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Senior Defense Official Holds an Off-Camera Press Briefing, Feb 24, 2022

Senior Defense Official SDO1: Okay, good morning, everybody. As before, this is on background, "senior defense official."

You know what? Instead of just opening, why don't we just start with questions, and we'll go from there? And as -- just as a foot stomp again -- and you'll probably hear me say this a few times -- we're not going to have perfect knowledge. We're not going to have every bit of specific detail that I know you're interested in. I will -- I will give you what we are comfortable providing and -- and no more. So I -- I just want to caveat that.


Q: Can you just start off with a -- describe kind of an overview, as much as you can say about the disposition of the Russian invading forces, or --

SDO1: So what I would tell you is, we would describe what we're seeing as an initial phase, and it is likely that you will see this unfold in multiple phases. How many, how long, we don't know, but what we're seeing are initial phases of a -- a large-scale invasion.

Thus far, we have seen them advance on essentially three main axes of assault, one from the south to the north. That's basically from Crimea to a -- a city named Kherson, K-H-E-R-S-O-N. That's the southern advance that we're seeing right now, right now, in this initial phase. We're seeing another axis from north-central Ukraine to the south, basically from Belarus to Kyiv; more specifically, just to the northwest of Kyiv and just to the northeast of Kyiv, sort of two lines from Belarus towards Kyiv. And then the third main axis is from the -- the northeast of Ukraine to the south. So this is basically from Belarus to -- and I hope I'm pronouncing this right, but Kharkiv.


SDO1: Kharkov?


SDO1:I won't be able say it as good as you, but you know what I'm talking about. Kharkiv. From Belarus to Kharkiv. That--


SDO1: Belgrade -- well, this is Belarus, but -- okay? An advance on Kharkiv. We see the heaviest fighting in and around Kharkiv right now.

These three axes are -- are -- are what we believe clearly designed to -- to -- to take key population centers, these three that -- that we've -- we've -- that we've talked about.

Q: (inaudible).

SDO1: Yes.

Q: (inaudible).

SDO1: Well, I'm saying they're make -- making a move on Kyiv. I mean, yes. But what they're going to do in Kyiv, it's hard to say. We have -- we still believe, it's our assessment that -- that they have every intention of -- of -- of basically decapitating the government and installing their own method of governance, which would -- which would explain these early moves towards Kyiv.

They did this beginning at 9:30 Eastern time last night, when we observed missiles being fired from both land- and sea-based platforms, impacting key cities in central and eastern Ukraine. Our best estimate is that roughly more than 100 Russian-launched missiles of various types were used in this initial onslaught: short-range -- short-rein -- short-range ballistic missiles were the primary weapon, but it also -- that number included medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and as I said, sea-launched missiles from the Black Sea.

We have not seen them -- we have not seen the Russians thus far move into the Western part of -- of Ukraine. But I caution you that what we're seeing right now are initial phases, and we -- we don't know exactly where things are going to unfold.

They used approximately 75 fixed-wing heavy and medium bombers as a part of this initial onslaught.

Q: (inaudible).

SDO1: Seventy-five. The targets thus far, as we talked about yesterday, have been primarily focused on military and air defense. So barracks, ammunition warehouses, nearly 10 airfields targeted. We do not have a good sense of -- of -- of total damage, as you might expect. We do not have a good sense of casualties, civilian and/or military.

Now, this morning, then, at approximately 5:00 in the morning, we did start to see the Russians initiate some ground incursions.

Q: (inaudible).

SDO1:5 -- 5:00 Eastern time, some ground incursions into Ukraine from Belarus, northwest of Kyiv on that one line of axis I talked about before. There's no indications of any amphibious assaults. You might have seen the comments from the Ukrainian chief of defense that he -- he has seen no Russian troops in Odessa, and that's -- that's according to him.

Just a couple of final points.

Right, so far we believe that public means of communication and media are accessible and are still active. But we don't believe that the full scope of Russian electronic warfare capabilities have come into play yet. And they may yet.

And then, lastly, just to remind, U.S. troops remain outside of Ukraine and continue to be postured to reassure our allies.

Yesterday you heard the President talk about some additional capabilities moving intra-theater. So six of the F-35s will be going to -- that he talked about -- we think will arrive today in Estonia, Lithuania and Romania. That's two each. So two F-35s will arrive in Estonia today, two to Lithuania today, two to Romania today.

The helicopters are on their way. As I understand it, there's been some weather issues, so we still expect those Apaches to get on site later today. That's the hope. But, apparently, there are some weather issues, so I don't know for sure.

