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Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing, March 31, 2022

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Hey guys, sorry I'm a little late. My goodness, the sarcasm is just dripping in here. I'd think it was a Friday. OK. A couple things to get to at the top here. I think today, you saw the Department released the 2021 On-Site Installation Evaluation Report. I want to remind that on his very first full day in office, Secretary Austin made a very strong commitment about sexual assault and sexual harassment and how he was going to prioritize on it. 

And that set into motion an Independent Review Commission, which set into motion a series of findings and recommendations. And among those recommendations was that we take a look at sites around the country and around the world to make sure that we're properly examining the kinds of conditions that exist to help prevent these harmful behaviors. 

And it's not just sexual assault and sexual harassment, but domestic abuse, suicide. And what kind of conditions are there to help prevent? What's the command climate like? What sort of resources are available to our, folks to their families? Anyway, so all that led to this very first On-Site Installation Evaluation Report. The Secretary believes that the findings in this report of those site visits is going to be critical to helping us better prevent a range of harmful behaviors. 

And I said that includes sexual assault, harassment, suicide, domestic violence, and child abuse. How to better prevent it and what it takes to do prevention well. So, a key objective of the process here is to better understand where the gaps in the seams are and provide leaders at these installations as well as across the force with the necessary tools to enhance prevention. 

So, again, this was a first in what will be a series of additional installation visits and installation reports as it should be. We'll learn from each one. We'll share those lessons broadly. And we'll be as transparent with you as we can. And we have done that today. Also, today, the department authorized for public release the RAND Report, which was titled Understanding Civilian Harm in Raqqa and its Implication for Future Conflicts. 

I think you may have seen RANDs already spoken to this and posted their report. It provides insights into the causes of civilian harm during the U.S. led campaign to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State, from June to October 2017. The report provides recommendations related to U.S. strategic choices, operational approaches and capabilities, information collection, approaches to adversary tactics, and force development. It was sponsored by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. 

And this report will be one of the key resources considered in developing our own Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan that the Secretary also recently directed the Department to develop. Safeguarding civilian life is a strategic and moral imperative. You've heard Secretary Austin say that many times. The department appreciates the insights that this report offers. I appreciate all the work that RAND put into it. 

And we know it'll help inform our own work as we continue to try to improve our approach to civilian harm mitigation and response going forward. Let's see, lastly, earlier today, I had the great privilege of launching a new community engagement -- strategic and community engagement initiative that we're calling Beyond the Battlefield. It's aimed at scholars and students at the collegiate level, to try to help inform them. 

Obviously, we want to encourage them to consider jobs in national security and here at the department, of course, but it's really about helping inform them about how the policymaking process works at the Pentagon. I mean, so much of what the military does, is available for everybody to see and to read about. 

I mean, we just released a budget on Monday that lays out what we're going to be spending and what we're spending it on and why. But I felt like, we felt like, we needed to do a better job explaining what working inside the Defense Department actually felt like, and how those decisions got made. And so, we did our inaugural session today. I'm very proud of that. 

And we'll keep it going. It's going to be an interactive virtual dialogue, to the degree that we need to right now with COVID. We hope to do more in person stuff, and so I was very pleased to kick that off today. Finally, I know kind of rattling on here, but an apology to all the Press Corps. We had some technical difficulties today, so we won't be able to take calls through zoom. 

So basically, you guys here with butts in seats, you're going to be the only ones asking question today. And that's not on purpose we do apologize. We try as you know, very hard to make this as inclusive as we can, because of COVID restrictions. But unfortunately, technology got the better of us today. So we're going to just stick to what's in the room. So, Bob, you're lucky, you didn't call in today. You're here. So...

Q: I'm here.

MR. KIRBY: ...first question.

Q: Thank you. On Ukraine, can you give an update on the size and the scope of the movement of Russian forces north from Kiev, what you've called repositioning. Does that include Chernobyl? Or is that kind of a separate situation because of some health problems there that you've talked about? And lastly, by popular demand, can you give us an update on the convoy that you talked about...

