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Military

U.S. Department of Defense

April 22, 2022
Transcript

Pentagon Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Well, I think you hopefully saw today, we announced the secretary's environmental award winners for 2022 and recognized installation teams and individuals for their accomplishments and innovative and cost-effective environmental management strategies which support critical mission readiness here at the department. These achievements by the nominees include significant strides to conserve our nation's natural and cultural resources, protect human health, prevent or eliminate pollution at the source, clean up hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants and munitions on DOD sites, and of course, incorporate environmental requirements into weapon system acquisition. We want to continue to leverage technology to develop innovative solutions to existing and emerging human health and environmental challenges. So I think we put that press release up on defense.gov, and certainly point you to that.

So with that, we'll go to questions. Bob?

Q: Yes, thank you. A couple quick things. Do you have any update on the Ramstein meeting next week as far as attendees or anything else, you know, the details?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, we -- we're -- about 40 or so other nations were invited to attend. Invitations are still -- RSVPs are still coming in, but I can tell you that more than 20 of the -- of the invited nations have agreed to -- to come. So we're looking forward to that -- that meeting, and we'll -- as we get closer to it, we'll certainly have more detail about it.

Q: Will that be connected to any kind of a NATO activity? Like, where he's going to go brief NATO on...?

MR. KIRBY: No, no, this is a -- this is -- this is outside of the NATO rubric, and not all the nations that were invited are NATO members. As you know, NATO as an alliance is not providing security assistance to Ukraine, so this is not being done under the NATO umbrella at all. Now, some of the nations invited and some of the nations that will be going are, in fact, NATO allies, but they're doing this in a -- a sovereign unilateral way, not as a part of the alliance.

Q: Separate question on Ukraine. A number of House members have written to the secretary asking that the military provide field hospitals and other kinds of medical assistance for civilian casualties in Ukraine, possibly including armored ambulances provided to the Ukrainians. Are -- is the Pentagon working on any of that sort of thing?

MR. KIRBY: No, I think we're just now in receipt of the letter. There's -- I -- I have no plans to speak to regarding that. We -- we will obviously, we'll -- we'll -- we'll digest the -- the letter from these members of Congress; certainly take it seriously and respond appropriately. But I don't have any plans to speak to at this time.

You know, we do still have members of the 82nd Airborne in -- in Poland. There has not been a -- the -- a -- a -- a massive need for them in terms of helping American refugees, but that's obviously -- if there would be additional support that we could provide for humanitarian assistance, it would be something that we would do absolutely in lockstep with -- with the Polish government. I mean, it's their -- their country, so we would -- we'd want to be talking to the host nation about what they thought the needs would be and make sure that whatever we're doing is in support of what they're doing to -- to support so many refugees.

Q: So it hasn't been yet considered or ruled out, or...?

MR. KIRBY: There's -- there's -- there's no planning going on at the Pentagon right now to set up field hospitals. Again, we'll -- we'll -- we'll take seriously the -- the suggestions and the recommendations by members of Congress on everything. We always do. But whatever you do inside Poland or any other NATO country right now on the eastern flank, you -- you -- you have to do it in full consultation with the host government. It has to be, you know, a -- a need that they, too, believe the United States military can fill.

When you look at everything we're doing on the eastern flank, whether it's air policing or maritime-domain awareness or additional air defense capabilities, everything we've done since the -- since before the invasion, has been in keeping with whatever those host nation's desire in terms of additional capabilities. And so if it -- if it -- if it's a desire by the Polish government for additional U.S. support for humanitarian purposes, obviously, we would take that very seriously.

Q: All right, thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yes.

Tara?

Q: Thanks, John. President Zelenskyy earlier today said that, you know, his country will need at least $7 billion a month likely more just in operations costs and getting support for -- you know, global support to keep everything ...

MR. KIRBY: Yes, I don't think he was limiting that just to defense.

