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Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing, March 7, 2022

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY:  Hey there everybody.  Couple things here at the top.  Let me get this thing working.  OK.  Let's, see?  OK.  So, I want to be -- to announce that over the weekend, Secretary Austin ordered the deployment from the United States of an additional approximately 500 U.S.  military personnel to locations in Europe to augment U.S. forces that are already in theater.

These additional personnel are being positioned to respond obviously to the current security environment caused by Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.  And certainly, to help reinforce and bolster deterrence and defense capabilities of the NATO alliance.

These as all the other ones we've talked about in recent weeks are not permanent moves.  They are temporary moves.  And we're going to adjust our posture continuously as conditions require.  And as President Biden has noted before, we are not and will not send forces into Ukraine.

So, these additional personnel will be going to NATO's Eastern Flank.  Specifically, we'll be sending a number of KC-135 refueling aircraft out of Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane.  They will deploy with approximately 150 personnel.  They're scheduled right now.  They're planned right now to deploy to Souda Bay, Greece to provide additional area or fueling support to the commander of U.S.  European Command.

This 500 will also include an air support operation center out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.  They'll comprise basically 40 personnel.  Right now, they're planning to deploy to Poland into Romania, and again to help provide additional command and control for U.S.  European Command flight operations.  And then lastly, about 300 personnel will be making up a modular ammunition ordnance company out of Fort Bragg.  And as support maintenance company out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.

They'll be going to Germany to provide additional logistic support to the First Armored Brigade Combat Team Third Infantry Division already deployed there.  And we've already talked about.  Again, these are purely defensive forces.  These are specifically the ones we're talking about today are enablers.  And we said before when we deployed the additional 7,000, that there would be associated enablers with them.  This is part of that support.

All these posture adjustments are being done, as I think, you know, in full consultation with the NATO allies in question.  OK.  Shifting topics if I could, to the Red Hill storage facility in Hawaii.  Secretary Austin decided today, and you should have the statement.  If you don't, you'll have it shortly.  That directs the Secretary of the Navy in coordination with the Commander of the United States Indo Pacific Command to take all steps necessary to de-fuel and to permanently close the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility in Hawaii.

I know many of you are tracking the importance that leaders across the Department of Defense have placed on that November leak and the contamination that resulted from it.  Secretary the Deputy Secretary leaders from across the Department of Defense and Navy as well as Indo PACOM remain very, very focused on this issue.  And the impact that it's had on families, communities, and of course, our responsibilities in both national security and being good stewards of our resources in the environment.

Throughout this process, the department's approach has been guided by a commitment to protect the population, the environment, and the security of the country.  And goals that are mutually supportive.  As the Secretary outlined in his direction to the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense launched a thorough review of the facility's long-term future.  Work that was grounded in analysis and completely aligned with our focus.

So, a few points on today's decision.  First, national security, we will defuel Red Hill and reposition the fuel to land and afloat locations.  This will meet our national security objectives by better positioning the United States to meet future challenges in the Pacific region.  While ensuring environmental stewardship and protecting the population.  Secondly, as the Secretary noted, we're going to be able to take care of our people in the community.

We are committed to mitigating the impacts of the November incident.  And we are restoring safe drinking water to all affected residents and providing best in class sampling and testing to ensure the continued safety of the drinking water.  And finally, we're going to complete environmental mitigation efforts for the Red Hill drinking water well in any other impacted areas.  And continue to engage the community on land use.

One additional note which I believe many of you are tracking.  The Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet has directed a command investigation into the releases and contamination of the water supply.  When that review is complete, the Navy will publicly release the report and continue to work closely with the Department of Health in Hawaii, about pursuing follow on actions. That work continues.

I want to end by noting that the Secretary's decision is not considered by the department to be some sort of quick fix.  We have work to do.  We know that.  Across the enterprise with elected officials from Hawaii and local organizations, and of course, with our military families.  Many of whom have suffered as a result of that leak and that contamination.

We're going to stay transparent, as fully transparent on this work as we can.  We're going to continue to update you and them as actions are taken.  But we do believe that this decision by the Secretary today marks a significant first step in the path forward.  With that take questions.  Bob.