MR. KIRBY: I haven't gotten a convoy question in a long time. That did not merit for applause, whoever did that. On the repositioning, we continue to see indications that they are moving a small number. I don't have an update for you in terms of what that equates to. I think yesterday we said it was about 20 percent maybe a little less. I don't think we would change that estimation, much over the last 24 hours. It has not been wholesale by any means, or hasn't it been rapid. 

We do believe that, again, that a small number are beginning to reposition. It's not exactly clear Bob, where they're going to go, for how long, and for what purpose. But we don't see any indication that they're going to be sent home. The best assessment we have, and it's an assessment at this early stage is that they're going to be repositioned probably into Belarus, to be refit and resupplied and used elsewhere in Ukraine. 

Again, where's that elsewhere? We don't exactly know. All I can tell you is what we've said now for several days. It's clear the Russians want to reprioritize their operations in the Donbass area, that could be one destination. But again, too soon to know. We don't really have a good sense of it. You were asking about Chernobyl. We have seen indications that some Russian forces are departing the Chernobyl plant facility. 

Again, we gather that they are leaving to the north, to go back, again towards Belarus. But again, indications are not completely clear at this time. I think you were asking is that of a piece or is it something separate? 

We would assess at this early stage that it's of a piece of this larger effort to refit and resupply. And not necessarily done because of health hazards or some sort of emergency or a crisis at Chernobyl. That would be our assessment. And I honestly don't have an update for you on the convoy. I don't have anything for you on that. I don't even know if it still exists at this point. I mean, it's been now so long, they never really accomplished their mission. 

They never really provided a resupply of any value to Russian forces that were assembling around Kiev, never came to -- never really came to their aid. The Ukrainians put a stop to that convoy pretty quickly, by being very nimble, knocking out bridges, hitting lead vehicles stopping their movement. But we've not seen an update on where those vehicles are or what they're doing at this point. 

And at this point, I mean, you know, again, take our skepticism about the repositioning and just put that to the side for a minute. Over the last several days, we've talked about that the Russians had, pretty much even before this repositioning had basically established defensive positions. And they weren't -- they were digging in. 

They weren't making any effort to advance on Kiev. So, it's questionable whether that resupply convoy would have been of much use anyway, because they weren't on the move anymore. Again, how much of the material they were able to get from it? I don't know.

Q: Would that be an example of a Russian planning failure or shortcomings? That the convoy that didn't seem to connect with what they were doing.

MR. KIRBY: I think it's a function of a lot of things. I think that's one of them. I mean, we don't think that they properly planned for logistics and sustainment of a force that size in the field under combat conditions. Clearly, they didn't execute -- if they did plan for logistics and sustainment, they didn't execute very well. 

Because even before that, you know, before the convoy became a news story, I mean, we were talking about they were running out of fuel. They were running out of food. They were running out of ammunition. So, it's not clear to us whether this convoy was a reaction to problems they were experiencing or that it was them trying to be proactive. Doesn't matter obviously it didn't get there. I think it's also a function of Ukrainian resistance and agility, and, frankly, just battlefield smarts. 

By knowing where these vehicles were coming from, knowing where they were trying to get to, and getting between where they were going and where they were. Which is what they did and knocking out bridges for instance, making it hard for them to move on paved roads. And these were not vehicles that were built for of- roading either. 

So, you know, I think you have to, when you talk about this resupply effort, you have to credit the Ukrainians for some real dexterity. Jen.

Q: John, can you roll out to the U.S.'s training Ukrainian military on Polish soil?

MR. KIRBY: We are not in a training environment in Poland, with Ukrainians. So what we've said in the past is that obviously, as there are transshipments being coordinated in some countries around Ukraine. There're interactions with Ukrainian armed forces, some of those interactions are with members of the U.S. military. There's some liaison going on. but we wouldn't call it classic training. 

