tv Pentagon Press Secretary Holds Briefing CSPAN April 8, 2022 3:20pm-3:58pm EDT
costs too high in some areas. on the first question, i don't have any update on that. if congress were to send him a bill to cancel $10,000 in student loans and student debt, he would be happy to sign it. last one. go ahead. reporter: rachel wallace, the general counsel of the science office who the white house said had been bullied, was told she will not be getting her job back as general counsel. why? press sec. psaki: i'm not aware of this personnel update. i would have to check on it. i'm happy to do that, and we will get you back a comment. reporter: a follow-up. yesterday you said when asked about by -- vice president harris' mask in the senate, you said she would follow cdc protocols at the event today. cdc protocols say you should be wearing a mask. it doesn't distinguish between outside and inside. why didn't she wear a mask? press sec. psaki: she was socially distance for the majority of the reporter: reporter: event today. she was standing next to the
president. press sec. psaki: she was six feet away. thank you, everyone. >> we take you live now to the pentagon, where press sec. john kirby is holding a briefing with reporters. this got underway a short time ago. live coverage here on c-span. sec. kirby: weaving onto other news, on the first of april coast guardsmen and marines and barked on the woody williams, with support from interpol and assisted in the, verdi maritime forces, with the introduction of a brazilian-flag fishing vessel, seizing approximately 6000 kilograms of cocaine. local authorities took seven/seven individuals into custody during operation. another good example of working with our allies and partners all around the world to improve
security and stability. on a programming note, on monday morning the secretary will welcome to the pentagon the indian minister of the -- of defense for enhanced cordon ceremony and a bilateral meeting. that, of course, you will be able to cover. later on in the afternoon the secretary will join the ministry of internal affairs for the fourth u.s.-india two plus two ministerial dialogue. that will occur on monday. this year's two plus two will spend the breath of the partnership between united states and india, including defense, science, technology, climate, public health. since its inception in 2018 the two plus two ministerial has allowed the united states and india to continue to work towards building a defense partnership that we think is poised very well to meet the challenges of the 21st century. with that, bob?
reporter: on ukraine, as the russians narrow the focus of their operations to the donbass and the south, as you have described, you anticipate this will change in any significant way ukrainian's needs, the types of needs they will have for weaponry, other assistance from the united states and other partners? also, will it make it more difficult to get it into them? press sec. psaki: we do not assess that this higher focus by the russians on the south and east by itself, geographically, is going to affect in any appreciable way the continued shipment of security assistance on the ground into ukraine that the united states is helping to coordinate. as for whether it will change the requirements, i think largely that is going to be up to you -- up to the ukrainians. i think you will know, the
secretary spoke with mr. his neck off just yesterday yesterday afternoon. good conversation, as they all are. the administration was grateful for the security assistance, particularly the announcement of $100 million worth of javelins, which we did very much in keeping with conversations with them about this renewed fighting in a much more confined geographic area. so we are tailoring our security assistance to meet their needs on the ground, but it is their needs we are trying to meet. we are not trying to -- foist stuff upon them that we do not think they can use. so, i guess that is a long answer to a very beer -- a very brief question. it is too soon to know if there are going to be any adjustments. we will work that out in real time with the ukrainian armed forces. if we can do it quickly, we absolutely will do that. right now we are not anticipating any muscle movement changes in terms of the security assistance required for this new
push to the russians in the donbass. i will tell you -- and i think i have said this before -- one of the things the ukrainians continue to say is one of their most valuable commodities is small arms ammunition. and we and other nations continue to provide, literally, millions of rounds. it doesn't get the headlines -- i understand that. it is not as dramatic as antitank missiles or stinger missiles, but it is a vital need that they use literally every day. that continues to flow. reporter: thank you. yesterday the secretary spoke about updated guidance about sharing intelligence with the ukrainians on the zones controlled by the separatist population. does that mean you did not give
them any information, any intelligence on those until now? and does it mean that you are giving them these now, to help them reclaim the zones? 2 -- sec. kirby: it did not mean we were not giving them useful information in the eastern part of the country. we have continued to provide them with useful intelligence and information to help them defend themselves. what the secretary was referring to was, as the conditions on the ground have changed and as this focused has -- focus has been more pronounced in the east, we need to make sure that the guidance to our own intelligence apparatus was keeping pace with that. reporter: doesn't mean you are helping them now, that the objective now is to help them retake these zones? sec. kirby: our objective is and
has been to help them defend themselves. that includes giving them tools, whether that be weapons and systems and ammunition, or information to be able to do that as best as they possibly can. tom. reporter: to follow up, you know me by now that i like to pick apart words. sec. kirby: i enjoyed. i appreciate it. reporter: we will see. [laughter] you have twice said that you have given ukrainians information to defend themselves. i want to make sure by the understanding of the word defend, and other words if the ukrainians -- and i know you don't like to go into hypotheticals, but -- sec. kirby: but you're going to try it anyway. reporter: i'm going to try it anyway. ukrainians have engaged in offensive actions.
