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Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing

May 9, 2022
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Hello, everybody. Happy Monday. You're excited that it...

Q: We decided it's Thursday.

MR. KIRBY: Oh, is that right? Can we just decide it's Friday then? I mean, why not?

Q: (OFF-MIKE).

MR. KIRBY: All right, a couple of things at the top, and then we'll get right to -- right to you. So, I just wanted to make you aware the secretary had two phone calls with counterparts this morning. First, he spoke with the Greek Minister of National Defense regarding the situation in Ukraine. Of course, he thanked Greece for its security assistance and contributions to Ukraine. They also discussed the importance of continuing to ally and partner assistance and agreed to continue to closely collaborate on these issues, including finding a time to meet in Washington later this year. They also reviewed the deepening defense partnership between the United States and Greece resulting from the updated U.S. Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The secretary also continued his routine conversations with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense Minister Reznikov. So, they had yet another talks this morning. The secretary highlighted for Minister Reznikov the President's announcement last Friday of an additional $150 million in presidential drawdown authority to continue to provide Ukraine's armed forces with artillery, counter artillery radars, and electronic jamming equipment. And the minister was grateful for this additional support and also helped share his view of what was going on, on the battlefield, with Secretary Austin. Secretary Austin emphasized our enduring commitment to bolster Ukraine's capacity to counter Russian aggression and updated the minister on our ongoing coordination with allies and partners on security assistance efforts. I think you guys have heard us talk many times that we're continuing to help coordinate the provision of security assistance materials from -- from many other allies and partners. And of course, as always, they pledged to remain in close contact, and they, of course, will.

On the exercise front, between May and September of this year, the U.S. Army Pacific will participate in over 15 Major exercises with multiple -- try that again. This one's a tough one, with multiple multinational and joint partners across the Indo Pacific. During this period of time, Army Pacific will execute Operation Pathways across the Indo Pacific and Asia, deploying thousands of troops and equipment sets to execute tactical actions that solve operational and strategic problems. The first of these events is an exercise it's called Marara. Did I say that right, Mike, Marara? Which began Saturday in French Polynesia. From now until the 21st, this 13-nation exercise will be held in the South Pacific -- and there it goes. It died on me. Right in mid-sentence. Luckily, I've got a backup here. I think we're just gonna have to go back to the old notebook. OK, from now till the 21st, this 13-nation exercise held in the South Pacific environment will improve interoperability, enhance the ability to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and share knowledge and expertise, Army Pacific soldiers and Marines along with the USS Pearl Harbor, approximately 1000 total, will primarily train with the French military to further strengthen relationships and help -- help increases our presence in the region. So, very exciting exercise, lots to get done over the next few months. And we'll keep you guys updated on that.

We'll start with questions. And Lita, I think you're up.

Q: Thanks, John. Two things. With the pace of the -- the weapons and other U.S. contributions to Ukraine going fairly quickly, how long before the Pentagon is going to need the additional drawdown authority in order to avoid some delays in sending some material to Ukraine? And then my second -- the second question is on training. At this point, as you look at the training that's being given to the Ukrainian troops. Can you give us a sense of what the demand is for the training and whether or not the Florida National Guard is enough? Or you're going to have to bolster that? Where do you see that going? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: So, on the second question, we don't, right now, see a need to boost the number of trainers. We believe that with the assets we already have, and of course, the Florida National Guard are participating in helping in that. But they're not the only ones you saw. The Canadians are also providing some howitzer training. We believe right now we're -- we're OK. But we obviously want to be flexible. And if we need to change the numbers or -- or add people to do training, we'll certainly be open to looking at that. And I completely blanked on your first question.

Q: The drawdown authority. How long before that -- that starts to run out? You've used all, but I think about $100 million, is that correct?

