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Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing, March 9, 2022

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Couple things at the top, and we'll get to your questions. So first and foremost, I want to read out for you that Secretary Austin spoke with his Polish counterpart this morning to discuss Russia's unprovoked aggression in Ukraine. He thanked Minister Blaszczak for Poland's extraordinary support of U.S. troops in the country. Including those who have been recently sent there on temporary orders. 

He noted the hard work and the diligence with which the Pols have been welcoming and taking care of Ukrainians who continue to flee across their border some 1.2 million now. The Secretary also made clear how much he's looking forward to attending in person, next week's NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels. Now the Secretary also had a chance to discuss with Minister Blaszczak the proposal to send MIG-29 fighter aircraft to Ukraine. 

And specifically, the notion of doing so by way of transfer to U.S. custody. Secretary Austin thanked the Minister for Poland's willingness to continue to look for ways to assist Ukraine. But he stressed that we do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force at this time, and therefore have no desire to see them in our custody, either. 

Let me walk you through the reasons for this. First, we believe the best way to support Ukrainian defense is by providing them the weapons and the systems that they need most to defeat Russian aggression. In particular, anti-armor, and air defense. We along with other nations continue to send them these weapons and we know that they're being used with great effect. 

The slowed Russian advance in the north, and a contested airspace over Ukraine is evidence alone of that. Although Russian air capabilities are significant, their effectiveness has been limited due to Ukrainian strategic operational and tactical ground-based air defense systems, surface to air missiles, and MANPADS. Secondly, Ukrainian Air Force currently has several squadrons of fully mission capable aircraft. 

We assess that adding aircraft to the Ukrainian inventory is not likely to significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Air Force relative to Russian capabilities. Therefore, we believe that the gain from transferring those MIG-29s is low. And finally, the intelligence community has assessed the transfer of MIG-29s to Ukraine may be mistaken as escalatory. And could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO. 

Therefore, we also assess the transfer of the MIG-29s to Ukraine to be high risk. We are grateful for the superb support and cooperation of our Polish allies who continue to host thousands of our troops and our welcoming more, as I said -- more than 1 million Ukrainian refugees. Polish generosity is clearly on display for the whole world to see. 

But at this time, we believe that provision of additional fighter aircraft provides little increased capabilities at high risk. We also believe that there are alternative options that are much better suited to support the Ukrainian military in their fight against Russia. And we will continue to pursue those options. Again, we thank Poland for their incredible level of support and cooperation. Poland is a valued ally, and a very good friend. 

We look forward to exploring ways to deepen that partnership in this critical moment. We also know the Ukrainian Armed Forces, as well as average Ukrainian citizens are defending their country with great skill and bravery. We will continue to look for ways to help them do that. Knowing full well that that effort is in no way made more effective or less harmful to the Ukrainian people by steps we take or decisions we make, which lead to an escalation of that conflict. 

I might add just before coming out here, the Secretary wrapped up a phone call with the Ukrainian Defense Minister, Minister Reznikov as one of his ongoing series of calls with counterparts. We'll have a more detailed readout of that call later. The call really just concluded, so I don't have much context to provide for you there. 

Now on another note, approximately 3,000 U.S. Marines will join some 30,000 military forces from 27 NATO ally and partner nations for the Norwegian led exercise Cold Response, which kicks off Monday the 14th of March. This is the ninth iteration of this multi-domain extreme cold weather exercise designed to enhance our collective military capabilities in the demanding arctic environment. This exercise will emphasize and test critical activities, ranging from the reception of reinforcements and interoperable command and control to Combined Joint Operations in a highly intense combat environment. 

In total, approximately 220 aircraft and more than 50 ships will take part in the exercise. U.S. forces began training in Norway in December, as U.S. Marine units conducted cold weather training and planning in the lead up to this exercise. Two Marine Expeditionary Force will be the largest American military unit participating this year. Some 200 military vehicles, attack, and assault support aircraft and equipment departed Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in January, as part of that unit's participation. 

And again, we look forward to a terrific exercise Cold Response and the exercise will be running through April 1. And will that lead to questions. Bob.

