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tv   Pentagon Press Secretary Holds Briefing  CSPAN  March 29, 2022 10:58pm-11:47pm EDT

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way more than that. >> 1000 community centers to create wi-fi enabled students from low income families can get the tools they need to be ready for anything. comcast supports c-span as a public service along with these other television providers giving a front row seat to democracy. >> jon kirby says u.s. military does not believe russia is withdrawing forces but repositioning it military to continue attacks on ukraine. this briefing is 45 minutes. >> let me get organized here. thanks. gone for a little while.
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good to be back. a couple things at the top so if you just bear with me here. i want to think a couple of you right at the beginning talk about ukraine. there's a lot of reporting today on withdrawals and russian decisions. i think it is important we put a bit into context. so first, we've seen russia has attempted now going on a month to sell the war authors to its domestic audience as a declaration. the intensified rhetoric over the last year end the lead up to russia's invasion demonstrated the comments real intent was to overthrow the democratically led government and occupy more annex large portions of ukraine. the posture russian forces around kyiv and the coast and
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central and north eastern ukraine in the geographic scale of this ambition, faith and attacking ukraine as we have been talking about now for several weeks on multiple points of access. russia's intent was to replace ukrainian regional national authority and create people's republic. displayed recently in the arson province. the robert event in the initial phase of the work shall clearly for all of us kyiv and the capitol city was the key objective for the russians. ... they can still inflict
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massive brutality on the country including on give. we see that today continued air strikes against the capital city. mr. putin's goals stretch far beyond the russian ministry of defense's recent talking points may be an effort to move the goalpost moderating the immediate goals and spending its current lack of progress as a part of what would be next steps but it's too early to judge what additional actions they may take. no amount of spin can witness the last month and that is the
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courage and military prowess and its people which are proving to be more than what russia bargained for in its invasion and that is not accidental. it's part of the training and support. we and other allies over the last eight years have been giving to the ukrainian armed forces together with our allies and partners and we will continue to provide that going forward to meet their security needs as they stand up to this russian aggression. i thought it was important to set the level straight because i've seen again lots of reporting on the so-called withdrawals. in other news, 22 started this week. it's a long-standing annual exercise between the u.s. military and armed forces to the key component of the cooperation. the exercise features planning operations, exchanges and activities that increase both of the nation's military capabilities to provide for the
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mutual defense of the philippine. exercise activities will occur at multiple locations throughout the republic of the philippines and consist of three primary components. a bilateral staff exercise, joint interoperability and combined interoperability as well as humanitarian and civic assistance efforts. with more than 3800 of the armed forces in the philippines and 5100 u.s. service members, this would be the largest iteration of delicate hand to date and we look forward to a meaningful and productive exercise and we are grateful for that a terrific relationship that we have with the armed forces of the philippines. the final response teams into active duty status who are supporting 59 cities across 30 states at the university of utah hospital in salt lake city. since the onset of the outbreak more than 24,000 military
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members in active duty status provided support to the whole of government. this included approximately 5800 military providers that supported hospitals and other civilian. more than 5,000 medical personnel administering vaccines at federal community vaccination centers as well as military personnel who assisted citizens when they were initially repatriated back to the u.s. and the very early days of the outbreak. in january of this year, the department activated more than a thousand servicemembers in support of the president's direction to mobilize additional military medical personnel and 25 hospitals in 14 states just from january to march. the rest of these members were on standby throughout the time period ready to deploy at the request if they were required. it's important to note that while the response may have come to a close as of this morning there are more than 10,800
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national guard soldiers and airmen supporting the response efforts in at least 43 states, territories and the district of columbia. and i also want to add they remain postured to deploy more personnel if requested and of course the secretary wants to take this opportunity to pass on his personal gratitude. when you say you are seeing small numbers of russian troops you say they are repositioning. does that mean less than the battalion technical group? >> this is a very early on. we don't have a number estimate
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but it's certainly not a significant chunk of the groups. we can confirm we've seen a small number start to reposition. are they moving like north into belarus or can the repositioning for what you do script is potentially somewhere else? >> where exactly the troops are going to go long term, we believe and assessed that it is likely repositioning to be elsewhere in ukraine. where exactly, we don't know.
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i would just note the russians themselves in the same breath they say they are withdrawing and reprioritizing the area in eastern ukraine. that is a question better put to the ministry defense if they will give a short answer. in the last few hours they made the proclamation so we have seen a small number begin to move away from kiev. that's about the most i can give you. for the troops that are still ready against kiev i would say they still have a significant
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majority of the assembled combat power. do you think there's going to be more numbers because they say they might be redeployed somewhere else. we see a small number that appears to be moving away from kiev. do they have enough forces on the ground to relaunch some kind
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of attack on the city? the numbers we've seen move at this point we still have the vast majority of the forces that they had assembled are still there and as i've said before, we largely assess that they are in a defensive posture. several days ago they stopped trying to advance and sort of took up defensive positions. >> can you update us on the number of missiles -- >> that would be much easier. >> i don't have an update on the missiles. we know that it launched more than a thousand but i don't have the exact number. >> is it still a near
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competitor? >> when we released the budget we talked about it as an acute threat and that is how we are looking at it right now. >> we consider as it is a threat over the last month. >> my last question is about the peace proposal. these are nato countries and establishing some sort of collective defense in the nato country would bring all of nato with it.