Q: Right. In this long-term meeting planning that's going to go on next week, can you talk through, like, the scope of things that are being looked at? was this -- would this be fundraising or, you know, being able to pay for Ukraine's interior defense, their police forces, or would it be to pay the rolls of their troops? What are kind of -- what's kind of the universe of things that's being looked at?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, I mean, I -- I would refer you to Mr. Zelenskyy to talk about where he got that number and -- and what he would want to use that -- that figure for. I -- I think he laid it out that it was a broad range of -- of -- of aid that they were looking for, not just in terms of -- of defense. So I -- I -- I can't give you a laundry list of what that -- what $7 billion would go for because it's -- it's really, it's an idea that Mr. Zelenskyy has -- has proffered.

I would just tell you that from a defense perspective, as you know, we continue to get them as much aid and materiel and weapons as we can as fast as we can. That's happening even as -- as we speak. And one of the things the secretary wants to -- to -- to come out of Tuesday in Ramstein is the beginnings of a discussion with like-minded nations about long-term defense relationships that Ukraine will need going forward. When -- obviously, we want to talk about what's going on now. We certainly want to hear from the -- from -- from Ukraine and from other nations about what they're doing in terms of immediate defense assistance, and how that might change as -- as the fighting there changes. But I think he also wants to take a longer, larger view of -- of the defense relationships that Ukraine will need to have going forward when the war is over. And so...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY: What that -- well, we don't know. That's why we want to have the meeting. We -- we don't know. He's not going into this meeting on Tuesday, you know, with a preset list of things that -- that -- that he thinks we have to drive to. He wants to hear from allies and partners and -- and from the Ukrainians themselves about what -- you know, what they're doing and what they -- what they will need going forward. That's why we're calling it a consultative group, so we can actually consult. But we don't -- we're not going into this with a -- a -- a precooked set of endings here.

Q: And just one last. Earlier this week, you talked about that some nation was sending aircraft to Ukraine, and then clarified that it was parts that had moved in so far. Where is that -- where's that stand now? Has Ukraine actually received aircraft from any other nation ...

MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware that they have received whole, operable aircraft from any nation at this time.

(Inaudible)

Q: I have one other but I was going to follow up on Bob's first question about the letter from members of Congress. They also asked about providing Ukraine with armored ambulances, as well as taking some of the sick and wounded to the U.S. military Landstuhl Regional Hospital at western Germany. Are those other options?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I had -- I -- I have -- I'm not -- I have no planning to speak to with respect to field medical assistance inside Poland. We will continue to talk to -- to the Poles about how and -- and whether American troops in -- in Poland can be useful in other ways than they already are. And we're -- we're certainly open to having those discussions but I don't have anything more specific on this letter to talk to today.

Q: OK. And then just wanted to ask you on the reports of the up to 10 sailors who have died on the USS George Washington, some by apparent suicide. Can you explain in any way why there appears to be a cluster of suicides off one docked ship, and some members of Congress say the military isn't doing enough to stop these deaths. So is the department trying to do ...

MR. KIRBY: Well, again, I'm not going to get ahead of the Navy and their investigative efforts on these deaths aboard the -- the USS George Washington. I -- I'd refer you to the Navy to speak to what they're learning, if they can even share that with you right now.

Stepping back a little bit, as we talked about yesterday, suicide is a -- a significant concern inside the department, it certainly is a concern for Secretary Austin. You've heard him say many times that mental health is health, period, and that's how he wants the department to look at this.

And obviously, we wouldn't have stood up this Independent Review Commission for Suicide Prevention if we didn't really believe that we've got more work to do. Clearly we have more work to do and -- and we know that.

And this is a very complex problem and there's not going to be one single solution that can -- that can fix it all, and -- and that's the other thing that we're learning in -- in talking to experts outside the lifelines that -- lifelines of the department, that -- that -- that you have to be a little humble going into this.

So we've got this IRC stood up, we're looking forward to getting it manned and actually populated with experts, and then -- and then we'll -- we'll continue to move out on that.

Q: Could there be more deaths -- could there be more deaths? While you're watching the investigation take place, could there be more deaths on the ship?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I -- I mean, I -- I don't know how anybody could answer that question. I -- I -- I don't know. I mean, we obviously don't want there to be, of course not. Regardless of how these sailors have died -- we don't want to see any sailor harmed or hurt or lose their life, period, regardless of what the -- the cause is.

