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Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds a Press Briefing

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER: All right, good afternoon, everyone. A few things at the top, and then I'll get right to your questions.

All right, first upfront, I know many of you continue to have questions about what happened in Russia over the weekend, and I know that you're aware of what the White House has already said on this matter, so I -- I won't retread that ground other than to provide a brief overview of Secretary Austin's engagement during the weekend. 

On Saturday morning, Secretary Austin and General Milley participated in a briefing with President Biden, the vice president and other principles to discuss the situation in Russia. Throughout the day on Saturday, Secretary Austin received regular updates from senior civilian and military officials at the Pentagon. He also actively engaged key allies and partners to share information on the developments taking place in Russia and made clear that the U.S. was not involved, and that we would not get involved in these events. And as you've heard the White House and State Department say, we view the security situation in Russia as an internal Russian matter. During his calls, Secretary Austin also reiterated that support by the United States for Ukraine will not change, and that remains our focus. 

And toward that end, the Department of Defense announced earlier today additional security assistance to meet Ukraine's critical security and defense needs. This is the 41st drawdown of equipment from DOD inventories for Ukraine since August, 2021, and includes key capabilities to support Ukraine's air defense requirements, as well as additional armored vehicles, antiarmor systems, munitions and other equipment valued up to $500 million to help Ukraine defend their nation and take back sovereign territory.

And as we have since the beginning of Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion, the U.S. will continue to work with our allies and partners to provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its immediate battlefield needs and longer-term security assistance requirements. Additional details regarding the PDA are currently available on the DOD website.

Separately, Secretary Austin also spoke on the phone today with Qatar Minister of State -- of State for Defense Affairs, His Excellency Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Qatar defense partnership and U.S. commitment to continued security cooperation in the interests of peace and stability. Secretary Austin thanked the minister for Qatar's continued support for regional stability and security and for Qatar's continued hosting of U.S. forces at Al Udeid Air Base. A readout of the call will be posted on the DOD website this afternoon.

Tomorrow, Secretary Austin will welcome Germany's Federal Minister of Defense, Boris Pistorius, for a bilateral meeting here at the Pentagon. The leaders are expected to discuss a variety of topics to include Germany's support to bolstering NATO's eastern flank and their significant security assistance contributions to Ukraine. A full readout will be posted up on -- on following the meeting.

Finally, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the Department of State cohosted a two-day multilateral maritime security meeting in Bahrain June 25 through 26 for 90 senior military officers and diplomats from 22 nations, as well as senior representatives from the Gulf Cooperation Council. Senior government officials representing Europe, the Indo-Pacific and Middle East came together at the invitation of the United States to address -- address a recent uptick of threats within the maritime domain in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman. Participants reiterated their commitment to upholding international law and pursuing collective efforts to prevent threats to vessels traveling across these critical regional waterways. A joint statement from the 22 participating nations and the Gulf Cooperation Council is available on the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's website.

And on that note, in addition to the joint statement, I'd also refer you back to the July, 2022 Jeddah communique between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia which emphasized the importance of preserving the free flow of commerce through strategic waterways. 

This most recent engagement in Bahrain reaffirms the sustained commitment of the United States to achieving that goal and serves as an example of DOD's National Defense Strategy-driven partnered approach and action.

And before I conclude, I'd also like to do a quick shout-out and show of appreciation for Secretary Austin's deputy chief of staff, Mela Louise Norman, whose last day with the department is tomorrow. During her tenure, Mela has had an incredible impact across DOD from our new Office of Strategic Capital to the secretary's Taking Care Of People initiative. She's made a tremendous difference across the DOD addressing some of our most complex issues. So on behalf of Secretary Austin and the entire Office of the Secretary of Defense team, we extend our sincere thanks and best wishes in her next chapter.

And with that, be happy to take your questions. We'll start with A.P., Tara Copp.

Q: Thanks, General Ryder. In the aftermath of this weekend's revolt, what is the building's assessment on Putin's hold to power. Has he been destabilized? And regarding the aid packages to Ukraine, where you'd said there'd been change in U.S. support, were there any considerations underway that this might have been an optimal time to increase military support to Ukraine so they could capitalize on this event?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, sure. On -- on your first question, as I highlighted at the top, the -- the security situation inside Russia is really an internal Russian matter, so I'd -- I'd -- I'm not going to have any comments, nor am I going to speculate on that.

