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tv   Pentagon Press Secretary Holds Briefing  CSPAN  March 4, 2022 2:02pm-2:43pm EST

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house. i can't even talk about it. host: that part of vladimir putin's strategy, counting on political disagreements in the united states? guest: that is a small part of the problem. if anything, the one issue that brings democrats and republicans together is the strategy towards ukraine and russia. there is the trumpian wing of the republican party has advocated for closer personal ties with vladimir putin and less willing to criticize him, but if we look over the larger arc certainly republicans and democrats in congress are much closer to each other >> you can watch the rest of this segment on our website your we take you live now to the pentagon where john kirby is providing an update on the
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administration's response to russia's invasion of ukraine. you are watching live coverage on c-span. mr. kirby: unprovoked and unjust war against ukraine. the secretary price bowlines commitment to supporting the defense needs of ukraine's forces and expressed our appreciation for poland's hosting of u.s. forces and additional u.s. forces. the leaders exchanged ideas on enhancing took turbines and defense efforts along these terms -- nato's eastern flank. u.s. army command is hosting exercise arctic edge 22 hosted in alaska. this consists of 1000 u.s. military personnel and they are made up of units from the army, navy, air force, coast guard, and special operations. also included are elements from the royal canadian navy, royal
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canadian air force, and canadian army. the goal of the exercise is to provide effective training for participants using the premier training locations available throughout alaska. arctic edge 22 is linked to other exercises including the national guard's arctic eagle patriot, the army's joint pacific multinational readiness capability exercise, and the navy's icex, and those happened during february and march of this year. with that, we will take questions. >> can you give us more detail on the conflict with russia? do you know if it has been used at all? was it used specifically during the attack on the nuclear facility, one might think there might because for concern, and would it be general walters who would be in charge or on the
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other end of the phone? can you give us a sense of [indiscernible] if you could put the phone here. just anything new on odessa. mr. kirby: on the deconfliction, i don't have any information about whether it has been used. it has only been in place for a couple of days. it is basically a phone line, phone connection to the russian ministry of defense. it is being administered out of european command headquarters. as i understand it, it is basically staffed by staff level officers at european command. i have no expectation, unless he really desires, that general walters would be the one managing that.
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it is not at that level, it is at a the where operational level. it is being administered as a bilateral u.s. to russia deconfliction channel. that is why it is being handled out of european headquarters and not under general walters. i refer to you, -- referred to ucom. we know it works because we didn't establish it and set it up with the russians and when we tested it, they did pick up the other end and acknowledged that they got the call. so we know it works. we think -- as we have done before, like in syria -- we think it is valuable to have a direct communication vehicle at that level to reduce the risk of miscalculation and to be able to communicate in real time if need
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be, particularly because now the airspace over ukraine is contested by both russian and ukrainian aircraft. that contested air pays -- airspace buttresses against nato. smart thing to do and we are glad it is in place, we are the clad -- we are glad the russians have acknowledged they will use it. on odessa, i do not have an update. i have to caveat this by making clear our visibility and our detailed knowledge of things going on on the ground has limits, but as of this morning, we have not seen any significant naval activity in the black sea that would lead us to believe an assault on odessa is imminent. that does not mean that will not change, it could. as you have seen, the russian ground forces coming out of premier -- out of crimea or
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beginning an assault on a town, that town is not far from odessa, just up the coast. so we don't know exactly what to make of that. we cannot assert for sure that the russians are going to use a land route to assault odessa or if they are going to move on odessa. we are watching this day by day. >> a quick follow-up on that. this is a bipedal -- a bilateral u.s.-russia line. would an instance like the nuclear plant not be an appropriate use? mr. kirby: it very well could be. >> i am following up on that question. the nuclear line, are you saying -- excuse me, the deconfliction line, are you saying it wasn't -- mr. kirby: i don't have anything for you on its physical years in the last couple days. >> what is the most senior u.s.