Q:  Thank you, John.  On Ukraine, why don't you give the -- discuss sort of the overall direction of the Russian campaign in Ukraine?  I'm thinking in particular, for example, their increased use of long-range fires, artillery, and rockets in recent days.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.

Q:  Is this an adjustment by them?  Is this a new phase of the war?  Are they compensating for problems in other areas?  Or how would you describe the thrust of what they're -- where they are right now,

MR. KIRBY:  With the caveat, Bob, we don't have perfect visibility into Russian plans.  What we believe is happening as the Russians continue to get frustrated and slow down.  And they really haven't made any noteworthy progress in the last few days.  With the exception of down south.  In the south, they continue to have some progress, but up in the north and northeast, what we assess is as they continue to get frustrated, they continue to rely now more on what we would call long range fires.

So, this is bombardment, missile strikes, long range artillery, into city centers that they aren't in yet, at least not on the ground in any significant number.  So, we're seeing that and of course that has been leading to and as you would expect, it would when you're relying more on long range fires.  You're going to cause more damage, and you're going to kill more people and injured more people.  And so that's what we think is happening.

That's what we're seeing them do.  And we think it's because again, they have not been able to make up for the lost time that they continue to suffer from on the ground in terms of the advancement of ground forces.

Q:  And they have not taken control of any cities?  Is that...

MR. KIRBY:  I wouldn't say no cities.  I mean, we do assess that Curzon fell to the Russians.  Around the coast of the Sea of Azov, a town called Berdiansk, we believe that they have control over.  And certainly, that we anticipate -- we believe that they're in control of that power plant up near the Dnieper River that we talked about last week.

So, some smaller towns as they continue their advanced down south.  In the north we do not see them have any control over Kyiv, Kharkiv.  Still a lot of heavy fighting outside Kharkiv.  Of course, Kharkiv is really becoming victim to a lot of these long-range fires.  And then in that town to the northeast of Kiev called Chernihiv, they still are attempting to encircle the city, but they have not taken it yet.  So again, I think down south you see them have a little bit more success and some control over some local population centers.

But up in the north, not so much.  The other one that I would note is Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, just to the south of Donbass.  We believe that they very much are aimed on taking Mariupol.  Mariupol is a violent place to be right now, this is another location for long range fires and bombardment.  You've heard the mayor himself talk about power outages and water supply problems.

We believe that they are trying to encircle Mariupol as well, but they have not done it yet.  Jen.

Q:  John, have you seen any evidence that Russian's morale among the troops is low?  We've seen some reports.  But have you seen any evidence of that?  And how would you characterize that convoy, the 40-mile-long convoy north of Kyiv?  If it doesn't have tanks in that convoy.  Where are those tanks?  Where did they go?

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, I don't have perfect visibility on the convoy.  We're watching it with much the same imagery that you are.  We believe that the main purpose of it was resupply.  So, it does when you look at the images from the air, you can see a lot of it.  But they don't they don't look like armored vehicles so much as they look like resupply trucks.

That's not to say that there aren't combat vehicles in there.  We don't have perfect visibility on it.  But the assessment is that it was largely meant to help resupply and it is still stalled.  It is still stuck.  We don't assess over the course of the weekend that it has made any progress.  And I'm sorry, you had another one.

Q:  On morale?

MR. KIRBY:  Morale.  We certainly see what's in the open press that you see about anecdotal evidence that some soldiers are flagging in their morale.  We have also picked up other indications as well, on our own, that morale continues to be a problem for many of the Russian forces.  Particularly up in the north and the east.

It is not clear to us that all of the soldiers that Russia has put into Ukraine, realize that that's what they were doing.  That they were actually going to invade Ukraine.  It's not clear to us that they had full visibility on the mission that which they were being assigned.

Q:  And again, if that convoy was a resupply convoy, and not really armored vehicles.  Where were those columns of tanks that were supposed to encircle Kiev?  Were they sent elsewhere?

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, I don't know if that's a better question for the Russian Ministry of Defense.  We don't have perfect visibility in terms of what they're moving, and what alternative routes they might have taken.  And I don't want to leave you with the idea that we know perfectly what each and every vehicle is in there.