But I -- I can tell you that the Navy's taking this very seriously, Navy leadership is taking this very seriously, and they're -- they're -- they're looking at -- at what has happened on the George Washington and trying to better understand it. And I -- I know that they -- again, I'm not going to get ahead of their investigation but I know that they're -- they're -- they're taking the issue of these losses on the -- on the GW very, very seriously.

Yes, anybody over here? Yes?

Q: Mike Stone from Reuters.

MR. KIRBY: Are you sure?

(LAUGHTER)

Q: Are you?

MR. KIRBY: I'm sure now.

Q: So let's talk about money for a second. The government has $3.5 billion earmarked for replenishing U.S. stocks that have gone to Ukraine. Where are we -- barometrically on burning through that, number one?

And then second, presidential drawdown authority, the president said yesterday he's almost out of it. What's the magnitude being contemplated for the next ask for presidential drawdown authority?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I'm not going to get ahead of -- of decisions that haven't been made, Mike from Reuters. The -- but we -- we are -- as the president said, we are reaching near the end of current authorities and we've also made very clear that -- that we'd be willing and interested in having a discussion with Congress moving forward, should there be a -- the need for more. I mean, we're going to continue to support Ukraine as best we can, as fast as we can.

I don't have any additional contracting information to give you on the $300 million right now. The only contracts that have been put out of that are the Puma UAVs, but -- but we're working very hard, as I said yesterday, to -- to -- to get the other ones actuated. OK?

Yes.

Q: John, a -- a fire at a Russian military research facility killed six people and injured dozens of others. Do we know what Russia might have been doing at that facility and what could have caused that fire?

MR. KIRBY: I don't, and I don't have any updates on the actual fire itself, no.

Lara.

Q: Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Welcome back.

Q: Thank you, good to see you.

MR. KIRBY: Good to see you.

Q: I just wanted to get a little more clarity on this Phoenix Ghost drone from yesterday. Can you tell us specifically is this drone that's going to Ukraine, has it been tailored for the Ukraine fight? And did the Pentagon accelerate the development of this drone?

MR. KIRBY: It was already under development by the -- the -- the U.S. Air Force and the kinds of capabilities that we were developing it for happened to be very appropriate to the kind of fighting that -- that we anticipate is going to go on in the Donbas region.

And so it -- it -- it is -- it was, again, under development but -- but well suited to what Ukraine's requirements are now. As we talk to the Ukrainians and they tell us "here's -- here's what we really need for what we think the Russians are going to do in this kind of terrain and -- and the kind of capabilities we want our units to have," we realize that -- that in this particular system, we could meet some of those needs.

And again, I'm not going to get into the details and the specifications of it, but it was already under development, capabilities were already being conceived by the Air Force and the contractor as we were working on this, and we realized that it absolutely fit very well, the kinds of needs -- some of the needs, not all, some of the needs that the Ukrainians had.

Q: But was it accelerated, was it pulled forward for this fight?

MR. KIRBY: It wasn't pulled forward for the fight, but we are going to work hard -- of -- the development, the capabilities have not been pulled forward because of this particular fight, we haven't adapted that, but -- but we are certainly going to move very quickly to get them the 121 that -- that were authorized in this latest package. I mean, so we're going to accelerate delivery, getting them there.

It will probably -- try that again -- it will -- we anticipate that it will require some training to be done, because this is not a system that the -- that the Ukrainians are -- know how to use, it's not something that's in their inventory. So we're working our way through what that training would look like as well.

I -- I suspect it'll be something akin to the kind of training we gave them for the Switchblades, which didn't have to take too long. It -- it is a similar kind of capability, it -- more advanced in some ways. So we do anticipate the need to -- to get them trained up on it but we just don't have all of that figured out right now.

Q: And sorry, just a -- my second question is (inaudible) something from yesterday about Gen. Terry Wolff. Can you tell me a little bit more about what his role will be and how will he interface with DOD?