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defense official who has spoken to their russian counterpart since this invasion has occurred? mr. kirby: no leaders at the pet ticket -- no leaders at the pentagon have. secretary austen has not spoken to his counterpart since the invasion. i'm not aware of any other senior leaders at the department of defense. i cannot speak for nato. that is a question for the alliance. i am not aware of any senior u.s. military connections. >> on the bridge that was blown up near that convoy, where u.s. weapons used to blow up that bridge? what impact hasn't had on the convoy? mr. kirby: i do not know what munitions were used to thwart the convoy's advance. we have reports that a bridge was blown up that we believe was
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in the path. we also have indications that the ukrainians have struck the convoy elsewhere on vehicles. what munitions they are using, i could not speak to that level of specificity. we do believe that the actions by the ukrainians have stalled that convoy and slowed it down, stopped it in some places. we also think that it is a piece of russian challenge that they have had in terms of their own physical ground movement, logistics, they are running out of fuel, in some cases they are running out of food. they have been plagued by there on the steps and stumbles. >> on the deconfliction, [indiscernible]
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mr. kirby: i am not going to speak for the alliance. we are a member of nato. certainly, if we can use that deconfliction line to assist with alliance communications, we will do that. it is not so binary as that. all i'm trying to do is describe that it is set up bilaterally between the united states and russia. part of the reason that we want to do this is because of nato airspace which buttresses up against contested airspace. if i conveyed any idea that we would only use this to convey u.s. individual unilateral concerns, that is not the case. >> a senior defense official has said before that there are ideas including maybe a nato-russia channel. beacon -- was this because russia rejected such a channel?
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and what is your understanding of what happened yesterday and how safe is the nuclear landscape now? mr. kirby: we do not have a perfect knowledge of how this attack on the nuclear power plant transpired. clearly, there was one. it was violent. ordinance was used, and attack was conducted on the power plant in an effort by russian forces to gain control of it. we cannot contest or refute reports that they are in control of it. he has four conditions -- as for our conditions, our knowledge is imperfect, but there has been no leakage of radioactive material. what operational status it is in, we cannot speak to.
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our goal is to continue to assist the department of energy as they work through response efforts of their own, as they work with our allies and partners, because we have experience running nuclear power plants in the department of defense, we are part of that effort providing some advice and counsel to the department of energy. let me take a moment, though this is not your question, to state the obvious about the dangers here and how this underscores the recklessness with which the russians have been perpetrating this unprovoked invasion and assault on ukraine and their sovereignty. attacking a nuclear power plant is exceedingly dangerous. it could have visited a lot more damage to the people of ukraine and perhaps even to neighboring
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countries. and we continue to call on russia to stop the invasion period, move their troops out, but short of that, to be more mindful of their obligations under international law and certainly with respect to humanitarian concerns about perpetrating violence anywhere near a nuclear power plant, which are not designed to withstand combat. peaceful nuclear power. i wanted to get that out. >> do you have any indications that there's any disruptions to power? one of the concerns is there is no cooling apparatus to the nuclear reactor, then that is a real vulnerability. i know it is hard to say operationally. do you have any indications? mr. kirby: we don't. we don't know what the status of the plant is. i point you to the department of energy to talk about that.
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>> one more thing on deconfliction, i get it is between the u.s. and russian military. will there be some scenario where other nato ally aircraft or military equipment, you could be de-conflicting on their behalf? we have not heard any other nation setting up deconfliction. mr. kirby: i think it is possible that should there be an alliance concern, we can convey to the russians to that channel, we will. we are also a nato ally. >> [indiscernible] russian and american aircrafts were crossing into their lines. mr. kirby: see that part again. >> russian and american aircrafts were crossing into each other's line and that is
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why the deconfliction line was used to say, keep out of this area, or we are going to strike, we are here, we are there. here, in this setting, there are two separate air spaces. how is the deconfliction line going to be years? what will they say on the line? mr. kirby: i don't think there is a script that is going to be used on any particular day or any particular instance. contested airspace over ukraine -- let me finish -- which buttresses against countries, nato countries and their airspace. it makes sense for us to be able to have some way of communicating with the russians should operations in that contested airspace pose any kind of threat or even just pose a
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concern to the alliance of the united states. we want to have a way of speaking directly at an operational level with the russian ministry of defense so it makes ends to do this -- makes sense to do this. >> we see russians have almost taken one third of the empire, the coast of the black sea. how concern is it for you that russians take the entire coast of the northern black sea? mr. kirby: apparently i don't have your level of visibility on where the russian ships are in the black sea and i'm not prepared to say with certainty that they have control over the international waters in the black sea. they have naval assets in the black sea. they are a black sea nation.