Q: Thank you, John. With regard to the Polish proposal on the MIG transfers. Would it be correct to say that you just closed the door on this transfer, whether it's done through the United States or through any other NATO country? 

And secondly, separately, but related, you referenced alternative options that you're looking at? Can you sort of explain what that is?

MR. KIRBY: Alternative options are working with other allies and partner nations around the world who may have additional air defense capabilities and systems at their disposal who might be willing to provide them to Ukraine. And so, we're having discussions with many countries right now about some of those capabilities. 

Surface to air missiles, for instance, that the Ukrainians are more trained and more equipped to operate. So, it could include additional MANPADS as well. And certainly, anti-tank, anti-armor, excuse me system. So, we're going to continue to talk to the Ukrainians about their needs. And we're going to continue to talk to allies and partners about how to best fill those needs. 

But it's our assessment right now, for all the reasons that I gave you that we don't believe additional aircraft is the most effective answer to meeting those needs in the conflict. Now, look, sovereign nations can decide for themselves what they want to do. But this idea, that proposal of transferring these jets to our custody for then transferring to Ukraine, that is something that we are not going to explore right now. 

Q: Thank you.


Q: Are you talking about providing S-300 missile defense system? 

MR. KIRBY: I'd rather stay away from the actual systems themselves, Jen. We're going to continue to look at a broad swath of capabilities that the Ukrainians could use effectively. Some of them they already are, and maybe they need replacements. And -- but I'm not going to get into individual systems.

Q: And what's the difference in providing Javelins and Stingers to the Ukrainians versus MIGs or fighter jets? Why is that more provocative from an intelligence perspective? Why is that seen as more provocative? It seems like you're splitting hairs there.

MR. KIRBY: No, there's no splitting hairs, Jen. I think we take seriously the intelligence community's assessments and their views based on the information that they have available to them. And it's their assessment, one in which the Secretary concurs. That the transfer of combat aircraft right now could be mistaken, by Mr. Putin and the Russians as an escalatory step. 

And as I said, at the very end of my opening statement, we need to be careful about every decision we make. That we aren't making the potential for escalation worse, because that's not only not good for NATO. And it's not only not good for the United States and our national security. Should this conflict escalate even further, but it's certainly not going to be good for the Ukrainian people to have what is already a destructive and terrible war get even more destructive and terrible. 

Given the fact that Mr. Putin has other capabilities at his disposal. Fadi. \

Q: Thank you, John. I have two questions. So, the first one is on this whole issue of MIG-29s. As you know, is this -- the prospect of delivering MIG-29s to Ukrainians is what was raised by President Zelensky. And based on the assessment that you just told us. This is not the most effective way. Are the Ukrainians now on board with this assessment? 

Or they're still insisting that -- have you been in communication with the Ukrainians on this issue exactly?

MR. KIRBY: No, I just told you that the Secretary just finished up a call with Minister Reznikov. I don't have a readout for you right now. Literally was finishing up as I was walking here to the podium. So, we'll have a readout for you. I doubt seriously that, that readout is going to ascribe the sentiments of the Ukrainians that is for them to speak to. 

And I will obviously we defer to the Ukrainian government to speak to this on their own.

Q: And on this issue of military biological labs in Ukraine that the Russians keep raising? 

MR. KIRBY: Yes. 

Q: Can you basically explain to us what the relationship if any, there was between the Pentagon and the Ukrainian side on any biological labs? When was the last cooperation and what do you have to say about these Russian accusations?

MR. KIRBY: The Russian accusations are absurd. They're laughable. And you know, in the words of my Irish Catholic grandfather, a bunch of malarkey. There's nothing to it. It's classic Russian propaganda. And, and I wouldn't, if I were you, I wouldn't give it a drop of ink worth paying attention to.

Q: Yes. But could you explain to us what -- has there been any relationship between...

MR. KIRBY: We are not, not developing biological or chemical weapons inside Ukraine. It's not happening. Yes.

Q: Thanks, John.

MR. KIRBY: Go ahead.

