An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Charles "CQ" Brown Jr Hold a Press Conference

STAFF: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for being here today. It is my pleasure to introduce Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General C.Q. Brown, Jr.

The secretary and the chairman will deliver opening remarks and then have time to take a few questions. Please note that I will moderate those questions and call on reporters, and would just ask you to limit your follow-ups so that we can give your colleagues a chance to ask their questions.

Mr. Secretary, over to you, sir.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Thanks, Pat. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us.

Gen. Brown and I have just come from another highly productive meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, and this was our 23rd meeting. And every time we gather, I am impressed by the resolve of the more than 50 countries helping to support Ukraine's self-defense.

And today, the Contact Group heard directly about the battlefield situation from Minister Umerov and his delegation. Ukraine's forces are holding the line in the face of Russia's assault near Kharkiv, and Ukrainian troops continue to inflict significant costs on the Kremlin's invaders.

After President Biden signed the national security supplemental, renewed U.S. assistance is reaching Ukraine at a steady pace. And last week, President Biden announced a new security assistance package through another drawdown from our stocks. And this $225 million package provides Ukraine with more air defense interceptors, armored vehicles, anti-tank weapons, and artillery systems and munitions.

And Ukraine's partners around the world continue to stand up to Putin's aggressions. This coalition remains steadfast and strong, and the Contact Group remains determined to meet Ukraine's urgent capability needs and to help Ukraine deter Russian aggression for decades to come.

Contact Group members continue to step up and to get Ukraine what it needs and when it needs it. Air defense remains Ukraine's top priority. I applaud those who have dug deep to find more air defense systems and interceptors.

For example, the Netherlands is leading a smart initiative to assemble and deliver a Patriot air defense system. The Dutch government has committed to contribute many core components and parts from its own stocks and has called on Ukraine's other friends to help with the rest.

And meanwhile, Sweden recently announced its largest military package for Ukraine. That includes 155 -- 155 millimeter artillery shells, AMRAAM missiles, and armored vehicles. Sweden is also providing airborne early warning and control aircraft, which will help Ukraine with both airborne and maritime targets.

And Italy announced that it will send a second SAMP/T air defense system to Ukraine.

And so our allies are also committing to long-term military aid packages. More and more countries are enshrining these commitments in long-term bilateral agreements with Ukraine. And I'm pleased that the United States and Ukraine will sign our own bilateral security agreement today.

Together, we're working to forge long-term security for Ukraine, and I continue to be impressed by the work of the Contact Group's capability coalitions. Today, we heard an update from the drone coalition, and let me thank Latvia and the UK for their leadership of the drone coalition.

This capability coalition is helping to expand Ukraine's asymmetric -- asymmetric capabilities, and that's especially important as Putin relies on Iranian UAVs to target Ukrainian cities and civilians. This is just one of the eight capability coalitions, and they're doing outstanding work.

Together, we're helping Ukraine build a formidable future force, one that can deter aggression over the long haul. And we remain determined to keep supporting Ukraine while ensuring our own military readiness at this challenging moment. And that includes a robust defense industrial base. So we spent time today discussing ways to expand the production of critical munitions and systems, and to deepen our coordination through the capability coalitions.

Now, I just want to be clear about why I convened this group -- this Contact Group 23 times now. Putin thinks that he gets to determine which countries are real and which countries can be wiped off the map. That's incredibly radical and incredibly dangerous.

So let's be clear -- Putin started this war by invading his peaceful neighbor. A permanent member of the UN Security Council is trying to deny democracy to more than 43 million people. And the Kremlin's war of imperial aggression has horrified countries around the world.

Ukraine matters to the United States and to the entire world. If Ukraine falls under Putin's boot, Europe would fall under Putin's shadow. If Putin tramples Ukraine, he would be emboldened to commit more acts of aggression and the world would enter a forum -- far more dangerous stage.

So we understand the stakes, and the outcome of the war in Ukraine will help set the trajectory for global security for decades to come, and this Contact Group will continue to defend Ukraine's sovereignty and all of our security. So we will continue to stand up to Putin's aggression and atrocities. We will continue to find new options to get Ukraine the air defenses that it needs to defend its skies and we will continue to move heaven and Earth to get Ukraine what it needs to live in freedom.