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they have already used some of those assets to conduct an amphibious assault onto the coastline of southern ukraine. as i have said, i don't have any updates in a maritime environment, i cannot assert for sure that they are planning to do another amphibious assault, whether it is towards odessa or any other southern ukrainian port. but we are watching it as best we can. >> on february 18, i asked secretary alston -- secretary alston if the defense strategy would need to be rewritten as a result of the russian threats at that time. he said, no, and integrated the torrent concept that under laid the idea was already sorted. i like to think, given the
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russian performance in ukraine so far, that cements the idea of china being the pacing threat, yes i'm seeing stories that the defense -- national defense strategy is being rewritten. other changed since february 18? mr. kirby: what i would tell you is the national defense strategy is still being crafted. this went to be heavily informed by the president's interim national security guidance. it is being written in parallel with the national security strategy which has not been completed yet. and you're right, the secretary was clear that it will reinforce his enforce of an integrated deterrence and it will ensure
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that china remains the pacing deterrent for the department. it will also recognize other nationstate threats and that includes russia. as we have been writing it, we have been writing it as we watched russia over the last couple months build up this massive military force around ukraine's borders, so it would be foolish to think that the crafting of it was not also informed by what we have been seeing russia do, but being rewritten as a result of what we are seeing. i think that overstates it heavily, but it will certainly be informed by what we have been seeing over the past couple months. >> has the department seen any evidence that the invading russian forces are reliant on the internet and communications inside ukraine? there has been question about why -- there was an assumption that the internet brought down,
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the infrastructure would be brought down. why is it that the infrastructure has remained in place? are these sources relying on that to communicate and navigate? mr. kirby: i cannot speak to russian plans and their intentions with respect to the information environment. as for their navigation skills, i don't -- i'm not riding in these trucks, clearly they are not getting from point a to point b very fast right now in the north. i cannot speak to that. we have seen some internet outages, we have seen them try to impact the information and communication environment, not the least of which is striking television towers. i don't want to speculate.
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perhaps they have found some value to keeping some public communications open for their own purposes, for their own decision-making processes, but that is just speculation. >> a follow-up on the deconfliction line. if it is going to be used in conflicted airspace by may 2 borders, could it be used for web meeting a humanitarian court or or people fleeing ukraine or is it just military to military operations? mr. kirby: it is a military to military channel but that does not mean that it cannot be used for other purposes if need be. it is only a couple days old. we think it is the right thing to do, we have done this kind of thing before, and it makes sense particularly when you are talking about that contested ukrainian airspace, but couldn't find other purposes? perhaps -- could it find other
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purposes? perhaps. >> can you bring us up-to-date on the thinking about whether to support any moves by east european allies and partners to send their 29's into ukraine to give the ukrainians extra it -- do you support the idea if the united states -- this conversation has dabbed and flowed over several days, east european allies and partners including slovakia. is this idea something that the u.s. would be supportive of? mr. kirby: i do not have a departmental position on this. these are considerations that
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sovereign nationstates have to make through their own processes. what i can tell you is what we do support and what we are doing is looking for ways to continue to get security assistance into the hands of ukrainian armed forces and we are doing that and we are accelerating and expediting even the most recent drawdown package that the president approved. >> let me turn on deconfliction. the united states is not entering ukraine airspace or ukraine territory. so you have nothing you need to notify the russians you are doing because you are staying outside of this war zone. you said there was concern that there could be a situation in which you would have worries that would lead to making a phone call and he mentioned the
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nuclear incident concern with a case that if something could impact neighboring countries. is there a way you could explain how much of this idea of needing to have a communication line with the russians isn't really about deconfliction because you are supposedly staying on your own side, but worried that they may not stay on their side? mr. kirby: i mean, it is primarily designed to help reduce the risk of miscalculation. we call it a deconfliction line because that is what we are used to calling them and that is what we typically use them for. i'm not going to sit here a few days after it has been set up and try to draw bright lines around what it can be used for. if there is a need to communicate with the ministry in a timely fashion about a