It looks to be like our assessment is that it's largely meant for resupply, but I can't rule out that there aren't combat vehicles.  That's a very, very long convoy.  We don't even know if it's all -- we can't even say that it is all one convoy, and not several.  But it does remain as our best assessment as it remains stalled.  Fadi ?

Q:  Thank you, John.  So, in the reports about efforts by the Russians to recruit Syrian fighters to fight in Ukraine.  First of all, what do you have to say about these reports?  And based on your knowledge did this effort start before the war, or after the war?  And who are these fighters they're seeking to recruit?  Are they from the Syrian military?  Or what is your understanding of this?

MR. KIRBY:  I can't speak for Russian recruiting efforts, Fadi.  We do believe that the accounts of them, the Russians seeking Syrian fighters to augment their forces in Ukraine.  We believe there's truth to that.  So, it's interesting that, that Mr.  Putin would have to find himself relying on foreign fighters here, who they are going to be?

How many they're getting?  What they're going to pay them?  All of that we don't have perfect visibility on.  But we're in no position to refute the accounts that they might be seeking to recruit Syrian fighters.

Q:  And since you mentioned that it's kind of interesting that he's -- the Russian President is trying to rely on foreign fighters.  Do you have an assessment, despite all the troops he has inside of Ukraine now, why he has to go and tap into foreign fighters, especially in Syria?

MR. KIRBY:  I can't get inside Mr.  Putin's head.  He has pretty much all the combat power that he assessed, I'm sorry that he assembled.  Our assessment is he has pretty much all of it inside Ukraine now, the ground forces in particular.  So, he has an awful lot of combat power available to him.  We still assess that he has the vast majority of that combat power available to him.

I can't begin to speculate why he would find it necessary to seek help from foreign fighters.  We do believe, as I said to Jen, that they are having morale problems.  They are having supply problems.  They are having fuel problems.  They're having food problems.  They are meeting a very stiff and determined Ukrainian resistance.  And we still maintain that they are several days behind what they probably thought they were going to be in terms of their progress.

But I can't honestly -- I cannot get inside, you know, Mr.  Putin's brain as to why he would find it necessary to seek support from foreign fighters.  David.

Q:  John, on this issue of Polish aircraft to Ukraine.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.

Q:  A number of U.S.  officials have said this is under active discussion about how the U.S.  might backfill.  We just went back and looked at some previous statements by Polish officials.  On Sunday, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland tweeted Poland won't send its fighter jets to Ukraine.

On March 1, the President of Poland said we are not sending any jets to Ukraine.  So, what are we talking about here?  I mean, it sounds like this is flogging a dead horse.  Is this really a proposition on the table?

MR. KIRBY:  I can't speak for Polish leadership.  But David, what we've said is that this will be a sovereign decision for a nation state to make.  Whether it's Poland or anybody else, that should they want to provide aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force, that's a sovereign decision that they can make.  The United States is not going to stand in the way of that.

There is -- there was discussion about if a nation such as Poland were to do this, would there be a capacity for the United States to backfill those aircraft with American made aircraft?  And what I can tell you is because I can only speak for the Department of Defense is that we are part of an interagency discussion to examine that possibility.

No decisions have been made.  Certainly, none that we're aware of by Poland even, as you pointed out in your quotes there.  But we are having a discussion about should a nation like Poland want to do this?  And should there be a desire or a need for some sort of backfill of assets.  You know, what would that look like?  How would we do that?  How many?  From where?

Those are the kinds of things we're talking about right now.

Q:  One other question on aircraft transfers.  Former NATO Commander General Breedlove has said the Ukrainians, some Ukrainians have been trained to fly the A-10.  There are, I think he said six A-10s in storage available for transfer to Ukraine.  Is that under consideration?

MR. KIRBY:  I have not heard anything about A-10s.  And I can't verify the number that are quote unquote, "in storage." Yes.

Q:  Hey John.  I wanted to ask about Red Hill.  Wonder if there are relief or assistance might still be available to affected military families?  And you also mentioned environmental mitigation.  Can you give us a sense of the scope of what needs to be done on that site?  And how long it might take or even a dollar figure that we're talking about?