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this is a negotiation between russia and ukraine. i would say a couple of things. russia should negotiate in good faith. they have an opportunity over the last month to do it responsibly. as for what that settlement looks like that is between russia and ukraine and we wouldn't want to get ahead of that process. >> when you retreat are the
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movements that you are seeing so far consistent and what would it take to convince the pentagon that russia had given up on its intent? >> it's way too soon to make a judgment on the covering forces and that sort of thing. what would it take for us to believe it i would go back to my answer it would be to see them take all the forces out of
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ukraine. they said what their intent is and that he said, this is more of a piece of lead positioning and we are basing some of that on the indications that they are reprioritizing with russia being an acute threat does the change signal a change in the priority level for the department? in so many documents it's right after china. it doesn't still occupy the same priority level or has it gone up or down in this new language? >> the threat has remained a priority here at the department.
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if you ask me, i'm not going to do that but to be an acute threat we have been a pretty clear about that. you don't have to look any further than we've seen the last 30 days to see that we are justified in labeling them such and again you said it yourself it is pretty clear in the points that we delivered since the budget yesterday and in our strategy that russia remains a significant issue for the department. >> on the covid tends support and that ending, could you talk about the conditions that led to that decision, the general conditions that led -- >> to end the support? we were doing this in support of fema and the agency effort.
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so, we took our guidance from the need out there by fema. >> remember we were taking the pressure off the civilian practitioners so they could do the treatment. so, most of our medical personnel that were operating in hospitals were not really doing covid treatment that they were taking the pressure off of other burdens but it has been alleviated with discussions with fema and civilian health practitioners we all deemed collectively that now is the right time to pull back that support, but i want to say again as i said in my opening statement, northern command stands ready until there is more need. all the troops that we had put on readiness to do this mission.
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it's a living thing and it changes over time so we have been grateful for the ability and the chance that we had to contribute to this and we will stand by and stand ready and also to point out the fact you have more than 10,000 national 10,000 nationalguardsmen that a. >> have you seen any territorial lawsuits since it repositioned its forces and also do you see any change in the amount or types of missile strikes that you feel would be tied to this repositioning? >> we've seen them push back puk particularly in suburbs to the west where the ukrainians have
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taken ground. we have seen then retake some territories to the west. we talked about this about a week ago where the russians were on the outskirts and the ukrainians pushed them back to almost more than 50 kilometers away from the city. so we have seen them do that around the west and east. i don't have a breakdown of the airstrikes happening. i could give a number over the course of time it's just we do continue to see them being struck from the air. so the threat is not over. >> i can't quantify it over the course of a day or two. i don't have a count of how many strikes were happening.
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and we've never given that because we just don't have it. but we do continue to see the strikes, so it's we are not convinced about the threat to the capital city has been radically diminished by the proclamation by the ministry of defense. >> have you seen that a shift? >> i've been very careful with the operations it isn't prudent for me to do it and we don't have exact details of the tactical groups, so i couldn't tell you how many are.
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what i can tell you is the vast majority of the assembled force that we saw is still there. we've only seen a small number begin to move away from kia mostly to the north. we will watch this over the course of the coming days and to the degree that we can describe what we are seeing, we will do that. we have seen even before the russians said that they were going to prioritize, we saw them begin to pick up the pace. more aggressive operations, more active campaigning against the villages. that continues today, but it's been a hot war for the last eight years and we definitely have seen the intensity pick up and where that goes, we don't know. we've also seen the ukrainians be just as active to pushback on the russians. >> did they put the bulk of the
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forces against them or -- >> we've been talking about the approach north and northeast. that whole northern grouping was really designed against the capital city, the effort to cut off. then the east, which again has been a hot war for eight years and the russians poured more resources in and then in the south. and the south as we've been talking about coming out of cranial they split up to the northwest end to the northeast t against variable, which again there's a lot of heavy fighting still going on. you've seen that for yourself. then to the northwest out of crimea in an attempt what we saw was to take to the town that they've not been able to do and as i think we've talked about in recent days you have seen that
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the ukrainians are actually scrubbing it out. so, those were the three main groupings and lines of effort. up until recently, that was their plan was as i said in my opening statement to occupy and annex ukraine. now we think they are going to prioritize. the progress in the early days they made in the self that they had made progress. now that's stalled out and again we see them prioritizing the east but i couldn't quantify that for you. i don't have the order of battle on that level of detail. let me go to someone on the phone. i haven't done that yet.