And with that, Gen. Brown, the floor is yours, sir.

GENERAL CHARLES Q. BROWN JR.: Well, thank you, Mr. Secretary. Good afternoon, everyone.

Just last week on June 6th, I was on the beaches of Normandy to -- to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, where alongside President Biden, Secretary Austin and other world leaders, we honored some of the last living veterans who fought in World War II, our greatest generation.

On the evening of 6 June, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt provided a public statement describing the brave men fighting a world away. He said, "They fight not for the lust of conquest; they fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise in tolerance and goodwill -- -will among all Thy people."

D-Day showed us the power of cooperation and showed us that liberty prevails over aggression when nations come together for a just cause.

Now, we find ourselves in another crux of history. This is the driving force of this Ukraine Defense Contact Group, to come together united for the cause of Ukraine, for the cause of our nations and for the cause of the future.

Once again, I want to thank Secretary Austin for your steadfast leadership in guiding this international coalition. I also want to thank De- -- Defense Minister Umerov, who joined us today, and for the con- -- his continued leadership of Ukraine's military forces. And to all the nations who are represented here today, I also want to thank them, their contributions in support of Ukraine's effort to maintain its sovereignty.

Russia's war on Ukraine tests the very foundation of security on which the world relies. Russia's unprovoked aggression challenges the security and prosperity of all nations. As I have said before, might does not make right, but might does shape outcomes.

Through this Contact Group's collective support of Ukraine, we are aligning the might of this world with what is right. The global response to Russia's unprovoked aggression has degraded their power and prestige, forcing them to -- further into isolation, and our unity only grows stronger. Even so, Russia continues their attempts to advance across multiple battle fronts, to include their recent assault on Kharkiv. Russia is concentrating fire and attempting to target Ukraine resupply and re- -- and reinforcement abilities.

Ukraine's ability to surge firepower and reposition troops has countered Russia's offensive and disrupted their attack. Ukraine continues to hold strong, and with this group's contributions, the Ukrainians are exacting heavy costs on the Russian aggressors. It's why our ongoing support is so critical. Sustaining Ukraine's ability to defend itself is both a present and long-term effort.

This group's work in providing Ukraine with the necessary systems, munitions and capabilities has been remarkable. To be effective, fighting forces need continued access to military capabilities and supplies, and our support, combined with the Ukrainian will to fight, has proven time and time again that Ukraine will not bend. Their fighting spirit is ironclad.

But will itself is not enough, which is why we remain focused and dedicated to these efforts. Just last week, as Secretary Austin mentioned, we announced the 59th drawdown package of military capabilities for Ukraine. This was just part of an incredible contributions recently made by some 50 nations of this coalition and an example of how this coalition remains dedicated to supplying Ukraine with the tools they need to counter ongoing Russian aggression.

Outside of Ukraine's courageous people and their resilient combat forces, the unwavering support of the nations gathered here today remains one of their greatest assets. These nations are committed to working together to help Ukraine address the challenges ahead. We are stronger when we work together.

This solidarity is rooted in a shared history of security and fostered by the principles of democracy, sovereignty and international law. For the past two years, these principles have preserved peace among the nations that uphold them. This Contact Group, united by these ideals, stands firm against any challenge, demonstrating that true power resides in a cooperative effort by like-minded nations fighting for freedom.

World War II taught us that unchecked aggression spreads conflict to the rest of the world, and it is in these moments, as President Roosevelt said, that brave men and women must fight to end conquest, to liberate and to let justice arise. The brave service members of the Allied nations came together 80 years ago and executed Operation Overlord, knowing that freedom and sovereignty depended upon their success.

Today, peace and security are not only achieved through military readiness of individual -- individual nations. They are achieved through collective effort, through aligning our resources and abilities in support of defending Ukraine, defending democracy and defending sovereignty. Thank you, and I look forward to -- to your questions.