And then --

Q: (inaudible) you say F-35s --

SDO1: Yeah, F-35s are going to Estonia, Lithuania and Romania, two each.

And then, as before, our troops in Poland are postured to assist, if needed, with, you know, any American citizens that -- that might need it. Did that answer your broad, sweeping question, Bob?

Q: Just one quick follow-up. So there's no additional changes to the U.S. deployment schedule, kind of, plan?

No additional deployments beyond what you --

SDO1: I have nothing to speak to at this time. 

But as I said before, Bob, we're going to continue to look at the posture, in terms of reassurance to the allies. And I'm not going to take off the table the possibilities that there will be other repositionings inside Europe or even, perhaps, you know, deployments from the United States.

Nothing to speak to today. But if that changes, we'll certainly let you know.

Q: In terms of the Russian troops we're seeing in the air assault, (airborne?) --


SDO1: Yeah, we have some early indications of perhaps air assault in and around Kharkiv. But I cannot 100 percent confirm that.

Q: Any others?

SDO1: All I know of is the ground movements that we've seen coming from Belarus to the northwest of Kyiv. And I couldn't quantify that for you. But it's a ground movement.

Q: So there are no infantry, (armor ?) --

SDO1: I don't.

Q: So you don't know if -- if Russian tanks have actually crossed into --

SDO1: I don't have confirmation of that.

Q: What about --


SDO1:Hey, one at a time. One at a time.

Go ahead.

Q: Do you have confirmation of fights around Chernobyl and the -- around the nuclear waste there?

SDO1: We know that they used the -- I don't know about the nuclear waste. They used the -- they used the Chernobyl staging area as one place -- as one debarkation point --


SDO1:-- to -- to move over, yeah.

But I -- I don't have any more detail than that.

Q: (inaudible) what you're seeing in terms of what kind of defenses Ukraine (inaudible)?

SDO1: We -- we have seen indications that they are resisting and -- and fighting back. I'm -- I'm not going to go into more detail than that, Nancy. This is their country they're fighting for. And I don't think that they would find it very helpful if another country started laying out what they're order of battle is and where they are and what they're doing.

But they -- but we have seen signs that -- that they are fighting back.

Q: I understand that, but one reason I'm asking is if there's any discussion on the U.S. side to provide any weapons or other types of support for the Ukrainians, based on what you've seen so far?

SDO1: I -- I have no new announcements to make or decisions to -- to -- to read out to you in terms of additional security assistance. As I've said before, we're going to look to continue to find ways to provide them both lethal and non-lethal assistance.

Obviously, some of the methods that you -- you do that are -- are going to have to change now because -- because of what's -- because of, you know, what's happened over the last 12 hours, but we're still going to look at ways that -- that that can be done.

Q: SDO1, last night, in his speech, Putin made a pretty explicit threat about nuclear weapons. To anybody who tries to intervene, he said "we will respond immediately and you will -- you will have consequences that you've never had before in your history."

They were conducting that nuclear exercise. Is -- is there any indication that Russian nuclear forces are in a heightened state of alert?

SDO1: I -- you -- David, I -- I -- I want to caveat this by saying I -- you -- you know, we -- we -- we're -- we can't know perfect detail about -- about their strategic posture but we don't see an increased threat in that regard. That's as far as I'll go.

(Jim ?)?

Q: SDO1, what are you seeing as far as refugees go? There's -- there are a lot of things on the TV showing lines and lines of cars leaving --


Q: -- especially.

SDO1: Right.

Q: Can you -- can you sort of estimate it?

SDO1: We -- we -- I can't give you a number. We have -- we have seen an -- an increase in people trying to leave Ukraine, and particularly crossing the border into Poland, but we can't quantify that right now. We've just -- we've seen an increase over the last 12 to 18 hours.

I think every expectation is that -- that -- that that number will continue to go up but I just don't have a -- I don't have a figure to give you. Polish -- Polish border authorities might be a -- a better source for that than -- than we would be, but we are seeing an uptick in people trying to leave the country through the west.

Q: SDO1, do you have any indications of or do you know whether the Ukrainian forces were able to use some of the defensive systems that the U.S. and other allies have supplied?

SDO1: I -- I -- I can’t -- I don't know -- I don't know.

Yeah, Dan?

Q: Thank you. Can you speak about any communications you've had either with Ukrainian leadership or Russian leadership?

SDO1: There's been -- as far as I know, Dan, there's been no direct communication in the last 12 hours between senior DOD leaders and -- and Russian leaders. No -- no -- nothing to announce, nothing to speak to.

