Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he believed Ukraine was “making progress” in the country’s Kherson region as it continued to confront the Russian invasion, adding that there had been “some kind of change in battlefield dynamics.”
Austin attributed the change to the skill of Ukrainian soldiers and their strategic use of weapons provided by the United States and NATO allies, specifically their use of High Mobility Air Missile Systems, or HIMARS. He made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN that aired on Sunday on the “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program.
“What we are seeing now is a kind of change in the dynamics of the battlefield,” Austin said. “They performed very well in the Kharkiv region and moved to take advantage of opportunities. The fight in – Kherson region is going a little slower, but they are making progress. ”
Austin said Ukrainian forces have used “technology like HIMARS” and are using it “in the right way” to “launch attacks on things like logistical warehouses, command and control, and that take away — take away a great deal of capacity from the Russians.”
By doing so, he added, the Ukrainians “changed the dynamics, creating an opportunity for the Ukrainians to maneuver”.
When Austin was asked why the United States did not supply the long-range weapons that the Ukrainians requested, Austin said that he communicates with his Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, “routinely”, and believes that the United States has been “very effective in providing them with these weapons. Very effective things in battlefield “.
While the United States has supplied Ukraine with HIMARS and Multiple Launch Guided Missile Systems, or GMLRS, for use with HIMAR systems, Ukraine has ordered Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, which have a longer range than U.S. GLMR systems. submitted so far.
ATACMS has a range of approximately 185 miles. The maximum range of weapons provided by the United States to Ukraine is approximately 49 miles.
Austin praised the successes of the Ukrainians on the battlefield and noted that they were using weapons and technology provided to them by the United States “in the right way.”
“It’s not just about what equipment you have. It’s about how you use that equipment, how you sync things together to create battlefield effects that can then create opportunities,” he said.
Austin said what will happen in Ukraine is “difficult to predict,” but said the United States “will continue to provide security assistance to Ukrainians for as long as it takes.”
“Ukrainians have astonished the world with their capacity for resistance, their ability to exercise initiative, and their commitment to defending their democracy,” he said. “This willingness to fight has mobilized the international community to try to help provide them with security assistance so that they can continue the fight.”
Austin said that while he does not see an “imminent invasion” of Taiwan by China, he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping has used US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 3 visit to the self-governing island as an opportunity to “begin to try to establish a normal situation.” new “.
Pelosi was the first speaker of the US House of Representatives to visit the island in 25 years. China responded by launching military exercises in the seas and airspace around Taiwan.
We have seen a number of central line crossings of the Taiwan Strait by their aircraft, and this number has increased over time. “We’ve seen more activity with their surface ships in the waters in and around Taiwan,” Austin said.
China’s ruling Communist Party considers Taiwan part of its territory, although it has never ruled it, and has vowed to “reunify” it with the Chinese mainland, by force if necessary.
Austin said he spoke to his Chinese counterpart, China’s Minister of National Defense Wei Fengyi, “by phone and in person” during his tenure as defense minister, but that the communication channel between the two is “not open” at the moment.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep signaling that we want to open up those channels, and I hope China will start leaning a little bit more forward and working with us,” Austin said.
When asked if the US military is ready to defend Taiwan, Austin said the military is “always ready to protect our interests and fulfill our obligations.”
in an interview With CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired last month, President Joe Biden reiterated his earlier pledge to defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion, but specified that “American men and women” would participate in the effort.
I think the president was clear in providing his answers when he answered a hypothetical question. But, once again, we continue to work to make sure we have the right capabilities in the right places to ensure that we help our allies maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Austin said.
Austin reiterated that the Biden administration’s policy toward Taiwan, the one-China policy, “has not changed.”
Under the “one China” policy, the United States recognizes China’s position that Taiwan is part of China but has never formally recognized the Communist Party’s claim to the island of 23 million people. The United States provides Taiwan with defensive weapons but has been intentionally ambiguous about whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.
“According to the Taiwan Relations Act, as you know, we are committed to helping Taiwan develop the ability to defend itself, and this work has continued over time,” he said.