MR. KIRBY:  Can't give you much of a dollar for your timeline.  We're -- so what -- here's what -- let me just talk process for you.  But before I do that, the impact of families obviously is foremost on everybody's mind.  And I don't want to speak for the Navy.  They're working very, very hard to get these families back safely to their homes and to take care of them where they are.

So, I would refer you to Navy just to speak to the specifics of that.  But as I said, and you'll see it in the Secretary's memo.  I mean, taking care of these folks is of paramount concern to him.  So, what's going to happen here, and this will -- this is a long way of getting to your question.  Which is to say I can't answer it specifically.  But just so you understand process.

There was already an assessment team that was in place to determine what it would take to get Red Hill operational again.  Because as you know, we suspended operations back in December.  So, it hasn't been in use since December.  That assessment team will now shift their focus to help us figure out what it takes to de-fuel it.  In other words, to get operational, capacity back up again, for the purpose of de-fueling.  Not for continuing operations for fueling.

We'll get that homework assignment back probably at the end of April.  We'll do the forensics on that, figure out what we need to do.  And then once we have prepared the site for de-fueling, and we know we can do that safely.  We estimate that it will probably take somewhere within 12 months or so to fully de-fuel and close it.

Then once it's closed, we'll begin to work on what land use for it looks like going forward.  And obviously a key part of that is going to be making sure that whatever we do in terms of closing down, that it's done in an environmentally safe way.  All of that is to say that I can't give you beyond the year or so that we know it's going to take to de-fuel once we can start de-fueling.

All the environmental mitigation impacts after that, we're still working -- we have to work our way through that.  And I couldn't possibly give you an estimate on what that's going to cost.

Q:  The financial, I'm sorry, the environmental mitigation, that's financial responsibility of DOD.

MR. KIRBY:  Eventually, yes, that will be -- that would fall on DoD in terms of because we're going to be we're going to be obviously closing down the site.  But I couldn't begin to tell you what the estimate is going to be right now.  All I can tell you is the Secretary is committed to doing this.

He believes this is the right decision, not just for our national security for a more distributed and dispersed fueling capability through the Indo Pacific.  But also, for the environment for a gracious host and neighbors in Hawaii, and of course for our military families.  Janne ?

Q:  Thank you, John.  I have two questions on Ukraine and South Korea.  There are hundreds of South Korean volunteers who kept stated supported to fight the Russian invasion.  Do you have anything on the number of U.S.  volunteers to fight the Russian invasion?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't have an estimate of Americans who might want to be volunteering to go there.  I would say what I said last week.  If you're an American, and you want to do right by Ukraine, the best thing you can do is find a way to donate to so many agencies that are trying to deal with what is now clearly a humanitarian crisis in the region, certainly there in Ukraine.

We still do not believe that Ukraine is a safe place for Americans to go.  We urge them not to go.  And if any are still there, we urge them to leave.

Q:  Another one on North Korea.  I think you know already last week Korea, launched another missile.  How does the United States evaluate North Korea's excessive missile launching?

MR. KIRBY:  These continue to be provocations.  Needless provocations at that.  We urge Pyongyang to cease these missile launches and these provocations.  And signal that they're willing to sit down as we are without preconditions to find a negotiated way forward here.  And a path -- a diplomatic path to reduce the tensions on the peninsula.  Yes.  Tom.

Q:  Which Tom?

QUESTION:  Which ever Tom won.

MR. KIRBY:  I was looking at use Squitieri.  But I -- if you guys want to trade off, it's up to you.

Q:  You get one I get one.

Q:  I get two.

Q:  I'd like to follow up on his question that finds a comment about extra forces.  What would Pentagon's assessment be if Putin begins drawing troops from the remainder of Russia, then we're not preposition to go into Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY:  What would our position be?

Q:  No what would your observation and analysis be if that move was made by him?

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, Tom, I don't want to speculate about future decisions that -- what I would -- look, I would just tell you, Tom.  We've assessed that he's got nearly all the mass combat power that he assembled inside Ukraine.  I haven't seen anything or any indication that he's pulling from elsewhere in the country.  And I don't want to get ahead of where we actually are right now.