As it relates to Ukraine, the war there continues. Russia's illegal occupation continues, and so we are not going to lose sight of that fact and we're going to continue to work closely with them to provide them with the kinds of capabilities that they need to execute the operation that they planned and that they're conducting. In today's PDA, you see important capabilities that contribute to that effort. As -- as their troops make contact with Russian forces and encounter Russian defenses, clearly, there will be equipment that is damaged. There will be requirements to help them sustain the fight. And so you see things like ammunition, additional armored capabilities, capability that can be employed in breaching operations. 

But the bigger point here being is that regardless of the situation, the security situation inside of Russia, again, which is an internal matter for them to address, we're going to stay focused on giving Ukraine what they need to be successful in defending their country and taking back sovereign territory.

Q: But were there any considerations inside the building to perhaps give Ukraine more so they could take advantage of this particular unstable moment?

GEN. RYDER: Again, when -- when you look at the situation over the weekend, as I highlighted, our focus was on communicating with our allies and our partners to make sure that we had a -- a thorough understanding of what was happening. But when it comes to Ukraine, we're going to continue to take the same approach that we've been taking.

Let me go to Jennifer.

Q: General Ryder, just to follow up on Tara's question, was there -- was this pre-planned, that you would announce this $500 million weapons package this week, this amount, or was it expedited to be announced in the wake of the Russian failed ... 

GEN. RYDER: No, there -- there was no linkage to any connection.

Q: ... and was there any change to the amount based on what had happened in Russia this week?

GEN. RYDER: Bottom line is no. We have -- a process that we've been employing for a while now, and so this was part of that -- that process.

Q: ... seen if any Wagner troops remain in Ukraine or have they all pulled out?

GEN. RYDER: So I'm not going to get into specific intelligence, other than to say that, you know, we are aware of Wagner troops being inside Ukraine, but in terms of their specific disposition and whether they may or may not be moving, I'm not going to speculate on that.

I'll go to Janne here.

Q: Thank you, General. I have two questions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently said that nuclear warheads reached a handover point. How do you view the possibility of North Korea using nuclear weapons in the Korean Peninsula?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Janne. So, you know, rhetoric aside, again, our focus is on working with our allies and our partners in the region to ensure strategic stability, peace. That includes extended deterrence. And so when it comes to things like nuclear testing, we've known for a while, as -- as you've heard us say, that North Korea, at some point, will conduct a nuclear test. I don't have anything to announce, nor would I, in terms of when that might be. 

So again, our focus is going to be on continuing to work with our allies, to include the Republic of Korea and Japan, to deter potential aggression and destabilizing acts.

Q: Do United States (inaudible) Japan efforts to join exercises currently underway in the U.S.? The training name is called (inaudible) Flag. Do you have any more detail about this training?

GEN. RYDER: I -- I don't. I'd refer you to USFK. They can get you some additional information.

Q: ... let me ask you something more because there are so many, you know, exercises ongoing -- between the U.S. and South ... 

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, exactly, and so I just don't have the details of that particular one, but a -- to your point, we do do a lot of exercises because, again, our -- our alliances and our partnerships are a critical strategic advantage and capability, and -- and the -- the way that we approach trying to ensure that we can preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific.

And so -- but on that particular exercise, I'd -- I'd refer you to USFK.

Let me go over here to the gentleman back here. Yes, sir?


Q: ... just to follow up on the line of questioning regarding the weekend's events, did -- were there any changes in troop posture or did we move any U.S. troops in reaction to the events this weekend in Russia?

GEN. RYDER: We -- we did not. At this time, again, we have not seen anything that would, from our perspective, require us to make any type of force posture adjustments, so.

Do you have a question, ma'am?

Q: Yes. Thank you, General. So as we know, the Wagner Groups are going to -- at least eight countries in Africa. So can you give us a overview, in terms of military capability, how danger this Wagner Group can represent to African nations?

GEN. RYDER: Well, Wagner Group -- you know, we've -- we've been saying this for a very long time -- I -- it's -- it's a very dangerous organization, and wherever they operate, they bring with them death, destruction, deceit, criminal activity. This is why the United States has designated them as a transnational criminal organization and the U.S. government has imposed significant sanctions on Wagner actors and -- and facilitators, to include Africa.

