An official website of the United States Government
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Transcript

Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing, March 9, 2022

March 9, 2022
Senior Defense Official

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We're on day 14 of Russia’s invasion. We have to date seen more than 710 missile launches in all different varieties, still about evenly split from being launched inside Ukraine to being from -- launched inside Russia. Again, just more than 70, not a real significant change from yesterday in terms of what ones are being launched from Belarus, and then no change from missiles being launched from the Black Sea; still at a half a dozen, no change from yesterday.

No real ground progress to speak to except in a couple of places. We do believe that -- that around Kharkiv they are, we assess, to be just outside the -- the city now. They appear to have gained about 20 kilometers' worth of distance since the last time we talked, so -- but they're -- they're not -- we don't assess -- I mean, it's still heavy, heavy fighting there. We don't assess that they've taken the city by any means, but they have closed in on it.

The same can be said, a little -- about Mykolaiv down in the south. We did see them -- we did see them, over the last 24 hours, advance farther to the north of -- of Mykolaiv, and we estimate that they're about 15 kilometers away, but to the north of Mykolaiv, and they have increased their shelling of -- of the city. Again, this is fairly obvious to all of you and -- who have reporters on the ground, but -- but we have seen that.

No significant movements towards Kyiv. Basically, we are where we were yesterday, and no significant changes with respect to Chernihiv to the northeast. Again, the -- a lot of fighting there. They have not isolated Chernihiv, but they clearly appear to be trying to do that.

No change to the amphibious questions regarding the -- Odesa and the Black Sea. We see no evidence that there's any kind of an imminent amphibious assault afoot. And on Mariupol down there in the south, we still maintain -- again, no change from yesterday. We still maintain that it's isolated, and there is a stiff Ukrainian resistance going on. And yes, I mean, as I said yesterday, they continue to -- to -- to shell and bombard the city.

No major changes to the air picture except for the missile count that I gave you; still contested. The -- the Russians have not gained air superiority over the whole country. Let me see if there's anything else here. Nope, I think that's probably it. Not a lot of -- not a lot of new stuff to -- to speak to, so we'll get to questions.

Bob?

Q: Thank you. I'm wondering if you -- we could revisit the question of Poland and the MiGs and Ukraine and so forth. Having seen [the] statement -- having seen the statement from -- from yesterday, it -- would it be right to say that this whole question of sending MiG fighters to Ukraine via NATO or any NATO country is now a dead letter? Or are you considering -- are you looking at ways to make it more tenable?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I would just point you back to what I said last night, which is that we continue to -- to -- to consult with our -- our -- our Polish counterparts, and -- and -- and I really don't have anything more on this -- on this proposal to -- to speak to outside what I -- outside what I said last night. Now, if -- if that changes, you know, I'll -- I'll certainly talk about it, but I would just point you back to what I said last night. There's been -- there's been no appreciable change in the situation, no final decision one way or another.

Q: One -- one quick follow-up, if I might. Is there any update -- do you have any update on whether the $350 million in security assistance has been fully delivered yet?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: As I understand it, we are very, very close to -- to closing it out, but not yet. I think in coming days.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah.

Tom Bowman?

Q: I want to ask you about air defenses. A Ukrainian official I spoke with said they really need more sophisticated air defenses, number one.

And apparently there's a letter written by retired U.S. generals asking that the S-300 system, more of that be sent to Ukraine.

Anything on either?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I've not seen this letter by retired generals on the S-300, so I -- I'm not going to comment on something we haven't seen. What I would tell you, Tom, is we continue to talk to the Ukrainians ourselves about their defensive needs, and we're -- we're doing the best we can to meet them with stuff that we can get our hands on and that we have. And we're also working closely with allies and partners in and outside the region to try to address other -- other capabilities that the -- that the Ukrainians are asking for and they need.

Because there are some other countries that have -- have inventory that -- that more closely match theirs. And I think I would leave it at that, since we don't have -- we don't have any specific announcements to make. And clearly, if this was something that another country were -- were going to provide, we would leave it to that country to speak to it.

But I can tell you that we are actively having discussions with allies and partners who -- who have systems that we believe could be useful to the Ukrainians, to include air defense, about what the possibilities are, but, again, nothing specific to speak to.