This is not -- this is a Russian military invasion here.  And it's difficult for us to know, with great specificity on any given day what Mr.  Putin is going to do tomorrow, or the next day after that.  And I just don't want to get ahead of where we are.

Q:  My second question is regarding Moldova, it's two parts.  The -- have preparations began yet to withdraw the National Guard and their training the Moldovan forces.  And if not, what changes in the training have the National Guard been doing with the Moldova forces?

MR. KIRBY:  On the terms of training, I'd refer you to the National Guard.  I don't have a menu of the kinds of training that they do in Moldova.  And I don't have any change to their posture.

Q:  But they're staying there at this point?

MR. KIRBY:  To the best of my knowledge.  I don't know of any changes.

Q:  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Tom.

Q:  John, there's a continual uptick in civilian casualties in Ukraine.  Do you get a sense that Russians are actually targeting civilians as President Zelensky says?  Or is it miscalculation or a little bit of both?  And we talked earlier about long term -- long range fires.  How much of that has to -- do you have a sentence with the increased civilian casualties?

MR. KIRBY:  I think we absolutely assess that the reliance on long range fires.  And I know that's a very wonky turn with artillery missile strikes.  You know, rocket attacks are having an increased effect on civilian casualties, and the damage and destruction of civilian infrastructure, be it homes, churches, hospitals, schools.

We see that increasing for sure.  And we do believe that it's a direct result of their increasing reliance on these long-range fires.  Now, the degree to which we can prove that these are incidental versus intentional, I don't think we've got that sense with any great fidelity, Tom.  So, it would be imprudent for me to speculate that we know for sure that a given target was intentional or not.

And I understand the context of the question, the bottom line is, more civilians are being killed and wounded.  More civilian infrastructure is being damaged or destroyed.  And Mr.  Putin still has a choice here, not to escalate.  And not to be more aggressive in the use of these long-range fires and his capabilities.  But to find a diplomatic path forward and end the invasion?

Q:  (Inaudible) or military targets they're going after now happen to be in more residential civilian areas, or you just don't know?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't have perfect visibility into their targeting process.  But look, clearly if you're having to rely on long range fires to go after cities because you can't move into city centers right now.  And you're even if pure as the driven snow you're going to go after just military and government targets in a big city like Kyiv or Kharkiv, you are increasing the chances that even in the best of your target and that you're going to miss.  And you're going to hit targets that you didn't intend to hit.  I'm not -- not making excuses for Mr.  Putin's targeting here.  We can't prove on any given day how much is indiscriminate and how much is intentional.  Bottom line is, more people are getting hurt, more damage is being done.  More people are having to now flee their country.

And all of it -- all of it, Tom, intentional or not, was completely unavoidable [AVOIDABLE], completely unavoidable {AVOIDABLE], and, frankly, can still be unavoidable [AVOIDABLE] going forward if Mr.  Putin does the right thing.  Take his troops out, stop the invasion and sit down and try to find a negotiated way forward.

Q:  Can I follow up on that?

MR. KIRBY:  Sure.

Q:  Jen Psaki said on Friday, I think it was that the U.S.  is looking into whether they're -- Russia is intentionally targeting civilians.  Talking about potential some (serve ?) in the ICC action here.  Is DoD providing information to this review that's ongoing?  Are you looking for actual evidence that the Russians are targeting civilians for potential criminal court?

MR. KIRBY:  Not that I'm aware of.

Q:  And then second thing back to the jets.  Is -- can DoD say whether there are F-16s in an inventory right now that are not yet dedicated or supposed to go to some other country?  Or go to the United States or something that could be sent to Poland in a quick way?  Jen Psaki was also asked about that today.

And she was talking about the logistical hurdles and how it can take years to transfer weapon systems and aircraft to other countries.  So, I'm sure at this point now, this is in several days.  There's got to be some knowledge right now, if they're even F-16s to provide to Poland quickly.

MR. KIRBY:  I think we're still working our way through all that, Court.  We don't have -- it's too soon to know, with great specificity, what a potential backfill would look like.  But we're just not there in the discussions even within our own interagency, much less with a nation like Poland.  So, you know, it would depend on how many they would need.  It would depend on how long they would need them.

