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Official Says U.S., Allies Concerned That Putin Is Misinformed About Ukraine War

March 31, 2022 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

Russian military leaders have not been honest with Russia's President Vladimir Putin about the realities on the ground in Ukraine, and Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said Wednesday that the lack of honesty between Putin and his generals is a concern to the United States and allies.

"It understandably would be an issue of concern ... 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," Kirby said. "It's his military. It's his war. He chose it. 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. And certainly one outcome of that could be, could be a less than faithful effort at negotiating some sort of settlement here."

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Kirby said if Putin is not fully informed about how Russian military forces are faring in Ukraine, then it makes it far more difficult for negotiators to draw up an enduring agreement between the two countries.

Earlier this week, the Russian military said it would move military forces away from Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv. Kirby said the Defense Department has seen that is starting to happen, but, so far, in small numbers. What's more important, he said, is where those troops are going — not merely that they are moving away from Kyiv.

"We have seen over the last 24 hours the repositioning of a small percentage of the troops ... and the battalion tactical groups that Russia had arrayed against Kyiv — probably in the neighborhood of 20% of what they had — they are beginning to reposition," Kirby said.

A man behind a lectern addresses people who are seated.
Pentagon Press Secretary
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby addresses members of the news media during a press briefing at the Pentagon, March 30, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 220330-D-XI929-3007

Some of the troops moving away from Kyiv are headed north into Belarus, but none are headed back to their garrisons in Russia, he said.

"That's not a small point," he said. "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."

The department's assessment of why troops are being moved to Belarus, Kirby said, is that those troops would be resupplied and then possibly moved elsewhere in Ukraine.

Europe Is Changing

Late last year, DOD released the results of its Global Posture Review, which is a detailed study of where the United States currently has forces stationed outside the U.S. and where it might be more beneficial to station troops.

At the time, Russia had not yet begun its most recent invasion of Ukraine, and Kirby told reporters that recent events in Europe have changed things, including how the United States thinks about its current force posture. The change to the security situation in Europe, he said, may mean a U.S. force posture in Europe that is different than what was initially envisioned.

A man in a military uniform adjusts a strap on a cargo pallet. Another man in uniform stands nearby.
Equipment Pallet
Air Force Staff Sgt. Rafael De Guzman-Paniagua and Senior Airman Mario Rentero-Ruiz secure a pallet of equipment bound for Ukraine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 24, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Morales
VIRIN: 220324-F-QU646-1107

"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," Kirby said. "Therefore, we probably shouldn't have the same outlook to our posture in Europe."

How the U.S. force posture in Europe might change as a result of recent events is not yet known, Kirby said, though decisions would be made in consultation with allies and partners there.

In the past few weeks, for instance, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has visited several nations in Europe to meet with counterparts, and discussions have turned to how the U.S. might change its posture in Europe.

"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," Kirby said.

Aid to Ukraine

The department is underway now in delivering to Ukraine the military supplies and weapons that make up the $800 million security assistance package recently approved by the president, Kirby said.

"What I can tell you is that material is getting into the region every single day, including over the last 24 hours," Kirby said. "We are in the first half a dozen shipments of what will probably be around 30 or so of this $800 million that the president signed out. It's already moving into the region."

A man in a military uniform adjusts a strap on a cargo pallet.
Secure Equipment
Air Force Staff Sgt. Rafael De Guzman-Paniagua, secures a pallet of equipment bound for Ukraine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 24, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Morales
VIRIN: 220324-F-QU646-1042

Kirby also said the department is prioritizing what equipment goes first based on what is most urgently needed by the Ukrainians.

The $800 million package to assist Ukraine includes 800 antiaircraft systems, 9,000 anti-armor systems, 7,000 small arms, 20 million rounds of ammunition, and drones.