Q: Is there any concern that Russia's actually doing this because they're planning some sort of chem-biological attack?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, Court. I mean, again, not being perfectly inside the minds of the Russians. We have seen one of their playbooks is to accuse the other that which you are doing or what you plan to do. And to create a narrative that of victimhood and blaming somebody else for something that you're in fact going to do. I have no evidence of that. I'm not suggesting that that's in the offing right now. 

I have no intelligence and indicators that, that type of weaponry is in Ukraine and being planned to be used. So, I want to be clear, but it is a piece of the Russian playbook to blame others for that which you are about to do or you are considering doing. They've done that plenty of times before.

Q: And then on intelligence since you said that the U.S. intelligence assessment is that the transferring of the combat aircraft was considered high risk. Was there -- what was the assessment of transferring Javelins and Stingers? Is there -- was it also high risk but the calculus was -- the Ukrainian s needed them. So, it was worth it?

MR. KIRBY: Without getting into specific inventory issues. The short answer your question in Court is yes. I mean, as we make the decisions to provide support, from the very beginning, even before the invasion. But certainly since, we go through that calculus, and -- to make sure that we are giving them what we believe can be best suited to their needs. 

And we see that they're using them. I mean, they're using it with great effect. But also keeping in mind as we must the potential escalation of the conflict. So, it's a calculation we do routinely iteratively every day.

Q: So, it's not uncommon, the singers, the Javelins, or let's say anti-armor, anti-air equipment that the U.S. has been providing to them, some of those have they considered high risk? But the calculus is...

MR. KIRBY: I wouldn't say everything that we're sending we consider to be high risk. And without characterizing something as high or low risk, and in particular, on the other inventory items. I would just tell you that we go through that calculus with every shipment that we send. What is best needed to the fight? 

And with a mind that we obviously don't want to needlessly or heedlessly escalate the conflict to a level where it's actually more dangerous for Ukraine, not less. OK. Yes, Travis, I'm sorry.

Q: Thanks, John. The soldiers who are deployed to Poland the 82nd. They've been helping small numbers of Americans who have been coming across the border from Ukraine. 

MR. KIRBY: That's right. 

Q: And you mentioned the massive refugee flow coming in now. I'm wondering if their mission, if it has or if you're looking at potentially expanding that to wider humanitarian mission? And is that something that you've discussed with Poland? 

MR. KIRBY: There hasn't been any active discussions of expanding their missions to something wider in terms of humanitarian assistance. But I can assure you that the Secretary will want us to be as responsive as possible, should there be a need for that. But we're not tracking a request to expand the mission set for the 82nd right now. 

They certainly have that capability, should they be needed. And we certainly would want to pitch in and help. But we're in constant discussions with Polish authorities as well as the State Department. And, again, should there be a need for that, you can bet the United States military will chip in and help. And I would add, and I don't want this to at all sound gratuitous, but the Pols have been doing an amazing job harboring, welcoming, and taking care of now more than a million Ukrainians that have fled across that border. 

And that's only I guess, by the UN estimates about half of the total that have left the country, but the Polish government and the Polish people have just been superb. Just absolutely spectacular. Again, if they need our help in that regard, certainly the United States military would be positively disposed to look at those requests. Carla.

Q: Thank you. Since we're talking about Poland, a defense official said that Russia had launched more than 710 missiles in the Ukraine since the war began. Have any of those or how close have those missiles come to the Polish border?

MR. KIRBY: What I would say, Carla without getting into too much detail there. The -- almost all of the missiles that have been fired from either inside Ukraine or from outside Ukraine have been targeted at sites in the eastern part of the country. 

If you were to draw a line from Kiev, down into Odesa, straight line, almost all those strikes are occurring to the east of that line. So, nothing close that we've seen to Poland or even in western Ukraine, quite frankly.

Q: And then to follow on the humanitarian corridors that keep in trying to be established and then failing. Does the Pentagon consider it a war crime to establish a humanitarian corridor and then (inaudible) it?

