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Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing, March 14, 2022

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Okay, good morning, everybody -- soon to be good afternoon.  I hope everybody had a good weekend.  "Senior defense official."

So let's just -- you know, using the clock scenario, we'll -- we'll start with Kyiv at 12 o'clock, and I'll just go swinging around here and -- and update you.  Let me just say at the top that there's actually not a lot of -- of specific changes or progress to -- to speak to in general.  Almost all of Russia's advances remain stalled.

So if you start northwest of Kyiv, that one axis coming down towards the airport, Hostomel, we -- we have seen no appreciable change in their progress over the weekend.  They're still right around the airport somewhere around, you know, 15 or so kilometers from city center.  As I said last week, we do see them trying to flow in forces behind the advance elements.  That -- that continues, but not at a great pace and difficult to quantify.

The vaunted convoy, I have no updates on.  We still hold that it's stalled and -- and that they have not made any significant progress in unsticking it.

Then we move around to the 1 o'clock position of Chernihiv.  The assault on Chernihiv, again, remains stalled.  There's a very strong Ukrainian resistance there.  We would assess that essentially, Chernihiv is isolated, although the Ukrainians over the weekend did try to open up some lines of communication to the south and to southeast, and they've had some success at that.  But essentially, we assess that Chernihiv is -- is -- is stalled.  They haven't really made progress beyond that.

Swinging back around again now towards, like, the 2 o'clock position, this eastern line of access attack, those two lines coming out at the 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock position, they are also -- have not made any appreciable progress towards Kyiv.  The -- the northern line, the one that I've been talking to you at the -- sort of the -- the 2 o'clock position, they are still about 20 to 30 kilometers to the east.  No change from Friday.  They're facing heavy resistance from the Ukrainians, who we observe and assess, the Ukrainians are still in -- in control of that town, Brovary, B-R-O-V-A-R-Y, which is where, you know, late -- late last week you were seeing, you know, tank convoys being struck.  But we still assess that the Ukrainians are in control of that and are keeping that eastern line of advance at bay.

The -- the line of advance just to the south of it, again, no -- no progress from -- from last week.  I -- I reported last week that we had seen some of those elements move back towards Sumy.  We assess that they did that.  But again, we don't have a real good read -- sum of how many or -- or what the purpose was.  Essentially, again, at the 2 and 3 o'clock position, no real -- no real progress to -- to speak to.

I do want to note, going down now towards, like, you know, the -- the 4 o'clock position on the clock, and when we're -- we're looking at Kharkiv and -- and to -- and to the south of Kharkiv, in -- in -- let's just start with Kharkiv.  Russian forces appear to have made no apparent progress on the ground.  We do observe that Ukrainian forces continue to -- to -- to defend the city and -- and to do so with a pretty stiff resistance.  Kharkiv is -- they're -- they're on the outskirts, as they were on Friday, but have gotten really no closer to that.  The fighting in Kharkiv remains pretty -- pretty significant.  And again, Kharkiv, like Kyiv, has seen an increase in long-range fires.  But again, they're -- they're holding on tight.

One of the things we did see over the course of the weekend is that if you were to look at Kharkiv on a map and -- and -- and look just to the east of it, maybe at east/southeast of -- of Kharkiv, we have seen a line of advance by the Russians with roughly, I don't know, 50 to 60 vehicles that -- that are moving down towards a town called -- and I -- I won't try to pronounce it.  I'll just spell it -- I-Z-Y-U-M, moving down towards them.  So almost like it -- it looks like they're -- they've -- they've split off some forces to bypass Kharkiv and -- and the assumption is, the assessment is that they are trying to block off the Donbas area and to prevent the flow westward of -- of any Ukrainian Armed Forces that would be in the -- in the -- in the eastern -- eastern part of the country to prevent them from coming to the assistance of -- of other Ukrainian defenders near Kyiv.  And this is of a piece -- we talked about this before, that one of the reasons we -- we think they -- they wanted Mariupol was so that they could do a line coming north out of Mariupol up towards Kharkiv, right, though -- so to -- to block it off.  We've talked about this before, and we are starting to see now a northern sort of advance towards the south to -- to do just that.  Again, they haven't gotten all that far.  They're not at that town of Izyum -- I -- I -- I'm -- and again, I -- my apologies for my pronunciation, but they're not there yet.  We're just seeing them start to make that -- make that advance.