MR. KIRBY: I think that's a better question put to the National Security Council, cause that's where Mr. Wolff will -- will be working, but we are certainly, as -- as we have in the past and going forward, looking forward to making sure that the whole interagency, all of us that are involved in helping Ukraine, are -- continue to do that in an efficient and effective way, working collaboratively -- collaboratively with one another as we have been. And we would certainly expect that that will continue with Mr. Wolff in this new position.

Q: So will he have a roll in crafting the packages of assistance with ...

MR. KIRBY: Again, I would refer you to the NSC to speak -- this is a position that they've -- that they've crafted here. And I think it's really more appropriate for them to speak to. What I can tell you is that we're -- as we have been, we're still going to work closely with the NSC. We're still going to work closely with the State Department. We're still going to do everything we can to get the kinds of capabilities and weapons and support to Ukraine, again, as fast as we can. So we -- we look forward to the collaboration going forward. There has been great coordination in the past, but - look, there is always room to do to improve and to streamline. And we look forward to doing that going forward.

Yes, Ryo.

Q: Thank you. U.K. Prime Minister Johnson visited India today, and agreed to provide support for India's defense procurement. Is the U.S. coordinating with the U.K. and other European allies to help India reduce reliance on Russia for defense procurement?

MR. KIRBY: Without speaking for other nations, I mean, we certainly -- you saw us talk to this issue last week at the 2+2 over at the State Department. We're always looking for ways to improve our defense partnership with India. And we certainly encourage other countries to do the same. We've -- we've been nothing but clear, as other countries have been, that we would like to see any nations who -- who are reliant on Russian systems not be so reliant on Russian systems. And so we -- we welcome the U.K.'s efforts here and they are very much aligned with what -- with what we're doing.

Yes.

Q: Separate question, that before Russia's invasion into Ukraine, some European countries deployed naval assets to the Indo-pacific region along with the U.S., to address the growing challenges posed by China. Are you concerned that Russia's invasion could be used to (inaudible) to allocate the military assets to (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: No. No, China remains the pacing challenge for the department. And even as we are bolstering NATO's eastern flank with our own capabilities, even as we are continuing to flow defense articles, weapons and systems to Ukraine, we still have a significant amount of effort and energy applied to the challenges in the Indo-Pacific. And other nations do, too. We are a big enough military, we are powerful enough, we are spread out enough, we are organized well, to be able to handle both the pacing challenge of China and what we have described in our National Defense Strategy as the acute threat that Russia poses.

Matt.

Q: Thanks, John. I wanted to check back in on Russia's nuclear posture. Has the U.S. at this point seen any indications that they have raised their alert level or readiness levels of their nuclear forces since Putin said -- indicated as much several months ago? And, secondly, how confident are you that the U.S. would see signs of such an elevation?

MR. KIRBY: We monitor this very, very closely every day. We would never boast that we have perfect visibility on everything that Russia does or decides to do with its posture, be that conventional or unconventional, but we monitor as best we can every day. And all I would say, Matt, is that we've seen nothing and have no -- and no reason, at this point, to change our own nuclear deterrent posture. We're still comfortable and confident that we have an appropriate nuclear deterrent posture to defend the homeland, as well as our allies and partners.

Sylvie.

Q: Thank you. I'm going to ask - it is always the same question -- but I still don't understand. With all the new weapons that the West is -- has been giving and is going to give soon to the Ukrainians -- the tanks, the artillery, everything -- do you assess that Ukraine -- the Ukraine military is now -- has now the capacity to completely push the Russians out of the country? Not out of the new zones that the -- they -- they ...

MR. KIRBY: But that's where they are, Sylvie. I mean, they're in the -- they're in the east and they're in the south, and that's where they -- that's the only ...

(CROSSTALK)

Q: ... they can push them out.

MR. KIRBY: ... that's the only places that they are. I -- I think that's a question that only the Ukrainian armed forces can answer, not the United States military. What I can tell you is that we, in keeping -- in -- with another 30-plus nations, are doing everything we can to give them the tools that they need to defend themselves and to push the Russians out.

