? i know you said that they had to -- [indiscernible] -- declined to engage last week. sec. kirby: no conversations to speak to yet. we maintain our willingness to have those discussions. but it's a two-way street. the russians have to be willing to pick up phone and thus far they've not been willing to do that. obviously it understandably would be an issue of concern if, for not just our european allies and partners but certainly for ukraine if mr. putin is
misinformed or uninformed about what's going on inside ukraine. it's his military. it's his war. he chose it. and so the fact that he may not have all the context, that he may not fully understand the degree to which his forces are failing in ukraine, that's a little discomforting to be honest with you. it's certainly one outcome of that could be a less than faithful effort at negotiating some sort of settlement here. if he's not fully informed of how poorly he's doing, then how are his negotiators going to come up with an agreement that is enduring? certainly one that respects ukrainian sovereignty? the other thing is you don't know how a leader like that's going to react to getting bad news. so, yeah, it's disconcerting.
reporter: thanks for taking my question. any notable observations or assessments since it came up yesterday on ukrainian counterattacks? i'm wondering if you had efforts to take things back and i'm wondering if you have some sort of, i don't know, top line assessment about how they're doing overall. sec. kirby: i don't have anything today in terms of specifics. just broadly speaking, we've seen them counterattack and retake territory to the west and to the northwest of kyiv. as we see some russian troops reposition and move away, we have seen indications that the ukrainians are moving forward. as you might expect them to do. where it's really notable is in the south. i mean, when we were talking
early on, remember these are sort of three lines of axis the russians have used. north, east and south generally speaking in the south they made the most progress in the first couple of weeks. and now the ukrainians are literally crawling back -- clawing back some of that territory. particularly just to the northwest of crimea. so the positioning of the russians around an area where they have lost a lot of footing. so we've seen the ukrainians, very tough in trying to get back territory there in the south. mariupol, again, i don't need to tell you this because you guys are all covering it, but that obviously, there is a lot of heavy fighting going on right there. we think that there are some russian forces that are very, very close to city center. the ukrainians are fighting very, very hard. the town is just being she lacked with air strikes and
bombardments, as we talked about earlier. both sides fighting very, very hard over mariupol. from a geographic perspective, clearly it's very important to both sides because of where it's located right there at the southern sort of end of the donbas region. reporter: three today. sec. kirby: you had three yesterday. i counted. reporter: i know. first, the clarification. you said that there are more air strikes in the donbas and increased activity there and you said that there were still air strikes in the kyiv area and they've pulled back. would you call it a decrease in activity in the kao*efbg area or are -- kyiv area or is there significant reduction in air strikes? how has that changed or has it changed aside from the 20% that kind of pulled back? sec. kirby: i don't -- we weren't counting missile strikes on kyiv.
so i can't give you an honest answer in terms of whether it was more today than yesterday. what i would just say is generally the city continues to be under threat of air strike and bombardment. we are continuing to see that. so even as the russians repositioned some of their troops, and before that, before they started to reposition, they were in the defensive crouch basically. they weren't advancing from the ground any more on the city. but even with all that we continue to see that the city's very much under threat from air strikes. reporter: thank you for clarifying. secondly, how many missiles has russia launched at ukraine at this point? sec. kirby: i couldn't give you an exact number but it's, as i said yesterday, it's definitely more than 1,000. reporter: and finally, when you were talking about the group, do you know where they're coming from? general townsend said there was cruising going on in africa. can you tell where yous they're coming from specifically? is it syria?
sec. kirby: i couldn't give you the roster, where every single employee of the vogner group are coming from. all i can tell you is that we do think they are going to prioritize the donbas area, that we have indications that they plan to put 1,000 or so of their contractors in donbas. where they're all coming from i don't know. we have seen indications that the wagner group is recruiting in places like syria, in places like northern africa. libya. but how many of that 1,000 or, so i don't have thaefl will of detail -- that level of detail. the point is that it's just another example of how mr. putin is going to -- is going to throw more energy into trying to occupy the donbas. to what end, we're not exactly sure. certainly so far he has not been successful in that either. but we believe that they are going to prioritize that part of the country. reporter: did you say -- [indiscernible] -- regrouping in
libya to fight in ukraine? sec. kirby: we've seen indications that they want to recruit out of places like north africa and syria. yes. reporter: specifically libya? sec. kirby: yes. reporter: to fight in ukraine? sec. kirby: yes. reporter: a question about the 20%. refitting a mechanized unit is a significant logistics challenge, according to maintenance, ammunitions, p.o.l., are you seeing any examples of that happening with the support elements coming in to refit? or are you assuming at this point they will be refit? sec. kirby: too soon. as i said, we've only just -- reporter: [indiscernible] -- specific -- sec. kirby: we're only just beginning to see this repositioning. it's a fire in percentage of the -- minor percentage of the total force they had to the north and northwest of kyiv. and we believe the intent is to,
in many of these cases, to bring them into belarus so they can be refit and resupplied. but it's just now starting. so i don't really have anything more specific to speak to. and, look, we may never have that level of detail for you. we do the best we can to tell you what we're seeing. but we're not going to see everything. reporter: how close are they going back from? you say the repositioning from -- sec. kirby: look, again, -- reporter: miles and miles? sec. kirby: we're only just beginning to see this. we assessed and -- that the closest that their advance elements got to the city center of kyiv was about 15 to 20 kilometers. so it's the forces that were arrayed around the air field that we believe those were the ones that have begun -- the first ones to begin this
movement north. but i couldn't tell you where they are on the road right now or where exactly they're going to end up. reporter: can you give us a status report of the latest traufrpblg of stingers, and switch blades that the president authorized? sec. kirby: what i can tell you is that the material is getting into the region every single day, including over the last 24 hours. we are in the first half a dozen shipments of what will probably be around 30 or so of that $800 million that the president signed out. so it's already moving into the region. i don't have an inventory list for you about how many are on every flight. but we're doing the best we can to prioritize the kinds of material that we know the ukrainians need the most. and so obviously that includes some of these anti-armor and anti-air defense systems. but i don't have the shopping list for you today.