And then you'd have to look at where in inventory could you possibly provide that.  And Jens right.  I mean, if we're talking about a permanent sale, that can take some time.  We're just not there yet.  I mean, I appreciate the question, but we're just not prepared to answer it right now.

Q:  Is there a process for speeding up a sale like that?  I mean, I'm sure there's got to be some sort of a process, right?  That would exist in DOD to...

MR. KIRBY:  That, as you know, foreign military sales are done by the State Department, not by the Department of Defense.  Yes.

Q:  Follow up on this.  Has there been any discussions with Poland with respect to this...

MR. KIRBY:  With what?

Q:  With Polish government or Polish Defense Ministry with respect to these types of like transferring jets to Ukraine and then backfilling?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, we're at the beginning of a process here to determine what might be the right way forward.  I just don't have any more detail for you.

Q:  Also, Polish government is categorically denying this type (inaudible).  What triggered the interagency assessment in the United States if the Polish have actually no interest in doing something like this?

MR. KIRBY:  As I said, I think you all saw President Zelensky held a call with lawmakers and one of the things that he talked about was his desire for more material and to include aircraft.  And so we're having a prudent discussion about if there would be a request to backfill for a nation, what that might look like.

Q:  So, you're responding to what Zelensky said not to anything, the Polish government might have said?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not going to get into international discussions.  I'm telling you that we're looking at this.  No decisions have been made.

Q:  The 500 Troops, you said these are being positioned to respond to the current security environment.  An environment caused by a Russian invasion of Ukraine.  (Inaudible) is actually way in South Flank of the NATO.  Why not like -- you position those tankers close to the theater where the tension is going on?  But way south.  Wasn't there any other positions or locations.

MR. KIRBY:  I'm happy to -- these are decision made by the European Command Commander, General Wolters.  And as forces get added to the theater, General Wolters is best able to determine where he wants to put them and how he wants to employ them.  I think I'll leave it at that.  Yes.

Q:  If I could follow on Fadi’s question on Syrian recruits.  What is it that led you to believe that Russia is trying to recruit Syrian fighters?  Is it based on some sort of evidence that you've seen or just the Russian...

MR. KIRBY:  We have indicators.  We have indications I'll leave it at that

Q:  Does it indicate what general areas Northwest or the Kurdish controlled area or under Syrian regime?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not going to have any more detail for you on that today.  Jeff Schogol.

Q:  Thank you, can you say what steps the Defense Department is going to take to help Navy families and other families on Hawaii, who are worried about the long-term health issues that they may face from the contaminated drinking water?

And also, the state of Hawaii has asked that Red Hill be de-fueled in 30 days.  If I heard you right, it sounds as if once the Defense Department determines when it can begin de-fueling the process is expected to take a year?  Is it accurate to say that it is impossible to the fuel the facility in 30 days?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  By the end of April, Jeff, we will get an assessment of what safe operation of the facility will look like and what needs to be done to get it back into safe operations.  It is shut down right now.  And in order to de-fuel it, you got be able to operate it.  And so, we have to know what safe operation looks like.  We won't get that assessment until the end of April.

Once we get that assessment, we'll review it.  We will comply with the requirements that the assessment team comes back with in terms of how to get the plant the facility back operational again.  Once it's operational, again, we will de-fuel it and we will close it.  And we estimate that that will take -- we can do that within 12 months.

As for the families, I think you've seen it in the Secretary's memo himself.  I mean, we owe these families our very best attention to make sure that they get the medical care they need for the way in which this contamination has affected their health.  We are 100 percent committed to that.  Tony Capaccio.

Q:  Hey.  Hey, John, a couple questions.  Is there a regular ongoing overland resupply effort going on right now into Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY:  There are -- there continue to be Tony.  Efforts by the United States and other nations to continue to provide security assistance material to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.  I'm not going to talk about the manner in which that material is getting to them, but we know it's getting to them.  And that they are able to use it.

Q:  Are the Russians at all trying to interdict or interrupt those -- that overland traffic?

MR. KIRBY:  That traffic and that material continues to flow.