Q: So in the last (inaudible) -- the last --

SDO1: I mean, their last -- I mean, I can't -- I -- I'd -- I'd refer to SDDO2 in terms of Gerasimov and Milley but Secretary Austin, as you know, spoke with Minister Shoygu when we were in Poland last week --

Q: Yeah.

SDO1: -- and we read that call out. So that's the last communication between him and Minister Shoygu.

Q: We read out at the last (inaudible) about (inaudible).

SDO1: Yeah, okay.


SDO1: We -- let me -- I'm sure David can get you the -- there -- you can go find the readout on their -- on their website.

Yeah, Phil?

Q: Just -- just following up on that. I mean, is there any -- has there been any guidance given out to folks in the Middle East or elsewhere about communication with the Russians, Russian military in Syria perhaps, like, whether they should continue with that, whether they should refrain from communicating with the Russians right now?

And then secondly, can you give us a sense of any scale of the -- the Russian assault? You know, at -- what percentage of the 150 -- more than 150,000 forces are now actually inside Ukraine, carrying out operations?

SDO1: On the first question, I -- I know of no changes to -- to say deconfliction communications in Syria with the Russians is -- that -- that continues. There's been no guidance issued by the department with respect to broader communications (inaudible) normal channels on normal issues with the Russians.

And then the -- this -- the answer to your second one is -- is no, we can't. We -- we don't have that level of fidelity as to, you know, how many Russian troops are now inside Ukraine. We -- we simply don't know that. As -- I -- I would just point you to what I said at the outset, Phil, that we believe that this is just an initial phase. And so in an initial phase of an operation, you would not expect to see a great majority of -- of -- of a military committed in -- in what is a very early stage here.

So I can't give you a whole number but it -- it -- it's our assessment, I think we're comfortable with saying that it -- it's certainly not a majority of -- of -- of the troops that -- that he had arrayed at this point. And -- and I'd also remind everybody -- and we're talking here at 10:36 in the morning -- it's ongoing and I'm giving you the best I can now. It's a snapshot in time, it'll change over the course of the next few hours and certainly the next few days.

Q: (Inaudible), I mean, how -- how -- (inaudible) the way this is unfolding, you -- you've been watch -- watching for this and waiting for this. To what extent is this kind of going along with the -- the -- the idea of the plans that you had envisioned, based on your -- your intelligence?

SDO1: I would just say that we haven't found anything that's been very surprising.

Q: ‘SDO’, from a military perspective, that they strike during the daytime. Normally, you would expect a nighttime beginning, if you look at --

SDO1: They did start at a period of darkness.

Q: -- okay.

SDO1: It was dawn.

Q: Okay. And I heard Admiral (inaudible) on one of the television stations saying that "We have provided enough Javelins to counter every Russian tank." Is that accurate?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into the numbers. We have scrupulously avoided putting the exact numbers on what we've given to Ukraine for the same reason I don't want to talk about their (inaudible) battle.

Q:(Inaudible) Foreign Minister is right now? Is he outside of --

SDO1: I -- I do not -- I do not.

Court ?

Q: Has there been any close calls between U.S. military, U.S. aircraft, anything (like that ?) --

SDO1: Not that I'm aware of.

Nick ?

Q: A couple of specifics I want to give you the chance to (zoom in on ?). Is -- is there a sense that the Russians have successfully destroyed Ukraine's air defenses yet? Is -- was that one of the main --

SDO1: I'm -- I'm going to avoid specific quantification -- or qualification of -- of what -- what their objectives are. I'm -- I'm telling you what we're seeing. But I -- as I said at the outset, Nick, battle damage assessment specifics, we just don't have that right now.

Clearly, they have gone after that, as we expected them to do in the early phase, but the degree to which they have been successful, I -- I would be loath to guess right now.

Q: Part of a invasion from Belarus seems to be an air bridge. There's an airport in Kyiv. And I'm sure -- do -- do you have any fidelity into what's happening with that --

SDO1: We've -- we've seen the same things that you've been seeing, in terms of fighting in and around the -- the airport there near Kyiv. I don't have an update for you on that.

Q: And then you talk about what we haven't seen, right, and you talk about an initial assessment. So is the assessment that all of the other axes that the U.S. has been predicting are next, meaning is the assessment that -- like, what -- what is your saying "this is an initial" --


SDO1: -- I'm -- I'm going to be really careful here about predicting their future moves. I mean, as -- the -- this isn't our military. What -- I -- I would just go, you know, back to what I said before -- we haven't been surprised by what we've seen unfold thus far. But as I said yesterday, the old adage, you know, no plan survives first contact and -- and the enemy always gets a vote.