I mean -- but as for what their goals are on any given day, I mean, that's for them to speak to, and what their capabilities are in this part of the country or in that part of the country, that's something that they should speak to, not the United States military.

What we're focused on is giving them the tools that they need to -- to defend themselves and to -- and to defeat Russia's aggression, and that is done in a iterative conversation with them, which we have literally every day, and it's a conversation the secretary's looking forward to having on Tuesday with other allies and partners when we're over in Germany, as well, to make sure that what we're sending -- and -- and I -- and -- and what -- I mean "we," I mean the big "we," not just the United States but everybody -- what we're sending is meeting their goals so that they can do that.

But as for their capacity on any given day or in any given geographic area, that's really a better question put to them, not -- not to the United States military.

Yes?

Q: Hi, (inaudible) with Fox. CISA had a warning earlier this week that the U.S. and other countries are under an increased cyber threat from Russia. Can you just speak to what the U.S. has done for itself since the Russian invasion to bolster its own cyber defenses and how it's helped Ukraine bolster theirs?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I'm -- I'm actually not going to be very satisfying here. We are mindful of the cyber threat that Russia poses every single day. And every single day, from a variety of actors around the world, our -- our cyber architecture get -- gets attacked. We -- we factor that in every day.

And cyber resilience is not a static thing, you don't just finally achieve it and then can sit back. You've got to constantly modify your posture in -- in cyberspace, and our experts at CYBERCOM are -- are doing that, again, every day.

I -- I won't speak to specific attacks or -- or specific protection measures that we have in place, but I can tell you we don't take it for granted and it is something we're vigilant on every single day.

Q: How -- how big of a concern is it?

MR. KIRBY: Very big concern. It has to be. We have seen what the Russians are -- are capable of doing in -- in cyberspace and what they -- and -- and what, in -- in many cases, they want to achieve. Whether that's in malware, whether that's in hard cyberattacks, or whether it's in the -- the spread of disinformation through social media in cyberspace in that way, they -- they have proven that they have a certain agility in cyberspace. We want to make sure we're ahead of that, and -- and we're working on it every day. Yes.

Bob?

Q: Take you back to the Ramstein meeting again. I -- when you described it, I think you said it was to talk about long-term defense relationship with Ukraine, both including post -- post-war. I'm wondering whether you're alluding to, in some respect, security guarantees for Ukraine or are you simply talking about defense equipment, weaponry and so forth? And training?

MR. KIRBY: It's -- it's really largely about modernizing and making sure their military is -- is still potent and capable going forward. It's not about security guarantees, it's about -- it's about their actual military posture.

Q: OK. You also used the term "industrial base" and I'm wondering if you're referring to the American industrial base?

MR. KIRBY: No, I think what we wanted to have a discussion with is not just our industrial base here in the United States, but the industrial base of so many other nations and how they're faring. Like, you've seen us bring in CEOs from our own Defense Industrial Base as recently as last week to talk about production of various systems. And I think the secretary's interested in hearing what other allies and partners are -- are doing in that regard, or if they are.

Q: Will there be representatives from other ...

MR. KIRBY: No, the -- the -- the invites are -- are going out to ministers of defense and -- and senior military leaders of -- of -- of these countries.

Q: OK, thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yes.

Q: Thank you, John. Given that almost all U.S. military intelligence assessments regarding Russian invasion of Ukraine are happening now on the ground, do you have any assessment on how long this war will continue? Months or years?

And secondly, will the Russians focus on -- more on annexation of the east of Ukraine rather than focusing on invading the whole country? Yes, you made statements that Russians will focus on Donbas region and east and south of the Ukraine, but do you think that Russians have plan to annex this part, like they did in 2015 to Crimea? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: I -- I don't think anybody can predict how long this is going to go on. What we have said is because the Russians are now concentrating their efforts in a smaller geographic area, an area that they have been fighting with Ukrainian armed forces now for eight years and have been occupying illegally, in many cases, we would -- we would expect that the -- the fighting could be prolonged, I think is how we've described it, but I -- I don't think we're able to put a fine point on that and give you a date on the calendar and say "that's how long it's going to take."