reporter: [indiscernible] -- starting to be -- sec. kirby: they have not shipped in yet. but we think that that will change relatively soon. reporter: i need to ask you about this acute -- the use of the word acute. i know -- i don't want to be cute, but you mentioned a few times here. need to ask you this. the general, the northern "commander-in-chiefer," said five days ago that russia is the primary military threat to the homeland and their focus on targeting the homeland has provided the model other competitors are beginning to follow. general walters last year, about a year ago this month, said russia is the primary threat, the existential threat against the united states. i'm just asking you, acute sounds like a step down from existential and primary threat and almost a deliberate attempt to de-emphasize russia and overemphasize china. this is going to come as an issue so i'd like to you address it. sec. kirby: it's a fair question. it's not about de-emphasizing russia. nobody's de-emphasizing russia. we've said many times here,
certainly we have talked about this many times, nobody's taking the russian threat lightly. nor should we. yes, they've underperformed. they've made pretty big mistakes in ukraine. planning and execution-wise. they've also faced a much different resistance than they anticipated. but nobody is shortchanging the kind of threats that they continue to pose. and you can see it for yourself. my goodness. just take a look at the video and the imagery coming out of ukraine and you can see the damage that this military's capable of exerting. and causing. but the secretary has been nothing but completely candid from literally day one that the pacing challenge in his view for this department is china. the manner in which, the expense at which china continues to modernize their capabilities, continue to bully their neighbors, coerce other nations in the region, and to continue
to expand the militarization of the western pacific, that cannot be ignored, nor will it be by this department. i know everybody wants us to rack and stack. we've been very honest. china remains the pacing challenge. russia we still assessed as an acute threat. i understand the interest in it's ad skwrebgtifics here. but -- adjectives here but it would be imprudent for us not to try to characterize the threat that russia poses and to try to deal with. it look at the budget. how many buckets you have reported on? you can see the kind of capabilities we're investing in are not just going to help us with the pacing challenge of china but they will also help us deal with the threat that russia continues to pose. reporter: why are you mentioning that? the nuclear posture review cancels the nuclear cruise missile that the trump administration pushed. that doesn't sound like beefing up to deter against russia. you're cutting a nuclear weapon. what's the rationale for that
cut? sec. kirby: i'm not going to talk about the specifics of the nuclear posture review. it remains a classified document. so i'm just not going to go there. except to say look at the budget we just submitted and look at the billions of dollars that we committed and more than 30*dz billion just to -- $30 billion just to keep modernizing the triad. thank you. i should have figured you'd have the exact figure more than me. nevertheless, more than $30 billion to modernize the triad. nobody's shluffing off or taking for granted the fact that we need a strong strategic nuclear deterrent and that we're willing to invest in keeping it strong. reporter: you mentioned china being the number one threat. sec. kirby: i said china is the pacing challenge for this department. reporter: can you talk about any conversations with chinese counterparts in recent days? and you have seen any signs or indications that -- of chinese
military assistance to russia that are still a concern? sec. kirby: no indications of chinese military assistance to russia. i don't have any conversations at the very senior level of the department to read out. like russia, the not like we don't have a military to military, multiple communication channels to speak with the chinese. it's not like there's a blackout there. but i don't have any conversations at the secretary's level to speak to today. washington post. reporter: in testimony the last couple of days, there was some talk about the intelligence fixture of the leadup to the war and walters suggested there could be gaps in intelligence both underestimating the ukrainian fight and overestimating the russian ability to win this thing quickly. you have guys started to hear postmortum on that thing? it definitely has an end once the war started, you know, you can close the book on it.