The -- the takeaway there is that we're paying attention and we're listening. And we understand that they -- that they continue to have requirement -- requirements. And we're doing the best we can to meet them.

Q: Could I just quickly follow up? So these would go, clearly -- these would be more sophisticated, going beyond just mere Stingers, correct?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'm -- I'm -- it would be -- it would be additional air defense capabilities. And I'm just not going to go into more detail than that.

Q: Okay, got it, thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Mike Brest?

Q: Good morning. Yesterday, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they're concerned Russian forces are trying to gain control over what she called, quote, "biological research facilities," unquote.

What can you tell us about these facilities?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, the Russian narrative that they've put out there is that the -- that the United States is somehow running or facilitating, you know, biological weapons labs in Ukraine and that these labs are gonna pose a threat to them.

This is of a piece of the Russian playbook here, claim they're the victims; create a false narrative to try to justify their own aggressive actions. It is absurd. It is laughable. It is untrue.

David Martin?

Q: A couple things. Is there any assessment on what difference Polish MiG-29s would make in the air war?

There are some groups now that are saying they have evidence that Russia has started dropping dumb bombs. Do you have any confirmation of that?

And, last, yesterday you gave us a percentage of combat power that -- of Russian combat power that remains intact. What is that percentage today?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Look, on the -- on the aircraft, I mean, I would just -- I would put it this way. We believe that -- that we are working very hard to get the Ukrainians the -- the capabilities that -- that they need and that they are using with -- with great effect. And that's where our focus is on.

They do have fixed-wing aircraft available to them. Still, the majority of their fleet is still intact and operable. As I said, the airspace is contested. And as I said yesterday, the Russians have a surface-to-air missile umbrella that virtually cover the whole country.

And while I can't speak to the Ukrainian air plan, one has to assume that they're taking that into effect before they decide to fly manned aircraft. So we believe our focus is -- is on the right things, the right kind of capabilities that they need to defend themselves both in the air and on the ground. And that's where -- that's where we're going to go.

And as I've said, you know, before, as we've said before, look, if another nation wants to consider the provision of aircraft, I mean, that's a sovereign decision that they can make and they should make on their own, in -- in consultation with Ukraine. But I don't have anything more to add than -- on that topic than what [was in] the statement last night.

On the -- on the dumb bombs, we -- we do have indications that -- that the Russians are in fact dropping some dumb munitions, if you will -- in other words, not -- not precision-guided. It is -- it's not totally clear whether that is by design or by default because they're -- because they are potentially suffering casualties to their precision-guided capabilities.

So -- I mean -- I don't mean casualties -- that they're experiencing fault in -- in the precision-guided targeting process.

So -- but, yes, we have seen indications that they have -- that they have dropped dumb bombs. And of course, while we can't prove a certain bomb -- a dumb bomb is hitting a certain target, you know, the -- what we see manifested by this increasingly aggressive bombardment and -- and missile launches by the Russians, what we see manifested is increasing damage to civilian infrastructure and -- and civilian casualties. And it's not aided -- certainly that process cannot be considered aided by the -- the use of dumb bombs.

And as for the percentage, I would just say that we still assess that they have greater than 90 percent of their available combat power ready for use. And I'd leave it at that.

Jared Serbu?

Q: Thanks for doing this. Just wondering if you -- wondering if you could confirm, you had mentioned there were -- specifically from the Black Sea region, you had mentioned there were a half a dozen missiles fired into Ukraine from that region, but none in the last 24 hours. That's half a dozen total? Just wanted to confirm that, and then I have a quick follow-up. Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, it's half a dozen total since the beginning of the invasion 14 days ago.

Q: Got it, thanks. And is there any assessment on how effective Turkey's invoking of the Montreux Convention has been, since Russian forces are obviously still in that region? Any assessment on that? Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I -- I -- I don't think -- I don't know what you mean by invoking. The -- the -- the Turks haven't made a -- a -- as -- as far as I know, they haven't made any proclamations about -- about applying the Montreux Convention in any different way since the war began. So I'm -- I -- I'm not -- I'm not tracking any -- any change in the way the Montreux declaration process is -- is working.

Nancy Youssef?