And the Ukrainians are resisting. So I think we need to be very careful predicting what the next phase is exactly going to look like. And I'm going to be -- just throughout this process with you guys, I'm going to be very direct about that.

I will tell you to the degree that we're comfortable and that we -- that we're comfortable in our knowledge sharing what we're seeing. But in terms of what the future looks like, it's -- it's -- that's going to be much more difficult task.

We have not been surprised by what we've seen them do. It was very much in line with what our initial expectations were.

Q: (Off mic). Turkish drones, do you have any reports of them being shot down? And I believe they used a NATO satellite system, anything on that?

SDO1: I've not seen those reports, no.

Q: You mentioned the heaviest fighting is around Kharkiv. Can you tell us where else (you've ?) seen fighting, around Kyiv or, you know, where else?

SDO1: I mean, that's where there's been -- we've seen some fighting around that -- the airport in Kyiv, but the heaviest fighting we've seen so far is in Kharkiv. I don't know -- I don't have -- I don't have fidelity of, like, where every firefight has been.

Q: Is the airport (a ?) military airport or a civilian airport which is --

SDO1: As I understand it, it's a civilian airport.

Q: (Yes ?), but some -- some fighting.

SDO1: Huh?

Q: Some fighting, you said.

SDO1: Yes, yes.

Q: Which one, the -- (talking about the Antonov ?)? The one --


SDO1: Kharkiv -- Kharkiv.

Q: The Russians claim they have -- there are --

SDO1: I understand that --

Q: -- radars that cover the (entire Donbas region ?) --

SDO1: Okay.

Q: -- and that's (why ?). May I ask a couple of questions --

SDO1: You -- you've already had some. Let me go around the room.

Go ahead.

Q: Ukraine also announced that they have downed five Russian jets. Do you have any indication of this?

SDO1: We can't confirm it.


Q: (It ?) sort of gets to the future, but I'm hoping not really -- that you can answer. If this is the initial phase -- when administration officials talked prior to this starting, they talked in terms of, you know, massive attacks on Kyiv and short of an effort by the Russians to take control of the country.

I'm just wondering, is your thought right now that that could potentially still be to come? Or is it more that you think now the Russians will focus on the two-thirds to the east essentially, plus decapitating the government? Do they have to take the whole country to control it?

SDO1: Barb, I -- again, that's very speculative and I just don't know that we're going to be in a position to lay out for you every next step.

What I would tell you is, and we talked about this before, it was our assessment that Mr. Putin was prepared to go in big and to threaten Kyiv.

And as I've said before, the indications we've seen thus far in just these first -- not even 12 hours are in keeping with our assessment earlier that that would be -- that that would be his goal, to decapitate this government. And I mean, Mr. Putin basically said that that was as much in his speech. So it's very much in line with what we assess to be their original intentions.

But where it goes from here, how much more territory and where he grabs, we're -- we couldn't speculate.

Q: And one other quick one on the question of deconfliction. So now you're largely -- we see it. U -- U.S.-allied/NATO aircraft flying along those eastern-flank borders, some of that airspace is pretty tight. Do you see any need for any, if not deconfliction, notification or communication procedures with the Russians about where you are and where you're operating?

SDO1: I don't have anything to read out or talk about with respect to the deconfliction mechanisms right now.

Q: Can you see the need, (though?) Like, to her question, like, do you -- do you think that there is a need (inaudible) --

SDO1: I -- I'm not going to get ahead of decisions that -- that -- that haven't been made, Court, Obviously, we're always going to be mindful of force protection risks. We're always going to be mindful of the potential for miscalculation and for mistakes to be made that could escalate things. But I don't have anything to -- to specifically talk to when it comes to -- to deconfliction.


Q: Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. But just -- and then just since we've talked about this a little bit yesterday on deconfliction, I don't know if you've gotten any more sense of who would be responsible for setting that up. Would it be a mil-to-mil thing?

SDO1: I just don't --

Q: Well, now that the invasion has happened --

SDO1: I -- I understand that. I just don't have anything for you on that right now.

Q: But you said that this is (inaudible). There's probably only one way to interpret it, which is --

SDO1: No, there's many ways to interpret that. No -- no -- I -- I don't have anything to speak to with respect to deconfliction. I just don't.

Q: Okay.

Q: So on the issue of space, has there been any kind of interference with U.S. space activities of satellites? Do you have any kind of operating in the areas over Ukraine?

SDO1: I'm not going to get into much detail there on that kind of capability. I would just tell you that -- that our -- I would just say just in broadly, our space capabilities are fully-functional. Just leave it at that.