STAFF: Thank you both, gentlemen. First question, we'll go to Politico. Lara?

Q: Thank you. Thanks, sir, for doing this.

Secretary Austin, President Zelenskyy has specifically asked for more air defenses. Germany has announced an additional Patriot. Italy has announced a SAMP/T. Will the U.S. answer that call and deliver an additional Patriot to Ukraine? And if you can't answer that, or if the answer is no today, what is the holdup?

And then for Gen. Brown, Ukraine has said it has 30 pilots ready to go through pilot training for F-16s, but there are not enough spots at -- in the U.S. to take them. Is that true, from your perspective? And if so, are you looking at expanding that training pipeline? Or are you confident that Ukraine will have enough pa- -- pilots and maintainers trained on the planes by the time they arrive this summer? Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Lara. Regarding Patriots, you know, air defense has been at the top of my agenda for a long time, and for month after month you've heard me emphasize the importance of providing Ukraine additional air defenses. You know that we've provided a Patriot to them already. But not only that; me and President Biden and Jake Sullivan and Tony Blinken spend a great deal of our time encouraging others to -- to provide additional capabilities.

And it's not just Patriots, it's -- it's NASAMS, it's -- it's SAMP/Ts, it's -- it's, you know, a -- a number of capabilities that -- that Ukraine needs, and they need the interceptors to -- to compliment the -- the platforms.

I don't have any announcements on -- on Patriot batteries today, but what I can tell you is that I continue to work this and -- and I'm in constant contact with my Ukrainian counterpart, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure that they have the capability that they need and that we get it there as quickly as we can.

GEN. BROWN: Lara, yes -- yes, we have an Air Force capability coalition. It's one of the eight capability coalitions that's focused on, in this case, working with the Ukrainians to get their -- their fourth generation fighter capability up -- up and running.

The United States is the -- one of the co-leads associated with that, and so not only do we help provide training for their pilots, there's other countries that are also supporting the -- the training as -- as well. So there is capacity for training, both in the United States but also with some of the partners as -- as part of that -- that capability coalition.

And so we'll continue to work with them but it's not just the pilots you have to have, and having not only flown the F-16 but understanding the -- maintenance is also a key part of that and -- and training the maintainers. And we're working diligently to make sure that the Ukrainians have what they need, and the goal is to get them the -- those F-16s this summer.

STAFF: OK. Next question, we'll go to ANSA, Mateo.

Q: Yes, hi. National Italian News Agency, ANSA. I -- it's just a follow-up question to my colleague because we have been reading in the press about this new extra Patriot system. There is no announcement today, but what I would like to ask you is that we know that the U.S. is the biggest holder of these Patriot systems. So what -- what is the -- the reason why you are holding back (inaudible)? Is it operational system -- reasons, or did you -- you can't move kits from one theater to the others? It's just for us to understand.

And secondly, for you, General, what is your assessment on -- on the ongoing military campaign in -- in Kharkiv? Do Ukrainian’s forces have enough now to resist and possibly regain the initiatives? And -- and do you see other critical risks along the -- the front right now? Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN: Again, air defense remains a top priority, and we are working this on a daily basis. And, you know, I -- I've seen some of their press reporting. What I will tell you is that there will be no change in our Patriot coverage in -- in Poland. I know that that was a component of a previous story there, but there is no change in our Patriot coverage there.

We're going to do everything we can to -- to get Ukraine what it needs. We're going to encourage others. We're going to work with others to -- to get Ukraine what it needs as quickly as we can. And this is not something that the Ukrainians are guessing at. I -- I'm talking to them on a daily basis, so.

GEN. BROWN: Reference to your question regarding Kharkiv, what I would tell you -- the situation is somewhat more stabilized now than it was over the past several weeks. And one of the things that the Ukrainians have been focused on over the past several months, going into '24, is building out their defensive lines. And -- and they've been fairly effective in building those defensive lines, which has created a bit of stability.

You know, one of the challenges though is that when -- with the -- that -- them moving by the Russians towards Kharkiv, it actually pulls away focus and capability from other areas for -- for the Ukrainians and it spreads their -- their defenses a little bit more.