In terms of what the implications are for what we saw happen over the weekend, as it pertains to Wagner in places like Africa, time will tell. I don't -- I don't have an answer to that question right now. But again, the -- the key point being -- the key point here being -- is that Wagner has been a significant and dangerous actor for -- for a while, so.

Q: Is the African (inaudible) in -- basically in Africa working some way with those African nations that Wagner Group are, to help those countries?

GEN. RYDER: So broadly speaking, like we are elsewhere in the world, U.S. Africa Command is working closely with nations in Africa to focus on security and stability efforts. You know, and -- and so that entails a lot of different aspects, whether or not it's training indigenous security of -- forces to deal with counter-terrorism threats, whether it's working with local leaders to -- to give them the kind of resources that they would need to defend themselves from potential actors like Wagner Group or others -- Al-Shabaab, for example, in Somalia.

And so there's a variety of challenges in Africa that are well known and African leaders are working very hard to defend -- you know, defend their -- their people and their societies. And so we obviously want to work closely with nations that have similar values and shared interests to ensure that we can counter those kinds of threats.

Let -- and let me move on to some other questions. I'll come back to you. Yes, ma'am?

Q: With regard to the Russians' force posture inside Ukraine, have you seen any significant changes to maybe compensate for -- for Wagner pulling out in some areas? 

And then with regard to F-16s, do you have any update on the training timeline for that? You said, I believe, that Denmark had requested permission from the U.S. to begin that.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. In terms of -- of Russian forces, I -- I appreciate the question. I -- I don't want to get into a -- an -- an intelligence briefing from the podium here, other than to say Russia continues to occupy territory inside Ukraine, they continue to maintain defenses to try to prevent Ukraine from taking back their sovereign territory. And so no indication that they are willing to give up that fight and -- and move back into Russia. So again, our emphasis will be on helping Ukraine have the capabilities they need.

On that note, on the -- on the F-16s, I don't have any updates to provide. As I've mentioned previously, Denmark has submitted a third party transfer request requesting permission to conduct F-16 training for Ukrainians. That has been received by the State Department, it's under review. Certainly, when we have an update to provide, we will.

We are all committed to providing Ukraine with the training that it needs, both in the near term and the long term, and so this will be something that we'll continue to keep you posted on.

Q: ... how long that will be under review, how long that -- the process usually takes?

GEN. RYDER: I -- I don't have that in front of me, so I don't want to speculate on that.

Let me go to the phone here real quick. Let me go to Howard Altman, War Zone.

Q: Thanks, Pat. A couple questions. First, on Prigozhin in Belarus, is there any concern from the Pentagon that Prigozhin might create some kind of attack on Ukraine or create other trouble while he's in Belarus? 

The second question is on the -- on the armor. Is this additive, is it replacement? And do you see any -- have you seen any Strykers destroyed in Ukraine? Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks. So just kind of working backwards there, Howard. What I'm not going to do is battle damage assessment for the Russian military from the podium here. So I'm not going to get into Ukrainian capabilities and -- and their status on the battlefield.

The -- the capabilities that we are providing them, and we've said this before is that we're very focused on enabling their sustainment and their maintenance of this fight. And so as I highlighted earlier, in the midst of combat one can expect that equipment will be damaged, that equipment will be destroyed. 

It is a fight and it is a hard fight. And so by us providing additional armor capabilities, additional ammunition, additional breaching capabilities, that's all meant to enable them to sustain this fight that they find themselves in. 

Related to that, because it's also important to understand that just because something is damaged means it's out of the fight. We are very cognizant of working with our Ukrainian partners through things like tele-maintenance to help them repair vehicles that may have been damaged on the battlefield or equipment that's been damaged on the battlefield.

So that has been part of the effort all along. It will continue to be part of the effort. And then your first question as it pertains to Prigozhin and Wagner Group and -- and will they do something inside of Ukraine. 

Look, again, I'm not going to speculate. Obviously Wagner Group has already inflicted enough damage inside Ukraine. I think that's well known and just take a look at Bakhmut. But in terms of what the future portends, again, I'm just not going to get into hypotheticals or speculate.