Q: On the -- on the cyber side, some of these recent attacks, what -- do you have any indication that these were at the direction of Russia, or (inaudible) --

SDO1: Well, I can't be very specific on attribution. The -- the general assumption is, and I think we're comfortable in this assumption, that Russia was behind these cyber attacks. It's of a piece of their normal playbook.

Q: And then to follow on to that, is there any worry in planning ahead in case there's a spillover into some of (the true?) cyber, get into some of the systems in the neighboring countries and (inaudible) the U.S., since cyber doesn't know boundaries?

SDO1: We're always looking at cyber resiliency and making sure that we can protect our ability to -- to -- to operate in cyberspace and -- and to protect critical infrastructure. We don't talk about how we do that, but I can assure you that -- that CYBERCOM is very focused on making sure that -- that our own cyber capabilities are protected and resilient.


Q: (inaudible) the force -- where the forces are postured to support NATO --

SDO1: I'm sorry?

Q: -- including where our U.S. forces are postured to support NATO? (inaudible) --

SDO1: Our -- we -- we're -- we're going to do what we have to do to protect our own ability to operate in cyberspace.

Q: So ‘SDO’, what about the Ukrainian military communications? Have -- have they been shut down? Do you have any sense of that, if they still --

SDO1: As I've said, what -- what I can tell you is the open-media communication remains intact. Obviously, some of these kinetic attacks have -- have certainly gone after their ability to command and control. And as I've said earlier, we have not seen them employ the full scope of their electronic warfare capabilities. I think I just -- I -- I think I'd leave it there.


Q: You said that they want to decapitate the -- the government. Do you have any (inaudible) --?

SDO1: It wasn't just me who said that; Putin said it.

Q: Yeah. Do you (inaudible) anything to extract Zelensky, or help him to get out, if necessary?

SDO1: I -- I don't have anything for you on that.

Q: (inaudible). Could you please talk about Ukrainian (inaudible) with assaults? Those (inaudible) -- those are all -- were all via air, right? Missiles and air strikes? And then the -- the only -- the only -- you're only tracking the one ground incursion at this point from Belarus down to Kharkiv?

SDO1: No. There's a ground -- ground incursion from Belarus to the northwest of Kyiv, and we have seen at least some indications of air assault incursions into Kharkiv. So missiles, long-range fires, and then there has been some insertion of troops, both from the air and on the ground in the north.

Q: Wouldn't you say that (inaudible) --


SDO1: Kharkiv.

Q: Oh, so no ground from the south? Is that right?

SDO1: I -- we have seen them move -- make an axis of assault from Crimea to Kherson. I don't have specifics on exactly what -- what that's looking like.

Q: Is there going to be (inaudible)?

SDO1: I cannot.

Q: What about these special forces, the Russian special forces that you've seen at the Kyiv airport? Were they inserted in assault--?

SDO1: I don't know.

Q: -- or were they there already?

SDO1: I don't know.

Q: Okay.

SDO1: Yeah?

Q: Can you walk us a bit through the secretary leading the (inaudible) this evening, where they observed this, who they reached out to, what they did -- those sorts of details?

SDO1: Yeah, I won't speak for the chairman. If -- if SDO2 wants to chime in, I'll certainly invite him to do that. But the -- the secretary was monitoring all this in real time. He was here 'til pretty late last night. He and the chairman met early this morning, very early this morning, and then at 6:00 in the -- in the morning, the chairman and the secretary participated in what the -- the secretary has now been doing on a regular basis for some weeks now, a -- a policy and operations secure VTC. He did one yesterday. Today's was at 6:00 in the morning, attended, obviously, by the -- the chairman, by the deputy secretary, by General Wolters, the combatant commanders at Special Operations Command, Cyber Command, Transportation Command, certainly, European Command, as well as senior policy leaders here, Colin Kahl as well, and went through, at 6:00 this morning, pretty much everything we had seen overnight; got an update, an operational data from General Wolters and his staff; got an update from Colin Kahl on where things were in the policy front. And then each of those relevant combatant commanders also had a chance to update the secretary on what they were seeing in -- in their view. I think I have mentioned -- I didn't mention CYBERCOM and SPACECOM were also on that -- that VTC. So he's -- he's been staying as -- as tactile on this overnight as he -- as he can be.

SDO2, I don't know if you have anything you want to --

SDO2: So after a series of phone calls throughout the night and earlier this morning, we convened the Joint Staff for a formal update at -- at 05:00, followed with the secretary meeting, as SDO1 described, and then -- then they headed out across the river again this morning.