MR. KIRBY: … $100 million left in the current authorities. And we believe that between what the President just announced Friday and the 100 million that we still have left, and we're going to be working that in real-time with the Ukrainians, that that will get us to about the third week of this month is what we're pretty much anticipating which is why we -- we continue to urge Congress to pass the President's supplemental request as soon as possible so that we can continue to provide aid to Ukraine uninterrupted. So, we think with what we got left, that'll get us through most of this month, in terms of future packages and future material, but -- but that's why we're urging Congress to act quickly.

Idrees?

Q: Over the weekend, some U.S. diplomats went back to the embassy in Kyiv. Are there any Marines yet at the embassy, and if not, have any of them gone to do sort of these assessments in the case that there is a need for them there?

MR. KIRBY: There was no Marine security attached to the diplomats. Everything was done through diplomatic security personnel. There was no need to have the Marines there. Remember, the mission of the Marine security detachment is to protect what is considered U.S. soil. That's why they're there. And right now, the embassy is not fully occupied. And so, we're not -- it's not considered. I mean, it's obviously still our embassy, but there's -- there's no need to have a permanent Marine Corps security detachment there. So, we're in constant discussions with the State Department here. And we'll certainly follow their lead as they determine what sort of embassy presence they want and on what timeline. But there were no Marines, no U.S. military involved in this -- in this visit to Kyiv and to the embassy.

Q: And second question. The reports from Ukraine and the Russians sort of suggesting the territorial gains in the east are very limited on both sides. Is it too early to say we're at a stalemate now in the Donbas as far as the ground offensive is concerned?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. I mean, look, when you say the word "stalemate," I mean, too many people look at that, and they think, well, that means nobody's moving, right? That everything is kind of stuck. If you think of World War One and trench warfare, and everybody's kind of -- and it's very dynamic Idrees, I would not call it a stalemate. There are literally towns and villages that are changing hands, sometimes in the course of the day or so. And we assess that the Russians continue to make incremental progress moving down from the north, pushing down into the Donbas area from the -- the north of that area, particularly along the line of access coming out of a town called Izyum. But it's incremental. And it's still plotting, as I've said, it -- it's -- it's slow, and it's uneven. And they continue to meet a very stiff Ukrainian resistance.

So, no, we would not call it a stalemate in the classic sense that just everything is frozen. It's not frozen. There's a lot of artillery going back and forth. There's a lot of movement back and forth. It's just that when you take two steps back in the aggregate, you don't see the Russians really making a lot of progress over the course of time. We still believe that they are behind their own schedule, and then what progress they're making is very limited in terms of just geographic reach.

Jen?

Q: John, I'd like to get your reaction to Putin's speech on Red Square today at Victory Day and the fact that they didn't have any flyovers. They usually have flyovers. What -- what did you notice about this? And what's your reaction to the words he chose and what he said?

MR. KIRBY: I can't account for their parade planning; in what assets they had or didn't have; I think the Ministry of Defense can -- Mr. Putin can speak to their -- their parade. What I would tell you is that we still heard some of the same bluster, some of the same falsehoods. Some of the same, quite frankly, just untruths in terms of his rhetoric that we've heard from the beginning. I mean, he talked about -- he talked about this being a justified military operation. It's not. He still had diplomatic options on the table on February 24 and chose to ignore them. Ukraine posed no threat. Not only no threat to Russia but no threat to anybody else. So, it wasn't justified. He said it was timely, but it needed to happen now. No, it didn't. Again, he had plenty of options available to him. And he said -- and he talked about, you know, ridding the region or Ukraine of Nazis. Do you know who's in Ukraine? Ukrainians. Not Nazis. I mean, it was just a ridiculous claim. So, we heard pretty much the same out of -- out of Mr. Putin.

What we didn't hear, not that we expected to, but what we should have heard was plans for how he's going to end the war, how he's going to move his forces out of Ukraine, and how he's going to finally respect Ukraine as a sovereign state and nation that borders his. A nation that posed absolutely zero threat. That's what we didn't hear, and I think that's what -- what he should have said.

Q: He said in his speech that Ukraine was on the verge of getting nuclear weapons and that that was one of the reasons they went in.

MR. KIRBY: Another falsehood. Just not true.

