Ukraine is making progress on the battlefield thanks to soldiers

Ukraine is making “progress” on the battlefield thanks to soldiers’ skills and strategic use of supplied weapons, Defense Minister says


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he believes Ukraine is making “progress” in the country’s Kherson region as they continue to counter the Russian invasion, adding that there has been “a kind of shift in the battlefield dynamics”.

Austin attributed the change to the Ukrainian soldiers’ capabilities and their strategic use of weapons supplied by US and NATO allies, particularly their use of the High Mobility Airborne Missile Systems, or HIMARS. He made the comments in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, which aired Sunday on Fareed Zakaria GPS.

“What we’re seeing now is sort of a shift in battlefield dynamics,” Austin said. “They did very, very well in the Kharkiv area and moved to take chances. The fight in the Kherson region is slowing down a bit, but they are making progress.”

Austin said Ukrainian forces have used “technology like HIMARS” and used it in the “right way” to “hit things like logistics warehouses and command and control systems, it’s taking away significant capabilities from the Russians.”

By doing so, the Ukrainians “changed the dynamic and gave the Ukrainians an opportunity to maneuver,” he added.

When asked why the US hasn’t supplied longer-range weapons that Ukrainians have asked for, Austin said he communicates “on a routine basis” with his Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, and believes the US “has been very effective at it.” be to give them these things that are very, very effective on a battlefield.”

While the US has provided Ukraine with HIMARS and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) for use with the HIMAR systems, Ukraine has asked for Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) that have a longer range than the US’s GLMR systems to date has provided.

ATACMS have a range of about 185 miles. The maximum range of US-supplied weapons on Ukraine is about 49 miles.

Austin praised the Ukrainians’ successes on the battlefield, noting that they were using the weapons and technology given to them by the US in the “right way”.

“It’s not just about the gear you have. It’s how you use that gear, 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 he said the US would “provide security assistance to Ukrainians for as long as needed.”

“Ukrainians have amazed the world in terms of their ability to fight back, their ability to take initiative and their commitment to defending their democracy,” he said. “And that willingness to fight has compelled the international community to help them provide the security support so they can keep fighting.”

Austin said while he does not see an “imminent invasion” of Taiwan by China, he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping will make US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit on April 3 a new normal.”

Pelosi was the first incumbent speaker of the US House of Representatives to visit the island in 25 years. China responded with military drills in the seas and airspace around Taiwan.

“We have seen a number of cross-straits centerline crossings by their planes, and that number has increased over time. We’ve seen more activity with their surface vessels in the waters in and around Taiwan,” Austin said.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party considers Taiwan part of its territory, though it has never ruled it, and has vowed to “unify” it with mainland China, by force if necessary.

Austin said he spoke “on the phone and in person” with his Chinese counterpart, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, during his tenure as defense minister, but the communication channel between the two is “not open” at this time.

“We will do everything in our power to keep signaling that we want to open up these channels, and I would hope that China would start to lean a little more forward and work 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 honor our commitments.”

In an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes that aired last month, President Joe Biden reiterated an earlier pledge to defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion, but clarified that “US men and women” are involved in the effort would.

“I think the President made his answers clear when he responded to a hypothetical question. But again, we continue to work to ensure we have the right skills in the right places to ensure 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.”

As part of the “One China” policy, the US recognizes China’s position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never officially recognized the Communist Party’s claim to the island of 23 million people. The US is supplying Taiwan with defensive weapons but has deliberately remained ambiguous about whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.

“In accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, we are committed to helping Taiwan develop self-defense capability and this work has continued over time,” he said.