SDO1: Yeah. They're at the White House now. I think they're still over there.

The secretary has some calls with foreign counterparts that we will read them out for you throughout the day. So he'll be on the phone with allies and partners throughout the day, and then I fully expect that -- that he'll be briefed throughout the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, and that he will convene another one of these policy ops updates first thing in the morning, as well.

Q: (inaudible), or --

SDO1: Who?

Q: You.

SDO1: I -- my plan is to brief about 2:00 this afternoon, but I don't know whether that's going to be like this, or whether it's going to be like that. We're still --

Q: (inaudible).

SDO1: You want it like this? Okay.


SDO1: I'm not -- I'm not sure how to take that, but --


Q: A little bit of both. Not rule out on-camera, and do whatever else you (inaudible)


SDO1: (inaudible) saying on camera that (inaudible) (Russian?) (inaudible)

Q: Okay.


Q: (inaudible) (Republicans?) (inaudible)

Do you (inaudible) last night?

SDO1: I don't have that.

Q: You don't have (inaudible)?

And then you mentioned a (inaudible) of upwards of 100 missiles in the initial (inaudible) stage. When you talk about an initial stage, what period are we talking about that those kinds of (missiles launched ?), say in an hour, say in a few minutes?

SDO1: I'd say the first few hours.

Q: Few hours?

SDO1: Yeah.

Q: Okay. And then you mentioned that the secretary was going to be talking to his (inaudible) counterpart. As part of his discussions, will there be discussion of launching an (inaudible) NATO force (inaudible)?

Jim: NATO response force?

Q: Yes.

SDO1: He has spoken, and I've neglected to mention that. He did speak to the secretary general. I think you saw -- so did Blinken. So he did it together. I think he's expecting to have another discussion with the Secretary General, perhaps today, at which time I'm sure the Secretary General will update him on his thinking in terms of where the (inaudible) is going on the NRF. I don't have an update for you on that. That is obviously a decision that the alliance has to make, not -- not the United States.

So I don't have an update for you on what that's going to look like.

Q: One last thing. You said you didn't know the number of people who had crossed into Poland. Do you have a sense of the number of Americans that have crossed over?

SDO1: I do not have a number. I'd refer you to the State Department, where, probably --

Q: (inaudible)

SDO1: I don't. What we have seen is an increase in total numbers of people going across, which I think you would expect, and you've seen the images yourself. But I can't quantify it right now.

Q: (inaudible) on that, is the U.S. military at the 82nd helping yet, in Poland?

SDO1: They are poised to support. But I don't have an update for you in terms of whether there are actually anybody at their facilities at this time.

Q: And then the 100 missiles that you -- that -- you said it was a snapshot in time. Are they actually -- are you seeing that they're still firing missiles --

SDO1: We --

Q: -- or --

SDO1: I'm not aware of anything in the last, you know, hour or so. But, I mean, they have an arsenal. And this is just the initial phase. So we certainly couldn't rule out that -- that there wouldn't be additional missile launches of different varieties going forward, depending on what there -- what they end up their -- making their goals going forward.

Q: Do you think there will be more night-time stuff, like is it -- do you have any ideas?

SDO1: I don't know.


Q: (inaudible) about the arrival of new -- new U.S. troops?

It's -- you are not sending --

SDO1: I -- I've -- if we have additional rotations or repositions to speak to, we'll do that. But I -- we have -- I've brought you up to speed on what decisions have been made.

I, again, would not rule out or take off the table that -- the possibility that there will be additional repositioning inside Europe, or even flow from outside Europe. I just don't have any additional decisions to speak to.

Q: (inaudible) (on the map ?) that would help us visualize?

SDO1: Yeah.



Q: Can we -- can we use (that map ?) --

SDO1: No.

Q: -- just for our own -- own purposes?

SDO1: It is classified. So I -- I can't give it to you.


Q: This is, or will be, the largest massing of forces that cross a border that any of us have seen in a generation, or generations. It is or will be the largest war in Europe that we have ever seen. You care to make a comment about the kind of momentous moment that we are in?

SDO1: I don't know that I can improve upon the President's own language here about the -- about the -- the danger that this poses not just to European security but of course to innocent life. And we haven't seen a conventional move like this, nation-state to nation-state, since --since World War II, certainly nothing on this size and scope and scale.

And if it unfolds the way that hereto we have come to believe that it -- that it will, it has every potential to be very bloody, very costly and very impactful on European security writ large, for -- perhaps for a long, long time to come.