Q: And the Ukrainian government says that 1.2 million Ukrainians who have now been deported to Russia and are in these camps. Do you have evidence of that? Do you see these camps? Are these concentration camps?

MR. KIRBY: I can't -- I can't assert to the number. But we -- we -- we certainly have seen indications that Ukrainians are being moved from Ukraine into Russia. I can't speak to how many camps or what they look like. I mean, I don't know that we have that level of detail. But we do have indications that Ukrainians are being taken against their will into Russia. Again, unconscionable, not the behavior of responsible power. Certainly, another indication that he simply won't accept and respect Ukrainian sovereignty and that they are citizens of another nation.

Q: Isn't that ethnic cleansing, though, if you take 1.2 million people from a country and move them to camps?

MR. KIRBY: I'm gonna let -- that's not a determination that is best coming from the U.S. Defense Department. We've long talked about the fact that we do believe Russian soldiers continue to conduct war crimes. But beyond that, I think we're going to -- I think it's better not for the Defense Department to make that kind of determination. There's a process for that, and it doesn't reside here in the Pentagon. And we want to respect that.

But look, I mean, again, you don't have to look very far to see evidence of Russian brutality here. Continued. We're on day 75, which means 75 days of brutalizing the -- the nation of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. And every time you think they just can't fall to a new low, they prove you wrong.

Yeah, Travis?

Q: Thanks, John. I followed the U.S. weapons and hardware flowing into Ukraine. Is there any concern about the Ukrainian's ability to maintain that equipment? Do they have the capacity to do that? And has the department have been having any discussions with Ukrainians about potential solutions, like using private contractors to work on the equipment?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, look, I mean, one of the reasons why, I mean, you've talked -- we've talked about the kinds of systems we're giving them is we're -- we really are trying to provide them the kinds of things they know how to already use. And that's why we've been working with so many other nations that -- who have inventories of old Soviet-era weapons and systems because that's what the Ukrainians are comfortable with, it's what they're trained on, it's what they're used to using. Now, we have started to, as the war has gone on and -- and they have, you know, continued to work themselves through some of those systems, we have been trying to provide them with some additional advanced systems that do come from our inventory, the howitzers a great example that. But that required some training, and it still is. We're now training more than 300 Ukrainian artillerymen on the howitzers, and there's another 50-plus that are going through that training right now.

We've also just started today a two-week maintainer course for the howitzer because it is -- it is a system that not only do they not have experience using, but they don't have experience maintaining. And as you use these things, any artilleryman will tell you; they're -- they're going to break every now and then. There's going to be required maintenance. And so, we've just now started a two-week course, just actually started today to take some artillerymen and put them through some -- some maintenance training. And I suspect that that too will be an ongoing requirement.

And if that's needed for some of the other systems, we'll look at that. But I think you know, some of the other systems like the counter artillery radar, the mobile air defense radar, right now, we're focused on getting them the operational training on that. And if we feel like there's a need to do additional training on maintaining, we'll do that. I just don't have any plans to announce for that.

So, what -- but Travis, what we're -- well, we understand the need to do that, as you give them more capable systems, we also want to be mindful that we don't overload their system with too much of that because they're still very much in an active fight and manpower matters to them in that fight. So, it's a balance; you want to make sure that they can use the material, that they can up -- keep it up and maintain it. But you don't want to put such an onerous requirement on them that it -- that it distracts them too much from the fight at hand. So, again, this is another reason why, you know, we're staying in touch with Minister Reznikov to have that kind of conversation, to make sure that we're striking the best balance in that regard.

Q: I think that is the concern; there's so much moving in that they might not have the capacity. So, is the sense that this new training program that, for maintainers, that you're putting together will fill that need, or do you anticipate that there is going to be additional need that they're going to have to figure out some way...