if ukrainians are planning an offense of action, does that fall under an area you would provide information to help them? sec. kirby: look, tom, i'm not trying to parse words here. we say we want to help the ukrainians defend themselves, you're talking about the aggregate effort. we are not talking about a tactical -- whether i am in a defensive position or on a counterattack. we are not getting into that level of specificity here. we are trying to give them useful information and intelligence that allows them talk defend themselves, -- and allows them talk defend themselves, to fight against -- call it whatever you want, this russian invasion. if that allows them to conduct a counterattack, then so be it. the larger defenses of their country. have been invaded now. they have been invaded, quite frankly, for eight years, a
massive invasion on the 24th of february, and they are resisting that. you're doing what we can. i'm not going to get into too much detail here. we are doing what we can to give them the tools, and some of that includes useful information that they can use to contribute to that active defense of the country. reporter: that clarifies it. my other question -- sec. kirby: i'm delighted. [laughter] reporter: i know earlier this year, actually on january 24, he said in response to another question by me that it is "not helpful to look at history," although i know utah history in the act -- although i know utah history in the academy. sec. kirby: that sounds like a brutal retelling of my quote, but go ahead. reporter: general milley said yesterday that action is going to be shifting to the donbass region, which is a different terrain than much of ukraine. with the scene during world war ii of huge tank battles, from a
strategic point of view, bullets are great, and a lot of javelins are on their way, does this give the russians an advantage, and the sense that they do have more armor than ukrainians, and this is a terrain made for armored fighting? sec. kirby: this is a more confined geographic area. i am not a topographical expert. i'm certainly not an expert in land warfare. while i taught history, it was naval history. i want to stay inside my lanes here. and i don't think we should be predictive about what the outcome is going to be. i think with the chairman was getting at -- and he was absolutely right to do this -- was to provide a sense of the potential for the conflict to increase in intensity and to be prolonged. i think that is really the larger point he was trying to make. because the russians are going to be concentrating their available, power -- and they still have -- the vast majority
of their combat power still available to them. they're going to be concentrating that in a more confined, smaller geographic area. so, you know, earlier on in this invasion they were working on three massively separate lines of access. south, east, northeast, northwest, right? a massive force, but they divided along three lines of access. now we are going to see that they are going to concentrate on smaller, fewer lines of access in a smaller geographic area. so, still a lot of combat power to be applied in a smaller part of the country. again, i am not an expert on the geography, but just looking at it on a map you can see there will be able to bring to bear a lot more power in a lot more concentrated fashion. that said -- and this is not unimportant -- the ukrainians have also been fighting hard in donbass for the last eight years.
ukrainians are certainly familiar with the terrain, the topography in the cities and towns and roads and railroads. i mean, this is their home. as we have seen in the last -- the last few weeks, but certainly the last few days as russians have concentrated effort there -- ukrainians are fighting back hard and will be working just as hard to continue to defend themselves there. again, our support is a piece of this as we continue to talk with them about what they need for this closer fight, if you will, we are going to continue to try to support them in that. does that answer your question? reporter: yes, thank you. reporter: john, do you think the russians are going to lose this war? sec. kirby: we want the ukrainians to win this war, and we want to see ukraine not to have -- not have to fight for its own sovereignty -- as it has been for eight years. we keep forgetting that. i think president zelenskyy has been rocksolid clear on what his outcome is here.
a whole ukraine, fully respected as a sovereign nationstate. we want that for him too. you want to see them win. and that is why we are committing so much energy and security assistance to that country and will continue to do that. reporter: does that mean you want to see the russians lose? 1 we want to see mr. pruden and the russian army lose this invasion, lose this fight in ukraine. it is ukrainian territory, ukrainian sovereignty. it is ukrainian cities and lives that are being destroyed. and obviously we want to see that and and we want to see ukraine whole again. reporter: will the u.s. support ukrainian forces if they go on the offense in crimea and eastern regions of ukraine? sec. kirby: i'm not going to get into future operations. we are going to continue to support ukraine in their efforts to offend their sovereignty and people as much as we can, as fast as we can. i'm not going to get into
hypothetical operations they have not conducted yet. kelly. reporter: two questions. the first is a profile on the commander-in-chief of the ukrainian armed forces. i was curious if you had a comment on his leadership or a message to him. second, russian officials are threatening finland if it joins nato. do you take those threats seriously? with the u.s. come to finland's defense? sec. kirby: by profile, deeming president zelenskyy? reporter: know, the commander of his armed forces. sec. kirby: i have not seen that profile, so let me take a look at the profile before i characterize it. i would tell you that we have good conductivity with the ukrainian armed forces at the very senior levels. general milley speaks frequently with his counterpart, as you know. you guys know how often the secretary austin speaks with the minister, and president biden and his regular contact with president zelenskyy.