I would go back, Nick to what I said earlier, is this is 100 percent a war of choice that that Mr. Putin has decided to wage, for reasons that are not justified. And whatever blood is spilt, whatever destruction is caused, however many lives are permanently altered, as well as governance mechanisms destroyed and -- and rebuilt, all of that has to be laid at his feet, and his government.

And this was -- what we have seen already, it was 100 percent avoidable. Because he decided to do this, Nick with diplomatic options left on the table. He had other options that weren't military. He decided to cast those aside, recklessly, and invade and assault another country -- a country, by the way, that has been an independent state for 30 years and has -- has proven aggressive towards no one, none of its neighbors. The -- the justification for doing this was completely without basis and foundation.


Q: So everything you just said, I have to ask, largest war in Europe, why will this administration not allow reporters open and free access to see U.S. troops and to freely ask them questions? Why won't you do it?

SDO1: Well, we have not made the -- any changes to our media access policy right now. We look at it all the time. There's lots of reasons, factors that go into -- into the access we provide you on a daily basis. And -- and we're working our way through that right now. And that's -- that --


Q: I should be saying I'm sorry I'm going to press you, but I'm not sorry I'm going to press you. I'm going to press you. Give me one reason. I don't understand. Can you give me one reason why you will not allow reporters to talk to U.S. troops?

This is not their war, but they are in the theater. They are working this issue. Why --

SDO1: Barbara, we've never said that -- never said that reporters can't talk to troops. And you can go online and see that there's been stories where -- where troops and commanders have talked to -- to reporters. What we have not done is permitted extended-level access, you know, in a temporal setting. We've not allowed -- we've not allowed any sort of lengthy access to -- to what our troops are doing right now. But we're -- we're taking a look at it every day.

Q: Can you explain one reason why the administration will not allow lengthy access to -- for reporters? Is it any --

SDO1: To -- to date, there have been lots of factors that have gone into this decision, not -- not least of which is trying to make sure that we nest all of what we're doing in a larger geopolitical context, with respect to the decision space that Mr. Putin had before him.

Obviously, he's made more decisions, and so we're going to continue to look at this. I -- I would also remind, Barb -- you described it as "the biggest war in Europe" and that gets to Nick's question. We're not disputing that this very well will be since World War II.

But the United States is not putting troops in Ukraine to fight for Ukraine. The troops that we have added, which have been -- when you look at the broad scope of troops that we already have in Europe, a pretty nominal number, are there to reassure allies, that this is not about U.S. troops at war in Ukraine. I just feel it's important to remind you of that.

Q: -- look at the transcript, you'll find my question reflected exactly that point that you just made.

SDO1: I'm not -- I'm not saying it didn't, Barb, I'm saying you -- you brought up that this is a -- a large war in Europe and then "why can't we have access to troops?" I just want to make it clear that U.S. troops are not going to be fighting the war in Ukraine.


Q: Just one -- I -- I'm sorry, I -- there's, like, increasing consternation right now about the fighting in Chernobyl and the potential for people -- like, we have got -- I think a lot of us probably have colleagues who are, like, 68 miles, I'm told, directly (from there ?). Do you have any -- and I'm -- and I'm happy to go off the record, if everyone's okay with that -- is there any indication that that -- the nuclear facility is -- is in jeopardy or that the Russians intend to release anything?

SDO1: I -- I don't have any information for you. I -- I -- I really wish I could help you but I don't. I mean, you're obviously more plugged in right now than I am. I -- I just don't have -- honestly, I don't -- I don't. And, you know, look, we're going to talk again in a few hours. If I have more context on that, I -- I'll -- I'll provide -- again, I'm -- I'm trying to give you as much as I can. I just don't have anything on that and I don't want to guess and speculate and be wrong.

Q: And just a few (inaudible), you're saying that there haven't been any reports that there's a belief that the -- Chernobyl is in jeopardy, that the facility --

SDO1: I haven't seen that.

Q: -- anything like that?

SDO1: I haven't -- we have not -- I -- I don't have anything on that. To that -- and that's -- that's an honest answer.

Q: -- I -- I understand --


Q: -- a couple of things just to clarify what you said. When you mentioned the comparison to World War II, you mean on the European continent or --

SDO1: Yes, of course.

Q: -- and then since now (inaudible) sending assistance to the Ukrainian forces by planes is -- is -- is not an option, and until more assistance can be figured out, is the U.S. at least trying to support the Ukrainian forces with intelligence or advice?

SDO1: I'm not going to get into intelligence details. We are going to continue to look for ways to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces so that they can better defend themselves.

Q: Is the land route the only option now for delivering assistance?