MR. KIRBY: I think it's too soon to know. But what I can tell you is that -- that we're gonna stay open-minded here, and if there's a need for additional training, if there's a need for other systems that could use some maintenance support to include the provision of spare parts because we can't expect that the Ukrainians are going to necessarily have old spare parts for these things, then, you know, we're going to do that. In fact, we have already; howitzers are a great example. I mean, as part of the shipment of the actual pieces, the artillery tubes, we have already started to flow in spare parts, the kinds of parts that are the ones that you know, that you need the most when you're using them in in combat. So, we're gonna stay open-minded on that.

Yeah? Yeah.

Q: On the $100 million left. Is it just $100 million left out of the $3.8 billion of drawdown of authorities? Or can you just clarify, what did you mean by $100 million left out of...

MR. KIRBY: Of the authorities that we had been granted by Congress, we have about $100 million left.

Q: And the rest of it have been used in the procurement of arms and ammunition...

MR. KIRBY: Well, we're talking about drawdown authority only. And so, that's why the President asked as part of this -- of this $33 billion supplemental that's on the hill right now, $5 billion of it is just for additional presidential drawdown authority. $6 billion is to be used in the Ukraine security assistance initiative. So, that's -- that's where -- that $6 billion would be where we would go out and buy the material specifically -- with the purpose specified to send it into Ukraine. The drawdown authority allows us to go get it off our shelves. We already own it; it's already ours. And get it right to Ukraine.

So, we have about $100 million left in terms of what we haven't announced. We think, and again, this is an estimate, but the third week of this month, we'll -- by the third week of the month, we expect to -- to -- to utilize all of that. Which is why again, we encourage Congress to act quickly on the supplemental that the President submitted because that will -- we'll be able to just keep the flow going uninterrupted. As you have seen, we have continued drawdown packages; it varies in frequency, but pretty -- pretty -- pretty frequently, sometimes more than once a week, depending on what we're giving to them. So, obviously, time is of the essence; we want to be able to -- we'd like to be in a situation where there's no interruption to that ability to draw down our own stocks.

Q: And also, in Donbas. Of course, it has been weeks; the Russians have been building up their forces in Donbas. And then you have been saying that they are just moving extremely slowly. Can you -- to what extent does the building think that Russians are going to fail in Donbas as well?

MR. KIRBY: We're not going to predict, you know, the outcome here, Kasim. That's -- I can't -- I can't imagine in what world that would be a prudent thing for us to do. What -- what -- all we can do is tell you what we're seeing. And I've done that. And the other thing we can do is to continue to talk to Ukrainians, as we did today, about their needs in the Donbas specifically, and making sure that we're doing our best to meet that, that $150 million package that we announced Friday, that -- that does that, it's very much in line. And the next $100 million, if -- if, in fact, it's $100 million, I don't know what the amount is going to be for the next package. But let's assume that that's it. We'll do the exactly the same working with the Ukrainians about what they need.

So, we're -- what -- I can't predict outcomes on the battlefield. We would never do that. What I can predict for you is that our commitment to helping Ukraine defend itself from the fight they're in, that will absolutely continue.

Sylvie?

Q: John, thank you. You said that the fighting is very dynamic. Do you see the artillery that the U.S. has provided to the Ukrainians making a difference on the ground?

MR. KIRBY: We know -- again, our knowledge is limited. Once these things go into Ukraine, they belong to Ukraine and how and when they use them is up to them. All I can do is tell you that -- that what we're hearing from the Ukrainians are two things. One that they are -- they are being used. The howitzers specifically are being used in combat, and I don't know how many, and I don't know where, but they are being used. And that they are effective. And that there is, as we've long said there would be, there is a heavy reliance in this particular fight in the Donbas region, specifically, on artillery. Long-range fires is the way we talk about it here. But it's basically artillery fire. And both sides are firing artillery at the other's positions. So -- so, we know -- we know they're being useful. And we're hearing that directly from the Ukrainians.

Q: I'm just curious as you as you near the -- the third week of this month, and near the end of the -- of the drawdown authority. Does the pace of equipment going into Ukraine continue at its -- at its previous pace, or is that slowed as you near the last bit here?

