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Pentagon Says Ukraine’s Military Needs Change As War With Russia Continues

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By Jim Garamone

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The United States is supporting Ukraine’s fight against Vladimir Putin’s unjust war for the long run and is laser-focused on getting Ukrainian service members the equipment and supplies they need, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said Friday.

U.S. officials are in constant touch with Ukrainian leaders and continue to work within DOD and with allies to ensure Ukraine gets the capabilities it needs to fight the battles it confronts. 

There have been 10 presidential drawdown authorities that are supplying Ukrainian forces with everything from Javelins anti-armor weapons and Stinger anti-air missiles to armored personnel carriers and howitzers. In addition, the United States has provided ammunition, medical supplies, rations and personal equipment to the embattled Ukrainian forces. “Our goal from the very beginning has been to try to help them in the fight that they’re in today,” Kirby said. “That’s why these packages get kind of parceled out over time because you want to be able to be adapted to what they’re facing.” 

At the beginning of the Russian invasion, the capabilities the Ukrainians most needed were anti-armor and anti-air systems. The Russians felt the effects of these systems the closer they got to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

The Ukrainian forces pushed the Russians back from Kyiv and Russian President Vladimir Putin shifted the center of his misguided war to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. “It is in many ways, a very close and intimate flight; I think I’ve described it as a knife fight,” Kirby said. “There are places — towns, villages hamlets — that the Russians and Ukrainians are in very close contact, and it’s very dynamic.” 

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Now the fight calls for long-range fires, and more than 100 M777 howitzers have been delivered to Ukraine with more than 80 of the guns firing on the enemy right now. 

These towns could fall to the Russians one day, and may be retaken by the Ukrainian military the next. “There’s still a lot of back and forth,” the press secretary said. “What we are focused on is making sure that the Ukrainians can succeed on the battlefield and … that’s the nature of the conversations that we have.” 

The United States has a lot of confidence in the Ukrainian military and people. The $40 billion supplement passed earlier this month is a concrete example of this. With the supplement, there is more drawdown authorities available and contracting funds to help Ukraine in this fight. “We’re going to marshal and use that resource just as smartly as we’ve done, the last 10 sets of drawdown packages,” Kirby said. “We’re going to be smart about this and we’re going to be in lockstep with the Ukrainians and with our allies and partners.” 

The effects of the war are being felt worldwide and there is the looming specter of starvation due to Russia’s blockade in Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Ukraine is the world’s second-largest grain supplier. “One of the things that Ukrainians have said they want help with is coastal defense,” Kirby said. “And so coastal defense assets, including from the United States, are being sent to Ukraine to help them. The world community is mindful of the weaponization of food that Mr. Putin is now doing.”

The international community sees this threat to populations far removed from Europe, Kirby said, and nations are working together to find solutions.  

This was Kirby’s last day as Pentagon press secretary. President Joe Biden asked him to take a job at the White House. “Thank you for the way you put me through my paces even today,” he told Pentagon reporters. “Even on my last day I got stretched, I got pushed. That’s what makes you guys so important. That’s what makes this place so special.  

“I can’t say that every day up here was pleasant, but I can say that I felt every day I was up here was meaningful,” he continued. “That’s not because of me. It’s because of you. It’s because of the questions you asked and the way you pushed and prodded and not only did your outlets proud, but I think you did the American people proud.” 

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