Q: And how would you explain that certain Ukrainian parliament members are still telling Congress that they are not getting not only the weapons they need, but the shipments have slowed? Can you give us a sense of the pace of the shipments? And what is in those shipments? Are you sending medical supplies, for instance? Or is it only lethal aid that you're sending? 

MR. KIRBY: No, it's a so we would not agree that it's being slowed quite the contrary. We completed the $350 million that President Biden authorized a month or so ago, that was completed in a record three weeks or so, which is unheard of. The 200 million that he approved, not long after, that's pretty much all in now. I think there may be maybe one shipment or so left, I don't know. 

And then the 800 million that the President approved more than just over a week or 10 days ago. That -- those shipments are already arriving. In fact, from the time he signed the order to the first shipment going on its way was like four days, Jen. And there's already been about a half a dozen shipments that have flowed into the region. 

And they're not -- I'm not going to talk about the ground routes and how things are getting into Ukraine, as you can understand. But I will tell you that things aren't sitting long at these intermediate staging shipment sites before they're getting picked up by convoys and taken into Ukraine. So, four days is pretty quick. And like I said, there's already been a half a dozen or so on the way and we expect again, without getting too predictive, we're going to get these materials in as fast as we can. 

It's happening as you and I are actually talking right now. And we don't think it's going to take very long to complete the $800 package getting it all filled out. We really don't think that's going to take long at all, a couple of weeks, probably. And the other question you had was on the -- what's in there. So, every shipment is a mixture of weapons systems, and then support and sustainment items. 

Whether that's food, body armor, helmets, small arms and ammunition, medical and first aid kits, all of that - every shipment is different. I couldn't tell you. And I'm not going to you know, tell you that every single shipment has all of those things in. But in typically there's a mixture of what goes in with every shipment. It's not just all like -- it's not all javelins and nothing else. 

But in these first half a dozen or so there have been weapon systems, there have been javelins, there have been stingers that have gone in as well as medical supplies and body armor and small arms and ammunition. So, look, Jen, we appreciate respect, that the Ukrainians want this stuff, and they want it like yesterday. We understand that. We know time is not on their side. We don't think it's on our side either. 

Which is why we're working really, really hard. And I mean, I've been dealing with security assistance issues since when I had this podium under previous administration. I've never seen the Department of Defense be able to move with this sense of alacrity and speed, as I have in just the last few weeks.

Q: Do you have any estimate of how many javelins or stingers have ended up in Russian or Chechen hands?

MR. KIRBY: I don't think we have any indication that that's happened. So, yes, Meghann.

Q: On the On-Site Evaluation Report, there's a line in some of the materials that were distributed to reporters that says that the department basically considered its prevention program for sexual assault in the early development stage. Is that shocking to the Secretary or anybody else to learn that 17 years since the SAPR office was first set up that prevention -- the prevention infrastructure and understanding in the military is still considered an early development?

MR. KIRBY: What I would tell you, is this Secretary's not comfortable, that we haven't done as good a job on prevention as we should have done. And what he really appreciated about this report was how candid it was about how much more work we have to do. So, I think he would absolutely expound that line. The fact that, that we don't have prevention, organized and resource the way it needs to be. 

Clearly, we don't, Meghann, because, you know, for yourself how high the numbers now still are, 20,000 incidents in 2020 I think was the number. That's just way too high, so one of the reasons we wanted to do this, again, this was a recommendation by the IRC and a good one, was to give us a more tactile feel of what it's like. 

Because you can have the best prevention program at the corporate level here at the headquarters level. But unless it's being acted on and executed and locally adopted, then it's no better than the paper it's written on. And so clearly, we learned a lot from these first 20 sites. I think we're going to learn a lot from the ones that come. But the Secretary is not resting on any laurels. 

He's not happy that we haven't gotten prevention better organized and better resourced. And he's committed to doing that. 


