The Pentagon


July 7, 2023


STAFF:  All right, good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our in-person and virtual participants in today’s press briefing.

To my left in the room, we are grateful to have the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Dr. Colin Kahl.  We’ll have roughly 30 minutes today for our discussion, and we will endeavor to get through as many questions as possible in the briefing room and online.  If I do not call you out by your name and your outlet, if you can, please introduce yourself when asking your question.

And with that, I will toss it to Dr. Kahl.


Good afternoon, everybody.  I’m deeply grateful for another opportunity to address you all today, this time, ahead of my travel to the NATO Summit in Vilnius with the president and with Secretary Austin next week, and before my eventual transition from leading our policy apparatus here in the Pentagon, which has been the honor of my lifetime at such a critical period in the global security environment.

As you know, NATO leaders will convene in Vilnius at a crucial juncture for transatlantic security.  Seventeen months into Russia’s unlawful aggression against Ukraine, we bear witness to the tragedy unfolding in the heart of Europe, a tragedy that Vladimir Putin can end at any time, as by every measure, his objectives have not been fulfilled and they will not be fulfilled in Ukraine.

The nations of NATO stand united alongside nations from around the world, showing an unwavering determination to provide unprecedented support to Ukraine, while simultaneously strengthening the alliance’s own deterrence and defense.  During our meetings in Vilnius, we will build upon years of adaptation, charting the course for a more safe, secure and prosperous world and refining our next steps in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Today, the United States also continues to demonstrate its enduring commitment to Ukraine with the announcement of a new drawdown of military assistance to provide Ukraine’s forces with additional munitions, weapons and equipment needed to defend their country and push back on Russia’s war of aggression.  With the announcement of this 42nd presidential drawdown package, the United States has committed more than $41.3 billion in military assistance since Russia first launched its unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, and more than $44.1 billion in military assistance since Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine back in 2014.

Some of the capabilities in today’s $800 million drawdown package include 155-mm artillery rounds, including Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions, or DPICMs, and 105-mm artillery rounds, additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems and ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, additional Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, additional Stryker armored personnel carriers, precision aerial munitions, demolition munitions and systems for obstacle clearing and various spare parts and operational sustainment equipment.

With this announcement, we will be able to provide Ukraine with hundreds of thousands of additional artillery ammunition immediately.  This decision will ensure we can sustain our support for Ukraine by bridging us to a point where we are producing sufficient artillery ammunition on a monthly basis across the coalition.  We recognize the complexities here, which is why I want to quickly provide a few additional pieces of information on DPICM.

First, Russia has been using cluster munitions indiscriminately since the start of this war in order to attack Ukraine.  By contrast, Ukraine is seeking DPICM rounds in order to defend its own sovereign territory.

Second, compared to Russian cluster munitions, the DPICM rounds we will provide Ukraine have an extremely low failure, or dud rate.  The DPICM ammunition we are delivering to Ukraine will consist only of those with a dud rate less than 2.35 percent.  Compare that to Russia, which has been using cluster munitions across Ukraine with dud rates of between 30 and 40 percent.  During the first year of the conflict alone, Russia fired cluster munitions deployed from a range of weapon systems have likely expended tens of millions of submunitions, or bomblets, across Ukraine.

Third, we’re working with Ukraine to minimize the risks associated with the decision.  The Ukrainian government has offered us assurances in writing on the responsible use of DPICMs, including that they will not use the rounds in civilian-populated urban environments and that they will record where they use these rounds, which will simplify later demining efforts.  Ukraine also has committed to post-conflict demining efforts to mitigate any potential harm to civilians.  The United States has already invested more than $95 million in Ukraine’s demining activities, and we will provide more support to help Ukraine mitigate the impacts of cluster munition use by both sides in this conflict.

