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Brigadier General Pat Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary, Holds a Press Briefing

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER:  Hey, good afternoon, everybody.  Happy Friday.  Just a few things, and then we'll get right to your questions.

So as you're all aware, today marks the one-year anniversary of Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine, and to quote Secretary Austin's statement issued earlier today, quote, "This solemn anniversary is an opportunity for all who believe in freedom, rules and sovereignty to recommit ourselves to supporting Ukraine's brave defenders for the long haul, and recall that the stakes of Russia's war stretch far beyond Ukraine.  Alongside our international allies and partners, we remain committed to supporting the Ukrainian people with the security assistance they need to defend their nation and take back their sovereign territory, and we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes."

In another demonstration of our enduring commitment, earlier today, the Department of Defense announced $2 billion in additional security assistance for Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.  The security assistance package reaffirms the steadfast support of the United States for Ukraine by committing additional unmanned aerial systems and counter-UAS and electronic warfare detection equipment, as well as critical ammunition stocks for artillery and precision fires capabilities that will bolster Ukraine's ability to repel Russian aggression.  For additional details, I'd refer you to our press release located on

Also today, the secretary spoke by phone with Ukraine's minister of defense, Oleksii Reznikov.  Secretary Austin praised Ukraine's courage and sacrifice that has inspired and rallied the international community to support its efforts to push back against Russian aggression, and he also provided an update on U.S. security assistance efforts, and a readout of that call is available on the DOD website.

In addition, Secretary Austin also spoke today by phone with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant to discuss topics of mutual interest, and we will have a readout of that call posted later today on, as well.

Finally, today, the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee released their independent report findings and recommendations today.  The Department of Defense efforts to implement a comprehensive and integrated approach to suicide prevention actions will be informed by the work of the committee, which will amplify DOD's current approach in three key priority areas.  These include fostering quality of life and building healthy climates and cultures, addressing stigma as a barrier to help-seeking and promoting a culture of lethal means safety.  And while we recognize that suicide has no single cause, and that there's no single preventative action treatment or cure, even one suicide is too many, and we will exhaust every effort to promote the wellness, health and morale of our total force.  As Secretary Austin has said previously, the department's most precious resource is our people, so we must spare no effort in working to prevent suicide within our ranks.  We must all, in every corner of the department, redouble our commitment to connect with those who may be hurting and save lives.

And with that, we'll go to your questions.  Start with Associated Press, Lita.

Q:  Thank you.  Two things.  Number one, the U.S. has talked quite a bit about warning China against providing any aid, lethal aid to Russia.  Given that, has the department seen any indication so far of any type of aid, particularly lethal aid, going from China to Russia, or any indications that such is actually happening?

And then secondly, on the suicide report that you just mentioned, the report recommended a number of gun safety changes, including waiting periods and raising the age for purchasing a weapon.  Has the department considered any of those before?  How difficult will it be to put any of those into effect, considering some of the stronger gun safety thoughts, particularly among Congress?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  Thanks, Lita.  So on your first question in regards to China and the potential for providing lethal aid to Ukraine, we haven't seen them provide lethal aid to Ukraine  -- excuse me -- to Russia yet, but we also have noticed that they haven't taken it off the table.  And so you've heard Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken and others warn China about the implications of providing lethal assistance to Russia, to include needlessly extending this conflict and the suffering of the Ukrainian people.  I would say, ironically, China's recent peace plan proposal includes respecting the sovereignty of all countries, so one would hope that they mean it and respect Ukraine's right to exist, versus potentially providing lethal aid intended to kill innocent Ukrainians and erase their country.  So we'll continue to monitor that closely.

In regards to the committee's recommendations, we will review those closely.  I don't have anything to announce today in terms of what steps we may take, but again, this is a very important topic to the secretary and to the entire Department of Defense.

And so we'll certainly be sure to keep you updated on that front.

Q:  Well have any of those particular gun safety recommendations ever been considered in the past that you're aware of?

GEN. RYDER:  I'll have to take that question and go back and look at it for you.


Q:  Oh, I'm sorry.  So used to the other room.

Just to follow up on Lita's question, you said that you haven't seen China provide lethal aid to Russia yet, but have you seen chatter, any -- China having any conversations with Russia about potentially providing lethal aid?