Q: Hi John, good afternoon. I'd like to follow up on Jen's question and have second question. My second question deals with the RAND Report. Specifically, but more generally, excuse me, more generally. Is there a central lesson learned area of the Pentagon? We always hear, you know, after like the Kabul incident and other incidents, that there's a lesson learned done. Is there actually a repository for these lessons learned so somebody can go and read the lessons learned?

MR. KIRBY: The way it's typically done is by geographic region or combatant command or sometimes surface specific. There have been lessons learned, there have been after action reports done now that you know, we just wrapped up 20 years of war. So, there are plenty of documents for us to consult and look at. And some of them reside here in DC, some of them were down in Tampa. They're scattered around depending on what level they were written. 

But Tom, as I said at the opening, he is now putting into place a Civilian Harm and Mitigation Response Program here at the corporate level, at the headquarters level. To be led by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, Chris Maier. 

Q: Yes, I just...

MR. KIRBY: So, no, I know. So, Chris is going to take a hard look at obviously, he's going to learn from this RAND Report. He's already gone through it. But he's leading up a team, that's going to come up with a more thoughtful approach to civilian harm and mitigation based on the lessons learned from even just, you know, this year's events.

Q: Well, I was thinking about that. And the successful mission in Syria that we talked about. You told us, you know, how President by wanted to make sure there was no civilians harmed, et cetera. That's part of the lessons learned you indicated. And that's so when Chris sends his team go to do to study, they know where to go to get these, quote, unquote, "lessons learned"?

MR. KIRBY: He absolutely does. And if it's not something he can get his hands on, believe me, he can get his hands on it. We're going to be as the Secretary has directed us to be as open minded and as curious as we can be to try to get better at this. We still, you know, no other military works as hard as we do to mitigate civilian harm, and yet we still cause it. And we're going to be nothing but honest about that. And we're going to continue to try to learn from past issues.

Q: And a follow-up on Jen's question about the training. She asked you specific to rule it out. And you said earlier, this week, it's not training in the classic sense that what people would think. This is you're speaking on the podium, when we were asking about the possible training of Ukrainians by U.S. forces. 

And you also referred this word liaison, which I thought it's an interesting word to use. The classic definitions of liaison are communications between people, or in a culinary sense, thickening of a product, which I don't think you're referring to. So, could you drill down a little bit on -- is there no outright training? And what do you mean training in the classical sense that people think? Is there something else going on people wouldn't think about? 

MR. KIRBY: No, I mean, I don't know that I can prove upon my answer to Jen. We are having interactions on occasion with Ukrainian troops that momentarily have to come and temporarily have to come into Poland for the purpose of transshipment of this security assistance, and there's some liaison going on there. But it's not, as I said to her is not -- or and to you, it's not classic training in the sense that I think you and I think about it. 

But these liaisons are happening, and they're happening at a fairly frequent level. I would remind, and I know why the questions coming up. But I mean, we did have a training mission in Ukraine that we had to suspend because of the invasion. We had Florida National Guard troops that were there not far from Lviv that we're doing training. And you know, we would love nothing better than to get back to that. But clearly, that's not an option right now. 

You didn't ask this, but I'm going to take the opportunity anyway. You know, as we talk about security assistance, and we're doing a lot and we're doing a lot faster. And I understand the the focus and the interest in the actual items being sent and being used, I totally get that. But I just hope we don't forget that it's not just the stuff that matters. It's their ability to use this stuff. And that didn't happen by accident. 

Eight years of training for Ukrainian Armed Forces has made an enormous difference in their battlefield competency, in their capability. And that wasn't just the United States, UK, the Canadians, and other allies were also involved in that. So that when these things are arriving, they're able to get into the hands of Ukrainian armed forces, and they're able to use them in fairly short order. 

Again, that's not an accident, that prowess that agility that we were talking about earlier, that very much was by design, because of eight years of very quality training that they received.