So then keeping down the clock, you know, down around 5 o'clock in the -- on the -- on the Mariupol side, we're -- we -- we assess that Mariupol remains isolated.  Russian forces are north and east of the city.  We continue to see heavy bombardment there, but again, the Ukrainians are defending Mariupol.  But it is still, in our assessment, isolated.

Swinging all the way down past the 6 o'clock position up towards near 7 o'clock, where we have Mykolaiv, we've observed the Ukrainians continue to defend Mykolaiv.  The Russian forces still appear to be outside the city and to the northeast; no real movement.  Last Friday I think I said they were 10 to 15 kilometers to the northeast.  That is where we assess them to be right now.

And then on Odessa, again, nothing significant to report, no looming amphibious assault in -- on Odessa, no maritime activity to speak to today, and unclear once the Russians take Mykolaiv, you know, what their intentions are going to be.  It could be a left -- a -- a -- a left turn to -- to move on Odessa from the ground, or it could be, they could go north up towards Kyiv.  We're just not sure what their -- what their plan's going to be.  It could be both, I mean -- but -- but they've not made any appreciable progress since Friday on Mykolaiv.

So obviously, you guys have all -- you reported and noted the -- the -- the long-range fires on the Yaroviv (sic) training facility out near Lviv.  Much of this is already out there but just to level set, we assess that this was a cruise missile -- air launched cruise missile strike and only an air launched cruise missile strike, using more than, I would say -- I -- more than a couple dozen cruise missiles, which has damaged at least seven structures -- it could be more.

We cannot give you a BDA, we cannot verify the numbers of killed and wounded that have been reported out there, but that -- that's the -- the best we can do.  I would note that -- that -- and our -- our assessment is that all these air launched cruise missiles were launched from long range bombers -- Russian long range bombers from Russian airspace, not from inside Ukrainian airspace.

And -- and again, you know, the -- for -- for the advocates of a no-fly zone, I mean, this is an example of what -- how -- a no-fly zone inside Ukraine would have had no effect on this particular set of strikes.

So that takes us around the clock and I think it brings you up to speed on -- on what we've seen over the course of the weekend.

And I think that's it, so we'll go to the questions.  Lita?

Q:  Thanks.  Two things.

One, on (inaudible), can you tell us whether they're -- how critical that -- the strikes were there?  Does that impede any ability by the West to get military equipment etcetera to the Ukrainians or -- and -- and just to confirm -- are -- there are no -- was there any at all training going on there that you're aware of Ukrainian forces?

And then secondly, can you address the issue on Russia seeking military equipment from China?  Any indications this is -- was actually happening or -- or -- or what the assessment is of that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  So on the -- on the -- the China question, I'm not going to get into intelligence assessments.  I've seen the reporting out there on that and I -- I'm just -- I would just say that -- that we're going to watch that very, very closely and I -- I -- as -- as others in the administration have said, if there's -- if -- if -- if China does choose to materially support Russia in this war, I mean, they're -- there'll -- there'll likely be consequences for China in that regard.

We have seen China's -- basically give tacit approval to what Russia is doing, by refusing to join sanctions, by blaming the West and the United States for the assistance we've given Ukraine, by claiming they wanted to see a peaceful outcome but essentially doing nothing to achieve it.

So we -- we've already seen China's tacit approval.  Again, we'll watch this closely, but Lita -- but I don't have anything specific to speak to with respect to actual material support.

On Yaroviv (sic), there were -- I -- I can't speak for what the Ukrainian military was doing.  It is a training facility largely and if -- if the Ukrainians' Armed Forces were training there or doing some sort of training, I mean, they -- they can speak to that.