MR. KIRBY: The Pentagon is not making judgments on war crimes. We'll leave that to the experts. What I would tell you is that short of stopping the invasion, which is really what needs to happen here. Short of that, we want to see that innocent civilians are given safe passage and not being harmed. And they ought to be given safe passage. Again, they shouldn't have to have a safe passage. 

But if they're going to, it ought to be the places inside their own country inside Ukraine. Not aimed at the north into Belarus and Russia. I think the Ukrainians can be forgiven for not wanting to flee into the very countries that have invaded them. And so, we would obviously like to see if there's going to be safe passage that it's truly safe passage inside their own country and unmolested, by the way, from Russian attacks, which has not always been the case in the last few days. Calling for a safe passage calling for corridors. And then, hitting people while they're trying to use those corridors. Killing people in the midst of evacuating. Again, I'll leave the legal scrutiny to others. But clearly what we want to see is for the destruction and the death to stop and short of that to be observed that -- humanitarian concerns to be observed by the Russian military. Oren.

Q: Are you actively discouraging the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine, or is it the position that the U.S. won't be part of this, and it remains a Polish decision? And then separately, have you assessed the Russians have used thermobaric weaponry in Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: No, indications that thermobaric weapons. No evidence of that that I can speak to. And look, what I'm talking about today is this particular proposal about the MIG-29s. As I mentioned to Bob, sovereign nations unilaterally are deciding to make decisions about providing security assistance to Ukraine, and they have that right to do that. 

And it's not our place to speak for them, or what they may want to do. We just felt it was important since this proposal involves a transfer to U.S. custody, that we believe it was important to lay flat our concerns about that. And that's what we've done here. Yes. David.

Q: So, the order to deploy Patriots into Poland, defense official said this morning that Secretary Austin had ordered that. I thought that kind of internal movement was ordered by General Wolters. So one, why was it ordered by Secretary Austin? And two, what changed to convince him that he should put Patriots forward in Poland? 

Was there any kind of aerial incident? Was there a failure of the deconfliction line? Was there another intelligence community assessment that the risk was higher? I mean, what changed from before he ordered the Patriots until now? 

MR. KIRBY: No one thing precipitated this move. And we've been talking now for weeks about our willingness and our capability of moving assets around in theater, given the conditions on the ground. Given what was then a looming invasion, and now what has been a quite destructive invasion in Ukraine. And the Secretary has never been one to take off the table options to relocate our assets, as he believes is best suited to defense of NATO territory. This was one of those decisions. 

It wasn't precipitated by one single moment or one single issue or one single act by the Russians. But rather by a constant and routine consultation with our NATO allies, in this case, Poland about what the needs and the capabilities that would best suit our obligations to Article Five. And as for the orders given, I mean, clearly, General Wolters gave the order they are in his theater. 

And you're right, He absolutely has that authority. And he made that order. But he did it at the direction of the Secretary based on the Secretary's consultation with our allies and partners. I mean, that's not unusual at all. That's very typical, how things are done here. Matt.

Q: Hi, John. I saw that the Ukrainians claim that a maternity and Children's Hospital, in Mariupol was hit directly by Russian strike. Do you have anything on that or any of the other civilian casualties that you're seeing at this point?

MR. KIRBY: I'm afraid I don't. I've seen those same reports you have. But we're not in a position to be able to independently verify that. Obviously, that's a horrific outcome, regardless of whether it was intentional or not. If it's true, and we have no reason to doubt, that it's true. We just can't independently verify. I mean, it's just another indicator of the supreme sacrifices that the Ukrainian people are making and they shouldn't have to make. We're talking, you know, families, children, killed, wounded, displaced, all of it avoidable. All of it completely avoidable. And on the casualty count, again, we're being very careful here. To not get into estimates of casualties. Obviously, we know there have been casualties, civilian casualties. Ukrainian soldiers have suffered casualties as well. And we know the Russians have, but we're being very careful not to get into estimates of numbers. 

But they -- these estimates are -- they vary widely. They change literally every day, if not every hour. And again, it's not an operation we're conducting. And so, we don't feel like we have the confidence to be able to put out specific numbers. 