Q: Statements that you just made there is probably what fuels the idea that there's some training going on. Only because some of these weapons and supplies are relatively new to the Ukrainians. And your testimony up there, as you were saying, eight years of training by the United States and other countries gives them this prowess gives them the ability...

MR. KIRBY: It does.

Q: stun the Russians. Yet on newer weapons they may not be so familiar with, how could they use -- achieve that same -- I'm just saying that to suggest the fact that somewhere along the line...

MR. KIRBY: Again, I can't improve upon my answer. There's no training right now in the classic sense.

Q: OK. 

MR. KIRBY: Fadi.

Q: With everything that you mentioned about the Russian troops moving around Kiev. Did the department detect any de-escalation on the side of the Russian troops and around Kiev, but in Ukraine in general? And then, if I may...

MR. KIRBY: Before you go on, what do you mean by de-escalation?

Q: What they said that there's going to be some de-escalation in the operations and...

MR. KIRBY: What they call de-escalation, I call repositioning. They had already been in a defensive posture before they began to re-position. And as far as we can tell, the forces that remain around Kiev are still largely in defensive positions.

Q: But in terms of military operations targeting the city itself or other...

MR. KIRBY: No clearly, they are from the air. I mean, Kiev is still a central focus of their airstrikes. 

Q: And you've read them Ukrainian forces with their agility and stopping not only the convoy, but basically, it seems like they were able to ford this offensive -- Russian offensive to take Kiev. Should the Pentagon as well be credited with any advisory role on the operational level with the Ukrainians throughout this war? 

You said, like for eight years, of course, they played a role in and training these forces. Did the Pentagon play any role, not only in supplying the weapons, but play in any advisory role in the operational sense of how to basically deal with this invasion?

MR. KIRBY: You know, we don't have trainers on the ground in Ukraine. We're not doing tactical level, you know, advise and assist, which is what I think you're getting at. But we have said for a while now we, to the degree we can provide the Ukrainians information that's useful to them in the fight, we're providing that. I think that's about the best I can answer your question. Barb.

Q: A question from one of our colleagues who was unable to dial in would like to ask.

MR. KIRBY: So, they found a work around.

Q: It's a very typical practice the Whitehouse often did that during COVID. People would email to other...

MR. KIRBY: Very good.

Q: ...colleagues. So, this person who shall go unnamed, would like to know, of the Russian announcement -- and then I have a question. About the 134,000 conscripts, what do you make of that? Do you believe the Russians when they say these conscripts won't go into Ukraine, it's a routine call up? Do you believe they're going to get mobilized and that the Russians are going to have to rely on them in the coming weeks? 

And the question I wanted to ask you. Can you bring us up to date on any plan or thoughts you have -- the department has about the need to establish either a rotational or extension program for the troops you've sent? While some, some of them are quite recently there, there's every reason to think you're going to have to eventually rotate some units.

MR. KIRBY: On the conscripts, I mean, we've seen noted that the Ministry of Defense has claimed that these conscripts that President Putin has now called up 134,000 or so. They've claimed that they're not going to be sent in the Ukraine to fight. We'll see. We've also seen Russia rejected deployment of conscripts in Ukraine, totally outright saying, you know, wasn't happening. Only to then have to publicly acknowledge that after it was real by journalists that they were in fact there. 

So, I don't think he can take anything from the Ministry of Defense at face value. So, we'll see, we know that. And we talked about this before, Barb that, that in those early days, it was a significant amount of their forces were conscripts. And we have indications that many of them were simply lied to about what they were doing. 

Some of them thought they were going on a training exercise, weren't told that they were actually going into combat into war. And of course, that sense of disillusionment, and their lack of proper training and preparation led to some disastrous consequences for some of these early Russian units. So again, we'll see. We'll see where this goes. We'll watch. We'll try to do the best we can to verify. We're not going to take at face value. 