We, the United States, we're not involved in any training at Yaroviv (sic).  After we redeployed our -- the Florida National Guard -- and this was, as you know, several weeks ago -- there -- there is -- there was no U.S. military personnel at Yaroviv (sic), there were no U.S. contractors at Yaroviv (sic), there were no U.S. civilians, in -- in a government capacity, at Yaroviv (sic).

It was a -- it was a Ukrainian-only facility at that point, at least in terms of our understanding.  I can't speak for other nations and whether other nations may have had people there but the United States didn't.

And it was not -- I -- I -- I -- again, we're -- I -- I'm going to be really careful, as I have been, about talking about the -- the -- the way security assistance is getting into Ukraine.  I would just tell you that the -- the strikes on Yaroviv (sic) will not affect that -- that effort, and I think I need to leave it at -- at that.

I would -- the only other thing I'd say is, so you don't think I'm being cute by half, you would be wrong if you reported that -- that in hitting Yaroviv (sic), the Russians were hitting some sort of trans-shipment site for security assistance.  That would be a wrong conclusion, just to level set there.

Okay, Tom Bowman?

Q:  Yeah, I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about the equipment getting in, the arms getting in.  I know you talked last week about the next 24 hours, we're going to see another shipment.  Can you give us an update on that?  And also, the status of more sophisticated weaponry -- specifically, S-300 -- if you have a sense of the movement or talks about that?

And finally, some senators came back from -- excuse me -- Poland and they're still pushing for MiGs.  Can you say -- excuse me again -- if -- if there's any push from the Hill to have talks with the Secretary about this?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I -- I -- I know of no push from the Hill to have conversations with the Secretary about the MiGs.  Our position on the -- on the proposal of having MiGs transferred to us and then us to transfer it to Ukraine, our position has not changed.  We do not believe that is a tenable suggestion, for all the reasons that we've talked about.

I don't have any updates for you on S-300s or other sophisticated air systems, except to say that we continue to talk to allies and partners, in and outside the region, about Ukrainian air defense needs, and those nations really should speak for themselves in terms of what they're willing to provide.

And as for shipments, there -- there were additional security assistance shipments that went in over the weekend, as part of the previous $350 million security package -- down -- draw down package that President Biden approved.

As you saw over the weekend, he approved another $200 million and we are fast at work on filling that out as we speak.  I don't have any shipments to speak to specifically from that package -- from that draw down but we are -- we are hard at work on mapping that out, what that would look like, what would be in the -- in the first go, and -- and -- and, you know -- and working on when it would get there, but we have not -- we have not closed on -- on -- on anything out of that original package, although I don't think it's going to take very long.

David Martin -- David Martin?

Q:  Yeah.  Well, we always ask you the -- the question of whether there's any sign of reinforcements coming from the interior.  And just to broaden that a little, any sign of replenishment coming from the interior of Russia, where we've -- we've -- for days now, we get reports of increased shelling.  Where's all this ammunition coming from?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  All the ammunition is coming from the stocks and supplies that he had availed himself of over the -- over the course of the fall and into early winter.  We have not seen at this -- at this moment we have not seen any attempts to replenish his stocks from elsewhere other than what he had already built up and made available to himself.  And we have not seen any efforts to recruit additional manpower or additional battalion tactical groups from elsewhere in Russia to come to -- to the west.

Now obviously, you know, we know they're advertising for foreign fighters but in terms of pulling additional BTGs from elsewhere in Russia, we've not seen that.  We haven't seen them try to replenish stocks.  I would remind that while he has the now launched more than 800 -- I'm sorry, more than 900 missiles since the beginning, the Russians still have a lot of capability left to them.  We would assess their available combat power as just under 90 percent.  So they -- they have an awful lot remaining.  And I think I would leave it -- I would leave it at that.

That doesn't mean that -- you know, that at some point we might see signs of him trying to replenish.  But as of today, we just -- we just haven't seen that.