Q: Thank you. The New York Times and the BBC have published a series of maps that show Russia taking control of large swaths of the northeast edge of Ukraine, and increasingly encircling Kyiv. Is the Pentagon assessment remain that the Russian military campaign in the north is stalled? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I -- I think I just gave you guys an update, Nancy. I mean, I -- I said that they've made the -- they -- they have made some progress around Kharkiv, and -- and they've made progress in the south towards -- towards Mykolaiv. They've isolated Mariupol in the south. The fighting around Chernihiv remains very thick, and they are -- and they are around the city of Chernihiv, and the -- and as I said, in terms of Kyiv, we don't -- and we don't see any major changes from -- from yesterday to today. They're still the closest that we assessed that they are; really near that Hostomel airport, so I -- I don't -- I -- I can't speak for the New York Times' and the BBC's maps. I -- I'm -- I -- I'm giving -- I'm -- I'm giving you what -- what we're seeing here on -- on the ground as best I can. But they have not -- I mean, they have made some progress over the last 24 hours, but it's -- it's -- it's not -- it's been uneven, and I think I just laid it all out for you again.

Q: And -- and just to be clear, you mean they've made some progress in the north, in the south, or both, and it's been uneven? Just --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Both. I mean, I think when we look at Kharkiv, we see that they have moved closer to Kharkiv. We now estimate that they're -- they're largely to the -- to the east, and they -- they gained about 20 kilometers over the last 24 hours in terms of proximity. And in the south, as I said, they've moved now to within 15 kilometers of the north of Mykolaiv. They weren't there yesterday. So those are two examples of where they've made progress.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yup.

Tara Copp?

Q: Thank you for doing this this morning. You'd mentioned in your earlier comments that Russia has a surface-to-air missile umbrella over much of Ukraine. Have you seen the S-400 deployed inside Ukraine, or is it still on the outskirts in Russia and Belarus? And can you give us a sense of how big a threat it has been to the Ukrainian Air Force? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I -- I -- I don't have a breakdown of what -- what SAM systems are located in or out. I -- I just don't have that detail, so I'm -- I'm not going to be able to get into that. And I'm sorry. You had a -- you had a -- an associated question with that.

Q: Just in general, how big of a threat has the S-400 been to Ukrainian pilots? There was a report a couple days ago that it had struck one Ukrainian fighter jet. But just wondering overall if it has been one of the -- you know, if it's been effective against the Ukrainian Air Force.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Again, I don't have that level of tactical detail, Tara, to -- to be able to tell you, you know, how much of a specific threat that particular missile system has been. The point I was trying to make is that A, the airspace remains contested; B, the Russians have a -- a pretty extensive surface-to-air missile capability in Ukraine and around Ukraine such that very, very little geography of the country is not covered by some, and usually more than one surface-to-air missile systems. There's -- they overlap.

If you -- if you think of a Venn diagram and you just draw the circle ranges around SAM systems and you were to draw circles around every single one that they've got, you'll -- you would see what we see, which is that almost all of Ukraine is -- can be covered by at least one, and -- and as I said, usually more than one surface-to-air missile system. And that -- that -- that presents a conundrum for any air force that -- that would be wanting to get pilots up in the air and to -- and to conduct missions. We have no -- we -- we don't know specifically what the -- on a day-to-day basis, what the effect on the Ukrainian air plan is. We don't have visibility into that, but we certainly assess that it is a -- a factor that -- that -- that Ukrainians have to be taking into account before they decide to fly -- to fly sorties.

And as I said, they still have the vast majority of their fixed-wing fleet available to them, and operational. Without getting into specific numbers, it is definitely a -- a -- a majority of their fleet available to them. But clearly, they -- you -- you'd have to assume that they're taking into account the surface-to-air missile coverage that the Russians have over their -- over their air -- air space before they make decisions about what -- what missions they're going to fly or not. Again, I just can't break it down for you in terms of a -- a particular system.

Jen Griffin?

Q: Thanks. So how many fighter jets does Ukraine military have? And can you explain how MiGs would be used if they were, you know, given by Poland?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I'm not going to give the inventory for the Ukrainians. We've been very careful about doing that, Jen. I -- I think their order of battle is for them to speak to on any given day, and that would not be appropriate for us to do that, particularly when they are literally in a -- in a fight for their lives. I'm not going to reveal specifics about their capabilities.