MR. KIRBY: No, we're not slowing it down based on -- I mean, we've -- we've gotten enough indications out of Congress, and there's bipartisan support for supporting Ukraine. I -- everything coming out of the hill tells us that -- that this supplemental will -- will be acted on and approved. That doesn't mean we still don't want it to get acted on very, very quickly so that there is no interruption. But -- but as for the pace, it's -- it's going to the same speed as it was before. I mean, there are still, I mean, multiple, multiple flights a day heading into the region into transshipment sites outside of Ukraine. Not just from the United States but from other nations as well. And there's still a daily movement on the ground of that material inside Ukraine. That's still happening at pace.

Now, again, we're always adjusting. You know, I can't say the same number of -- of shipments get into Ukraine, on any given day, you have to adjust it based on the security environment and the threat, and also the absorption rate of the Ukrainians, and how much can they, you know, how much -- they're in a fight. So, you don't want to throw the kitchen sink at them every day when they have -- when they haven't, you know, figured out a place to put everything or where they're going to -- where they're going to move it to. So, again, that's a constant balance that we're striking. And that's why we're in touch with the Ukrainians every day.

But the short answer to your question is, we're not allowing the fact that we're down to $100 million left. And we think that that'll get us through the third of the month to slow down what we're already providing. And we want to have a little flexibility with -- with what we've got left to make sure that -- that it more discreetly, you know, meets their needs. So, we know there's not much left in this current set of authorities. So, we want to use it smartly. And we want to make sure that -- that as we work that next package that it's again lockstep with what their requirements are.

David?

Q: Do you have a plan for what you would do if legislation isn't enacted by the third week?

MR. KIRBY: Well, we've got -- we still have some -- as you heard from Mr. LaPlante, we still have some -- some money in terms of USAI, the security assistance initiative, to go purchase things to provide them. But we're working closely with Congress on this. And again, we've seen no indication that this is going to be an issue. I mean, every indication we're hearing, including from Speaker Pelosi just yesterday, is that Congress will act on this.

Q: Does that lend-lease legislation make it possible to just send stuff without -- without any money from Congress?

MR. KIRBY: I think I'll let the President speak for -- for this. And I think there'll be more -- he'll have more to say on this later today. I don't want to get ahead of the -- of the President. I would just say that any -- any support that we get from Congress and Congress has been very supportive, but any additional support we get from Congress in terms of security assistance to Ukraine is welcome. And we'll work inside that.

Gordon?

Q: Yes, I just want to go back to this stalemate-not-stalemate bit a little bit. You know, a few weeks ago, three or four weeks ago, there's a lot of energy behind the idea that those weeks that we're now in, after the Russians retrenched and focused on the east, you know, was a do or die moment. And that it was critical to seeing how well it would -- how well they would do. There's not, you know, despite the incrementalism and the dynamic battlefield, there does not seem to be those kinds of objectives overtaken. At what -- are you guys at all even surprised by the lack of that momentum now? You know, forgetting, like whatever happens on the battlefield, but are you surprised with the lack of momentum that they've achieved thus far? And what do you think that means, either way?

MR. KIRBY: The lack of momentum by the Russians?

Q: Correct.

MR. KIRBY: I wouldn't say there's surprise. I mean, we're watching this unfold in real-time, same as you, Gordon. In fact, some of what we thought was going to happen has happened. We knew that this would be an artillery fight, and it's turning out to be an artillery fight. We knew that the Russians would meet a stiff Ukrainian resistance because they have been there since -- since before the war began. And there's been fighting in the Donbas region. And that is proven true that the Ukrainian resistance in the Donbas remains stiff.

And that progress in the Donbas, because of the terrain, because of the -- because of the weather, the mud, and because of the fact that it's not -- that it's flat, it's open, it's not as urban, that -- that it would be -- that the Russians would have to -- in order to achieve their progress, they would have to focus on small towns and villages. Unlike when -- earlier, you right remember, we were talking about encircling, right? And trying to encircle Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv; make away of all these -- these larger towns. And so, what we're seeing now is a focus on sort of smaller games, smaller towns, and villages. And again, this is terrain that the Ukrainians know extraordinarily well. So, I don't know that there's like a lot of surprises here.