Pierre Ghanem.

Q:  Thank you, (inaudible), you just answered my question.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Thank you, Pierre.

Jared.

Q:  Hi, sir.  Thanks.  You mentioned last week the terrific effect of -- that the Ukrainians have been having with the TB2 drones supplied from Turkey, and anything else they have in their arsenal there in terms of unmanned aircraft.  Is there an effort under way to keep those -- those UAVs supplied and keep those munitions for them supplied?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  They have been very effective using that drone.  It is a Turkish-made drone, I think you know.  We assess that they still have a significant majority of their inventory left, but -- but they are using them with -- quite skillfully.  And I don't want to speak for another nation about resupply, but I would just go back to what I said before.  We're talking to allies and partners in the region and outside the region about capabilities that -- that we think the Ukrainians need most to defend themselves.  That is certainly one of those capabilities.  And I think I would just kind of leave it at that.

Howard Altman.

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  Hi, it was on mute.  So the Ukrainians say that they are successfully hitting Russian supply depots and logistic bases in Ukraine.  Are you seeing any evidence of that in what effect it might be having?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I don't think I -- I'm sorry, Howard, I don't think I understood your question.  Are you asking if the Ukrainians are hitting Russian supply depots?

Q:  Yes.  The Ukrainians claim that they're hitting Russian supply depots inside Ukraine, supply bases and facilities.  Can you confirm that and do you see what effect that is having?  They claim it's having a large effect on their -- on Russian logistics.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I -- I can't speak to individual strikes that the Ukrainians are taking, but I have said before, and we would -- we would stand by our assessment that the Ukrainians have -- they have effectively struck at -- at Russian logistics and sustainment capabilities.  That -- that is true, and the convoy is one of those examples.  But they have -- they have done that.

Now, whether they're striking individual bases and where, and depots, I -- I don't have that level of detail.  But the Ukrainians, as I -- as we've said all along, they've been quite creative here.  They're not simply going after combat capability, tanks and armored vehicles and shooting down aircraft -- although they're doing all that -- they are also deliberately trying to impede and prevent the Russians' ability to sustain themselves.  That -- that -- that is true.

Okay, Barbara Starr?

Q:  (inaudible), so how -- a lot of discussion about transferring weapons to the Ukrainians and all of that, but at what point does the Pentagon, do you folks get concerned that there is just too much in the public arena about shipments, about how well the Ukrainians are doing with certain kinds of equipment they're getting?  At what point is it an -- does it become an operational security concern that there's so much discussion out there?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  As far as we're concerned, it's -- it's always been an -- an operational security concern, which is why, at -- at least for our part, we've been so careful and cautious about talking about this.  We haven't put out specifics on -- on the inventory.  We -- there's certain systems we still have not acknowledged, even on background, that they're getting.  We don't give out numbers.  We don't give out timing of the -- of the shipments.  We don't provide context on the locations and the ground routes through which it's -- it's arriving because, you know, we -- we want to keep that -- that security assistance flowing as much and as fast as it -- as it can to assist them in the fight.  So we're being very, very careful about that.

Fadi?

Q:  So on the -- the Yavoriv strike, you said there were no U.S. soldiers or contractors or civilians in governmental capacity.  As far as you know, were there any U.S. civilians who volunteered to fight in Ukraine who were killed or injured?  And did you say that there were no security assistance in that -- in that base?  Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I did say that, yeah, I -- I -- I -- that -- that Yavoriv is not -- wasn't being used for security assistance purposes.  And on U.S. civilians that made -- that -- that -- that were -- that might have been there, I -- I don't know, Fadi.  I -- we would not have a way of knowing that or tracking that.  What I can tell you is there was no U.S. military there.  There was no U.S. contractors there.  There were no U.S. civilian government workers there.  We had moved everybody out.  But I can't speak for whether or not American citizens went there for other purposes.  I -- I -- we would not have visibility on that.

Jennifer Griffin?