And fourth — and this is critical — by providing Ukraine with DPICM artillery ammunition, we will ensure that the Ukrainian military has sufficient artillery ammunition for many months to come.  In this period, the United States, our allies and partners will continue to ramp up our defense industrial bases to support Ukraine.  For the past year and a half, President Biden has been clear that we will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.  I want to commend the tireless efforts of the department, our allies and our partners in delivering this historically-unprecedented level of security assistance.

Throughout the Kremlin’s vicious war of choice, the Ukrainian forces have effectively leveraged assistance and shown outstanding bravery and skill.  Ukraine’s fight is a marathon, not a sprint, so we will continue to provide Ukraine with the urgent capabilities that it needs to meet the moment, as well as what it needs to keep itself secure for the long term from Russian aggression.

Finally, on a personal note, as I enter my last week as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, I want to thank the hundreds of patriots and professionals across OSD Policy.  I believe they are the finest national security organization in the business, for all that they have done to support Ukraine, strengthen our alliances and partnerships around the world, and work tirelessly every day alongside our military and interagency colleagues to keep America safe.

And with that, I’ll pass the mic back to Dave and look forward to your questions.

STAFF:  Okay, thanks, sir.  We’ll go first to Tara Copp, AP.

Q:  Hi, sir.  Thank you very much for doing this.  A couple of questions.  If you could talk about the dud rate?  There seems to be some questions about how the U.S. knows that its own munitions that will be provided will have such a low dud rate.  And have you been able to assure allies that these munitions won’t cause excessive civilian harm?

And then secondly, is the primary reason that the cluster munitions are being used now, because there is so much strain on the 155 millimeter stockpile.

DR. KAHL:  Yeah, those are important questions.  So, look, we’re aware of reporting — and I’ve seen some things in the press over the last 24 hours, you know, that references various DOD studies which analyze the dud rates of older versions of DPICMs.

There are lots of different variants.  I think as we talked about, you know, the Russians are — the — you know, a cluster munition is not a cluster munition.  There are there are big differences between them.

Many of those studies that have been referenced, at least the ones that I’ve seen in the press, were based on testing completed in the 1980s, and many of the DPICMs of those variants have since been demilitarized.  We’re not providing those variants of DPICMs to Ukraine.

Instead, we’ll be providing our most modern DPICMs with dud rates assessed to be under 2.35 percent, demonstrated through five comprehensive tests conducted by the Department of Defense between 1998 and 2020.  So, we’re confident in those numbers.

I will also say how they’re used matters, and that’s one of the reasons why, as we deliberated on this — and look, this was a decision that took us a while to come to.  And all of the concerns that people have raised — the humanitarian concerns, what the reaction of allies and partners would be, what the reaction would be on the Hill — all of these things were debated and adjudicated within the interagency.

But one of the things, in addition to the fact that, you know, we weren’t providing cluster munitions above the dud rate that I talked about, was the assurances that we got from the Ukrainian side on this.  We’ve gotten these assurances in writing.

The Secretary had an opportunity to discuss this with Minister Reznikov yesterday and he reiterated those assurances.  And as I said in my opening those assurances are essentially that they would not use DPICM in urban areas that are populated by civilians and that there would be a careful accounting of where they use these weapons.  That’s going to matter for future de-mining efforts.

I should also say, while none of us should minimize this issue, this is an issue the Ukrainians are going to have to grapple with regardless.  If we had never made a decision on DPICM, the Ukrainians would be de-mining — it’s going to be a generational effort because of the amount of land mines, anti-personnel, anti-tank mines, cluster munitions that the Russians have been using.

So this is an issue we have to tackle regardless.  We’re committed to helping the Ukrainians do that.

You asked about the primary reason.  I would — I would really point to two reasons.  One is the urgency of the moment, which is that, you know, the Ukrainians are in the midst of their counter-offensive.  It’s been a — it’s been hard sledding because the Russians had, you know, six months to dig in.  And so those defensive belts that the Russians have put in place in the east and the south are hard.  They’d be hard for any military to punch through.