We -- we don't anticipate that it's going to be over, you know, in days or even just coming weeks. We think it's -- it's -- potentially could go longer than that. Now, nobody wants to see that, but the -- the -- the truth is -- and I'm sure you're tired of me saying this -- but it could end today, it could end now if Mr. Putin pulled his forces out and stopped this illegal invasion and sat down in good faith with Mr. Zelenskyy.

Clearly, he has no intention of doing that, I understand it, but it doesn't mean it shouldn't still be said. The war could be over now.

And I'm sorry, you had another question about -- oh, their intentions. Look, I've said from the very beginning we're not going to be able to get inside Mr. Putin's head perfectly and know exactly what his long term objectives are or even his medium term objectives.

It's clear to us that he wants to focus on the east and the south, again, particularly in the east, an area of Ukraine that he -- he has been fighting with Ukrainian forces over. Now, whether -- whether his intention is to try to gobble that up and then sit down at the negotiating table and say "OK, I won, this is what I wanted all along, don't -- don't pay any attention to what I said about Ukrainian sovereignty and the capital city and the Zelenskyy government, this is what I really wanted" and that's the leverage he wants at the table; we just don't know, or would you want to gobble that up so that you can then use that as staging areas for further invasions more -- more westerly into Ukraine, and -- and again, try to threaten the capital city. We just don't know. What we do know is that they are focusing on the Donbas in the South. What we do know is that they are putting more enablers in there and they are adding more troops, even over the last 24 hours more troops have gone in.

What we do know is that they are conducting offensive operations in the Donbas and certainly they continue to bombard Mariupol. So that's what we know, and that's why we're focused on getting the Ukrainians the kinds of systems and capabilities that we believe, and more importantly they believe, are going to be useful to them in that fight that's -- that's -- that's actually ongoing right now.

Courtney -- Courtney?

Q: Just one more on the meeting next week in Germany. So it's -- it's -- I know you've said that there's a focus on what Ukraine's going to need near-term, far-term and everything, but is it possible that this could also make -- lead to changes in the U.S. military posture in the region, i.e. potentially in this discussion with allies there's a decision to send more U.S. troops into EUCOM or permanent basing. Like could this have -- actually have an impact on U.S. military footprint as well?

MR. KIRBY: That's not the purpose of the meeting. And again, I don't want to get ahead of discussions that haven't happened yet. I -- we're not looking at this meeting as a posture discussion, for U.S. posture on the continent. So I wouldn't anticipate muscle movements or decisions coming out of Tuesday with respect to U.S. posture.

That said, we are constantly talking to allies and partners about posture on the eastern flank because since before the invasion, we've been adding to that posture. And we're going to keep open the possibility that those kinds of discussions will continue. But I -- I don't -- I wouldn't look at this meeting as a decision meeting for that purpose.

Q: And then one more. Have you -- can you say if any of the Phoenix Ghosts, AKA Phantom Ghosts, have been delivered at all to Ukraine or when they might be?

MR. KIRBY: What did you call them, the Phantom Ghosts? That's -- she keeps saying that because I think she wants that to be the name. So she just figures if she says it more than -- more that we're just going to start adopting it.

Q: Yeah, I mean it's like China, you just keep saying it and it becomes a thing, right.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, the Phoenix Ghosts. No, they have not been delivered yet.

Q: Do you have any sense of when they might be delivered? In days?

MR. KIRBY: I don't. I don't, no. But we're going to try to get them there, obviously, as fast as we can, as well as the other stuff.

Yes. Let me go to the phones here; Joe Gould?

Q: Hey John, thanks so much for taking my -- taking my question. I have two. One is kind of a follow-up on -- on Mike Stone earlier. You know, if you could set the stage a little bit, you know, as we get this new request for Ukraine related aid next week, how much headroom does the department have now?

Drawdown authority you touched on, but I'm also thinking about funding for the Europe deployments, you know, backfill money, USAI, how much of that has been exhausted and how limited would the -- would DOD's efforts be if Congress didn't come through? And then I have a...