Q: (inaudible), back to the strike Yavoriv, you've mentioned long-range bombers.  So we can rule out that any of the missiles were fired from ships in the Black Sea, is that correct?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yes, ma'am.

Q:  And the -- the long-range bombers, can you say for certain -- when you say they were not in Ukrainian airspace, do you know, were they in Belarusian airspace?  Where were they?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Our assessment is Russian airspace.

Q:  Russian airspace, okay.  And -- let's see, any other -- okay.  I'll come back to you later.  Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Kasim?

Q:  Yeah, (inaudible), thanks for taking my question.  You mentioned consequences for China if the Beijing provide materials to Russia.  What do you mean by consequences?  Could you just detail it a bit?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  No, I don't think I will, Kasim.  That's -- that's something that policymakers will decide, if they need to decide.  That's not something that the Defense Department would unilaterally make a proclamation about.

Q:  So -- so -- so what --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Eric Schmitt?

Go ahead, Kasim.  Go ahead.

Q:  So -- so when you say consequences, will you mean -- meaning, actually, sanctions, or (inaudible) --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Again, I -- I think I've -- I've -- I've gone as far on this one as I'm going to go.

Q:  Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yup.

Eric Schmitt?

Q:  (inaudible), when you talk about the Russian forces not making appreciable changes in a lot of these areas, do you assess that they're deliberately stopping to regroup, replenish?  Is this a deliberate stop, or is this largely because the Ukrainians have halted their advance in these places?  And do you also assess now that in -- in some of this -- around the cities they've -- they've encircled it enough when, you know, they'll just continue to pound burst with artillery and -- and these long-range missiles, and they don't necessarily need to encircle as much as they -- they might want to; that they can achieve what they want through the partial encirclement that they already have?  Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I can't speak to Russian operational tactics here, Eric, and whether they will -- whether they will continue to encircle, or whether they need -- they feel like they need to.  I can only tell you what we're seeing, and they continue to want to encircle Kharkiv.  They continue to want to encircle and isolate them, Mariupol, and certainly, that's what we're starting to see them wanting to do in -- in Kyiv, and have been wanting to do in Kyiv.  Whether they change tack and decide a different way or -- I -- I don't know.  Clearly, they are increasing the amount long-range fires that they're applying to these cities, these population centers that are holding out.  Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol are the three big ones, and Chernihiv, quite -- quite honestly.  They obviously are continuing the bombardment and increasing that, no -- no question about it.  But we haven't seen them back off of what looks to be our assessment, that they are still trying to encircle and surround.  And that -- this goes back to two weeks ago, we started -- started talking about what we started to see with Kharkiv, and we expected to see it elsewhere, would be sort of a siege mentality that they might approach.  We're still -- we're -- we're still seeing that play out.  Again, whether they change tack or not is up to them, but we -- I -- I don't know.

And as for your -- your -- your first question, generally speaking, in the areas where we assess that they have struggled, it is largely because of the Ukrainian resistance.  There have been times, stop and start over the last week or so, that they have regrouped deliberately on their own to reassess and try to mount additional offensive operations.  So I can't rule out the fact that there are not -- there haven't been times and places where they have paused themselves to regroup, try to restock, try to change their -- their battle plan to achieve an objective, but in each of these areas, with the exception of -- of the ones in the south where we've talked about the -- the -- they've had progress, even in the south, however, they -- they seem to have been somewhat frozen, it -- it is largely because of the Ukrainian resistance.

Carla Babb?

Q:  Hey, thanks for doing this.  Just two quick follows.

You did say 900 missiles now?  Because we went from 710 earlier last week.  So we're -- we're at -- we're at 900 missiles lost -- launched by Russia into Ukraine?  Just wanted to make sure I got that right.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Correct.

Q:  Sorry, I muted myself.

And then -- so when you were talking about the -- how the no-fly zone would not have an effect on the missiles, can't fighter jets shoot down cruise missiles in the airspace?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I -- I'm not going to get into aviation tactics.  My -- my -- my point is and it has remained that a -- a no-fly zone would not stop all of the air activity that is going on and it would, again, engender U.S. pilots in combat with Russia.