SDO1: Fadi, I'm not going to talk about the specifics of -- of -- of how we're going to try to -- to help Ukrainians. Again, you're -- you're potentially asking me to -- to put information out there that -- that would not be helpful to Ukraine's ability to defend themselves, and I'm just not going to do that.


Q: (Inaudible) about the F-35s. These are the ones that has (previously reported?) to go to those areas, right? They are not new -- new --

SDO1: That is correct, they're in line with what the President announced the other day.

Q: And then a follow up on Nick's question -- so you say that "Okay, Russians are invading a country that has not provoked not only the Russians but anybody else in the region," and then this country has been also trying to become part of the Western democratic (inaudible). Isn't it a moral responsibility from the United States or from the West that they should do something other than just giving some certain ammunitions to the Ukrainians?


SDO1: -- we -- we all feel a sense of solidarity with Ukraine and that is why we have provided security assistance to them since 2014, it's why we have been providing trainers -- they're not on the ground now but we've been doing that on a rotational basis pretty much since 2014, and -- and it's why we have continued to work with Ukraine on necessary reforms, both in terms of their civilian governments and in terms of the -- their defense establishment.

And it's not just us. Other nations have also done those kinds of things for -- for Ukraine. So we're -- we're absolutely standing in solidarity with Ukraine. The President has been clear there will be no U.S. troops fighting in Ukraine.

Q: The phones -- can you take the phones please?

Q: The Russian Defense Ministry -- I think it's spokesman said "we're not targeting any civilian areas, we're only targeting the military targets." I mean, is that consistent with what we've seen so far?

SDO1: I said that at the top -- we have seen them target predominantly command and control and military facilities thus far, in this first phase.

Q: But that means -- I mean, are you -- do you have future concerns then that they -- that that may not hold?

SDO1: We have concerns now, Luis. When you start launching more than 100 ballistic missiles, it -- it's of concern, that innocent life could be -- could be taken. And we don't know that it hasn't been taken thus far. I just don't have a civilian casualty or a casualty figure to give you today.

But you start launching that -- that level of -- of ordinance into another country, regardless of what your targets are, your objectives are, there's a -- there's a risk there, and obviously we -- we're concerned about that.


Q: -- your perspective -- you know, I'm -- I'm -- I'm sort of surprised that the comms are all working in Ukraine and I think a lot of people are -- are sort of surprised by that. But why militarily would they not go after, like, communications infrastructure just to start (inaudible) sever the lines of communication for the Ukrainian military?

SDO1: I can't answer that question. I don't know.

Q: Can you speak to whether the U.S. will continue to do ISR over Ukraine?

SDO1: We have no aircraft in Ukrainian airspace.

Q: Can you say why not -- what's (inaudible)?

SDO1: We have no aircraft in Ukrainian airspace.

Q: I -- what about -- just a (couple of more?) -- has the U.S. defense posture changed at all in terms of homeland defense, in light of what's happened and given -- particularly given the possibility of cyberattacks and other --

SDO1: Well, you know we don't talk about the specifics of our -- of our defense posture at -- at any place around the world, certainly not here in -- in the homeland, but I -- broadly speaking, I know of no major muscle movements that have -- that -- that this has triggered in terms of homeland defense.

Q: (Inaudible). Is there any evidence of the use of hypersonic weapons by the Russians?
SDO1: I haven't seen any indications of that. I've -- I've given you what -- what -- what we -- what we have assessed they've done in these initial salvos.

Q: And then one last thing -- you talked about population centers being targeted potentially going forward in further phases. Can you clarify, is the idea that as -- the U.S. sees there's a possibility of Russians surrounding those cities, trying to take control of them, targeting government facilities that happen to be near population centers, can you give us a little bit more fidelity --

SDO1: Again, the -- there's a lack -- lack of granularity that we have on -- on Russian plans. But if your intention is to -- to decapitate a government and to basically install your own sense of governance, key population centers, you would think, would be an obvious objective for you.

Q: To -- to take control of the --

SDO1: To -- to take control.


Q: SDO1, how long do you think, or the Pentagon thinks the Russians will need to take over Kyiv?

And --

SDO1:I'm sorry. What --

Q: How long do you think the Ukrainian forces can resist this invasion, because --

SDO1: Look, all I can tell you is that we see indications of them fighting, and fighting back. I can't speculate as to how long it's gonna take them to achieve any of their objectives or get through this phase and into the next phase. Because, you know, the Ukrainians have a vote here, too, in how they fight back and the resistance that they offer. And it would be a fool's errand to try to put a timestamp on this.


Thanks, everybody.

I didn't get to anybody on the phones, but I can try to fix that for the afternoon.