MR. KIRBY: Well, obviously, we -- as I said in my previous answer, we -- we are willing and we believe we're going to need to -- to talk to Congress about the potential for some supplemental funding. I do not have a dollar figure to give you today, but as the president noted we are close to reaching the end of a drawdown authority -- authority funds.

And so we certainly would expect that we're going to have a conversation with Congress going forward on what the -- what the needs would be, but I don't believe we settled on a dollar figure here in -- in that regard. So I think this is a -- this will be a discussion that -- that we will certainly be having with members of Congress.

MR. KIRBY: Idrees?

Q: Joe, do you want to go ahead or ...?

Q: Yes, I'm -- I guess my question is less about what the -- what the -- the dollar figure is going to be and more about how much of headroom the Pentagon has to date, how urgent the situation is?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not -- I don't want to detail specifically what -- how much authority we have left, but we are getting close to the end of those funds and so that's why we are actively engaging with members of Congress. We don't want to get into a point, Joe, where we're in extremis, where -- you know, where we've actually run out of the authority and the funding to execute it.

So we're -- we're -- we're having those discussions. And, you know, when there's more that we can talk about on that, we will.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Idrees?

Q: Thanks, John. Just two quick things, if you could just give us an update on Mariupol, and I -- I'm assuming it's still contested, but just a broad overview?

And secondly, you touched on this at the meeting that's going to take place next week. I think there are always some expectations when these type of things happen, but if you could just sort of broadly let us know if there are some deliverables we should be expecting? Like at the end of this, will there be some roadmap for the next couple years what exactly you're going to do or is it going to be broader than that?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I -- I think we're all hoping that -- that the meeting can lead to -- if -- if not specific, the decisions, at least a framework for getting at -- specific decisions going forward. So I don't have any deliverable -- deliverables to preview, but I think the secretary is very much looking forward to this discussion and to -- and, you know, to being able to -- to -- to speak to all of you after that -- that meeting about what we heard what he learned.

And again, I -- I just don't want to get ahead of the agenda right now, but we're calling it a consultative group because that's exactly what we want it to be. We want consultations. We're not going into this meeting with a precooked set of outcomes at the end of it, as so often happens when you're doing things at the ministerial level.

That's why we're not calling it a ministerial, even though there a lot of ministers going, because we really want it to be a conversation. And we're not -- were not coming into that with -- again with some sort of precooked outcomes all -- all set. So let -- let's have the discussion, let's have the meetings, let's -- let's have that conversation, and we'll see where we are on the other end of it.

It -- it is important enough, I think, just that in this critical time, as this war enters a new phase, that -- that the -- that the convening power of the United States can still be applied to bringing people together to have specific conversations about how to support Ukraine going forward.

Let's see, John Ismay, New York Times?

Q: Yes. Can you offer anything on the Pentagon's continued acquisition of nonstandard ammunition from Eastern European countries for Ukraine? And also whether any supply issues -- sorry, any issues with insufficient supply of available quantities from those sources being at least in part behind the move to shipping more NATO standard weapons and ammunition to Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: We -- we do continue to work with the allies and partners about nonstandard ammunition. And almost every day, there is ammunition going into Ukraine and much of it is what we would consider, in -- in the words you used John, non -- non-standard, in other words not U.S. caliber, not U.S. specific ammunition.

We know how important that is. It's -- it's the lifeblood here for the Ukrainian armed forces. We don't talk a lot about small arms ammunition -- it doesn't get the headlines, I understand that. It -- but in every discussion we have with the Ukrainians, they talk about how important that is. And to-date, the United States has helped coordinate and deliver more than 50 million rounds of small arms ammunition to Ukraine just since the invasion. And not all of that is U.S. caliber.

Now, I couldn't break it down for you in exactly where -- how much of that is non-standard, John. But we continue to talk to allies and partners about their inventories of non-standard ammunition and continue to try to get that flowed into Ukraine, again, as much as possible.

So it's very much an active part of our discussions, it is still very much an active part of the deliveries that we're helping coordinate. And it is having a truly significant impact on the battlefield. They - they use that ammunition literally everyday in defending their country.

