By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 14, 2022) -- On Sunday, long-range Russian airstrikes hit the city of Yavoriv in western Ukraine, less than 15 miles from the Polish border -- which is NATO territory. The location is where National Guard troops from Florida just weeks ago trained alongside Ukrainian troops -- though Americans are no longer at the location.
It's just one set of several strikes by the Russians that recently hit western Ukraine, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby during a briefing today, and illustrates an effort by the Russians to expand their target set in the country.
But the press secretary also said while the United States doesn't have insight into why the Russians are choosing the targets they've chosen, it's more likely the targets are meant to achieve a military objective than it is they are meant to be symbolic or send a message to NATO nations.
"They are clearly expanding some of their target sets here," Kirby said. "I can't get into their heads and to tell you exactly what was behind that target on that day with that many cruise missiles. I don't want to just reduce this to some sort of signaling."
If the Russian president hoped the specific targets or the war itself is meant to send a message to NATO about the size of or strength of the alliance, then the war is a failure, Kirby said.
"He's getting exactly what he says he doesn't want: a strong, united NATO on his western flank," Kirby said. "Just over the last few days, we moved some Patriot batteries from Germany to Poland. And we're going to continue to look at potential repositioning if we need to, to defend NATO's eastern flank."
"For our purposes, the military capabilities that we are adding to NATO's eastern flank are designed to protect and defend and deter against attacks on NATO territory -- that includes NATO airspace," he said.
So far, Kirby said, Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine has killed thousands, displaced many, many more and destroyed homes and other property.
"He clearly has more than a message in mind here," Kirby said. "He clearly has the occupation of Ukraine in mind ... I want to be careful here that we're not reducing the kind of damage and death he's causing to some sort of message signaling. I think that's being way too generous to what the Kremlin's trying to do inside Ukraine."
Over the weekend, an additional "drawdown" package of security assistance, worth $200 million, was authorized for Ukraine.
A "drawdown," according to documentation available from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, allows the president to withdraw weapons, ammunitions and material from existing U.S. military stocks and provide that to other nations.
"I can tell you that experts here at the Pentagon have pen and paper in hand and they're working out how we would realize that drawdown as quickly as we can," Kirby said.
The last drawdown package of security assistance material for Ukraine was worth $350 million, and Kirby said the delivery of the supplies from that package are now nearly complete.
U.S. security assistance continues to flow into Ukraine, Kirby said, and will continue to flow as it's needed, based on ongoing discussions with the Ukrainians.
"We're going to continue to flow security assistance to the Ukrainians as fast as we can and as nimbly as we can," Kirby said. "As we stand here today, those shipments are getting into the hands of the Ukrainians and we're going to keep looking for ways to make sure that that continues."
The U.S. isn't the only nation sending security assistance to Ukraine, Kirby said. Right now, there are 14 other nations contributing needed materiel to the Ukrainians.