And I -- and I would let Ukrainian speak for their desire for these aircraft. I mean, I think President Zelensky has made it clear that he wants them. I -- I think it would be more appropriate to let them speak to the -- to -- to what they would do with them and what their capabilities are.

What I can tell you is we are focusing our efforts in the United States on getting them systems and capabilities that we -- we believe that they are and will continue to use effectively to help defend themselves, and -- and that's what we're focused on. And if it's a capability that -- that we know they need, and we know that they will use and are using and we don't have it, then we're working with allies and partners to see if -- if anybody who does have it, you know, can -- can -- can look at getting it to them.

But -- but again, these are -- as I said, these are sovereign decisions that nation-states have to make and we -- we want to respect that. But I'm going to let -- I'll let the Ukrainians speak to their order of battle, and if there's a particular platform, in this case the MiG, that they're saying they want, I'll let them speak to that.

Q: And, in terms of the $350 million, once that in the coming days has been passed into Ukraine, what comes next? I mean, are you out of money until more is passed by Congress or what -- where do things stand with the current -- the intra flow --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, I don't want to get -- I don't want to get ahead of -- I don't want to get ahead of the decision-making process, but we're going to be working very closely with the Ukrainians about -- about their needs going forward. And I won't get ahead of specific decision that hasn't been made yet.

All I would tell you is we remain committed to helping the Ukrainians get the capabilities they need to defend themselves. I think that's as far as I can go today.

Heather from USNI.

Q: Thanks so much.

I was wondering if you could give us an additional update on any naval business including the reports that a Coast Guard ship on the Ukrainian side was sunk.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I'm afraid I don't have anything more on that, Heather.

As I said, in the maritime environment, we didn't really see any major changes from yesterday, so I'm -- I -- I know you ask every day and I -- and I wish I could help you out with more context, but we just -- on the maritime picture we -- we did not see any major muscle movements overnight that we can speak to.

Jack Detsch?

Q: Hey, just wanted to quickly unpack the stat you threw out about 90 percent of Russian combat power still available. I know you said the 95 percent figure yesterday and so that's not an additional 5 percent destroyed over -- overnight. I just want to make sure I'm understanding you --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I'm being -- I'm being -- I'm giving you rough estimates because that's the best we can do. So you know it could be, you know, 90 percent give or take 1 or 2 percent. I mean it's roughly 90 percent.

So I would implore you not to -- not to apply a level of specificity in mathematical precision to this than any more than we are. We estimate, you know, they've got somewhere around 90 percent of their available combat power still -- still ready for their use.

Q: Thanks.

And then just one thing on -- Zelensky said today that basically the Ukrainians have been capturing Russian armor, Russian equipment and using it to some strategic effect. I'm just wondering if -- if you're seeing that from where you sit at all or you're seeing any sort of high abandonment rate by the Russians of either their vehicles or any other equipment they've brought into the field.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, we assess that they no longer have available to them several hundred vehicles of different stripes and sizes. But where they are, whether they've been captured, destroyed, abandoned, we don't have that kind of a breakdown.

Jeff Schogol?

Q: Thank you.

There is a report on Substack that the National Guard Bureau was instructed to wear OCP camouflage from February 25th to March 7th. The author implied that this meant the National Guard Bureau was on a wartime footing. Can you say whether there were any strategic implications to this uniform change?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Jeff, you got me there. I have -- I have not seen this directive.

Is this about -- this were National Guard that are over in Europe or -- or what -- what's. What are the parameters here, buddy?

Q: So there's a story on Substack, which I'm not really familiar with. A reporter deduced that because on the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that an email went out to the National Guard Bureau staff in Virginia telling them to wear camouflage uniforms the next day, that this signaled a shift in readiness for the entire National Guard and that because the headquarter staff was asked to wear camouflage this implied the National Guard Bureau was getting ready for war.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay. All right. Well, look, I -- I -- I'm going to refer you to the National Guard Bureau to speak to this one. This is the first I've heard of it.

But let me just level set real quick to make it clear. The Department of Defense is focused on two things: one, helping Ukraine defend itself and two, helping NATO defend itself.