But -- but it's certainly clear, at least, where we stand on day 75, and nobody knows what day 76 is gonna look like, that the Russians have not overcome the challenges that they were trying to overcome in this new part of the conflict. They haven't. They've gotten a little bit better at logistics and sustainment, but not so much that they -- that they -- that they feel comfortable out running or even attempting to outrun their lines of supply. They haven't solved their command and control problems. They have submitted -- no, they've put in the fight more than 90 battalion tactical groups, but it's not clear exactly what the operational effectiveness is of all those because so many of them have been depleted because of the previous fighting. And we don't believe that they have -- while they have tried to get better, and you certainly see pockets where they're more integrated air to ground and maneuver between units. It's not -- it hasn't gelled yet.

So -- so, they -- they're certainly trying to get better. But there's -- there's not an indication here that they've solved all their problems. And as you might recall, a week or so ago, we were talking about that, that -- that it remains to be seen whether they were going to be able to fix the kinds of problems that they had in the north and thus far day 75 it doesn't appear like they have.

Rio?

Q: OK, thank you. I want to ask you about South Korea. The new administration will come into office tomorrow that they are strongly interested in reinforcing the (inaudible) against North Korea. Is the U.S. willing to discuss bigger military exercises, more U.S. assets on the Korean peninsula with a new administration?

MR. KIRBY: I won't get ahead of discussions that haven't happened. We look forward to working with the new government in South Korea, as we do with -- with every new administration there. South Korea remains a key ally. We're always going to look for ways to make the alliance better and more capable. And we'll -- I'll leave it there. We'll see where the discussions go.

Q: Separate question on North Korea. The U.S. publicly said that North Korea could be ready to conduct a nuclear test as (inaudible). So, generally speaking, you are reluctant to talk about intelligence matters in public. So, what effect do you expect by disclosing intelligence on nuclear tests? Do you expect it works as a deterrence against North Korea?

MR. KIRBY: We're doing that because we are a responsible nation that prioritizes the reduction of strategic risks. And we believe firmly that the international community must speak with a unified voice to oppose further development of such weapons by the north. So, we're doing it because it's the responsible thing to do.

Mike?

Q: John, speaking of artillery.

MR. KIRBY: Aw, man.

(LAUGHTER)

Why don't you just come up and give this part of the briefing?

Q: OK, I will.

MR. KIRBY: Go ahead.

Q: Ukraine is specifically asked for SP howitzers like the 109 because they don't provide them with more mobility on the battlefield and a level of ballistic protection that you won't get on an M-777. France is sending over -- sent over a dozen of their wheeled howitzers, the CAESAR. The Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy have all agreed to either send over the M-109s themselves or the German PzH 2000 SP howitzer.

My question is, the U.S. has more M-109s than any country in the world. Why is the administration dragging its feet on sending these weapons systems to Ukraine? And they need them now. They want them now, I mean.

MR. KIRBY: I would -- I would take issue that we're dragging our feet on anything, Mike. I mean, no nation has done more to support Ukraine's security needs than the United States, no nation. I mean, in just the drawdown authorities we've used already, we've -- we've provided to Ukraine almost the equivalent of their entire defense budget for 2021. So, I take -- I take issue with the idea that we're dragging our feet. What we are doing, including today, in the call with Minister Reznikov, is talking to the Ukrainians at the senior levels all the way down to the staff level about what they need and what we can provide them. And it's not just the United States; as you well noted, other nations are providing systems as well. So, I'm not going to get -- I'm not going to get inside the conversations we're having with the Ukrainians on privately about their needs. But I think the proof is in what we're announcing every day about how seriously we're taking their requirements.

Luis?

Q: There’s been talk about how the incremental progress in the east has been due to the stiff Ukraine resistance. There has also...

MR. KIRBY: And some of the problems they've had with their own logistics and sustainment, command and control, integration. I mean, it's a combination.