All right, let me do one more from the phone here. Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q: Thank you. Does the DOD know for a fact that Prigozhin is still alive or -- or are we in a Weekend at Bernie's scenario right now?

GEN. RYDER: I'm sorry, Jeff, I don't get the reference. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Gen Xer here at the podium. OK. So again, Jeff, like you, you know we're watching the press reports out there. So I'm not going to -- I'm not going to be able to provide a status update.

I have many responsibilities but press secretary for Mr. Prigozhin is not one. So I really can't comment on his current status. Thank you. Let me go to Tony here.

Q:  A few equipment questions. How soon might the Bradleys and Strikers arrive in Ukraine?

GEN. RYDER: Tony, I'm not going to give a specific timeline other than to say we will move equipment there as quickly as possible. And I think our track record shows that -- that we've been able to move things quickly. So we will never announce in advance when specifically those things will arrive. 

They -- they will appear on the battlefield quickly.

Q: …Status on the M1A1 refurbishments, can you give us a sense of how many of the 31 have been refurbished to date and is there a possibility they may arrive sooner than September?

GEN. RYDER: I cannot give a status update on individual tanks at this time other than to say that, again, we're committed to getting them there before the end of the year. I think we've talked about the fall time frame to deliver those thanks.

In the meantime training does continue at Grafenwohr and so again, we'll keep you posted. One thing we will not do, kind of to my earlier comments, we will not announce say the tanks are going to be delivered on this date at this time, as you know. So but we -- we understand there's a lot of interest in that and so we'll keep you posted.

Q: There's no acceleration. You don't see them coming --

GEN. RYDER: This is already an -- an acceleration, right. I mean originally when we had announced the M1A2 variant, we were looking at a -- at a longer timeline. So by going this route with the M1A1, refurbishing them, putting them into -- into a variant that will meet Ukraine's battlefield needs, this was already an acceleration of the process. And then by doing the training concurrently with some training tanks, the idea is that when those tanks are refurbished, when the training is complete, the maintainers are trained, we can marry them up and get them into Ukraine sooner rather than later.

Q: One more equipment question. Where -- what's the status of the PDA for Taiwan that the secretary alluded to like a month ago that you were still working on (inaudible).

GEN. RYDER: Yes. So I don't have an update to provide at this time in terms of the timing. Again, as you highlighted, the Secretary did indicate now that that's something that we are working towards but I'm not going to put a timeline on today.

Q: (Inaudible) or is it still in the discussion --

GEN. RYDER: Yes, I don't want to --

Q: OK.

GEN. RYDER: -- speculate from the podium here. We'll -- we'll keep you posted.

Q: Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Thank you very much. Let me go back here to Ryo.

Q: Thank you very much. One question from Taiwan. The last week that U.S. National Secretary (inaudible) in the Taiwan Strait, a day after Secretary Blinken's visit to Beijing, I wonder why the U.S. deployed U.S. Coast Guard ship instead of Destroyer or cruiser at this time?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks for the question, Ryo. So first of all, over the years we've deployed a variety of capabilities through the strait and throughout the Indo-Pacific to demonstrate the capabilities that we have.

You know the -- the -- the most important aspect of any vessel is the fact that it's carrying the American flag. OK. So I don't know that I would read into the particular type of platform. And as the son of a proud Coastie, I think that the U.S. Coast Guard is a -- a fantastic service and that their vessels are -- are just as powerful and also signal U.S. commitment in the region as well as any other vessel that we sail. Yes, ma'am?

Q: So earlier this month the U.S. was concerned that North Korea was planning to deliver more artillery equipment to Russia. Have you see the DPRK trying to move weapons to Russia since all of this happened?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, I don't have anything new to provide on that front beyond what we provided previously.

Q: (Inaudible) between the two countries?

GEN. RYDER: I -- I don't have anything new to provide. (Inaudible) ma'am.

Q: Thanks so much. Now according to the Japanese government, the U.S. and Japan (poll ?) extended (inaudible) today in the U.S. And secretary in U.S. and ROK have established new nuclear conservative group under the (Washington declaration ?). And my question is what do you think of the possibility of creating a new trilateral mechanism around U.S. ROK and Japan on extended (veterans ?) (inaudible)?