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can you talk about the president's comments yesterday when he said that u.s. troops are training the military, what kind of training are they providing and how long has that been going on? >> i think general walters dealt with this pretty well in his hearing this morning in front of the senate armed services committee. there's some going on as the ukrainians going to poland for instance and we are transposing shipments of material for them so there's some general going on in that regard and that is what the president was referring to. why don't i come back to you.
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would that be fair? we will do that. i promise i will get back to you. >> does the pentagon think that the russian forces attempt they were basically defeated in their attempt to take the campaign -- >> i said in my opening statement they failed. we believe it was a key objective for them. you've confirmed did you know to the small numbers before they made public their proposal today that this was being done in good faith, so in other words are the worlds following actions that you've already seen taking place? >> i can give you a time like
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whether it was the moment they decided to announce it same-day kind of observation but we are not taking anything they say at face value. i'm being as honest with you as i can. a small number, things started to move. we are not preparing to buy the russian argument that it is a withdrawal. again our assessment is that their intention is to reposition forces and bolster the efforts elsewhere. >> is that accurate to what you've been describing? >> i'm comfortable with the way that i've characterized it. >> i feel like it sounds like you are describing it's been almost five weeks now and it sounds like you are describing a failed military campaign.
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would you go that far or is that too much? what we are seeing right now is this a failure, is it a failed military campaign? >> i don't think we are prepared to slip a bumper sticker on this right now. there are still people dying and bombs falling and missiles falling and others still give and take on the battlefield so i don't think we are ready to call it one way or another. what i would tell you is as i said in my opening statement they failed to take kia of which we believe was a key objective and again you just have to look at what they tried to do to see that they wanted it but they didn't get it and in the last few days they hunkered down and basically stopped advancing and now we are seeing small numbers move away so we will see where this goes but to step back and
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they also failed to take and hold any major population centers. they have not and while we assess that his back and play right now so even that is contested use all the ukrainians basically sank one of their ships in the port. not only did they not manage to take chemo but they haven't taken any tabulation centers and the ukrainians are fighting back very hard so it's hard to see how they are succeeding in any one place except at the death and destruction that they are causing to these populations and presented to the civilian population. that's something we cannot lose sight of. >> about 14,000 troops you said
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committed to europe in one way or another for nato or individual countries and then left over from who's been sent to announce you are going to send. are you a still trying to get to that number and do the peace talks have any bearing on whether you think that you will have more people or not? >> it's not like the 14,000 is a goal. the secretary wanted as many options available to him and the president so we put some on deploy and some forward. it is about options. it's about making sure we have the right capabilities. so, we are constantly reviewing that. not that you asked this but i can let you know in the response
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open norway i can tell you the command and control unit from group 28 has now been repositioned to lithuania and that is about 200 people so they finished the exercise in lithuania now and about ten marine corps hornets from beaufort south carolina and a couple of c-130s are now going to be repositioned to eastern europe. i don't have an exact destination but they will be repositioned and that's another 200 personnel. so, we are trying to stay flexible. just yesterday, we talked about some growlers coming out. it's not about a number goal it is about the capabilities. and it's based on constant conversations with our nato allies on the eastern flight. >> are they bringing of the nato response force or just individuals? >> right now these are
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individual decisions based on available capability that we had and in talking to our nato allies. i don't -- as you probably saw in the summit and they announced another four battle groups and i think the nations are still filling those out. we are leaving the one in poland and other nations, france i think is leaving. they are still feeling some of these out. >> okay. you've been patient. we will go. yeah. [inaudible] [inaudible]
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[inaudible] why did we refuse to fire an immediate response? [inaudible] [inaudible] why the pentagon? [inaudible] conducted the pentagon but chooses to fire in an immediate
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response. >> i'm not sure what you mean by fire and the immediate response. i am not sure what that means. but, look -- >> 111 units [inaudible] >> you mean the statement that we issued? >> yes. we respond with the time and care that we believe is required based on these provocations. there is no ill intent to wherever south korean allies. a sovereign nation they are and if they want to issue a response on their timeline we certainly respect that.
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we responded i believe, i know we responded in a way we felt was appropriate for our own initial analysis of the launch. let's not get hung up on who's issuing a statement first or whether it's together or whether we say the right things. let's focus on the issue which is security on the korean peninsula and the fact the alliance is still strong and we constantly consult with the resolve korean allies about readiness on the peninsula and that we did make a statement. we did note it and by the way in recent weeks we've actually changed the way you're doing isr in and around the peninsula because of the recent publications. >> i have another one. [inaudible] but they claimed it's the 17th.