And then I wanted to ask a second question about Syria.  There were four U.S. troops wounded in Syria the other day.  Can you say anything more about this mission?  Was it a U.S. soft mission, was it a partnered raid?  And how frequently are U.S. troops involved in combat missions like these?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, so on your first question, I don't have any specific intelligence to share.  I know for example that Secretary Blinken and the NSC Strategic Communication Director have talked to this and indicated that there is indications that China is considering to the possibility of providing lethal aid, but again, to this point we've not seen them do that.

In regards to Syria, I'd refer you to Central Command for the specifics on that particular operation.  As you are aware, they issues a press release on that.  The defeat ISIS mission continues in Syria and Iraq, and so certainly we have forces that are committed to that operation, but I'd refer you to them for the specific details.

Q:  Can you say whether it's typical of U.S. forces to go on these partnered missions, though, or was this something that was out of the ordinary?

GEN. RYDER:  Not out of the ordinary.  The U.S. military has been conducting partnered operations with the SDF for quite a few years now.  So thank you.

Over here, and I appreciate your patience on the microphone.  We'll go to Dan, and then we'll come back to you.

Q:  Thanks for your time.  Wanted to drill down a bit if we can into the USAI package announced today, particularly the power counter UAS estimate.  Looks like we're going to see the Switchblade 600 which, at least to my knowledge and if you can clarify that'd be helpful, have not been a part of the package previously.

How quickly do you think that might find its way to a battlefield, and is the time it's taken to get it there a function of it simply not being available more quickly or something else?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  So for, as you highlight, given that these are USAI, these are all capability that we will go to industry to help produce.

I don't have a timeline in terms of the delivery time, other than as has been the case, we'll continue to work very closely with industry to try to get them there as quickly as we can.

I'll just leave it at that.

Q:  More loosely, is the anticipation that it would be there in time for the offensive this spring?

GEN. RYDER.  I don't think that would be the case.  Again, we're already providing them with a significant amount of capabilities coming from PDA along with the international community to get them the capabilities they need for the springtime.  But again, this is a fight that will continue to be tough, and so we want to ensure not only are we meeting their immediate needs, but we're also meeting their medium and long-term needs.

And so, again, we're going to rush to get these capabilities there as quickly as we can.

Thanks.  Go to Joe.

Q:  Thanks, Pat.  Just staying on Ukraine aid, there are a number of categories of aid where we didn't get the specificity.  You talked about HIMARS ammunition, but HIMARS can take GMLRS or ATACMS, and I just wanted to see if you could be specific about what kind of HIMARS ammunition was part of the package, what kind of laser-guided rockets, and any specificity you can give around the Counter-UAS Systems that were included?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, so on the specific Counter-UAS Systems, I'm not going to get more specific, just for operation security reasons.

In the packages you highlight, the laser-guided rocket systems, those are advanced precision kill weapon systems, so essentially the ability to convert unguided rockets into precision-guided munitions, which can be operated from various launchers that we're providing to the Ukrainians.

So that's about as specific as I'm going to be able to get.

Q:  And then on the HIMARS ammunition, is that just GMLRS or is that something else?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, I'll have to go back and take a look.  I'm going to presuppose that if we're not including it in there, it's probably for operation security reasons.  That said, I'll take your question back and we'll see what we can provide.

Q:  And just in terms of the -- because there are a number of drone systems, is there something happening on the battlefield now that's requiring that as part of the USAI package?

GEN. RYDER:  I think it's important to step back and look at the security assistance that we're providing holistically, right?  So it's not episodic, one individual battle or one individual situation at a time.  It's essentially a meshing together a variety of capabilities to give the Ukrainians a variety of things that they need to be successful, to include air defense -ground-based air defense, to include armor capability, to include artillery, the ammunition that they need, the communication, command, and control capability that they need.

So as the Department of Defense approaches meeting Ukraine security assistance needs, it's part of a broader framework of working with them in terms of meeting those requirements as quickly as we can through the means that we have available to us.

And it's not just the U.S., again, and I know you know that.  It's part of an international tapestry, so to speak, to provide those capabilities.

So each of these is going to meet a capability that the Ukrainians have asked for, but again, the key word being capability.  The platform is going to help meet a capability need.