And on the extension, or extensions or rotations, I think the Secretary wants to keep his options, open Barb. The additional deployments that we've sent now, somewhere on the order of just under 20,000 or so, troops to Europe, these are on temporary orders. You know, we'll take each one as it comes. And the Secretary will decide whether that capability needs to stay yes or no. And then if it does, does it need to be that unit? Or do we need to rotate that unit out? 

Thus far, nobody has been rotated out everybody that the Secretary has ordered in, is going to stay in. And we've talked about the 82nd airborne, for instance, in some of their enablers. They are still there. And the Secretary's made no decisions about their departure. The carrier strike group Harry S. Truman is still in the Mediterranean and will stay in the Mediterranean until the Secretary decides that it's time for the ship to rotate out. 

Now with a carrier strike group, obviously, you've got refit and refuel and maintenance that has to go on the back end of a deployment. So, we'll factor that all in there. But I think what we're trying to be careful of is sort of our hard ending dates on these temporary deployments, because we want to be able to monitor the situation on the ground and make the best and most flexible decisions in real time. 

Q: I'm sorry I don't get it. Because I mean, are you just saying, your going -- I know, you're not exactly saying you're just going to plus deployment...

MR. KIRBY: No. We're going to...

Q: Are you open to rotations?

MR. KIRBY: Of course. Of course. Absolutely. The Secretary is leaving his options open. And look Barb, I mean, nobody knows how long the needs going to be there. The acute need for these deterrence and defense capabilities, because we don't know how long this war in Ukraine is going to last. So, I think it follows just normal reason that at some point, if the length of time gets to a point where commanders on the ground recommend that they swap these units out, the Secretary will certainly be open to that. 

And it may be like, you remove a capability, because it's not only time to send that capability back, but maybe you just don't need it as much anymore. And maybe what goes forward is something completely different, or maybe nothing at all. I mean, I think it's going to be very flexible. And we'll be as open with you as we can about what's going in. 

But you've noticed, I'm sure that we're not giving you hard end dates, because we're watching this in real time. It is about making sure that we are properly postured on the Eastern Flank of the Alliance. And again, that's a put and take that the Secretary is looking at literally every day. 

Q: Can you say besides the carrier strike group you just mentioned, can you say who else is in it? And I believe, Army combat brigade, can you say what other units are being extended? 

MR. KIRBY: I don't I don't have any other ones to speak to at this time. Those are the big muscle movements that we know are staying in place for right now. But I mean, you know, Barb we have lots of small units, enablers that I don't have visibility on all of those. 

Q: Is the 82nd being extended?

MR. KIRBY: They're not going anywhere, anytime in the immediate future. I'd just put it that way. Sylvie.

Q: Just follow-up on Barbara's question.

MR. KIRBY: Which one? 

Q: About the length.

MR. KIRBY: She asked a lot of them.

Q: About the length...

Q: They weren't all mine. (Barbara)

Q: ...of the conflict. So, I understand that the fact that the Russians refocus on Donbas may extend the conflict, because they have to move...

MR. KIRBY: Sure.

Q: And to go into a very contested region. So, how long do you think it could last months? Years?

MR. KIRBY: Hard to say, it really is. The Ukrainians are fighting very, very well. And the Russians are not. It would be foolish to try to predict exactly how long this could go clearly, if in fact, they're going to prioritize the Donbas region. If what they say they're going to do, they actually do. An area that they have now fought over for eight years. 

An area where there are many Ukrainian armed forces, who are also very active. This could drag on for a while. It wouldn't -- it might not just be a matter of days and weeks. It could be much longer than that. But Sylvie that's difficult to know, it's really difficult to know. 


Q: John, you said that the Secretary is keeping his options open about the presence and troops. 


Q: But has he actually extended the carrier and the combat brigade and the 82nd because you said, they're not going home. Has he...

MR. KIRBY: He has made -- he reviews the posture, literally every day. And he has decided that he's going to keep the 82nd there for a while longer. And he has decided that the Harry S. Truman and her strike group will stay in the med for a while longer. 