Nancy Youssef?

Q:  Thank you very much.  I wanted to go back to something from last week.  I had asked how much of the $350 million had been delivered to Ukraine and DOD was supposed to get back to me but I didn't get an answer.  I was wondering if you could tell me what that figure is as of today?  And if all of the $350 million has been delivered, when it was delivered?  Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I will see if I can get it for you.  I don't have it right handy.

Tara Copp?

Q:  Good morning.  Two questions for you.

On the Russian convoys, are you seeing any movements of resupply or goods over the Russian border into Ukraine, to get, I guess, more munitions and -- and supplies to those troops?

And secondly, on the -- the flip side of things, you heard over the weekend on some of the news shows various officials talking about the need for food, water, medical aid into some of these cities that are under siege.  In the U.S. shipments to Ukraine, have any of those included things like MREs or water purification or anything like that that could also help out?  Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah, Tara, we're not going to get into a shopping list on the security assistance.  The United States is certainly the leading humanitarian donor to Ukraine.  I would point you to the State Department on -- on what they're doing, working with NGOs and humanitarian assistance, but I'm not going to get into a shopping list of -- of what -- of -- of what's being provided to the Ukrainian Armed -- Armed -- Armed Forces.

The -- the security assistance is just that, it is security assistance.  It is -- it is -- it is systems and -- and materiel that -- that are designed for the Ukrainian Armed Forces to help them defend their country.  That's -- that's the goal.

And on your first question, I believe I already dealt with that one when -- when David asked.  We -- David Martin -- we have not seen replenishment efforts from elsewhere in the -- in the country to -- to -- to restock his munitions or materiel inside Ukraine.  I mean, again, everything we've seen him be able to do, he's been able to do with the amount of materiel and -- and supplies that he had already stored up as part of this -- this buildup in -- in the fall.

Q:  Okay.  I guess that was -- that was my question, just to see if you had seen anything new come over the border from Russia into Ukraine since this operation launched.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I mean, he -- I mean, aside from the ever (vaunted convoy, I mean, we -- we have -- you know, he has got 100 percent now of his assembled force inside Ukraine.  And I -- I -- I don't -- I- it -- it's not -- it's not like we're seeing, to that level of detail every day, stuff coming across from -- I mean, he's moved everything in.

So if -- if he has stocks or supplies on the other side of the border, it -- it -- it's not -- it's not going to be much, and I -- I wouldn't have any detail on that.

Q:  Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah.

Wafa?

Q:  You answered my questions.  Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  Phil Stewart?

Q:  Hey there.  Do you -- there are -- there are ceasefire talks going on right now.  Do you see anything militarily that -- that Russia might want to have a ceasefire for regrouping its own forces, given the pressure they've been under?  Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I can't speak for Russian intentions to -- to be sincere to a ceasefire, Phil.  Obviously, we want to see a ceasefire, we want to see the violence stop.  All I can do is tell you what we're seeing on the ground, and what we're seeing on the ground is a continued military effort to subdue these population centers and to do it now with evermore violence using, you know, more and more long range fires, which are increasingly indiscriminate, in -- in terms of what they're hitting.

So I -- I -- I can't -- all I can say is what we're -- what we're seeing, and what we're seeing is a -- a -- a, still, very concerted Russian effort to militarily occupy these major population centers in -- in Ukraine.

Q:  And could I just prep -- just ask you to elaborate a little bit?  When you said that you wanted to (disabuse?) anybody from thinking that the -- that Yavoriv was a trans-shipment point, could you just be, you know, explicit, on the -- on the U.S. side at least, in, you know, were -- were -- were -- was the U.S. not using Yavoriv -- were there no U.S. weapons at Yavoriv that were in transit toward -- as part of these new shipments, at least?  Is there anything you could say about that more explicitly?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  No, Phil, I -- I'm not going to go into any more details than what I just did on that one.  I -- I just -- I -- I -- I -- no, I -- I think I'm just going to leave it the way I did.