The other aspect of that is the training piece, which we've talked about before.  So the equipment plus the training, which includes operations, maintenance, and sustainment, gives the Ukrainians the capabilities they need not only to defend, but also to go on the offensive on their timeline in order to change the equation on the battlefield.

Thanks.  All right, go here, and then we'll go back to Kasim.

Q:  Thank you, Pat.  Following up on Dan and Joe's questions about the package.  The announcement had quite a bit and a variety of different drone UAS Systems, but no quantities.  So can we get any specifics on how many of each drone or the overarching amount that was sent?

GEN. RYDER:  No.  Because I'm sure that's information that the adversary would absolutely love to have, and we're just not going to talk about it.

Q:  And then more broadly following on Joe's question, thinking about the state of the fight, why are UAS being prioritized in this way?  What does that really say about the capability needed and what Ukraine is asking you for?

GEN. RYDER:  Well again, I think I would approach that from two different levels.  So it's important not to look at this individually, this package individually as a standalone thing.  It's part of a broader array of capabilities that we're providing, which includes UAS and Counter-UAS capabilities.  Which, oh by the way, again, we've been doing for the duration of this conflict.

I think it's become apparent to everyone in the last five to seven years, you know, especially as we saw groups like ISIS starting to use drones and now especially in this conflict, the significant impact that drones have.

And so countering those capabilities -- for example, the Iranian drones -- I think is critical but then also giving the Ukrainians the capability, both from a strike standpoint but then also from a intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance standpoint.

And so that is part of the modern way of warfare.  And so it's a capability that they will be able to employ and have been employing to great effect, and we'll continue to support them in that regard.

Let me go to Kasim, and then we'll come back over here.

Q:  General, thanks.  So with respect to China, you said you haven't seen Chinese providing any lethal aid but it's not off the table.  It seems that the United States was alarmed pretty earlier with respect to China.  What is the main concern with respect to China's lethal support?  How do you think it will affect the condition on the battlefield?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, well, you know, without getting into hypotheticals, I mean, broadly speaking, what you would be seeing is a country like China, which clearly has advanced capabilities, munitions, et cetera, which, oh, by the way, has publicly declared its neutrality, to now take a side and essentially say "we want to be in the camp that's looking to extinguish Ukraine as a nation."

And so it would -- again, as I mentioned, it would prolong this conflict, it would cause needless suffering among innocent Ukrainians, and again, if we go back to the beginning a year ago today, Russia invaded unprovoked the nation of Ukraine, with the idea that they would wipe it off the map.  And so the United States and the international community have come to help Ukraine defend itself.  Ukraine certainly has a right to defend itself and we have a right to help them defend themselves.

And this conflict could end tomorrow if President Putin decided "you know what?  This isn't working out the way we thought it would.  We're going to stop."  China providing lethal aid?  I think, again, it would just extend the suffering of innocent people.

Q:  And a separate question -- per yesterday's statement, we have seen that the United States, over one year of fight, have provided -- has provided almost $32 billion of aid.  That's a huge amount.  Do you remember if the United States has provided to another country that much aid for a conflict which the United States is not party to?  And how confident are you that the United States is going to keep the pace of providing this aid to Ukraine if the war prolongs beyond next year and more years actually?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, well, I think President Biden, Secretary Austin, all senior U.S. leaders have made very clear that we're going to continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes as they defend their nation.

And so again, going back a year, what we're talking about here is a Russian nation that has decided that it wants to eliminate Ukraine, and should they be allowed to succeed, the implications go well beyond Ukraine.  It goes into protecting the international rules-based order that has largely prevented another World War since World War II.

And so the potential implications on the European security architecture, more broadly the international security architecture, are significant.  And so again, we're going to continue to support them for as long as it takes.

Let me go ahead and go over here and then we'll come over here.  Yes, ma'am?

Q:  Kind of flowing off that, this morning, several former NATO Supreme Allied Commanders urged the U.S. to do everything they can for Ukraine, to dig deeper.  I was curious your reaction to that?  And what more could we be doing right now?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, I think that that message echoes largely what Secretary Austin said at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, that we do need to, as an international community, dig deeper and work harder, work faster to ensure that Ukraine gets the security assistance that it needs to be successful on the battlefield.

Q:  Does "dig deeper" mean sending additional capabilities, equipment?  What do you take from that, in terms of what we could do more?