But what we've seen is the Ukrainians have been very good at holding their defensive lines, and I think they will be able to continue to do that there in Kharkiv as well.

STAFF: Thank you. Next question, we'll go to Voice of America, Carla.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I -- first, to you, Mr. Secretary, I'd like a question to clarify U.S. policy. The Pentagon has said that Ukraine can strike inside Russian territory near the border with Kharkiv to -- to prevent attacks on the Kharkiv area, but if Russia launches attacks on Ukrainian forces that aren't in Kharkiv from a military base deep inside Russia, can Ukraine strike that military target? And if not, why not?

And then Mr. Chairman, I would like to, you know, extend the question that my colleague asked in just more broadly how would you describe the fight now between Russia and Ukraine? You've mentioned that Ukraine continues to hold strong, but is this still a stalemate?

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Carla. As you know, Ukraine requested permission to conduct counter-fire in the Kharkiv area using U.S. weapons, and President Biden granted them permission to do that. And so at -- our policy in using long-range strike to -- capabilities to conduct strikes deep into Russia, that -- that's not changed. So -- but -- but the ability to conduct counter-fire in this close fight in the Kharkiv region is -- is what this is all about, and -- and the Ukrainians -- my -- my expectation is that they'll put that to good use, so.

GEN. BROWN: Carla -- Carla, what, you know, what I would share with you -- if you -- if you go back over the course of this -- this conflict, what the Ukrainians in being able to do to regain greater than 50% of its territory that was first taken by the Russians, to be able to regain that, but at the same time the support of this Contact Group to help to provide them capability to defend themselves.

I mentioned earlier about the defensive lines, they've been able to hold the defensive lines, but what we don't talk about is the amount of attrition that the Ukrainians are able to put against the Russians although they are outnumbered. The -- the way the Russians have lost personnel but also lost platforms is -- is pretty traumatic from a numbers standpoint, and the Ukrainians have done an effective job of holding the -- those lines and continuing to do so.

Q: Thank you.


STAFF: We have time -- no, we have time for one more question. Let's go to Reuters. Sabine?

Q: … policy hasn't changed?

STAFF: Let -- let's go to the final question here.

Q: (inaudible) Secretary, several allies lifted some of the restrictions placed on the donated weapons about two weeks ago. Can you tell us what kind of impact that has had on the battlefield so far? Have you seen progress? What kind of progress, or isn't it going far enough for you? Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN: You know, I -- I can't speak for what allies -- what weapons have been used or -- or not used and what effects that's had. What I can speak to though is what I'm looking at in the Kharkiv region. The -- the intent of allowing them to conduct counter-fire was to -- was to help them address the issue of the Russians conducting staging -- or building staging areas in -- on -- just on the other side of the border and attacking from those staging areas.

So they've -- have the ability to -- to engage Russians just across the border now, and -- and I'll leave it to the Ukrainians to talk about the specific effects that they've -- they've seen, but what I see is a slowing of the Russians' advance and -- and a stabilizing of -- of the -- of that particular piece of the front.

Now, I -- I think we'll see incremental gains and it -- we'll see puts and takes going forward, but again, a couple of weeks ago, there was concern that we would see a -- a significant breakthrough on the part of the Russians. I don't think we'll see that going forward. I don't think the -- I don't see a -- a large exploitation force that can -- could take advantage of a breakthrough. And I -- what I do see is, as the chairman has described, the Ukrainians have done a lot to fortify their defensive positions and are making good use of -- of the weapons that, and munitions that they're being provided. And more of that will continue to flow in.

And so, in my view, they'll get stronger, as -- as, you know, time progresses. They're also doing things to -- to mobilize more people and train more people. And so the combination of those things, I think, will -- will -- will have a -- a pretty substantial effect on the battlefield. But it -- it will take some time to, kind of, play out.

But the good news is that we have the means to continue to provide security assistance. And you'll see it continue to flow in, in a very meaningful way.

STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our press briefing. Thank you very much for attending.

Thank you, gentlemen.