And so we want to make sure that the Ukrainians have sufficient artillery to keep them in the fight, in the context of the current counter-offensive, and because things are going a little slower than some had hoped, there are very high expenditures of artillery rates.

So this is to make sure that the Ukrainians have the confidence that they have what they need, but frankly, also that the Russians know that the Ukrainians are going to stay in the game.

And then the second point, which is important, is we don’t see this as a permanent solution but rather a bridge.  We’ve already substantially increased the production of unitary 155 millimeter rounds.  The Europeans and others are also investing in their defense industrial base.  That’s good news and it’s starting to pay dividends, but the reality is we’re going to need to build a bridge to the point at which that capacity is sufficient on a month-to-month basis to keep the Ukrainians in the artillery fight.

And the last point I will make is a strategic one.  Vladimir Putin has a theory of victory, okay?  His theory of victory is that he will outlast everybody.  He’ll outlast the Ukrainians, he’ll outlast the United States, he’ll outlast the Europeans, he’ll outlast the international community.  He will simply brute force his way through this.  Having failed in kind of achieving a lightning victory, he’s now going to play the long game.

That’s why President Biden has been clear that we’re going to be with Ukraine as long as it takes and why we are signaling that we will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities that will keep them in the fight.

And look, I’m as concerned about the humanitarian circumstance as anybody but the worst thing for civilians in Ukraine is for Russia to win the war.  And so it’s important that they don’t.

STAFF:  Let’s go Liz, Fox.

Q:  Thank you.  Thanks for doing this.  When will these munitions make it into Ukraine?  And can you talk specifically about what the strengths are of using these cluster munitions?  And are they going to be as effective as the ones Russia has been using?

DR. KAHL:  Well, I mean, I don’t want to draw comparisons between what they’re using.  It — they’re apples and oranges.  It’s the point that I made before — a cluster munition is not a cluster munition.  These are much more efficient weapons because they have much lower dud rates.

So the bad news about 30 to 40 percent dud rates is that it creates a lot of unexploded ordinance.  It also means it’s not generating the effects that they — that they want either.  So what you want is for these weapons to generate the effects that they were designed for.

And in this context, you know, I think they will help in some of these security belts that the Ukrainians are pushing against, against some of the dug-in formations that the Russians have.  I think they will also be useful for troop concentrations and concentrations of armored vehicles and lighter-skinned vehicles.  So they’ll have utility.

I think it’s important that they have a mix of capabilities.  It’s not — no one capability is a silver bullet.  So they have unitary 155 high explosive rounds, they have the Excalibur rounds, which are GPS-guided, they obviously have the rocket systems that we have transferred to them in the form of GMLRS.  So it’s really — no one thing is going to make a difference but I think this gives them an extra arrow in their quiver.

On the timing, I’m going to be a little circumspect for operational security reasons.  We have been pretty cautious about talking about specific timelines.  The one thing I will say is they will deliver in a timeframe that is relevant for the counter-offensive.


The Coalition Radio Network Will Often Suggest Materials Related To The Article Subject Matter. The Coalition May Receive Commissions From Purchases

STAFF:  Great.  Let’s go Tony, Bloomberg.

Q:  I had a couple questions on — has the United States ever used the DPICM — the DPICM in combat?  I don’t think they have.  So how robust are our inventories and why were these in the U.S. inventory anyway?  Were these used to plan for a North Korean invasion kind of scenario?

DR. KAHL:  Yes, I’ll have to get back to you on previous uses.  My understanding is there were uses of DPICM that — but it may go back to the Gulf War, I may have that wrong.  So, let’s get back to you on that.

I will say they’re in our inventories because there are a range of contingency plans where this could be — where this could be useful, but this is also an area where our inventories are quite large and we are not concerned that in the quantities we would transfer to the Ukrainians that it would have a meaningful impact on our readiness for other contingencies.