Dan Lamothe?

Q:  Good afternoon.  I wanted to ask you about a bipartisan letter that some lawmakers sent on Friday to the President.  They -- they raised the idea of sending more TB2 drones, the MiGs obviously, but also Su-25 fighters.  Are -- is it safe to assume that if -- if you have these concerns about MiGs, you'd have similar concerns about sending Su-25s?  And do you -- do you see a way to, I guess -- I guess, get the Ukrainians more drones as well?  Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Dan, I'm not going to talk about the correspondence that went to the White House.  I'll let the White House speak to it.  Nothing has changed about our concerns over the proposal of transferring fighter jets to the United States so that the -- we would transfer it to Ukraine.

We have long said, continue to say, these are -- these are national decisions that sovereign nations have to make, and if a sovereign nation wanted to provide additional assistance to Ukraine, that is for them to decide.  Many nations are.  As we've talked about, 14 other nations, and including the United States, are.

They're not doing this as -- as part of the alliance or anything like that, they're doing it on a -- on a bilateral basis between them and Ukraine.  We are helping coordinate some of that, in -- in terms of the delivery, but -- but these are -- these are sovereign, national decisions.

And again, I -- I -- I know of no change to our view of -- of -- of the proposal as it was, which was to have those jets transferred to us so that we could transfer them to Ukraine.  We did not find that to be a tenable proposal.  There is no change to that.  And, again, on the correspondence, I would let -- I would defer to the White House since the letter went to the President.

On the drones, again, I really don't think I can expand upon it more than what I did earlier in the session here.  We know they're using the drones quite effectively, quite skillfully.  We -- we believe that they still have a significant majority of their inventory available to them and that we are talking to -- on a range of systems that we know that the Ukrainians are using and using effectively.  We are talking to allies and partners who -- who might have access to those systems in ways we don't to see if they could help -- help the Ukrainians replenish their inventory.  And I would just -- I would just leave it at that.

Tony Capaccio?

Q:  Hi, (inaudible), a couple of questions.  On the air war, what's the status of the air war?  Have the Russians obtained air supremacy, air superiority?  And have any Ukrainian air force jets of the 56 you talked about, you mentioned last week, are they attacking Russian targets on the ground?  Then I had a follow on the -- on aid.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We would still maintain that the airspace is contested, that the Russians have not achieved air superiority over all of Ukraine.  As I've said before, it's a dynamic space and so there are times and at places where one or the other has more dominance.  They certainly -- the Russians certainly have -- although they (inaudible) achieved air superiority, they certainly more assets available to them and they are flying many more times per day than the Ukrainians are.  I can't speak to the Ukrainians' air plan.  It changes every day.  They are -- they're being, we think, appropriately careful with their air assets and how they are using them and what they're using them for.  But in terms of specific air-to-ground versus air-to-air, I mean, that's -- that's a question that gets to a level of detail that we just don't have here at the Pentagon.

Yes.

Q:  I think you accidentally said the Russians have attained air superiority?  Did you mean to add "not"?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  No, I did not.  No, I did not.  I did not.  They have not achieved -- I said, there are times and places throughout a given day where one or the other side will be able to be dominant, but it -- it shifts literally hour to hour.  The main takeaway is that the Russians, for all their inventory and for all the munitions that they have available to them and to their aircraft, they have still not achieved air superiority over the skies of Ukraine.  They are flying more sorties.  They have more aircraft.  But -- but they have not achieved air superiority.  It is still contested airspace.  The Ukrainians are still using very skillfully the air defense systems at their disposal, whether that's surface-to-air missiles or MANPADS, they are using them very skillfully and they have prevented the Russians from achieving air superiority over the whole country.