Yes, Goyal.

Q: Thanks. Two questions on India and Afghanistan. As far as Prime Minister Boris Johnson's visit to India is concerns coming during the time when there is a war going on between Russia and Ukraine, and at the same time China's expansion in the region.

My question is now, China's (inaudible) as far as U.K. and India defense pact is concerned also, they are worried about India and the U.S. military-to-military relations. But my question is when defense minister of India was here at the Pentagon, were there any discussion of a new pact -- defense pact between the U.S. and India? And if secretary is going to make a visit soon to India, try to -- this new defense pact between U.S. and India?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know if I'd call it a new defense pact, but you saw we - we announced a new space cooperation agreement with India while the 2+2 was going on, and we had discussions all day both here at the Pentagon and over at the State Department about how our defense partnership can be improved. But I don't have a new pact to announce, and I certainly don't have any travel to announce or speak to today.

As you know, one of the secretary's early trips in his time in office was to India, and to meet directly with Indian officials. And I'm sure at some point we'll go back.

Q: What as -- as far India and Russia defense (inaudible) going on for so many years, and now recently also when Russian president was in India and the Indian prime minister was in Russia, but how you think these will play with India's new pacts with the different countries, including like now recently with U.K.?

MR. KIRBY: I think Indian officials should be -- would be better to speak to that than we would, Goyal. I mean, it's a sovereign nation and they should be speaking for themselves about their bilateral relations with countries. We've been very clear with India, as well as other nations, that we don't want to see them rely on Russia for defense needs. We've been nothing but honest about that, and discouraging that.

At the same time, we also value the defense partnership that we have with India. And as was evidenced a week ago, we're looking at ways to improve that going forward. That's going - that's going to continue because it matters, it's important, and India is a provider of security in the region, and we value that. And so again, we're going to look for ways to continue it.

Q: During this 2+2 meetings in Washington at the State Department and Pentagon here, India and U.S. celebrated it's 75 years of relations, including diplomatic and also of course in defense. Any thoughts on that?

MR. KIRBY: Thoughts on...?

Q: Seventy-five years of relations between the two countries?

MR. KIRBY: We're for it. I mean, it's a powerful statement of the strong bilateral relationship that we have with India, and that we want to continue to grow. Yes.

Q: And my question, just on (inaudible)...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY: You have another one?

Q: There was -- bombings are still going on in Afghanistan. As far as education is concerned on children and schools, and all of them. And people of Afghanistan still remembering the U.S. impact there, and what do you think -- because they're still thanking the U.S. that how U.S. Army and U.S. help them, but now Taliban still impact, they are targeting the education and the -- the -- especially the children.

MR. KIRBY: Look, we've been very clear. The - the Taliban will have to be held to account and responsible for the way that they are now dictating security inside Afghanistan. We do not have a U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan, nor do we plan to have one.

But if the Taliban desires the kinds of international respect it claims it desires, then it's going to have to behave appropriately and obviously we are not at a point where we would - we would ascribe to the Taliban that level of responsible leadership.

OK, one more and then I'm going to call it a day here.

Kasim.

Q: Hi, John, thank you. On the consultative meeting at Ramstein you said not all the nations that were invited are NATO members. Clearly there are 40-some countries have been invited as you said, that number clearly is about the NATO -- the number of NATO allies. But could you say that there are some NATO allies who are not invited to that meeting? That's one question.

And second, you said more than 20 countries have agreed to come. Are all these countries -- are NATO members? Has any NATO member turned down the invitation so far?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to speak for other nations, Kasim. We have invited, again, more than 40 nations. More than 20 of them have accepted and there are RSVPs that we still expect to be coming in. I mean, we just announced this yesterday. So you've got to give us a little slack, you've got to give us a little time.

But having more than 20 already agree on relatively short notice, I think is a powerful statement of the convening power of the United States, and the importance that not only we, but these other nations place on Ukraine's defense needs going forward. And we look forward to having a great discussion on Tuesday in Ramstein.

OK, thanks everybody.

https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/3008806/



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