Q: But the armored combat brigade, they're going...

MR. KIRBY: Right now, those are the two big muscle movements and the enablers that went with the 82nd also. They're also staying as you might imagine. I don't have additional decisions to speak to today. But again, first of all, they have none of them have been there that long already. It really hasn't been -- it's been, what, six, eight weeks in some cases. 

So, it hasn't been that long, but again, he's going to keep his options open. Make decisions in consultations with the Chairman and General Wolters to make sure that the deterrence and defense posture that we're trying to make sure is in place on the Eastern Flank of NATO is preserved, and that it's transparent. 

And that our allies and partners also have a say in what that posture looks like. And that they're comfortable with the capabilities we have in their country or in their region. So again, we'll do the best we can to be as transparent with you as well about that. But some of these units are fairly small. And, you know, though they may come and go based on whatever the need is. 

Now that the more interesting question is, what does this look long-term? And so, at the right time, we'll sit down, and we'll have those kinds of consultations with allies and partners too. About what, what's the proper European posture here, because clearly, no matter how this war ends, no matter when it ends, the security environment in Europe is going to be different. And we're going to have to respond to that. 

So, what that looks like, we don't know. But we're going to stay open to having those kinds of conversations too. About whether there needs to be more permanent -- a larger permanent presence on the European continent. 


Q: I have one tactical and one weapons question. Does the Pentagon assess that at this point, the Russians lack of air superiority, much less supremacy has been the deciding factor in this conflict? And that Ukrainian forces can attack Russian ground formations, without any -- without minimal -- with minimal fear of being attacked by Russian aircraft?

MR. KIRBY: I don't think at this point, we're willing to say there's one factor that's been ultimately decisive. I think, probably the most important decisive factor in Russia's failure thus far to achieve what they themselves said were their goals. And in terms of replacing the Zelenskyy government, occupying Ukraine, removing their sovereignty, their failure to achieve that the biggest decisive factor are the Ukrainians themselves. 

And not just the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but the Ukrainian people. I would say that they get the lion's share of the credit here about defeating the Russian strategic goals in the onset.

Q: I'm giving them all the credit in the world, but the fact that they've contained this powerful Russian air force, it would seem to be a major factor in their success is it not?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not I'm not suggesting it's not a major factor, but you asked me if it was the decisive factor. And I think there's a lot that goes into that. 

Q: OK, weapons. You rattle off stingers, javelins, you didn't mention those hundred little drones that that fixated the world's attention. When they do arrive there, what will be their targets, because the versions gone over their...

MR. KIRBY: That would be up to the Ukrainians to decide.

Q: Well, they don't have any anti-tank capability of those drones, I just want to get a sense from you. 

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into targeting. We're providing the Ukrainians, systems and weapons that they can use to defend themselves and how they decide to use them where and when and against what targets that's really for them to speak to. And clearly it wouldn't be wise, even if I knew for me to talk about it here from this podium. 

Q: They haven’t arrived yet though right the...

MR. KIRBY: We have not.

Q: Can I ask you one of the civilians -- minimize the civilian casualties. Part of minimizing it is fessing up and making good when you screw up like we did in Afghanistan killing that family in the errant drone attack. Can you take this for the record? Have they been paid -- have the survivors been given any condolence payments yet? I know that was in the works. But now four months later.

MR. KIRBY: I haven't checked in a while. I will -- I'll take the question. I don't believe that that's happened yet. 

Q: I didn't expect you to know off the top of your head. So, thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you. In the back there.

Q: I have two questions, one for each side of the conflict. Now is the aim of the U.S. and the Allied weapons transfers to help Ukraine win this war? And what a win entail pushing the Russians out of the Donbass region? Now for the other side, is Belarus still providing help to the Russians or has Lukashenko pulled back his support for Putin? 

MR. KIRBY: You mean help as in providing a place from which the attack could have been launched? Help as in providing refit and resupply should that be what the Russians do. Help as in the ability to have aircraft launch and take off from your territory? Help as in letting the Russians put the surface to air missile systems? Yes, I think all that's true. 