GEN. RYDER:  So I think we are, again, as evidenced by today's announcement, and we're going to continue to consult closely with Ukraine and with our international allies and partners to ensure that Ukraine has the assistance that it needs to be successful.  Thank you.

All right, we'll go here and then we'll come back across the room.

Q:  Thank you, General.  General, China has introduced a plan call for a ceasefire in Ukraine, including the end of conflict.  Have you see this plan and what's your opinion about it?

And I have another question.

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  Well, certainly we are aware that China has introduced a plan.  I don't have any specific comments to provide.  From a Department of Defense standpoint, our focus remains on working with Ukraine and our allies and partners to get them the security assistance that they need.

I will say, when it comes to peace talks and negotiations, we've been very clear that that's a decision for Ukraine to make, and as you've heard us say previously, nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.  Thank you.

Q: General -- do you think it is necessary to keep lines of communication with Russia open, even with the relations like we are now?

GEN. RYDER:  I think it's important, absolutely important, to keep the lines of communication open with Russia, also with China.  This is something that Secretary Austin has talked about frequently and that it's an important responsibility of all nations, particularly those that maintain vast military arsenals, to keep those lines of communication open to reduce the potential for miscalculation.  So that's something that we'll continue to endeavor to do.

All right, we'll go back here.  We'll go to Phil and then we'll come right up here.

Q:  Was the deconfliction line between the United States and Russia used to coordinate the President's trip to Ukraine?  Thanks.

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Phil.  So in regard to the President's trip to Ukraine, I'm going to have to refer you to the White House.  This was a presidential trip and so they're really the ones to talk about that.  Thank you.

Yes, sir?

Q:  Yeah, hi, sir.  In addition to Iran's request for fighter jets and combat helicopters from Russia, the White House announced today that Russia has offered Iran cooperation on missiles, electronics, and air defense in exchange for Iran's support for the war effort.  Are we talking about potential purchases here?  Is this co-production?  And can you get into any specifics on platforms?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, I really can't, beyond, again, what you highlighted, that we know that Iran is pursuing a deeper security cooperation relationship with Russia for obvious reasons.  And throughout this campaign, we've seen sort of that transactional interaction between Russia, as they seek more munitions, as they seek drone capability.  We know that they've been interested in ballistic missile capability, for example.

We know that they've been looking to advance that relationship with Iran.  And again, we know that Iran is looking to advance that relationship with Russia, which, again, says a lot about the kinds of measures that Russia is finding itself having to resort to, not able to depend on its own defense industry, losing suppliers and partners as a result of their actions.  And so it's also a statement on what we've said before about Iran being a destabilizing influence, not only in the Middle East but exporting terror to places like Ukraine.

So again, we'll continue to monitor that closely but I don't have any additional details to provide.

Let me go over here and then we'll come back here.

Q:  Thank you, General.  The Ukrainian President said just the other day that there's not going to be any dialogue with Mr. Putin and he can't be trusted, while the Russian President says that they have to accept the new realities on the ground.  And the United States rhetoric is that Mr. Putin could end this war if he wanted to in a heartbeat.

There seems to be a deadlock here, right, so can you see the United States militarily and financially supporting Ukraine for the next half a decade perhaps?  Because it looks like a deadlock that no one can break at the moment.  What's your thought on that?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so I'm not going to try to predict the future.  I'm going to focus on the facts that we have in front of us, and the facts are that Russia invaded its peaceful, democratic, sovereign neighbor and that it tried to eliminate Ukraine as a country and Ukraine is defending itself and we're going to help Ukraine defend itself, alongside the international community.

And so ultimately, at the end of the day, we're not going to dictate to Ukraine when it should stop fighting.  We wouldn't want someone to tell us that and we're not going to tell them when to stop fighting.  We're going to focus on supporting them and giving -- putting them in the best position possible so that when they determine it's time to negotiate or when it's time to stop fighting, they'll have the strongest possible hand available.  And so I'll just leave it at that.

Q:  ... I want to follow-up on that -- so it's not a figure of speech, I think, when the United States administration says "for as long as it takes."  It's literally for as long as it takes, the war goes on, right?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so the question here is what happens next if Russia is allowed to succeed, right?  It's not going to stop at Ukraine and it's going to further embolden other authoritarian regimes, in terms of what they can accomplish simply by using force to eliminate countries around them.