Q: John, we're also seeing reports of unguided munitions being used. Are you seeing that? And is that factoring into the civilian casualties?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, we do have indications that -- I mean, that not everything that the Russians are using in their long-range fires are precision guided. That the -- a number of munitions are not, and therefore not precise. Which, of course, just raises the likelihood and the chances of civilian casualties, and damage to civilian infrastructure. 

It is not precise. But even in their use of precise weapon systems, or so called precise by Russian accounts. I mean, we have seen again, civilian infrastructure hit and civilian casualties at cost. Tara.

Q: Hi, John. How concerned is the Pentagon that the risk that this could escalate into a nuclear conflict has increased? And did that weigh into the decision to say the U.S. would not have a role in transferring MIGs to Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I think I laid it out pretty clearly in my opening statement. That the risk of escalation certainly factored into our thinking on this MIG-29 proposal. And I, again, I want to be careful here that we're not getting into intelligence assessments about potential outcomes. Russia is a nuclear power. 

There's no question about that. And nobody stands to gain if this conflict, which is already so deadly, gets even more deadly. Because of the potential for a broader, deeper, wider and non-conventional conflict. So, we're certainly mindful of that threat. And as I said, at the outset, we want to make sure that whatever decisions we make, whatever support we give, whatever leadership we show, it is not in a way that makes the conflict escalatory.

Q: Has the Pentagon noticed any changes to Russia's nuclear posture? Or have any changes been made to the U.S. deterrent posture in a day since Putin announced his own change?

MR. KIRBY: I would answer the question I -- the same way I've been doing it Tara. Without getting into specifics, I can assure you that we are comfortable with our strategic deterrent posture as it. I just leave it there. Sylvie.

Q: Hello, John. To go back to the Patriots. Is Poland the only NATO country that has requested Patriots? I could ask, do you plan to deploy, Patriots everywhere in the region anywhere else? 

MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware of any other requests for Patriot missile batteries. And so, I have no plans or no future redeployments to speak to you today, Sylvie. 

Q: But verify the Pentagon position on the jet transfers. Excuse me, but it was a sharp contrast from what Secretary Blinken said over the weekend, about giving the green light for those transfers. Are the Pentagon and the State Department currently on the same page when it comes to the situation in Russia and Ukraine? 

MR. KIRBY: Yes, absolutely we are. I mean, you're talking about comments that were made, you know, over the course of the last weekend, when this was a nascent idea. And we were absorbing that idea. And we were talking about it, and we did. Secretary Blinken was 100 percent right. That first of all, it wasn't our place to tell Poland what to do or not to do. 

That was the main point that he was trying to make. But he also indicated accurately that we were having an interagency discussion inside the administration about this idea. We have had those discussions, the Pols, put out a statement last night about this, transferring them to U.S. custody. We talked about that. 

And again, I came out here today to read out to you, where we ended up landing on that.

Q: Do you have time for one more really quick. We've heard a lot about the help given to the Ukrainians, but is the Pentagon monitoring actors that could be assisting the Russians right now.

MR. KIRBY: Monitoring actors?

Q: Whether it be China or Iran, other countries that could be working with Russia, while they're now viewed as a pariah on the world stage.

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to talk about intelligence issues here. We're obviously scanning the threat landscape as broadly and as deeply as we can. And certainly, we have taken note that the Chinese, for instance, have at the very least provided a tacit level of approval for what Russia has done. 

Even to the point of blaming the United States for this war, incredibly. And, again, we're constantly looking at the threat landscape. And I really have anything more to add on that. Janne.

Q: Thank you, John. I have two questions. First question is, Russia has designated South Korea and the United States its allies as non-friendly nations and putting retaliation against the South Korea has already begun. What is your comment Russian's action on this?

MR. KIRBY: I think our actions speak louder than any comment or words I could offer here today, Janne. We continue to look for ways to support Ukraine in their defense. We're grateful that the South Koreans and our allies have also levied sanctions and being willing to offer support.

I think that's indicative of our close friendship and partnership but also more indicative of the South Korean government, and their concerns about what Russia is doing.