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concern, i suspect that we will use it for that and we would hope that the russians, should they have a timely concern that they want to present, that they would use it as well. >> when the nuclear incident happened, because you provide support to the department of energy, has it led to any additional need or consideration by the defense department for additional protective gear or any kind of technology for radiological or biological issues where u.s. troops are located and for the allied partners and nations and partners that they are working with? did last night's event because you two need to think about taking more protective measures, because you said one of the
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concerns could be the potential impact on neighboring countries? mr. kirby: in general, striking end of their power plant would cause anybody to be concerned. i'm going to point you to the department of energy about whatever response coordination they feel is appropriate. we provide guidance to them. i have no decisions to talk to you today about any additional resources that could be needed. without speaking for the energy department, our assessment is there was no radioactive leaks and no significant damage to the plant's operation, but i would point you to the energy department for anything more specific than that. >> for the protection of u.s. troops in the region, has this caused you -- are there any discussions, analysis by this
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department for additional protections? mr. kirby: i know of no such decisions or discussions with respect to what happened us night -- last night. we take force protection seriously, it is the secretary's paramount concern. nothing to speak to with respect to the attack on the power plant. >> you said that airspace was still contested above ukraine, you also talked about how the ground effort in the north seems stalled, more success in the south. i know is a changing environment, what are you seeing some regions in which the russians or ukrainians are more or less dominant in the air? mr. kirby: it is dynamic. it would be foolish for me to try to carve it up at 2:30 in the afternoon on friday and say one side or the other has more dominance over a particular
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region because is contested -- because it is contested. all i can tell you is the ukrainian air force has continued to fly, they still have air missile defense available, they are using them effectively. the way they have marshaled their resources and apply them has been extraordinary -- applied them has been extraordinary. the russians have a lot of aircraft available as well as missiles, they have fired over 500 since the beginning of this invasion. that is what makes this airspace so contested. there is a lot of hardware flying around in that airspace and it literally changes throughout a given day based on what the russians are doing and how the ukrainians are trying to resist what the russians are doing and it is because it is so dynamic and contested that we felt it was important to have a deconfliction mechanism.
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a senior defense official said earlier that most of the ukrainian air capability is still intact. does it seem like that is a need or are you aware of any requests from the ukrainians for more aircraft and, if they already have most of their airpower still intact, do they have the extra pallets -- pilots to fly them at this point? >> i don't want to speak for the ukrainians. we are in direct communication with them every day about the requirements and we are doing the best we can to fulfill those requirements. >> thanks very much for doing this. ukraine's embassy in washington is saying it has 3000 american volunteers, including former military, willing to go and join the fight in ukraine. does the pentagon have any position on americans going to fight in ukraine, and is there
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any effort to track fighters of all nationalities? >> i certainly cannot verify the numbers you put up there. we have seen no such list and no such compilation it i would say this -- compilation. i would say this. one, this is not the place for americans to be, in ukraine right now, and the state department has made that very clear in urging over so money weeks for americans that are in ukraine to leave and urging americans not in ukraine not to go. it is a war zone. now, that's number one to number two, should americans want to help ukraine, and it is laudable that they do, the best way to do that is to find ways to contribute to the many nongovernmental and humanitarian organizations that are trying to alleviate what has now become a very acute humanitarian crisis in ukraine and in countries that
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are now bordering ukraine as the u.n. just estimated i think yesterday more than one million people have fled the country, and that doesn't even count the thousands displaced within the country, so if you really want to help the people of ukraine as a private citizen, find a way to donate resources to these organizations that are trying to alleviate that crisis. >> are there any prohibitions on military personnel in the army reserve from going? >> the president has been clear that there will not be in the u.s. troops fighting in ukraine. >> they are supplying materiel to the ukrainians, other prohibitions under the law or dod regulations of the? >> i am not a lawyer, but let me be very clear. the president has made it clear u.s. troops will not be fighting
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in ukraine, including in the skies over ukraine. it is not a military mission that the united states military would take on. i know. you are asking a very specific potential scenario. let me find out rather than speculate and guess about that. tom. >> thanks. two questions. one, last november the coast guard transferred three ships to the navy of ukraine. i'm wondering if the pentagon has visibility into their status. the second was a senior official yesterday talked about how at least 70 missiles were fired from belarus into ukraine. is it the pentagon's analysis that that places belarus as a participant in the war? thank you. >> what we've said all along is that belarus is partly responsible for what's going on in ukraine. we've been very clear about that, by the support that they've given to russia to be able to launch this invasion.