The president has been exceedingly clear there will be no U.S. troops fighting in Ukraine. That includes in the skies over Ukraine. Nothing has changed about that policy. No one is looking for an armed conflict with Russia here in the United States, period.

I can't speak to the National Guard uniform policy. I'd have to refer to those guys to speak to that.

Abraham Mahshie?

Q: Yes, thanks a lot.

Two questions. One, if the U.S. gets to an agreement with Poland for swapping MiGs for U.S. aircraft, what would be the source, the bone yard, Air National Guard, a third party?

And secondly, diplomacy is usually done behind closed doors a bit. Why such a forceful rejection of the Polish Ramstein suggestion, saying it's not tenable? 

Thanks a lot.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'm not going to speculate about inventory solutions here, Abraham, on a -- on a -- on a proposal here - has -- has not been advanced. I'm going to -- I'm going to point you back to [yesterday’s] statement and I'm not going to provide additional color [on that].

And as for the way we answered this, we -- we felt it was important to make clear our -- our concerns about the proposal that was put forth in the public by the Polish government. And again, I just leave it at that.

Q: Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Tony Capaccio.

Q: Hi. Couple questions.

Is the -- the lack of -- the dumb bombs being dropped by the Russian Air Force, is that an indication to DOD that Ukrainian air defenses are pretty effective at keeping the planes from being able to loiter in dropping precision-guided munitions, so they're resilient to that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't think you can draw -- I don't think you can draw a connection between the use of dumb bombs -- first of all, I can't quantify that. All I -- all I can say is we have seen indications that at times and at places they are using dumb bombs. We -- we aren't in a position to draw correlations to that, to be able to perfectly explain why that's the case. 

Separate and distinct from that, just as a matter of fact, the Ukrainian air defense system remains viable, it remains effective, and -- and it is because it is viable and effective that the air space over Ukraine remains contested.

Q: Okay. One budget question. There's $3.6 billion in the -- in the Ukraine omnibus to reconstitute and replenish DOD supplies. Can you get a list -- I don't expect you to know this off the top of your head, but can you get a list of what some of that $6 -- $3.6 billion is going to purchase?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't know if we have a list yet, Tony, since this is a -- a breaking development here. But if -- but I will take the question, and if there's something we can provide you, we will. But I don't know how satisfactory it's going to be.

Q: That's fair enough. The $350 million presidential drawdown authority has been delivered to Ukraine. Is another drawdown authority in the works? Has DOD requested that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, this is the same question Jen asked. I just don't have anything additional to speak to specifically and I'm not going to get ahead of -- I'm just not going to get ahead of process here.

Q: Okay, well, just keep on top of that. Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I will do my best to keep on top of that, Tony.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Barbara?

Q: A quick Ukraine question, and then something else, actually.

When you talk about Ukraine's air force, you know, functioning and being capable of a majority of it, does that also translate into them, the majority of their airfields are still functioning?

But first, I would like to ask you. INDOPACOM this morning put out a statement about Korea and -- about their concerns about North Korean missile launches, and then went on to say that the -- INDOPACOM has ordered intensified ISR activities in the Yellow Sea, as well as enhanced readiness amongst ballistic missile -- U.S. ballistic missile defense forces in the region.

Can you tell us a little bit more about what has led to these two moves, increased ISR and enhanced readiness?

And does that mean the ballistic -- U.S. ballistic missile defense forces are in some heightened state of alert?

What -- is it just a number of launches? What -- what has led you to this level of concern?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't have a -- a status update on every airfield in Ukraine. I -- I'm sorry, I just -- that's not something that we're tracking. So I can't tell you with any level of detail --

Q: Yeah, no problem.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Now, on the other thing, all I would -- all I'm going to say about that is that we -- we take our responsibilities to our South Korean allies very, very seriously. The North has been conducting, as you all have documented now, a series of -- of additional launches and tests, provocative launches and tests. And -- and we are -- we are -- we believe we are duty-bound to make sure that the -- that our readiness meets the requirements. And that's as far as I'm going to go. We don't talk about the specifics of -- of our -- of our deterrent posture there, and I'm not going to -- I'm not going to start today by doing that.

Q: Can I just ask -- I understand if you can't answer, but can I just ask, when they -- when INDOPACOM specifically says "enhanced readiness," does that mean heightened alert, heightened readiness? Does that mean heightened alert?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It means heightened readiness.