Q:  If I’m a Ukrainian squad or platoon leader and I’m going into areas where these things have been fired in the counteroffense.  How concerned I — should I be that my troops may fall into things and get blown apart themselves?

DR. KAHL:  I mean, frankly, I think the graver concern is that they wander into a Russian minefield or areas where the Russians have expended weapons with a much higher dead rate.

I think that this is a reason, though, A, that we’re only transferring DPICM with a very low dud rate.  There are variants with higher dud rates that that we’re not transferring.  And B, why it will be important for the Ukrainians to keep track of where they’re firing these things, both for immediate force protection reasons and over the medium-to-longer term for demining operations in kind of post-occupation, post-liberation parts of Ukraine.

STAFF:  Okay, we’re going to go out to the line.  Michael Gordon, Wall Street Journal?

Q:  Thank you, Dr. Kahl.  Sir, you said that the Russians have used tens of millions of submunitions in Ukraine.  I have two questions.  Since you’ve described this as a bridge, how many submunitions is the U.S. now providing — planning to provide to Ukraine, say on a month-to-month basis, given it is a bridge?  Are you going to be providing millions or hundreds of thousands?  How many are you providing?

And since the U.S. has been so critical of the Russian employment of cluster munitions, are there any additional steps that you can identify to mitigate the risk to civilians beyond the assurances from the Ukrainians?  Is there going to be special training, is the U.S. going to monitor the dud rates on the battlefield and oversee the areas where they’re employed?  Are there some specific additional steps the U.S. will take to reduce the risk to civilians?

DR. KAHL:  Thanks, Michael.  So I’m not going to go into specific numbers, I will say in my opening statement I mentioned hundreds of thousands.  We have hundreds of thousands of these rounds available below the dud rate threshold that I mentioned, but I’m not going to tip our hand to the Russians about knowing what’s coming in what volume when.

I will say we’re confident that with this inflow of DPICM, in combination with the unitary 155 rounds, we continue to provide that the Ukrainians will be able to sustain the artillery fight for the foreseeable future, which I said is not only important in the moment for the counteroffensive, but to signal to Vladimir Putin that he can’t just outlast the Ukrainians.

Look, I think we have been critical of the Russian use of this, but in large part for two reasons: one, because the Russians have been indiscriminate in their use of all kinds of weapons, they — even their so-called precision guided munitions flying into apartment buildings and hit schools, and so — and they have been indiscriminate in the usage of cluster munitions as well.

They’re also using weapons that are much older with much higher dud rate and thus much higher risk of collateral damage, even when they’re not used indiscriminately.  So as I said before, I think this is kind of an apples to oranges comparison.

Beyond the assurances, which I think we should take meaningfully, I mean, in the past, when we have asked the Ukrainians to offer us explicit assurances, they’ve stuck by those assurances, so I think we should give the Ukrainians the benefit of the doubt.

We will, of course, be watching how the Ukrainians use these systems.  They will be reporting their usage back to us, and so we can always make judgments later if we feel like those assurances are not being met.  But I’m confident that the Ukrainians will be true to their word.

I’ll also say that like with every system that we provide the Ukrainians, there will be not just training, but kind of coaching and mentoring associated with this.  And I think one of the reasons why the Ukrainians have been so effective in employing the artillery they have had, regardless of system, is that they’ve received some coaching and mentoring from the United States about the best deployment of that, and so we’ll continue to do that.

STAFF:  So one more online.  We’ll go to Lee Sangmin of Radio Free Asia.  Are you there?

Okay, let’s come back to the room.  Courtney?

Q:  I have a non-cluster-munitions question.  Actually, I’ll ask one quick question. Did you say — have you said how many is in this first —

DR. KAHL:  So I’m not going to go into specific numbers.  We talked about hundreds of thousands of munitions, but I’m not going to just —

Q:  But that’s U.S. stockpiles, hundreds of thousands, right?