And as for your first question of course. Look this war should have never happened in the first place. But now that it is, obviously we want the Ukrainians to win. Why would we not be sending $2 billion worth of security assistance, and that's just the United States. If we didn't want them to win this war, if we didn't want them to get their country back to have every inch of their territory respected by their neighbors, including Russia.

Yes, absolutely. 


Q: Thank you. On China -- China and the Solomon Islands concluding the new security -- Solomon Islands concluded the new security agreement earlier today. This agreement Chinese watches to be the formal hierarchy. How much are you concerned about this new security here? And do you regard the Chinese efforts to undermine free and open Indo Pacific?

MR. KIRBY: I'll of the government of the Solomon speak to their relationship with China. That's really the appropriate place for comment about that. And I don't think based on what little bit we know of this communication -- it's too soon to know what China's long-term potential ambitions are here with respect to that. 

So, we'd let those two nations speak to this Ryo. But taking 10 steps back away from the Solomons, we have continued to see China's outreach to be coercive, to be aggressive, to be clearly one sided towards China's interests in the Indo Pacific region. They are not only bullying their neighbors for ridiculous bogus territorial claims, but they actually are, you know, building basically island aircraft carriers in the western Pacific to further advance their own national security goals. 

Which are inimical to so many other nations there in the Asia Pacific. You have another on?

Q: Yes. Is the DoD reach out to the formal island -- is the DoD reach out to the Solomon Island counterpart about this new security deal?

MR. KIRBY: I know of no communication between us in the Solomon Islands. You might want to check with the State Department, though. It's really a better question for them. 


Q: General in Chernobyl -- can you say that Chernobyl is still under the control of Russians? They have sent some forces out.

MR. KIRBY: All I can tell you is that we've seen indications that some Russian forces are leaving Chernobyl. Who has custody of it right now? I don't think we're able to say definitively. 

Q: And also own nuclear posture of Russia. Do you have any indication that they change nuclear posture? Or have they conveyed to you anything with respect to that? 

MR. KIRBY: They're not conveying anything to us about their nuclear posture. And Kasim, I would just say that we haven't seen anything from a nuclear posture perspective that warrants a change on our part. I just leave it at that. 

Q: I have two questions. And my first question is about President Biden's announcement to release more oil reserves to reduce pressure on gas prices. And I would like to know the threat of the implication of this decision? Does U.S. military have a separate or reserves to make sure that this decision doesn’t impact on U.S. military readiness, in case of large, unexpected contingencies?

MR. KIRBY: We have, as I think everybody knows, I mean we have the fuel reserves of our own to fuel our operations. We do the best we can to distribute those and make sure that they are available for our use. And obviously, but we also purchase on the market, oil and gas to -- so that we don't have to dip into our reserves all the time.

What I would just tell you, because I'm not an expert on exactly what that process looks like. I will just tell you that the more important thing is, can we continue to defend the country and defend our national interest using our reserves, our resources for fossil fuel? And the answer's yes.

Q: My second question is about nuclear posture review. So, the U.S. allies have paid much attention to their nuclear posture review. And yesterday, we have, like half page fact sheet, a summary of consisted of seven sentences of a Nuclear Posture Review and three sentences about Missile Defense Review. 

And I checked how previous situations released the results of their review. So, the Obama administration had printed like 72 pages of information in 2010. And Trump administration had released like a 100 piece of their like, report in 2018. So, is there any reason that the current administration should keep most of the information classified this year? 

And do you have any plan to release more detailed and comprehensive information?

MR. KIRBY: We will release an unclassified version of both documents at the appropriate time. right now, they're classified. We'll work through the declassification process, but they'll get released eventually.

Q: So, do you have an estimation about the release, like when...

MR. KIRBY: In coming months. In coming months. Anything else? OK, thanks, everybody.