Q: Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Haley Bull?

Q: Hi, thanks, a couple questions for you today. Wondering if there's any update if the Patriot batteries have been delivered or repositioned to Poland at this point?

And I wanted to check also if the assessment remains the same that Russia hasn't pulled beyond the -- the pre-amassed troops and that there aren't any further indications in that regard?

Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We have no indications that the Russians are -- are trying to gather any additional combat power or forces based -- additional to what they had assembled and amassed. And our assessment today is that they are still at just about 100 percent of use inside Ukraine of what they -- what they had been assembling over the last couple of months, and no indications that they're trying to draw resources from anywhere else -- other than the -- what we talked about before, about private military contractors and potentially some foreign fighters, but nothing inside Russia.

As I understand it, the -- both Patriot batteries have been now repositioned in Poland. We're not going to talk about where they are, and I'm not going to talk about their operational status. But they are in Poland and they are -- they are -- they are manned, and -- and I'll leave it at that.

Carla Babb?

Q: Hey, thanks for doing this. Just a couple quick follow-ups. On the Patriot batteries, can you give us a little bit more detail as to the decision to deploy them?

Did you see any close calls, you know, getting close to the border of Poland? What more can you tell us about that?

And then, also, on the foreign fighters, do you have any updates for us? Have you seen any more indications that foreign fighters are coming, or Russian mercenaries are coming?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No -- no change on foreign fighters or mercenaries from what I said yesterday, nothing to report that -- that we've seen. And again, this decision about the Patriots was -- was -- was made by Secretary Austin, and it was done in close consultation with our Polish allies and certainly at their invitation. And it is a purely defensive deployment being conducted proactively to -- to counter any potential threat to U.S. and allied forces in NATO territory. It is 100 percent in keeping with the seriousness with which we take our Article 5 commitments.

Mike Glenn?

Q: Okay, thanks much.

Did the Pentagon know about Poland's MiG proposal before it was publicly announced?

That's my first question.

And I want to know, is -- I want to understand, is it Washington's position that it's perfectly acceptable for a third country to transfer combat aircraft to Ukraine just so long as we don't involve the U.S. in it -- or don't involve the U.S. in it? Is that the position?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Are you talking about the proposal that the Polish government announced yesterday?

Q: Yeah, the one -- right, yeah, the MiG proposal, yeah.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, that was -- that was not coordinated with the Department of Defense.

And on your other question, it's not about whether -- whether it has to have our approval, Mike. As we've said all along, if a sovereign nation-state wants to talk to Ukraine about capabilities and -- and decides on their own to -- to -- to provide those capabilities in a bilateral way, that's -- that's what sovereignty's all about. In fact, that's what's -- that's what's at stake here in Ukraine. And it's not the United States's position to take a position on -- on what another sovereign nation might be talking to Ukraine about what -- what to provide.

So as we said before, if -- if Poland or any other nation wants to have that discussion with Ukraine, we -- we -- we respect that process.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Karoun, Washington Post.

Q: Hi. Thanks for taking my question.

So just to go back to dumb bombs, I know you said you couldn't quantify them, but do you have any sense that have -- that -- any sort of anecdotal sense of where they've been used, perchance? The Ukrainians are claiming right now that the -- the hospital, a maternity hospital in Mariupol's been leveled. Is that something that's like the evidence of dumb bomb usage, or -- and -- and even if it's not, is that something you could also confirm? But can you give us like a -- a -- a -- an example of where they've been used, even if you can't quantify how frequently it's been utilized?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I -- I -- I can't. I -- I -- I wish I could give you more detail. I -- I -- I just -- we just don't have it. We -- we -- again, we -- we don't have visibility into their air plan. We don't have visibility into their targeting process. We don't have visibility into weapon selection. We just have seen indications that they are, in fact, dropping dumb bombs, as well as precision-guided munitions, and -- and where they're dropping them and -- and with what effect, again, we -- we -- we just -- we're not in a position to be able to provide a battle damage assessment. That's just not -- that's not information that we -- we'll -- we'll -- we'll have.

Matt from ABC?