Q:  Another quick question.  Do you have any sense of how much Russian armor has been destroyed in the -- since the invasion?  And has that destruction been a contributing factor to the offenses of bogging down?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't have a count of how many vehicles or armored vehicles or combat vehicles or supply vehicles the Russians have lost.  What I can tell you is that on the ground in the north, they continue to experience delays.  They continue to experience a stiff resistance.  And they continue to experience logistics and sustainment challenges of their own, that have slowed them down.

But I couldn't give you a vehicle count.  Look, the other thing is, even if I could, it wouldn't be smart for me to do that.  Because every day the Ukrainians are fighting.  Every day, they're in combat for their own country.  And every day, they do what they can to continue to slow down Russian advances.

So, whatever, even if I had a number, whatever I would give you today, would probably not be good tomorrow.

Q:  All right, but they're destroying armor.  Is that right?  Can we say that?  Can you say that?

MR. KIRBY:  I think you can see for yourself when you just look at the imagery coming out of there the damage that they have been able to do to some Russian vehicles.

Q:  OK.  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Demetri.

Q:  Hi, John.  You said that nearly 100 percent of the Russian combat power is now in Ukraine.  So, I'm curious, what route the new forces coming in recent days?  Do you expect a fresh Russian effort to take Kyiv now that all their forces are in the country?  And then secondly, you talked about increased use of long-range fires.  Are you also seeing increased use of Russian combat aircraft or other kinds of warplanes in Ukraine or has that remained kind of static?

MR. KIRBY:  On the routes, Demetri, most of what we've seen introduced in the last several days were introduced from the north of Ukraine.  I think that's about the best way I can characterize that.  And on Russian aircraft, I would say the airspace over Ukraine remains contested.  The Russians have not achieved air superiority over the whole country.  It is dynamic.  It changes day to day.

But Ukrainian aircraft are flying.  Russian aircraft are flying.  Missiles from both are also in the airspace very contested.  I don't have the Russian Air Operations Plan.  So, I can't tell you with any specificity on any given day, how many of their aircraft are up and flying and what missions are conducting.  But clearly, and you can again -- you guys can see this for yourself.

And in the imagery coming out of Ukraine.  I mean, the Russians continue to be able to fly their aircraft, but it is contested.  And it is contested by the Ukrainians.  Let's see Oscar from the Polish Press Agency.

Q:  Thanks.  Thanks.  So, I wanted to ask, Dr. Karlin, recently said in Congress that you are going to have to review the -- redo the global posture review in light of the new realities.  And some lawmakers and governments today (inaudible) have been pushing for permanent U.S. presence on the Eastern Flank.  Is that something that's being considered?

And if and when could we see the results of this overhaul?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  I think you might be misunderstanding a little bit of what Dr.  Karlin said.  She -- I don't think she said we have to redo the global posture view.  She said that certainly in the wake of this invasion, it would be wise for us to take a look at our European posture.  That makes a lot of sense, given what we're seeing right now and at the appropriate time we'll do that.

It's not the time now to be looking at redrawing the posture map of Europe. Right now, we're focused on making sure that we can better bolster the capabilities of the alliance.  And that's what we're doing, including with those 500 troops I just talked about today.  But certainly, we would be taking into consideration it over the long term, whether or not European posture does need any adjustments.

No decisions have been made, about changing any permanent presence in Europe, whether it's in Latvia or anywhere else.  So, we're focused on making sure that we can continue to help Ukraine defend itself and continue to make sure that NATO can defend itself.  That's what our focus is on right now.  Jared, from Al Monitor.

Q:  Hi John.  Just wondering if you give us an assessment, how effective has U.S.  and Western support to Ukrainian resistance been slowing down the Russians?  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  All I can tell you, Jared, is that we know that the material that we have been sending into Ukraine.  And it's not just us, it's 14 other countries.  But we know that, that material is getting into the hands of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

And we do know that they're using it, and they're using it quite effectively.  The results you can see for yourself.  I think I'd again, just leave it at that.  Meghann, Military Times?

Q:  The last figure you have for us about the number of U.S.  troops who've been put on heightened alert to possibly go to Europe was between 10,000 and 12,000.  Is that the same now?  Or have there been more troops put on that alert?