Q: Yesterday, at the U.S. Congressional Hearing. U.S. Strategic Commander General Richards said...

MR. KIRBY: Admiral Richards.

Q: Yes, I'm sorry. North Korea...

MR. KIRBY: You better get that right.

Q: Thank you good. North Korea's ICBM nuclear test are likely to increase in the future. What strategy does the U.S. have in the response to North Korea's escalate tensions in Korean Peninsula?

MR. KIRBY: Look, Janne I would point you to what the INDOPACOM just put out earlier this morning. We've made clear our concern over the significant increase in DPRK missile testing activity. Which we continue to believe undermines peace and security and is destabilizing the region as well as the international community. 

So, in light of that, as we noted, earlier this week, U.S. Indo Pacific Command, ordered intensified intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection activities in the LOC. As well as enhanced readiness among our Ballistic missile defense forces in the region. So again, I think, in our case here actions are speaking louder than words. 

We have made clear what our concerns are, and we're acting on those concerns. Yes, Mike.

Q: The Defense Department was tasked to pretty much on the fly with finding billets for thousands of refugees after the fall of Afghanistan. Are you -- is the Pentagon trying to sort of look -- get ahead of this -- I mean, get ahead of this? To prepare for -- if it had to do it again, a little bit of regard to any people from Ukraine? 

MR. KIRBY: Well, you know, we're just getting closer to wrapping up operation allies' welcome. And we were very proud to be a part of that. This DHS led mission to provide a safe and secure environment for Afghan evacuees to get on with their new lives here as American citizens. And we're very proud of that. 

I know of no such similar efforts underway that would utilize Defense Department property or facilities or resources with respect to Ukrainian evacuees. But again, that would be really something better directed to DHS and the State Department. But there's no active efforts right now that for DOD participation in that kind of a move. 

And look, Mike, I mean, these Ukrainians that have had to flee, I suspect they want to go home to their home. To a country that's not being bombed and shelled and not invaded by Russia. I would imagine that's what they really want. They're not looking for new homes. 

They want to go back to their homes. And they have every right to do that. And what needs to happen is this war needs to end. And Mr. Putin for all the options he has available to him he still has the option of diplomacy and ending this war. Which he has certainly within the power his power to do it. 

So that these 2 million plus people now can go back to their own homes where they obviously belong and want to be. Yes, in the back there.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Yes. 

Q: With Cold Response, the Marine Corps originally planned on sending 5,000 Marines to Norway. It's now been reduced to 3,000. Is that troop reduction in any way connected with what's going on in Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: I don't think there's any connection to what's going on in Ukraine. But I would refer you to the Marine Corps to speak to the how they're resourcing the exercise.

Q: And second question, there's, from what I understand about 14,000 troops kind of activated or potentially activated to have Eastern Europe as part of the NATO Response?

MR. KIRBY: Correct.

Q: Is there a potential reason- why are why is there no real Marine Corps unit part of that?

MR. KIRBY: I mean, we fill to need. We fill to requirement. And right now, the kinds of enablers that have been needed by our NATO allies have largely come from the Army and the Air Force. There's certainly no overt reason why there hasn't been Marine Corps units put on prepare to deploy or sent over. I wouldn't rule anything in or out going forward. 

The Secretary has always wanted to keep his options on the table to be able to provide additional force flow even from the United States. So, we'll see where this goes. Yes. I didn't get anybody on the phone yet. I'm going to be in big trouble here. Paul Shankman.

Q: Hi, John. Two questions, please. One on the Russian convoy and another on Russia's use of conscripted troops. Can you at all quantify the Russian column attempting to advance on Kiev? Like the number of troops or resources within it, and any other resources that Russia has deployed to either get it moving or to prevent those troops from freezing to death? 

And then secondly, can you comment on, or do you have any insights on the recent developments regarding Russia's use of conscripted troops? Can you confirm that they've recalled some of these forces and that their deployment to the frontlines was seemingly the result of some kind of mistake? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: OK, a lot there. On the convoy, I don't have a lot of additional contexts here. Our assessment is this was largely a resupply convoy. Our assessment is still that it remains stalled and is not moving. It has been attacked by Ukrainian armed forces with quite some effect. And our assessment is not able to come to the relief of advanced columns that are moving on Kiev. I have not and will not get into estimating the length of it or how many vehicles or what kind of vehicles are in it. 