DR. KAHL:  No, I’m not going to talk about how much in each tranche.  All I’m going to say is we have hundreds of thousands that are available at this dud rate, and that we believe the numbers and our ability to flow them into Ukraine will be sufficient to keep them not only in the current fight, but to build this bridge to increased capacity on the 155 unitary rounds.

Q:  Each tranche — that means you’re going to have more tranches?  This isn’t just a one-time, right?  That’s fair?

DR. KAHL:  I’m not — I don’t want to prejudge decisions that haven’t been made since at the end of the day, these are decisions the president of the United — you know, the secretary recommends to the president, the president signs off on.  I will just say this: We have the capacity to continue to flow additional rounds forward, and if we were to do so, we have sufficient quantities to be able to do the things I said.

Q:  Since we have you here, I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about these recent interactions with the Iranian Navy and just give us a sense.  It seems as if there’s been, like, a — a small uptick, at least this week, in these incidents.  If you have any sense of why now, why Iran is doing this.  They tend to — actions like this tend to be a response to something.

DR. KAHL:  Yeah.

Q:  Do you know what the message could be from Iran to us?

DR. KAHL:  Well, first of all, it’s not completely clear, and frankly, it’s not a very effective message to essentially engage in piracy on the high seas and shoot at unarmed civilian maritime craft.  I think as you’re all tracking, essentially, there were two incidents in the — in the past few days that — that occurred within a few hours of each other.

The first incident was a case in which an Iranian vessel approached the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker, the TRF Moss, in the Gulf of Oman.  The Iranian vessel departed the scene when the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived.  And then there was a second incident three hours later where an Iranian vessel closed within one mile and fired multiple long bursts from small-arms and crew-served weapons, and the Navy received a distress call from the Bahamian-flagged oil tanker Richmond Voyager, and the USS McFaul responded again.

Why the Iranians are doing this at this moment is not at all clear to us.  I think it’s a better question left to them.  But it’s got the highest attention of the department.

I’ll just say as a personal anecdote, I don’t know if any of you were here on the 4th of July for the fireworks display.  It’s a cool place to watch the fireworks.  But as the — 9:30, as the crescendo of fireworks was occurring over the mall, I got a call on my cell phone.  I was out on the lawn with my kids and was — and it was a SecDef cable saying that the secretary wanted to convene a secure call with his senior leadership team to discuss these issues because the second incident was ongoing.  And so for 45 minutes, we were on the phone, the secretary, the chairman, General Kurilla, our NAVCENT commander, working through, what were the Iranians doing?  Where were our assets?  What was the ship’s captain requesting us to do?  What were we advising them to do?  The McFaul was steaming in that direction.  The captain was advised by NAVCENT to redirect to enter Omani territorial waters.  And the combination of all of those decisions appears to have warned the Iranians off, so even after taking some potshots at the Richmond Voyager, we were successful in the Iranians leaving the area before — right before the McFaul showed up.

I mention that to say that just, like, this has the highest attention of the department.  We’re going to — you know, we have — I think General Kurilla has done a good job of moving around the assets he already has at his disposal to thicken our ability to respond to incidents like this, and I think the proof is in the other night.  I think we continue to work with our allies and partners, especially in the IMSC, which is the International Maritime Security Construct, which some of you have probably been out to Fifth Fleet.  It runs out of Bahrain.  I know you have, Courtney.  And so we’ll continue to work with our allies and partners not just in the region, but in — around the world like the — like the U.K. to try to thicken that out.  Because whatever the Iranians are trying to do here, I don’t think we should assume it’ll be the last time they try it.

STAFF:  Let’s go to the back of the room — Fadi, Al Jazeera.

Q:  Thank you, Dave.  Thank you, Dr. Kahl.  I have two quick questions on the cluster munition and one on Russia.  On the cluster munitions, you mentioned five studies since 1998 until 2020 that prove you have in your stockpile the — that rate lower than 2.35.  Is the department willing to make these studies available so experts can verify the accuracy of the data?