MR. KIRBY:  I know of no other units that were put on additional PTDO Meghann.  Caitlin, Stars and Stripes?

Q:  John, thank you.  Yes, I'm wanting to talk a little bit more about the jet and Poland situation.  Can you talk a little bit about the logistics and the problems and challenges that the U.S. would face to do that backfill?  Jen Psaki, today talked a little bit about, you know, talking about where the planes would depart from?  Could they fly to NATO airspace?  Can you talk a little bit about those problems?

MR. KIRBY:  I would just say again, we're very early on in a discussion here about a possibility.  It's not even a done deal at this point.  But it's just a discussion about the possibility of should there be a nation that would want to give aircraft to the Ukrainians and would ask for a backfill from the United States.  Should that happen, what would that look like?  How would we do that?

And we don't have all the answers right now.  I understand the great interest in it.  But the truth is we're very early on in in a discussion right now about what the possibilities of that could be.  We just don't have enough granularity to be able to make tough -- easy decisions right now about how many aircraft?  Where they would come from?  How they would get to where they're going?  We're just not there yet.

Look, I think it's -- we should all just kind of step back just a little bit here.  And rather than get dragged down into the idea of backfill of aircraft, just take a look writ large about what's going on here.  Ukraine is in a significant fight for its country and its citizens.  The United States, and many other nations are doing a lot to try to help them in that fight.  And President Zelensky has shown great courage and poise and leadership by staying in Kiev and truly leading his country through this.

And what I can tell you is that from the United States perspective, certainly from the Department of Defense, but I'd say across the administration.  We're going to continue to look for ways to help Ukraine defend itself.  We're not always going to have all the answers in the moment that they become news.  But it doesn't mean that we're not going to take them seriously and consider them and look at them and see what can be done.

The other thing that we're doing, and I hope it's clear, in the brief announcement I had today.  We're going to continue to look for ways to bolster NATO.  To look for ways innovative ways, creative ways to make sure that Mr. Putin understands how seriously we take Article Five.  And how seriously we take our collective security requirements inside that alliance.  How seriously we consider the importance of alliances and partnerships.

We've invested a lot of time in the last year in revitalizing alliances and partnerships in Europe and around the world.  And I think you're really seeing that bear fruit right now.  I just think it's important to keep a little bit bigger perspective on this, and not just get dragged down into the particular headline of the day.

Q:  All right.  Well...

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.  Last question.

Q:  Thanks, John.  You know that bombardment has been increasing in Ukraine.  A senior defense officials said that earlier.  We also know that the Russians used bombers and other aircraft attack ground targets, at least earlier on in the invasion.  Can you say at this point what role Russian aircraft seemed to be playing in the bombardment of these populations...

MR. KIRBY:  Again, it's difficult for me to get into a tactical level briefing of what Russian operations look like.  We don't have perfect visibility.  What I can tell you, Matt, is that we continue to see Russian air forces participate in this invasion.  They continue to launch weapons.  They continue to conduct attacks in support of Russian objectives inside Ukraine.

I can't tell you on any given day, what that looks like, how many aircraft?  How many sorties?  How many munitions dropped?  We don't have that -- we just don't have that information.  But they clearly are and continue to be a part of the Russian Arsenal that's being applied against the people of Ukraine, no doubt about that.  What I would tell you is, and I think I said this last week, I think it remains true today.  We aren't seeing the level of integration between air and ground operations that you would expect to see.  In other words, they're -- not everything they're doing on the ground is fully being supported by what they're doing in the air.  There does seem to be some disconnects there.

So, it's not clear to us how significant their air operations are being in helping alleviate the lack of progress that they're having on the ground.  Because they don't seem to be fully coordinated between air and ground elements.  But beyond that, I really -- I couldn't give you much more specifics.  OK.

Q:  John.  John you just told Demetri that forces are coming in from the north.  Did you just mean for Russia or also from Belarus?

MR. KIRBY:  I think we -- over the last few days we've seen them come in from both.

Q:  OK.  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.  OK.  Thanks, everybody.

Q:  Thank you.

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