it is remarkable how well they are leading their forces in the field and how good their command is today. co-organized, well-equipped, certainly well trained over the last eight years, and you are seeing that come to bear. i have not seen a profile, but we have great confidence in ukrainian military leadership and the incredible work they are doing leading their troops. you have seen it. it is not just ukrainian troops. ukrainian citizens, taking up arms and defending their cities. on your other question, again, i don't want to get ahead of where we are on a process here. a decision to join the nato alliance is between the alliance and that nation, and certainly the united states is not going to interpose ourselves into that decision-making process. that is really for them to speak to. that said -- and i think today's
movement in the announcement we are going to be providing a patriot battery inside slovakia tells you how seriously we take our article five commitments inside nato and the alliance, and as you have heard president biden say, we are going to defend every inch of nato territory if it is required. it is an ironclad commitment. the united states believes that and will continue to look forward on ways, especially on the eastern flank, to bolster that. reporter: just a follow-up on information-sharing. secretary austin said you guys are providing guidance for your force. what was he meaning, actually? sec. kirby: as the situation changes on the ground, information needs to change. information requirements change. information guidance changes. i think that is what the secretary was referring to. reporter: another question.
we have seen reports that u.s. forces are stationed in syria came under rocket attacks that sent two u.s. service members were wounded, reportedly. you have anything on that? sec. kirby: actually i do here. so i think you guys saw, centcom put out a release that there was indirect fire, two rounds received at green village in eastern syria. they announced yesterday we still assess that at this time four u.s. service members are continuing to be evaluated for traumatic brain injury symptoms. the number is still four. it can change, as we have seen in the past, but that is where we are right now. the indirect fire struck two support buildings. you're still investigating this. i do not have attribution for you, i do not have detail on damage. ok?
reporter: you don't have any attribution, but do you have any since this was something carried out by some sort of a militia group? sec. kirby: it is certainly a tactic that has been used by these militia groups, militia groups supported by iran. it is right out of their playbook. our working assumption would be that is the case here, but we want to do it properly. do i have a sheet for the calls? or nobody? i didn't get one. [laughter] that was my poor attempt to move off of you. but, fail. mike totally screwed me on that one. reporter: given that there is more and more momentum for finland and sweden to potentially join nato, is the pentagon already planning for sending some sort of u.s. military presence into those countries, whether it is systems
or anything like that? is there any kind of planting -- planning for reinforcing them as part of this ongoing shoring up of nato? sec. kirby: we have been doing that. reporter: but specifically for a longer-term presence in finland and sweden, specifically? sec. kirby: i don't know plans for countries outside of nato. no. reporter: once they join nato. is there early planning going on for if and when they become members of nato? sec. kirby: i'm not aware of such planning. that is many horses beyond where the car is right now. again, i don't want to get ahead of a decision-making process between a sovereign nationstate and the alliance. so, there is no such -- there is no active planning for any kind of u.s. force presence in those countries. again, we need to be in a process of them being nato members and having a conversation. you're just not there. reporter: the planning organization? sec. kirby: we plan for a lot of
things, but we do not plan for everything. there we go. i'm going to trademark that. reporter: thank you. the u.s. has two teaching assets deployed in south korea for military exercises within the next week. do you see this as a sufficient deterrent to north korea and a message to north korea? sec. kirby: all of our training events are meant to improve our readiness. it is not about message-sending. it is about readiness. and that is our commitment on the peninsula, that is our commitment to our south korean allies. reporter: they mentioned this time they will be shooting the
united states, does this send a signal to the united states? sec. kirby: i haven't seen those comments. we are aware of the north koreans, their efforts to advance their nuclear ambitions, as well as to advance their ballistic missile capabilities. we have reacted to that. just as recently as a couple of weeks ago so we are boosting our commitment in the yellow sea region. look, we don't need to hear threats and threatening comments from north korean leaders to understand that the actual threat that pyongyang represents to the peninsula and to the region. that is why we are continuing to adjust our posture as needed, to adjust our intelligence-gathering posture as needed, and to adjust our training and readiness with our south korean allies. reporter: i would ask you about china. chinese president xi said to his