Q: Hi. Thank you. I know you don't want to get into specific numbers of capabilities with Ukraine, but as we're talking about other countries possibly sending more fixed-wing aircrafts, it seems like it's important to know what the level of need there actually is. While they're mostly still intact, do you see the Ukrainians drawing upon their full air capability right now, or are they just doing, you know, a few sorties here and there? Are they -- are they really using that full force such that they could actually use even more?

And additionally, earlier, when you said that the U.S. is more focusing on systems that will best help Ukrainians to defend themselves, is that you basically saying that, you know, fixed-wing aircraft aren't seen as the best, most effective form of support for Ukraine at this point?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: What I'm saying is that we're -- we see -- we see what they're using and we see what -- what they're using with great effect, and those -- that's the kind of stuff that -- that we're trying to get into their -- into their hands. That's point one.

Point two, the airspace is contested. The Russians have a significant surface-to-air missile capability, umbrella, virtually over the whole country. We believe that that is -- that is a factor that the Ukrainians take into effect -- take into consideration -- I'm sorry -- before they fly their fixed-wing aircraft. I'm not suggesting that they aren't flying; they are. But -- but I think we have to assume that -- that they are -- that they are depending on other capabilities, probably to a greater extent than they are fixed-wing aircraft. And again, that's probably the best way I can put that.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yup.

Courtney?

Q: Hello. Quick -- three quick ones. Can you update us on what the -- any assessment on the electricity status at Chernobyl? Can -- and I just want to be clear. With all this back-and-forth about the MiGs issue, you are saying that -- that -- is it fair to say that your assessment, or the U.S. assessment is that it would be dangerous to fly these MiGs into Ukraine right now because of this surface-to-air missile threat from the Russians and their -- and their umbrella? And then also, are you able to say at all -- or is the U.S. able to say at all what you attribute this progress -- even though it's not huge -- this progress around Kharkiv and Mykolaiv? Can you say what it is -- if there's anything that they've done differently, or what you're seeing that they've been able to make some progress on the ground in those places? Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Hard for me to say specifically what has attributed to this moderate progress that they have made. I mean, because we -- we're not on the ground, Court, so we can't see it. We can't see every inch of the fighting here.

I think it's important to remember that -- that the Russians have mass on their side. They simply have more force available to them than the -- the Ukrainians do on the ground, and that we've said all along from the very beginning that -- that we -- we have to be clear-eyed about the combat power available in just sheer numbers to -- that the Russians have at -- at their advantage. But -- but they're -- they're meeting with a stiff resistance in both of those places. There's no doubt about it, particularly Kharkiv, which continues to see heavy fighting. But they -- but the Russians do have mass on their side.

On the MiGs and the fly -- I mean, I think [it is in the] statement last night. I mean, it -- it -- it just isn't clear to us -- it just isn't clear to us how this would work, and -- and -- and as I said, you know, introducing additional aircraft into very contested airspace when -- when we know the -- that the Ukrainians are, in fact, using with -- with much greater effect other capabilities. I mean, it's just not clear to us, and -- and like I said, I -- I don't have a -- a -- a final decision here one way or the other. I'm not going to speak for the Polish government. You know, we're -- we're -- we're talking to the Poles, and I -- I don't have much more to add on that.

And on the electricity at Chernobyl, I mean, we obviously note as well as you do that -- that there has been a -- a -- a power outage there. We would point you back to what the IEA said today, which is that that power outage did not present a significant threat in their mind to the safe operation of the plant. We -- we don't have any more detail than that. Quite frankly, the IAEA is a far better source for -- for what the effects are than the Department of Defense.

Okay, last question to Meghann Myers.

Q: Thanks. The two Patriot batteries that are being repositioned to Poland, are they part of any previously-shortened tether alerts, or -- or activation announcement? And the 7,000 figure that you guys and EUCOM put out a couple of weeks ago, so far, we've seen, I think 4,300 of those -- 4,300, you know, people's-worth of those units being activated. Do you guys anticipate making more announcements soon to get all the way to that 7,000 number? Are those units still being identified? Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I -- I don't have any more announcements, Meghann, on the -- on that, and as -- as we do, we -- we are announcing them, as you've seen. So I don't have anything new.

The Patriots are coming from the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, and they're located at Rhein Ordnance Barracks in Germany. That's where they're -- they're based, and that's where they came from.

Q: Okay, thank you.