GEN. RYDER: Sure. At -- you know, at the risk of not making policy here from the podium, clearly we very much value the relationship that we have with Japan and with the Republic of Korea and certainly continue to work very closely with those allies to find opportunities for our nations to work together.

And -- and so when and if we have anything new to announce we certainly will. But one thing I'm positive of is that we will continue to work very closely together both in the region and elsewhere to ensure that we can preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific and that we can work together to insure peace and stability around the world.

Thank you. Let me go here.

Q: Thank you, General. So I want to go back to the situation with Russia and you don't think that -- you refer to it as an internal affair. However, the Pentagon has to deal with the situation and make assessments and maybe prepare some scenarios of this is what the president said. In dealing with this internal affair, how are you describing it? Is it -- is it a mutiny, is it a rebellion, it is a coup d'etat? When -- when you look at it, what is this?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Fadi. I -- I'll leave it to you to come up with what characterization you -- you want to. Obviously, we monitored the events there but in -- as far as the internal security situation within Russia. Again, that's an internal matter. I'm -- I'm not going to -- I'm not going to put a particular stamp on it.

Q: ... appreciate that but I'm sure that you have to deal with potential outcomes. And in trying to assess what outcomes might happen or come out of this, you have to have certain framework.

GEN. RYDER: Absolutely, and I -- and I -- I think it -- and again, I appreciate the question and I -- and I understand where you would like me to go on this, but, you know, I think the facts were there for all of us to see and I think this is an issue that -- that Russia obviously needs to address internally, but in terms of whether you want me to call this a -- a -- a coup, an armed insurrection or what -- I -- I'm just -- yeah.

Q: ... lastly, Russian President Putin basically alluded at the West role maybe in this internal affair event by saying that the West wants the Russians to kill each other in this mutiny. Do you have a response to that?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I mean, I think I was pretty clear at the top that we were not involved in this, we won't get involved in this. We've been very clear from the beginning that we are not at war with Russia, we don't seek conflict with Russia. Our focus is on supporting Ukraine and enabling them to defend themselves. Thank you very much.

Yes, sir?

Q: Thank you, General. My question is about child soldiers. The United Nations just released its reports about children in armed conflict, which shows violations against children. So according to this report, a total of 1,696 children were verified as recruited and used by Syrian Democratic Forces and YPG and other components of SDF. And the reports also say that the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK, killed and abducted children. Just to remind, the YPG is the Syrian branch of PKK and PKK is a terrorist organization. Is not only ... 

GEN. RYDER: Are you asking a question or are you making a declarative statement?

Q: ... ask a question -- and the PKK is, you know, a terrorist organization ... 

GEN. RYDER: I -- I know who the PKK is. Yeah, I'm -- I'm very aware. It's -- the United States has declared the PKK a terrorist organization. I'm very aware of that. What -- can you get to your question?

Q: Yeah -- and the UN Secretary General Guterres made this statement that he is deeply concerned by the increase in verified cases of child recruitment and use by SDF and "I urge SDF to immediately end all violations."

So my question is, given that SDF is the U.S. partners on the ground in Syria, are you planning to hold the SDF leadership accountable for crimes against humanity? And are you planning to sanction the SDF or maybe stop partnership with them? Because it is ... 


GEN. RYDER: ... I got your question. So this is a press briefing room where we ask questions. We don't -- we don't come here and -- and provide editorial comments for -- for 10, 15 minutes.

So to your question, I haven't seen the report, so I can't comment on it. What I will tell you is that the SDF have been very reliable partners. And if you want to go back in time a little bit to 2014, when ISIS was beheading people in controlled half of Baghdad and most of Syria and -- you know, and talk about human rights violations, I -- we can go ahead and -- and talk about that.

But in the meantime, haven't seen the report, so I can't comment on it. Thank you very much.

Yes, sir?

Q: So Wagner now might have some kind of presence in Belarus and Minsk, less than 200 miles from where the next NATO Summit will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania. Is that a -- any kind of security concern, additional security concern at all?

GEN. RYDER: So, you know, obviously the -- the situation in Ukraine has presented a significant security concern from the beginning, in terms of the kinds of activities that the international community is trying to prevent here, right?