Second one, in terms of providing cluster munition, is the — this administration breaking the law passed by the Congress that prohibits the transfer of cluster munition that is — with the level above 1 percent?

And finally on Russia, we’ve seen two incidents lately in Syria where Russian aircraft, according to the Pentagon, harassed U.S. drones.  Before that, we saw something happening similarly in the Black Sea.  Are you concerned that this — Russia is kind of — kind of normalizing this behavior?  And is the deal he wouldn’t take any actions to prevent Russia from continuing this type of behavior?  Thank you.

DR. KAHL:  Sure.  So a bunch of things here.  On the test itself, I think at this juncture, because the tests themselves are classified, we won’t be releasing them, but we’ll take that question back.  Presently, those tests — those reports are classified.

I can say this: We have high confidence in those numbers based on five consecutive tests.  I also have high confidence that they will be far more efficient and discriminant than the cluster munitions that the Russians are using, and I think the Ukrainian assurances on top of that give me added confidence in that.

I’ll also say that it’s not a good thing for civilians in Ukraine or the humanitarian situation in Ukraine for Ukraine’s counteroffensive to be unsuccessful, or for the Russians to be more successful.  That seems like a recipe for more humanitarian suffering.  So to the degree that there’s a utilitarian calculus in this, I think it’s worth thinking that through.  And I think that’s ultimately why even though this is a decision that the administration deliberated on and that the president thought very carefully about, there was no disagreement among the president’s principal advisors on whether we should provide this system, and that includes across the departments.  It’s not just the Department of Defense.

Are we breaking the law?  We are not breaking the law.  I would say first of all, the prohibition against exporting above 1 percent, these munitions are pretty close to 1 percent, but they are not at the 1 percent level.  But the president does have the authority to waive that requirement on national security grounds, and that’s what he has done in this instance.

There’s no dispute that he has that authority, it’s in law, but we also didn’t make this as a unilateral decision.  We’ve been having conversations with — informal conversations for weeks with the Hill.  I’m sure many of you have had your own conversations with members on both sides of the aisle on the Hill.

This is obviously a capability that the Ukrainians have been asking for a while, and we continued those consultations with the Hill and escalated them as we got closer to this decision.  So, it doesn’t mean everybody in Congress will agree but I think everybody will agree that it was within the right of the President to do this.

On the Russian activities in Syria, yeah, I mean, I think we’ve seen activities by the Russians’ Air Force to encroach on kind of the informal arrangements we have with them about deconflicting airspace.

I will say that it does concern us and I do think what we don’t want to be is in a situation where they are normalizing behavior where there can be an incident.  You know, it would — it would be, I think, significant if there was an incident involving an uncrewed system.  It would be even more significant if it involved piloted aircraft.

So, we will continue to highlight when the Russians engage in reckless, unprofessional behavior in the skies, we will highlight for the world so that, when and if an incident happens, people will know who’s at fault here, and we hope to dissuade the Russians from continuing this pattern of behavior because, you know, incidents and accidents, if they occur, can — you know, can spin out of control.  That’s not in our interests but it’s also not in Russia’s interests.  So we’ll continue to make that point to them.

STAFF:  Okay, we’re going to go out for one more.  Eric Schmitt, New York Times?

Q:  Yes, Dr. Kahl, you acknowledged that the, you know, Ukrainian counter-offensive is going slower than anticipated, and attributing some of that to the Russian defenses, including minefields.

But you could you also discuss the limitations of the combined arms training, the short duration training that they got — the Ukrainians, and to what extent they’ve been able to absorb that — those — that kind of training and apply it in this kind of difficult battlefield situation?  Thank you.

DR. KAHL:  Yeah, I mean, first, I think, as the Ukrainian leadership has said, you know, this isn’t a movie, right?  So, things are hard.  In real war, things are hard.  Sometimes, things go faster than you think, like in Kharkiv last fall.  Sometimes, it’s a slog, like it was in Kherson last fall.