And so I think what we would see is an increase in the cost of trying to defend democracy, I think what we would see is an increase in needless suffering and innocent lives lost, and the extinguishing of freedom and democracy in countries that are unable to defend themselves.

So again, as the President has said, as Secretary Austin has said, we are committed to supporting Ukraine in their fight because the implications -- not only is it the right thing to do but the implications extend well beyond Ukraine, in terms of what it means for the international community and what it means for democracy and what it means for freedom.  Thank you.

OK, we'll take a couple more.  Yes, sir?  Then we'll come over here to Louis?

Q:  Thank you, sir.  My question is on, again, U.S.-India relations.  Recently, two big events took place in India -- in Delhi, the Republic Day of India, and also in -- Bengaluru Air Show -- but at both the events, India displayed for the first time everything, all the weapons made in India.  But amazingly, at the Bengaluru Air Show, U.S. amazed thousands of people on the ground and millions around the globe by displaying F-22 and F-35.

My question is that all these made in India weapons, how much this department played a role making Indian weapons?

And the second -- recently, a big (inaudible) and also India orders big -- over 200 planes -- civilians, of course -- but is there any -- (inaudible) military to military, any weapons coming to India from the U.S.?

GEN. RYDER:  So appreciate the question.  I'm going to have to get back to you on that.  I'm not -- I'm not tracking that specifically.  As you know, the U.S. and India enjoy a good partnership.  We look forward to continuing to develop and foster our relationship with the Indian military but I'll have to come back to you on that.

Q:  All right.  Just quickly, Secretary Blinken will be in India.  Is Secretary Austin going any time soon or if Indian Defense Minister will be in Washington?  Thanks, sir.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.  I don't have any travel right now to announce but we'll certainly keep you updated if that's the case.

All right, I've got time for a couple more.  We'll go to Louis.

Q:  Thank you.  In your response to Lita's question, when she asked about the lethal aid possibly from China, you said that "we haven't seen any lethal aid go from China to Russia" but you also said "you'll notice that they've not taken it off the table."

What do you mean by that?  I mean, they haven't actually confirmed that.  So when you're saying that they haven't taken it off the table, what are you looking for and what are you inferring ...

GEN. RYDER:   So again, I think this goes back to the comments that you've seen coming out of State Department and the NSC, in terms of we have indications that they're contemplating providing lethal aid.  Again, I don't have any specific intelligence details to get into.  And so that's why you've seen U.S. leaders communicate, again, to China the potential implications of providing lethal aid to Russia.

Q:  But you've not seen a response from them that would indicate that it is off the table?

GEN. RYDER:  We've not seen anything at this point to indicate that it's off the table.

Q:  OK.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.

Q:  Last night, the department issued a press release about the U.S.-Republic of Korea exercise -- the tabletop exercise about the possibility of North Korea using a nuclear device.  Is that typical for the department, to disclose these scenarios of its tabletop exercises?  And in this case, was that done intentionally for the deterrence value?

GEN. RYDER: Which specific part are you talking about?

Q:  Well, the one where you acknowledged that the scenario that the tabletop exercise looked at was specifically the DPRK's potential use of a nuclear device and how both you -- the ROK and the U.S., as part of their ironclad alliance ...

GEN. RYDER::  I don't know the answer to that.  Let me get the facts and I'll come back to you on that.  Thanks.

All right, we've got time for one more.  We'll go to Kasim?

Q:  General, also, Russia recently announced that they are going -- they suspended participation in the New START agreement.  Do you -- do you have any concern with respect to that?  And is there any posture changes in Russian nuclear force posture?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  So we think that it's unfortunate that they've decided to suspend their participation in the New START Treaty.  It's irresponsible, given the potential implications here of what we're talking about.

But in regards to Russian strategic forces' posture, we have not seen any indication that they have changed, nor have we changed our posture.  Thank you.

Thank you very much.  Before we go, just one last thing.  I do want to welcome the Air Force Public Affairs PACS-Q students in the back of the room -- I see them standing back there -- a future public affairs officer visiting from the Defense Information School.  Thanks for being here, guys.  I'm going to turn the podium over to you here in a moment and you get to brief now.  Just kidding.


All right, thank you very much, everybody.