counterpart today that regional security cannot be achieved by strengthening military alliances. you think this is an attempt to divide the united states and u.s. allies while the biden administration is focusing? sec. kirby: without speaking to that particular comment, have seen the chinese repeatedly tried to divide the united states from our allies. we have seen their course of an aggressive tactics to bully neighbors, including some of our allies, to come around to their way of thinking about their national security, but they believe their national security interests are in the region. five of our seven treaty alliances are in the indo pacific region. take each of them seriously, and we have dozens more allies -- i'm sorry, dozens more partners in the region that we continue to talk with. i think it is fairly obvious
when you see the chinese behave this way, they are concerned about our network of alliances and partnerships. as you have heard secretary austin say, that is an advantage the united states has in the region, is alliances and partnerships. the chinese have nothing like that. they don't have a lot of friends. they don't have a lot of people they can draw upon for that kind of support. when you hear the secretary talk about things like integrated deterrence, he's talking a lot about u.s. capabilities, it also talking about how we combine our abilities with those of our allies and partners. again, china has nothing to compare to that and cannot rely on a kind of a network. reporter: japan will hold a meeting with putin tomorrow. what role do you expect japan to play to maintain the child -- the south china sea? 1 i will not -- not -- sec. kirby: i will not get ahead
of two plus two. we respect both of them as allies, and they both are, but i will let them speak for their agenda and what they are trying to get out of this discussion. i'm sure it will be fruitful, i'm sure it will be productive, i'm sure it will be constructive to improving mutual security needs in the indo pacific. lucas. reporter: nader set up to 15,000 russian soldiers have been killed fighting in ukraine. is there any evidence or indications the russians are reinforcing? sec. kirby: i can't confirm the number, and you know we stay away from providing estimates on the numbers. you know they have taken casualties. both wounded and killed. what i can tell you, lucas, sort of a two-part answer here. one, as we have seen russian forces leave the north and move into belarus and into russia we are beginning to see indications
that they are, in fact, working on ways of refitting and resupplying these units, including discussions about how to replace lost troops. some of these units are almost completely devastated, and it is unclear whether they will ever be reformed, or whether they will be combined with other units that are less depleted in manpower, equipment, vehicles. so they are working their way through all of that right now. it remains to be seen how fast they will be able to do it and with what, but we have seen indications that they are looking at their shortages in some of these units and how they are going to fix it. reporter: do you know how many russian soldiers they are looking to call up or send in? sec. kirby: we have seen some reports that they are looking at mobilizing reservists, tens of thousands, perhaps. but, again, i think that remains to be seen. reporter: is the secretary
disappointed that the u.s. navy is not planning to build a lot more ships to keep up with china? china's ship-building program as on a linear trajectory, and the u.s. navy building trajectory is very flat. sec. kirby: i don't know if i can improve upon the secretary's own words on this yesterday, but he clearly got an opportunity to speak to ship-building yesterday at the hearing in front of the armed services committee, and on tuesday with the house armed services committee. the truncated version is the secretary is very comfortable with ship-building requests we are making for 2023. which includes nine new battle force ships and he is much more concerned about capability and the proper mix of modern capabilities in the naval force then he is just about numbers. numbers have a quality all their own.
clearly he understands that, but his concern is making sure that as we build more ships and bring ships into the fleet that there is a right mix of capabilities, the most advanced we can put to sea. reporter: the combat ships was a complete waste? you are about to scrap all of these warships built just a few years ago. sec. kirby: the combat ship, and you heard him talk about this in the hearing. they served a purpose. some of them still do serve a purpose, and will going forward over the course of the fiscal year defense plan. but when you look at the national defense strategy and you look at the budget which supports that strategy and that strategy is focused on the pacing of china and acute threat of russia, what we are working with navy on and support the navy's efforts to develop new classes of ships, ships with more capability than the lcs has for the kind of fights we think we might be in in the future.
reporter: do you think you should have been tilting those shipped years ago and not these? sec. kirby: ok, got to call it today. reporter: one follow-up. sec. kirby: i guess i am not calling it a day. reporter: when you responded to kelly's questions, you accidentally overlooked part of her question where she asked what you're feeling is about russia's threat to finland. given how a threat in ukraine is threatening finland, if it makes moves to nato it could attack it, i know you overlooked that by accident, but i was wondering if you could respond to that part of her question? sec. kirby: i didn't mean out -- me to overlook anything, kelly. i'm not going to get into hypotheticals here, tom. reporter: there is a threat though. russian threats should be taken seriously. you have said that many times on the podium. i'm wondering if that applies to finland. sec. kirby: that is where you your -- you are getting into hypotheticals.