Q:  Can I ask you a budget question, quick?  The President is about to sign the -- the $1.5 trillion package.  About $3 billion of that is going to go toward newer -- new weapons and lethal aid for Ukraine.  This is going forward, not looking back on like on the $350 million.  Is the DOD, in anticipation of the President's signature, starting to marshal the types of additional new aid it's going to send over?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  As I said, the President announced another $200 million drawdown package just over the course of the weekend.  And we're hard at work putting pen to paper, trying to fill that out, making sure we do it with the same speed and with the same effectiveness as we did the last drawdown package.

Q:  I'm talking about the $3 billion in the new bill that he hasn't passed yet.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Obviously we're expecting the President to sign and we will get to work on that as well.

Q:  Okay.  Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Luis Martinez?

Q:  Hi, a quick question about comments from the military intelligence general in Ukraine over the weekend where he talked about -- I'm not going to (inaudible) everybody, he gave a significant number of battalion tactical groups on the Russian side that he said had been destroyed or significantly degraded.  Without getting into numbers, I mean, are you seeing that, yes, battalion tactical groups in some capacity in full effect some or portions of one group per se have been destroyed or degraded?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We don't have data.  We are collecting data that would allow us to corroborate those reports.  Clearly the Ukrainians are causing Russian casualties, both in terms of killed in action as well as wounded in action.  But we're not -- first of all, we have low confidence in our assessment of what those numbers are.  So that's why we're not getting into that.  And I don't know that we're collecting information on casualties that would give us a number of units, for instance, that have been decimated or destroyed.  I just -- we don't -- I just don't have it -- it's not -- I'm not pushing back on it, Luis, we're just not collecting data in that rubric to be able to corroborate it.

Q:  Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Sam Lagrone.

Q:  Hey, (inaudible).  Can you talk if you've all seen any indications that Belarus might be joining the conflict in earnest or any preparations on the north side of that border?  Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  No change to that, Sam.  No indication that the Belarusians are preparing to or are involved across the border.

Travis Tritten?

Q:  Hey, thanks.  President Zelensky is going to address Congress again on Wednesday.  And I'm just wondering if you're tracking whether he is going to be requesting any new military aid and what that might be?  And I'm wondering if -- if the Pentagon or DOD has any high-level discussions with the Ukraine leadership about their military needs.  Is that something that's being done right now?  And then just lastly, has your position from last week changed at all about the usefulness of additional aircraft for the Ukrainians?  Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  No, as I've said now a couple of times on this call, there's no change to our proposal about the -- about the delivery of aircraft to Ukraine.  If another nation wants to do that, that is a sovereign decision they can make.  We have made our position clear.

Number two, I cannot possibly predict what Mr. Zelensky is going to say to members of Congress on Wednesday.  We -- we wouldn't have advance knowledge of that.  And then on the other question, yes, of course we are talking Ukrainian leaders on a routine basis about their -- about their needs.  I mean, part of -- part of deciding what we put in these drawdown packages, and now there is a new one we're working on, is to have a conversation with them about -- about their needs.

So we absolutely have multiple channels to do that.  The secretary talked to his counterpart.  General Milley talks to his counterpart.  In fact, I think he did just last week, as did Secretary Austin.  And of course at lower staff levels here at OSD and lower staff levels in the Ministry of Defense there's a -- there's an ongoing dialogue.

But we're not just putting stuff on -- on pallets and sending it over there without some sort of coordination and communication with the Ukrainians about what it is they need and what we can get to them. (Hailey Blitsky ?), that's the last question for today.

Q:  Hi.  Thanks, (inaudible).

I'm wondering if given the proximity of the attack on Yavoriv to Poland has there been any change in posture for the U.S. troops in Poland?

And are there any discussions -- have there been any -- any discussions since then to reposition more troops in Poland if -- if that becomes an increased concern given what happened over the weekend?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, you know we don't talk about force protection and force protection posture specifically.  I would just tell you that the -- that the strike at that Yavoriv has not changed -- has not changed our posture.  And it certainly hasn't precipitated any specific decision to -- to move or reposition anybody else into or out of Poland.

Q:  Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Okay, thanks, everybody.  Appreciate it.