it seems like you guys can start doing an assessment of how on one hand you got it very right about their intent to invade, but on the other hand you got it on the other hand you got it very wrong that keve would fall within days. sec. kirby: i want to make a couple of points here. this is not a war the united states is fighting, so i don't expect a formal after-action review like the way we're conducting one on the last year or so in afghanistan. obviously, the intelligence community, the interagency, will, i'm sure, informally at the appropriate time take a look at what we have learned by watching and seeing how russia has underperform and how, quite frankly, amazingly, the ukrainians have performed. obviously we all want to learn from things as we see them.
we're going to learn from our own behaviors here. our efforts to help defend ukraine, or help ukraine defend itself, will certainly at the appropriate time take a look at how we performed if in that regard. certainly at the right time we'll take a look at how hard we worked to bolster nato's eastern flank. to megan's question, i'm sure there'll be lessons learned abwhat the posture in europe ought to be going forward. but i think it's too early to sit down and wring hands over specific intelligence assessments. you're right, we did say, for a long time, that we had indications russia was going to invade. and while certainly the performance of the ukrainians on the field of battle has been amazing and incredible and inspire, it's not, and i've said this before, it's not like performance came as a shock to people here at the pentagon. it wasn't by accident.
i mean we are all focused, and rightly so right now, as they're in the middle of a fight on the security assistance and weapons systems they still need to have that fight, but let's not forget the training and the support that we have been giving the ukrainians for the last eight years as they've been engaged in a hot war in the donbas. it's not just us, the brits, ths and others who length support to the training. their success on the field of battle is not an accident. it's the result of a lot of hard work over the last eight years. reporter: why didn't that change your calculus that kyiv would fall quickly? sec. kirby: get into specific intelligence assessments other kyiv falling or not falling, i don't think we ever published ranges of hours or weeks. i understand there are officials
out there talking about that or did talk about that but there was never an official announcement by the department of how long kyiv would hold out. reporter: two question, one, is there a date to reschedule the icbm test? and secondly, there have been a lot of videos out there filmed by ukraine of russian p.o.w.'s. have there been discussions between the pentagon and ukrainian military about any concerns the pentagon might have about doing that? thanks. sec. kirby: rescheduled -- look, prison noafers war, i'm not going to get into individual discussions and conversations with ukrainian leaders over that issue. i would just say that -- that -- that our expectations and the expectation of the international community is that all prison noafers war will be treated in accordance with the international law and geneva
conventions. reporter: has the pentagon determined what kind of weapon was used in the attack on the mariupol theater, such as cruise missile? and can you talk about where they're heavy operators have been operating from? sec. kirby: in all honesty, i can't answer a either of those. i don't think we have any information on what munitions were applied. i couldn't give you a list of airfields here today. i would just say that the vast majority, and i peen the vast majority, of -- of air strikes being conducted in ukraine, at least from aircraft, are taking off and landing in either russian or belarusian territory, largely russian. and we -- they're returning to
largely -- largely returning to base. very, very few are actually being launched and recovered inside ukraine. i'll take one more then we'll have to call it a day. reporter: two questions. one, ukraine invaded by one of the most power. nations on earth and ukraine is a tiny nation. the -- is there any lead ore country who can tell mr. putin to stop killing innocent people? because when there's a war only innocent people are the victims, not politicians, not rich and famous. and mr. putin has invaded -- invasion of afghanistan and now
ukraine -- [inaudible] sec. kirby: president biden has on numerous occasions had the opportunity to send that message directly to mr. putin, we all have. but president biden has had that, you know, certainly warned mr. putin against invading and made good on severe economic consequences for the result he made that decision. other european leaders, president macron, has had recent conversations with vladimir putin about this. it's not like the international community has not -- with small exceptions has not rallied to the side of ukraine and other lead verse tried to impress upon mr. putin to end this war. and i would just add, we've called ate a war of choice. it absolutely was. he had diplomatic options left to him on the table before he invaded and as he invaded. those options are still there.
he just has to pursue them in good faith. and again if they're serious about de-escalation as they claim to be, then send those troops home rather than into belarus to resupply. reporter: there are almost 200 members of the united nations around the globe, many of them are rogue nations still in the u.n. what is the future of the united nations and where does the u.n. stand in the invasion of ukraine by russia? sec. kirby: you've seen the u.n. security council hold many sessions in just the last couple of weeks about the situation in ukraine. i think they just did one the other day, monday, i believe, on the humanitarian catastrophe. that mr. putin is causing inside ukraine. the u.n. is engaged on this issue. as they should. i can't speak for every nation state. inside the u.n.
but again i think obviously not every nation has taken the same stance on russia that the majority has but the majority have. and the u.n. continues to stay engaged on this. reporter: do you think russia should remain in the united nations? sec. kirby: that's not a decision for the department of defense to make. i appreciate the question. thanks, everybody, got to call it and a half
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