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now, we haven't seen belarusian forces insert themselves into ukraine. we haven't seen indications that they are preparing to do that but clearly they are complicit with president putin's war of choice. as for the ships, i don't have any update on that. i simply don't know. >> jeff. >> thank you. it appears there's been some news during the news conference here. i'm reading something that says them all dovie and breakaway region -- that the moldovian region of trans mystery -- tranistria -- where some russian troops are stationed. >> i have nothing for you on that, powell. i will not try to wing it from the podium on something
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you read online. i will not take the question because that's probably better put my state department colleagues. i'm not capable of jumping into something that is breaking right now. tony. >> hi. a budget question, not ukraine specific, but what is the status of the fy 23 budget? are the final numbers done and you are feeding it into the computer ready for release? and has the invasion at all changed the number? has there been a major influx of funding in the last week because of the invasion? >> i hate to shock you but i will not talk about the status of the budget. we are still hard at work at that, the effort being led by the deputy secretary. she's running a very tight process and i'm not going to get ahead of that process and how that's going, but we are working
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on that real hard. adrice. >> tony, do you want to follow up? >> does the national security strategy and defense strategy have to be published first before the budget comes out? is that the sequence? >> they do not have to be, tony. there's no regulations, no rule, no legislation that requires you have to have a national security strategy and defense strategy published for the budget. all three documents inform each other. ideally, you want a budget to follow a strategy but it doesn't have to come out that way. adrice. >> thanks. >> going back to the hotline, how do you set it up? is it kind of on his part saying, we will set this up and then his staff set it up? the second question is any
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change to the nuclear force after they were put on high alert? >> no changes to speak to that we've noticed in the russian strategic nuclear force posture. we are still obviously monitoring and reviewing, as we do every day, and we just again say that secretary austen is comfortable and confident in our own strategic deterrent posture and our ability to defend the homeland. it is not a hotline. it is a deconfliction line. it is handled by staff at the operational level. i don't think there's any understanding that general walters will be the only one picking up the phone. certainly, if he would want to do that, as european commander, he can, but this will be staffed at a lower level to deal with operational-level concerns that need to be expressed. ok. one more and then i'm going to go.
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>> the daily update on the number of munitions fired, and also, if you have a breakdown of, you know, where you are seeing them come from? >> i don't have that and i would not be putting that out here from the podium. as i said, we have noticed -- not noticed, we have assessed that since the beginning of this invasion, the russians have fired more than 500 missiles of various types, cruise missiles, short range ballistic missiles, medium-range ballistic bill -- ballistic missiles, surface-to-air missiles, more than 500. that's about as much detail as i will be able to go into from the podium. >> it was heard from sources today about -- are the russians making progress, or is it still largely stalled, and the concern
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given the second one we have senior? >> we don't have perfect visibility into the russian intentions. clearly, we don't want to see again what we saw last night, which could potentially escalate the level of violence and destruction in ukraine to a level that is and should be unacceptable even to the russians, but i cannot speak to their intentions with respect to other nuclear power plants. and as for food and fuel, again, our general assessment today is that they are still struggling with logistics challenges, to include food for their troops and fuel for their vehicles. we do not believe they've overcome that, no. as i've said many times, we would expect them to try to overcome these challenges, and i think we are seeing an attempt by them to do that. how successful they have been, again, with any level of specificity, we just don't know. ok.
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thanks, everybody. have a good weekend. >> transportation secretary pete buttigieg gave an update on infrastructure investment spending before a sinner -- a senate environment and public works committee earlier this week. watch that tonight at 9:30 eastern on c-span, online at c-span though --, or on our free video app, c-span now. sunday, on q&a, speechwriter donna rubin talks about the speaking while female speech bank, an online archive she created to preserve speeches by women that in her opinion have been unjustly overlooked or forgotten.
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the archives include speeches by cleopatra, barbara jordan and phyllis schlafly. >> it is only in very recent times that we've credited at all and paid attention to what women had to say and we've had an assumption, a general, cultural assumption, that women were not the best speakers, that women were not speaking, that women were silent. and in general, it is true women didn't speak as much as men for a variety of reasons, but it is not true women were not speaking. in fact, women have been speaking, hundreds of them, thousands of them, but we just haven't had access to their words. >> donna rubin, sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. you can listen to q&a and all of our podcasts on our free c-span now app.
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♪ next, a discussion hosted by the atlantic council looking at russia's invasion of ukraine. we will hear from a member of the ukrainian parliament, who warned of a potential spillover effect on the u.s. and europe and calls for more lethal military aid to the ukraine -- to ukraine. this is about an hour. >> good morning and afternoon. i run the eurasia center at the atlantic council.


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