We don't have that level of detail. And on conscripts, we certainly -- and we've been talking about this for a while. I mean, we certainly have seen that some of the initial battalion tactical groups that were sent into Ukraine in the early days had conscripts in the force. We've been very careful not to provide a ratio or a number of because we don't know. 

We were not experts on Russian manning and how they organize their units. But we certainly had reliable indicators that a good many of these troops were conscripts. Again, how many? We don't know. What their fate is now? We don't know. I saw the statement out of the Kremlin about the offering their numbers, I think, I can't remember what it was several hundred or something like that. 

I don't think I need to tell any of you this, but I would look upon any piece of data that you get from the Kremlin with great skepticism. Let's see, Tony Cappacio Bloomberg.

Q: Hi, John, quick question on Russia's cyber warfare capability and Ukraine. You remember, military analysts predicted before the invasion that Russia would unleash the full brunt of its cyber capability to cripple Ukraine's infrastructure. What (inaudible) needs assessment of the extent of that use to date, it doesn't seem extensive?

MR. KIRBY: I mean, I -- again, we don't have perfect visibility and everything that the Russians are doing in cyberspace. What we can do, Tony is speak to outcomes. We believe that there hasn't been so far, a devastating cyber effedts on Ukraine. Although that we have noted cyber-attacks, cyber disruptions, websites being taken down, and attempts to limit communications. 

Certainly, we've seen all that. And we would expect that those efforts by the Russians would continue. Again, this is very much a part of their playbook. I would note that the Ukrainians are not neophytes, when it comes to cyber operations. We have helped over time over these many years to help improve their resiliency in cyberspace. 

And I think some of that resiliency is on display as well. I mean, that the Russians may not have had devastating effects in cyberspace, doesn't just have to be because the Russians decided not to have devastating effects in cyberspace. But rather because perhaps the Ukrainians have improved their ability to be resilient. 

MR. KIRBY: Phil Stewart, Reuters. 

Q: OK.

Q: Hi there. Just could you give a little more information about this high-risk assessment? Is there anything that's in the public realm that you could cite that explains why these combat aircraft transfers will be seen as high risk? 

And you know, is this a new redline by the U.S. Government about things that it won't do to support Ukraine? Or is this somehow related to the pre-existing red line about no new troops even in airspace? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: We're not drawing a red line here, Phil. We're giving you an honest assessment of how we came to our conclusions about this particular proposal of MIG-29s, that would be transferred to U.S. custody and then given to Ukraine. That's what we're here to talk about. 

That's what -- that's the decision that we made. As I answered to Court, we're constantly with every decision we're making, with every piece of material and system that we're providing. We're always going through the calculus of the need and the potential risk of providing that need. And we're going to continue to do that going forward. 

And I'm not going to get into the specifics. The sausage making of how that this particular decision got made. I walked through the three justifications the Secretary is very comfortable with this decision. And with those three justifications, and I'm going to just leave it at that. Oscar from Polish News.

Q: Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity. Could you talk a little bit more about why you think that sending these MIGs would be of little use the Ukraine? Is it because of the surface to air missile coverage? 

And it seems like, while you've been talking about this issue as more of a logistical challenge. But now it seems like it's more of a political military issue. And if I might also, just a quick question about the Patriots. Is that just a temporary deployment? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Oscar. I'm going to point you back to my opening statement. I think I answered your question -- your first question pretty well, that opening statement. And I don't know that I can improve upon it. And so, trying would probably be folly for me. As for the Patriot missiles, yes, this is a temporary deployment to Poland, given the circumstances that we're in. 

These Patriot batteries were already had already been deployed into Germany. And I suspect at the appropriate time they'll go back there. OK. I think that's all the time we have for today. Thanks very much. 

And we'll see you guys later this week.