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do you know why this information is so different? >> i would just tell you we assessed that it was a probable icbm and we continue to analyze the testing and close coordination with our allies and partners to include those and i don't have an update for you beyond that. >> [inaudible] the administration often has constructed answers about the north korean peninsula threat and i understand that fully. but beyond those, is there anything you can tell us about your concern about the most recent missile test given the distance and altitude the north koreans achieved and your concerns about the threat that kind of missile capability that they successfully achieved poses and can you tell us anything
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about the latest assessment about potential activity at the underground nuclear test sites? >> i'm not going to talk about intelligence assessments. i think you know that. and we are still as i said we are still analyzing this last test. i'm not going to get ahead of that process. but we have been very clear about the threat that the north korean ballistic missile program continues to pose to the region and that includes the continued efforts to advance the nuclear program, but i'm not going to speak about it. we remain concerned about the north koreans attempt to continue to improve the nuclear capability as well as ballistic missile capability. it's provocative. it poses a threat to security on
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the peninsula and to our allies and partners, so if you're asking if we are concerned, absolutely we are. >> you said concerned about the efforts to improve the nuclear capabilities. >> every time you test, you learn. but you said improve the nuclear capability. that's different than a missile. >> it is. >> [inaudible] >> i am not speaking to press reports that i've seen about potential future tests. we know that this is a program they want to improve so of course we are concerned about efforts to do that. last week secretary alston and north korean defense secretary had a telephone conversation.
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do you know what in particular they were talking about [inaudible] >> i'm not going to get into intelligence assessments about the specifics on the north korean program. we read that call and i'm not going to go beyond the readout. let me go to reuters. >> just following up on the question about the ukrainian forces when the handover of weapons happened. to defer a pat on the back we will get them or this is how to use the weapons. can you define that? >> it's just general liaison with them as these shipments are handed over. i don't have exact details of every conversation the town or what that looks like. but of course there are
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interactions as the ukrainian soldiers take possession of some of the gear and i don't really have more details on that. a follow-up please and then come back. >> the follow-up is it different from training in any way? >> it's not training in the classic sense that many people think of training. it's just liaison. go ahead, alex. >> thanks. so, kind of curious about what the senior defense officials told us last week about indications that the russians are being more aggressive in the east now that you are a capable analyst i've looked at it more and i was wondering if you could give more details on what the signs are yet have you seen any
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kind of intensity pick up in the last couple of days when it comes to the suppose it movements around -- >> it isn't our floor. it's their war but i can tell you we have seen increased activity by russian forces going after more towns and villages, that's one. two, and we've talked about this before, making an effort to cut himself out of a town moving south and southeast to try to pin down ukrainian armed forces. it's one of the reasons we believe they are fighting because we believe one goal could be to use it as a way to go north and sort of close off and again we have seen them without getting into too much
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specifics we have seen then try to reinforce their footprint and that is about as far as i'm going to go on that. yes, in the back. >> once the 800 million-dollar package arrives in ukraine, will the u.s. continue sending weapons kind of pulling out of that area and then second if there were to be a cease-fire would they continue sending weapons to ukraine? >> i don't have any announcements to make beyond the $800 million package. there is already been a several deliveries made on that package. and we are moving out as quickly as we can and the president has been clear we will continue to support as i said in my opening statement to support ukraine as fast as we can for as long as we can. i'm not going to get into hypotheticals about the cease-fires and agreements and all that. we want to see this war end, but for as long as ukraine and the
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ukrainian armed forces need assistance the united states will be there to help provided. last week a senior defense official said troops were coming out of georgia for redeployment to ukraine. at the time he said he didn't know where they were going but one assumption might be as they announced they were going to prioritize. now you said on the record you had seen them reinforce their footprint. so have reinforcements from georgia going into the region? >> i haven't seen any indication that troops from georgia have gone. this may sound like a smart alec question but i assure it is not.
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when the defense department describes russia as an acute threat, what does that mean? i'm having a hard time explaining it to my readers. >> i would point to the readers to what we have seen over the last month here. russia's unprovoked aggression towards the nationstate that posed no threat to them and i would point the readers to the russian interference in elections not just in the united states but nations in europe. i would point to russian activities in syria to prop up the regime and to continue the bloodshed in that country. i could go on and on. the actions of mr. putin and the kremlin and russian forces speak for themselves. and it would have been irresponsible for us not to address the russia problem and the russia threat in our national defense strategy or even as we rolled out the budget
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and talked about some of the capabilities that we want to procure and maintain to deal with that threat. i will take one more. so, following along with what david was asking, intelligence said they've deployed to eastern ukraine and is expected to send over a thousand mercenaries for the operation. have you seen the same thing and can you confirm that? >> i won't get into the specific intelligence assessments but i will go so far as to say that we certainly have seen indications that the russians are leaning on private military contractors to bolster their efforts in ukraine. >> okay. thanks everybody. appreciate it. that's it for today.
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