The fact that Russia was able to invade its peaceful, democratic neighbor unprovoked creates a significant security concern throughout Europe and internationally. And so this is why you've seen the world come together to try to deter any further aggression beyond the -- the Russian borders and why it's so important that we support Ukraine.

As it pertains to Belarus, clearly we know that Belarus and Russia maintain a -- a relationship. We've seen no indication at this point of any type of additional military activity that -- that prevents that threat -- or presents a threat.

But what I would say is, you know, the NATO alliance is a very strong alliance that's worked very hard over the last year to ensure our collective security and ensure a commitment to one another that every single square inch of NATO territory will be protected. Thank you.

Time for a couple more. Yes, sir? And then we'll go to Louie.

Q: Thank you very much, General. General, regarding to the -- what's happened this weekend in Russia, do you still have a -- indications with your counterpart in Russia about this situation? And what was your message to them? And what's the big concerns for the DOD about what's happened during that weekend?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so the -- the -- to answer your question though, the Secretary did not talk to his Russian counterpart. And -- and in terms of -- yeah, I mean, I -- that's the answer to your question, so -- did you have a second part to that?

Q: I -- no. I mean, do you still -- you don't have any communications with Russia until -- even (inaudible) ... 


GEN. RYDER: ... broadly, yeah. I mean, we have multiple lines of communication with Russia, various mechanisms by which to communicate, but as it relates to the Secretary, no, he did not communicate with his counterpart over the weekend.

Q: ... big concerns about what's happened -- what -- what's happened during the weekend? Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Well -- well, certainly, I mean, you know, in terms of potential instability in Russia, it's something that we take seriously, which is why the Secretary and other senior U.S. government leaders were watching, continue to watch this situation closely, and we will going forward.

Let me go to Louie and then we'll do one more on the -- on the phone here.

Q: General, following up on Natasha's question about the F-16s, you've mentioned the review that's at the State Department for Denmark. What is -- what are the next steps after that, should that -- should that be approved? And does this -- Netherlands have to undertake the same approval? And do you -- in other words, can one country begin training on the F-16s before the other? But what essentially happens should approval happen, in terms of the -- are you looking at contractors being the trainers of ... 

GEN. RYDER: Yeah -- and did I say Netherlands or did I say Denmark?

Q: You said Denmark ... 


Q: ... but the Netherlands is also ... 

GEN. RYDER: Correct. So -- right -- so exactly. So the Netherlands and Denmark have volunteered to take the lead, when it comes to putting together this -- this program. And so they're going through that process right now of identifying and -- and putting those kinds of details together, in terms of what that training pipeline will look like.

So in terms of considerations like basic flying training, language training -- since English will be a requirement to fly the F-16s -- and then where that training will actually occur. And so those -- those are all details that the Danes and the Dutch are working through right now.

In terms of the -- you know, the -- the third party transfer request, you know, again, I -- I -- I'm not going to put the cart before the horse here and speculate in terms of timing but you've heard the U.S. say that we are committed to supporting this program.

And so we'll continue to work with Denmark and the Netherlands and other partners who have agreed, allies who have agreed to support this program, to ensure that it's successful. And we'll certainly keep you updated as more information becomes available, OK?

Let me go -- last question, Jeff Seldin, on the line.

Q: General, thanks very much for doing this. I wanted to follow up a little bit on Wagner in -- in Africa. To what extent is the Pentagon concerned about or -- or maybe even starting to see a possible domino effect, with a weakened Wagner Group leading to additional instability in the places it's inserted itself in Africa? 

And then also, while events were unfolding with Wagner, Prigozhin, and aborted run on Moscow -- Moscow, were there any attempts by the Pentagon to contact China's military? And -- and if so, was there any response?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Jeff. So I'm -- you -- you may not have heard my -- my comments earlier about Africa but the bottom line is, you know, in terms of the potential implications for Wagner Group in Africa, that's something that we'll continue to keep an eye on.

We've said for a while that they are a destabilizing influence in that region and -- and certainly a -- a threat, which is why they've been declared a transnational criminal organization and the United States government has imposed sanctions on actors who are facilitating or -- or also a part of the Wagner Group.

In terms of China, again, I -- I don't have anything new to announce, in -- in terms of outreach to China. Certainly, we continue to advocate for keeping the lines of communication open and we'll actively continue to -- to do that.

Thank you very much, everybody, I appreciate it.