I think when you’re talking about eastern and southern Ukraine, the Russians have had — you know, during the winter, neither side was standing still, right?  The Ukrainians, with our assistance and the assistance of the allies and partners, were building this mountain of steel for the counter-offensive.  The Russians were digging in, laying minefields, anti-tank obstacles and barriers, trench lines.   And so we always knew it was going to be tough.

Eric, I think, to your point about the combined arms training, I think we should draw lessons at the end, not in the — not in the middle, and I think we’re only in the beginning of the middle.  And I say that because, yeah, you know, a number of brigades went through training in Germany and elsewhere by the United States and our allies to get them ready for this fight.  It was truncated, relative to, you know, what a U.S. Army unit might go through, but I think the Ukrainians have regularly proved that they can kind of step on the accelerator pedal and be pretty proficient.

It does of course — you know, it pushes them out of their comfort zone a little bit because this, you know, has them employing fire and maneuver in a way that’s more familiar to NATO forces than kind of forces that have a Soviet legacy and Soviet doctrine behind them.  So it is, you know, requiring them to fight in different ways.

But I will say this — you know, it is slower than we had hoped — again, Ukrainian officials have said as much — but the Ukrainians have a lot of combat power left.  And in fact, the majority of their combat power for this fight has not been brought to bear.

And so what you’re seeing across the east and the south is the Ukrainians deliberately, and understandably deliberately, probing for weak spots, and I think the real test will be when they identify weak spots or create weak spots and generate a breach, how rapidly they’re able to exploit that with the combat power that they have in reserve and how rapidly the Russians will be able to respond.

And Eric, I just don’t know the answers to either of those questions cause we’re not at the point in the battle yet.

STAFF:  Okay, we’re going to come back in the room for two more.  Phil?

Q:  Yeah, just a quick follow on that.  I mean, do you think then that the Ukrainians are making effective use of the materials the United States has provided or not yet?

And then I want to ask you about Prigozhin.  What do you — what do you know about him?  What is his status?  What is he doing in — in Russia?  What do you think his future is?  Thanks.

DR. KAHL:  So, on the effective use piece, look, this stuff is hard, especially if you’re encountering it and using tactics, techniques, procedures, and capabilities that you’re not familiar with.  I think the Ukrainians are doing their best, I think they are determined to liberate these areas from Russian occupation.

I think the Russians probably were more successful in digging in more deeply than perhaps was fully appreciated.  You know, no plan survives first contact with the enemy.  So, they are moving deliberately against the threat that’s there.

I would return to the point that I made — I think that it’s too early to judge how the counter-offensive is going one way or the other because we’re at the beginning of the middle.  They are still probing Russian lines and Russian areas for weak spots, and the real test will be when they identify those, how rapidly they are able to exploit those weak spots.

And we will continue to offer our advice where it’s useful, but at the end of the day, these are Ukrainian choices, because after all, it’s their lives that are on the line, it’s their territory that’s on the line.  So we can provide coaching, advice, mentoring, but at the end of the day, they’re going to make the decisions that they believe is right.

Prigozhin, where he is, what he’s up to, I have no idea.  And so I — and I really don’t want to speculate.  I see the same things that you see.  You know, it’s clear that the Russian state is trying to systematically dismantle his empire and put piece parts in different places.

What the ultimate end game Putin has for Prigozhin and the remnants of Wagner, I think, is still to be determined, but I just don’t want to speculate about, you know, is he in Belarus, is he in St. Petersburg or Moscow or somewhere else. I don’t know where he is.

STAFF:  Let’s close with Jim Garamone.

Q:  Sir, thanks for — thanks for doing this.  And as this is our last chance to get you, at least in this position at this time, I’d like to broaden it a little bit.  President Biden, Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, many others say that the U.S. asymmetric advantage is its network of allies, partners, and friends, yet there are many Americans who really believe that the United States should go it alone.