i'm not saying we don't take threats seriously. of course we do. i'm not going to speculate about another threat to another nation, certainly a non-nato nation. i'm not going to go there now. reporter: if i recall with some precision for answer, it was that the u.s., the pentagon doesn't plan for everything, and he seemed to quite clearly rule out that you had any plans to assist finland or sweden against threats. so, let me not make it hypothetical. do you need to actually rule out that the defense department has -- you said you have no active plans. i do believe those were your
words. are you ruling out -- are you saying the defense department has no active plans to assist finland and sweden if other -- either of those countries called you up this afternoon and said you need help? you have no plans? you have nothing? sec. kirby: come on now. that would require -- you are -- there has been no such request from finland or sweden. and obviously even in natural disasters if a country calls and asks for united states support, certainly we will take that under consideration. if there is something the commander-in-chief believes the united states military can do to assist, that is a conversation we will have. but we are spending a lot of time today talking about a hypothetical that has not presented itself. these are two sovereign nations, and they have to make decisions for themselves about what
alliances they want to join or not. they are not part of nato, and so do we have an active defense plan for either nation right now? no, we don't. but that does not mean that should there be some connecticut threat that those nations go to the international committee and want support that we would not take it under advisement? of course we would. but, my goodness, we are getting into way, way ahead here in terms of where the situation is. the fight now is in ukraine. ukraine is under threat. they have been invaded. and our focus is on ukraine and making sure they can continue to defend themselves. yes. reporter: i have a question about yesterday again. several senators, including democratic senators, expressed frustration at what they called the fear of escalation. they wanted the u.s. to do more
to help ukraine. does the chance on the ground, with the retreat of the russians, does it make the position of the u.s. more difficult to keep, especially from a moral point of view? sec. kirby: i'm not sure i understand the question. reporter: this balance the u.s. is trying to contain -- maintain, helping but not intervening directly, is it more difficult now? sec. kirby: there is nothing easy about anything with respect to ukraine. not for the ukrainians, certainly. not for nato, not for individual nations like the united states that are trying to support ukraine. nothing is easy about this.
and we are working incredibly hard, at an unprecedented scale, to help another nation defend itself. i know we get up here and spout these numbers, and maybe sometimes they go into the ether because you do it all the time. 100 million, 200 million, 350 million, 800 million. over the course of this administration now, $2.5 billion, which is almost as much as ukraine's defense budget, and we have done it in your-record -- actually, record time. we think about the speed with which this stuff is getting over here. we are doing as much as we can, as fast as we can. and at the same time doing as much as we can to bolster nato's eastern flight. we went from 80,000 troops in
europe in mid-february to over 100,000. now you see just another repositioning inside europe of another patriot battery into slovakia. no other nation can do that from a logistics perspective. no other nation could do that from a place -- from a supply perspective. so, we fundamentally bristle at the notion that we are not doing enough and not doing enough faster. it is unprecedented. there is no historic comparison to what we are doing now to anything we have done in the past. at the same time, we are mindful that russia is a nuclear power and that we do not have perfect visibility into mr. putin's thinking. so it would be irresponsible -- i mean, secretary austin took this office with one charge, and that is defending this nation. part of that is escalation management. if he was not doing that, if he
was not thinking about the potential for escalation and where that might go, and he should not be in the job. he takes that responsibility extremely seriously, because the stakes are very high. so, no apologies for thinking about that as we continue to support ukraine, and certainly no apologies for the speed with which and scale at which we have continued to do that. i think you are going to see it continue going on in the future, based on our constant conversations with ukraine. ok, thanks, everybody. have a great weekend. see you monday. >> c-span has unfiltered coverage of the u.s. response to russia's invasion of ukraine. bringing you the latest from the president and other white house
officials, the pentagon, and the state department, as well as congress. we also have international perspectives and the united nations, and statements from foreign leaders. all on the c-span networks, the c-span now overlap, and c-span.org/ukraine. our web resource page where you can watch the latest videos on demand and follow tweets from journalists on the ground. go to c-span.org/ukraine. >> there are a lot of places to get political information, but only at c-span do you get it straight from the source. no matter where you are from or where you stand on the issues, c-span is america's network. unfiltered, unbiased, word for word. if it happens here or here or here or anywhere that matters, america is watching on c-span. powered by cable.
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