Q: It's a combination, right. But there's also a big rush to try to get those howitzers in very, very quickly. And...

MR. KIRBY: Almost all of them are.

Q: Yeah. Can you comment on what effect the howitzers have had as part of the combined effort?

MR. KIRBY: Again, all I can do is tell you what we're hearing from the Ukrainians. Again, we don't -- we don't track each tube and where it's at and how many rounds is firing on any given day. It belongs to Ukraine when it goes in there. And they use it as they see fit. We know, as my answer to Sylvie, we know that they're -- they're getting in, and they're actually being used in combat. We know that. You've heard the secretary testify to that last week. And what we're hearing from the Ukrainians, are they -- they are -- they are very useful and -- and they're grateful for them and that they are having an impact because they're additive to their own artillery pieces.

I mean, all told, the 90 that we're -- that we're providing is, you know, provides them five to seven battalions worth of -- of howitzers. That's -- that's not insignificant. But I don't have -- you know, I couldn't give you a GPS coordinate for each one and exactly how many rounds is firing and what it's hitting. But the indications we're getting from the Ukrainians are they're -- they're in combat, and they're -- and they're being effective. And, more broadly, Luis, if you just take a step back and, you know, back to Idrees' question about stalemate and what's going on, if you just take a look at what's going on, the fighting over these small towns and villages, some of them trading hands over the course of just a couple of days, you can see -- I mean, I've seen some of the overhead imagery; you can see how active an artillery fight this really is. I mean, it is -- you know, back to Gordon's question; I mean, it is exactly like we thought it was going to be, like the Ukrainians thought it was going to be, very dependent on long-range fires. And both sides are -- both sides are applying artillery in this fight.

Q: Do you think that this moment that Gordon described is the pivotal two weeks in a rush to get in there in time that it has borne fruition.

MR. KIRBY: We -- I certainly wouldn't speak for the Ukrainians; I think it's better for them to speak to their assessment of how they're doing and how and how much -- more specifically, how much the Western aid has helped. But -- but again, our indications from talking to them is that it has been incredibly critical to their ability to continue to defend themselves in the Donbas, particularly the howitzers and the rounds that go with them. Because it's such a -- such relying on -- it is so reliant on long-range fires. But it's not just that, I mean, you know, the counter artillery radars that they're going to be able to use will help them defend against Russian artillery, UASes will help give them eyes and longer-range strike capability. I mean, it's not just -- we're talking a lot about howitzers today, which I never thought I'd be able to do with any semblance of -- of knowledge. Thank you, Mike. But -- but it's not just that. And again, the feedback we're getting is that these things, all these things, but particularly the artillery support, is making a difference.

Christina?

Q: Given the deterioration that sort of, again, in Hong Kong, the security -- the democratic systems there that are -- that are just kind of slowly being taken away. Do you see any sort of -- or would you like to talk -- address some of the changes that might -- that that might engender in the security situation in the region?

MR. KIRBY: What -- I missed.

Q: Well, in Hong Kong, we've had a recent change in the way the governing -- governorship is going to be...

MR. KIRBY: Oh, oh. I think that's a better question put to Ned Price over at the State Department. I think I'll -- I'll refrain from that.

Q: But have you seen any change in the security situation, or do you anticipate that in the region?

MR. KIRBY: I am not aware of any security situation that's different.

Joe Gould?

Q: Hey, John, thanks for taking my question. Want to ask you on the Phoenix Ghost. Now that this cohort of Ukrainian troops has wrapped up training, can you tell us where that training took place? And now that we know Phoenix Ghost stems from an Air Force program, can you tell us if the trainers were with the U.S. Air Force?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, the trainers were Air Force. I think I talked about that last week. The -- the training -- the weeklong training for Phoenix Ghosts took place at Ramstein. And it wrapped up -- it just wrapped up; I think -- I think yesterday.

OK, I'm gonna have to call it there. Thanks very much. We'll talk to you guys tomorrow.

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