And given your experience not only this time but in your previous stints in — with the other administrations and here at the Pentagon, what do you tell people like that?  And what do you tell them that allies and partners bring to the collective defense?

DR. KAHL:  Yeah, it’s a great question.  And look, I think we’ve tested — we’ve tried, as an administration, to test a proposition, right?  I don’t think it’s a partisan point to say that, you know, there were at least some in the previous administration that didn’t value our allies and partners in quite the way that — that we do.

And they’re at the center of our National Security Strategy, they’re at the center of our National Defense Strategy.  We do use these, you know, fancy jargons, like “asymmetric advantage” and “network of allies and partners,” but what it really adds up to — and I think, you know, the average person in a bar can understand — is international relations is a team sport, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, we’re the most powerful country in the history of the world.  We have the best military in the world, we have the best military in the history of the world.

As powerful as we are, as capable as our military is, there is no problem that comes across my desk where I say “you know what would make this easier?  If we had to do this all by ourselves,” right?  It’s just — it’s not.  It’s just like you don’t play basketball — even if you were Michael Jordan, you’d like to have four other Bulls with you on the court.  Sorry, that’s a really old reference for — but I’m 52, so —


— try — yeah, you — you got me at least.

This — it’s a team sport.  And, you know, you can make that and people can get it but the proof is in the pudding, and that is, look, we are the — you know, how are we contending with the greatest threat to the geopolitical order since the end of the Cold War, maybe since the end of the Second World War by building a team.

In the first instance, you know, Putin went into this hoping that NATO would buckle, weaken, fray, shatter apart.  The exact opposite has happened.  NATO is stronger, the defense commitments are going up.  You’re going to see manifestations of that unity, I think, this week in — in Vilnius.

Our efforts to deter attacks on the United States and our allies have been bolstered not only by what we’re doing in Ukraine but what we’ve done to strengthen the NATO alliance.  That makes America safer.  That’s not charity to Europe.  That makes us safer from the threat that Russia poses but also the world that Russia’s model of aggression would impose on the rest of us.

And then you look in the Indo-Pacific and there’s a lot of focus in our strategy documents on China as the pacing challenge — that’s what we call it in the National Defense Strategy, or our most consequential strategic competitor.

We’re not going to win that competition on our own.  Now, we have to make investments in ourself, which we are.  That’s why we’ve made investments in, you know, the CHIPS and Science Act, in the infrastructure bill.  It’s why we are making massive investments in defense modernization and why there’s bipartisan consensus around all of that.

But we are not going to best China in this competition alone.  We need to get our team together, which is why I’m extraordinarily proud of what this administration has accomplished, what this President, what this Secretary has accomplished, frankly, what my team has helped to accomplish in things like AUKUS or the posture changes in Australia or the historic posture changes in Japan or the historic posture changes in the Philippines or the deepening of our alliance with the ROK on display during their recent state visit or the strategic opportunity of a lifetime we have with India on display during the most recent India state visit by Prime Minister Modi.

We are putting real points on the board because we are — we are leaning in to our existing alliances and building out our partnerships, and if we are going to win the rest of the 21st century, that’s how we are going to win — alongside our teammates.  Thank you.

STAFF:  Dr. Kahl, thank you very much.  Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for attending today.


One Comment

  1. Peter Nightingale says:

    Why on earth would anyone believe any of the myths this Pentagon spokesperson is spreading at his conference? I see all of this in the light of what Chris Hedges wrote: “They Lied About Afghanistan. They Lied About Iraq. And They Are Lying About Ukraine.”

    What we are talking about here is the US with its NATO clients. They have no problems with using depleted uranium munitions. These weapons the U.S. has used in Fallujah. I quote from
    “The war entailed showering Fallujah in depleted uranium and white phosphorus.

    But US savagery didn’t end there. Twenty years and incalculable birth defects later, the US navy is naming one of its warships the USS Fallujah.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *