Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds an On-Camera Press Briefing > U.S. Department of Defense > Transcript

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BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER: Hey, good afternoon, everybody. All right. Just a few items to pass along, then we’ll go ahead and get to your questions. Let me go ahead and — all right.

So today, the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group is participating in Exercise Silent Wolverine in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean along with six NATO ally nations in support of multi-domain carrier training and to enhance integrated NATO interoperability and deterrence.

Exercise participants include the United States, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Spain. Silent Wolverine demonstrates the U.S. commitment to supporting regional stability and security through seamless interchangeability amongst participating NATO allies. The exercise will conclude on November 14th.

Separately, opening ceremonies for Exercise Malabar 2022 commenced today, as well, and will be followed by scheduled at-sea exercises involving naval ships, aircraft, and personnel from Australia, India, Japan, and the United States in the Philippines Sea, off the coast of Japan.

Malabar 2022 is a surface, air, and subsurface multilateral field training exercise between the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Indian Navy, Royal Australian Navy, and the U.S. Navy, with the objective to enhance interoperability between participating maritime forces, strengthen critical partnerships and further demonstrate DOD presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Malabar is an annual maritime exercise dating back to 1992 with the Indian Navy as a bilateral partner. And the exercise will conclude on November 15th.

Finally, the Department of Defense continues to consult closely with allies and partners on Ukraine’s security assistance needs, in support of their fight to defend their country. As you’re aware, we announced additional security assistance for Ukraine on Friday under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative worth approximately $400 million.

In an earlier USAI tranche announced in July, we highlighted that we would provide two NASAMS for delivery to Ukraine, which we can confirm have been delivered, as you’ve probably seen the Ukrainians announce. These systems will contribute to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities and will help protect the Ukrainian people against Russian aerial attacks, to include those conducted by unmanned aerial vehicles or cruise missiles.

And with that, I will take your questions. We’ll start on the phones with Tara Copp, AP.

Q: Hi. Thanks for doing this.

I wanted to ask about the reports that Russia is now seeking Iranian ballistic missiles and whether or not the Pentagon can confirm that and if it changes the calculation as to whether the Pentagon would consider providing Ukraine ATACMS?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks very much, Tara.

So again, we don’t have any updates to provide from what we’ve previously said, which is that we don’t have any information to corroborate right now that — that Iran has delivered ballistic missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine, although we do have concerns that they may seek to acquire that capability due to supply shortages in Russia’s own arsenal. So it’s something that we’ll continue to keep a close eye on.

When it comes to — excuse me one second here — when it comes to things like ATACMS or other types of capabilities, as we’ve mentioned previously, we continue to have a ongoing and robust dialogue with the Ukrainians, with our allies and with our partners, in terms of what Ukraine’s battlefield needs are.

And so while I don’t have anything new to announce today, that is something that we’ll continue to take very seriously as the fight progresses, to ensure that they have the capabilities to defend their country.

Thank you. Okay, Lara.

Q: Thank you for doing this. I wanted to go back to the arrival of the NASAMS for a second. Can you give us some more details on what that capability means for Ukraine? What kind of range do these weapons have? How much of the battlefield will both of the two be able to cover? And what kind of difference will this make?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so for — for a lot of those details, as I’m sure you can appreciate, I’ll — I’ll refer you to the Ukrainians to talk about their specific emplacement, as well as how they intend to employ them exactly. I don’t want to get into those details for operation security reasons.

I will say though that it does provide a significant air defense capability in the sense that it can protect against, as I mentioned, UAV attacks, both armed and unarmed, it can defend against helicopters, cruise missiles, as well as crewed aircraft. Basically, any type of advanced aerial threat that Russia may try to employ against Ukrainian targets or civilians.

So, it does add an extra arrow to the quiver, so to speak, for Ukrainian air defense, along with a lot of the other capabilities that have been provided to help them defend their country. And it’s, as you know, not just the United States that’s providing those capabilities.

Thank you.

Q: And what kind of training has been done to train the Ukrainians on how to use those systems? Is that training finished already? Do they — can they employ them immediately?

GEN. RYDER: Correct. So as part of this process, when we provide capabilities to the Ukrainians, they will receive training on how to operate and maintain that capability. So, they did recently complete that training. I’ll allow — it was conducted in Europe; I can say that. I’m not going to say where. I’ll — will defer to that country to talk about that. But they did complete training, and so those systems are now in Ukraine and operational.

Thank you. Sir?

Q: Along with those NASAMS, are there contractors that are working in country in Ukraine right now? You didn’t answer that question last week. Can — can you talk about the training for the HAWKs that are going to be needed?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so I’m not aware of any contractors for — you know, at least from the United States that are in country in Ukraine.

As far as HAWKs, for the United States, the HAWKs that we announced on Friday, those will be refurbished. So that’s a munition that will be provided.

In terms of the HAWK system, we’ll have to get back to you on that. I know that Spain, for example, is providing that capability. So, we’ll have to get back to you, in terms of whether or not it’s Spain that will be providing that training or — or some other country.

Thank you.

Janne, and then I’ll go to the phone.

Q: So, thank you, sir.

Right after the U.S. and South Korea air joint exercise is over, the Commander of North Korean military issued a statement saying that he would soon retaliate more seriously against the South Korea and United States. Does this mean that North Korea can use nuclear weapons? How would you answer that positively?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so I’m not going to speak for North Korea. We’ve been very clear that the use of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, and we continue to consult very closely with our ROK and Japanese allies and other allies and partners in the region, but beyond that, I’m not going to speculate about a hypothetical.

Q: One more on the EMPs, electromagnetic pulse. And North Korea also mentioned about the possibility of an EMP attack. How will the United States preparing for possible North Korea EMP attack?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Janne.

So, as you know, we prepare for a variety of contingencies and situations. Again, I’m not going to get into specifics about any particular tactics, techniques or procedures other than to say that we regularly conduct exercises, training, sharing of information with our ROK allies and other allies in the region on how to work together, how to ensure that we’re interoperable and be prepared to respond in defense of our mutual interests, and in this particular case the Republic of Korea.

Thank you. Let me go ahead and move on. Tony.

Q: I’d like to go back to the NASAMS as second? 

GEN. RYDER: Sure.

Q: Where are the — where are the missiles coming from? They fire, like, six AMRAAMs at a time. Are those already in theater? Have they come from Air Force and Navy stocks? And will future AMRAAMs for those NASAMS be part of the PDA package?

GEN. RYDER: So, without getting into the specific details, what I would tell you, Tony is it’s from a variety of sources, to include U.S. stocks and those of various allies and partners.

Q: But will they be in the future PDAs, so drawn down from Air Force and Navy stocks then?

GEN. RYDER: Well, I don’t want to speculate, but certainly if there’s something to announce, we’ll be sure to do it.

Q: Integrated air defense, the secretary’s talked about the importance of that. This is a NATO system, what are the challenges of integrating this NATO standard system into a system, into a Ukrainian defense system that’s largely Soviet-era SA-6s and (S-7s) and whatever?

GEN. RYDER: Well, certainly as you highlight, any air defense system is going to be complex by its very nature because you’re integrating a lot of different aspects, to include the ability to detect, the ability to respond. And so that is an area that we’ll continue to work and consult with the Ukrainians on.

But as evidenced by their success rate, and for example, the Iranian UAVs, they’ve been able to shoot down a significant percentage of those. They’ve also done a fairly good job of taking down Russian missiles. So as you can see, they’re employing the capabilities that they have very well. But we’re available, and we’ll continue to consult with them on how to best integrate that as they convert using some Soviet era, Soviet built type equipment, with as you point out, Western modern NATO systems.

Thanks, sir.

And then, I’m — then I promise I’m going to go to the phone, not forgetting about you guys.

Q: Thanks, Pat.

The Pentagon is working on a UAP report to Congress, I think it was due on Halloween. Has any version of that report either classified or unclassified been delivered? And if not, do you have an ETA on when that might get sent up to the Hill?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks.

So, my understanding is that report is being prepared by the Office of the DNI, Director of National Intelligence. So, I’d refer you to them in terms of the status. So, I’m afraid I won’t have anything further until that report comes out.

Q: If I could just follow-up, there’s been some reporting that Chinese drones may be monitoring U.S. military, U.S. military operations. Has the Pentagon UAP Office — I think it’s called AARO now — has it (discovered that?) China is using drones to watch U.S. forces or gather information? As part of this process — this UAP process?

GEN. RYDER: Sure. I don’t have any information on that at the moment, but we’ll look into that and come back to you.

Thanks very much. Okay, let me go to Idrees from Reuters.

Q: Hey, Pat. Has the secretary had any conversations with anyone at the White House about leaving his post after the midterm elections? And is him continuing in his job contingent on today’s election in any way?

GEN. RYDER: Idrees, so to answer your first question, no. And again, I’m not going to speculate about what the future may bring. The secretary’s focus right now is on leading the Department of Defense and ensuring the national security of our nation.

Thank you.

All right, let me go to Eric Schmitt, New York Times.

Q: Thanks, Pat.

You said you don’t have an evidence yet that the Iranians have sent any kind of ballistic missiles to the Russians in Ukraine, but Ukrainian officials have now said there is a deal. They’ve confirmed that such a deal is in place with deliveries to come in November. Can you confirm that this deal is in place with deliveries to come? And then I have a second question.

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Eric.

Again, I can’t corroborate that information. I think I’ve mentioned before, when we see Iranian ballistic missiles being employed on the battlefield in Ukraine, we will do what we can to illuminate that.

It does again, though, point to the fact that Russian and Iran have a security assistance relationship as evidenced by their employing Iranian drones on the battlefield. It’s very concerning. And — and it does demonstrate the fact that both of these countries are — both of these countries right now are targeting innocent civilians in Ukraine and extending the length of this — this conflict needlessly.

Q: The second question is, and related to this, is that there’s some media reports that the Russians sent over 100 million British pounds, as well as three — three different kinds of Western weapon systems, Javelin and others, that were recovered in the battlefield — they were sent to Iran in exchange for some of the drones that they got. Can you confirm that?

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Eric.

I have seen the press report, but I don’t have any information to provide on that.

Thank you.

Okay, let me come back to the room here. Ma’am?

Q: Is there any plan to send battle-ready or battle-hardened energy resources to Ukraine as they face this really terrible, difficult winter ahead without — with a lot of their infrastructure destroyed?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. No, thanks for the question.

As you highlight, these Russian missile strikes have taken out a significant portion of Ukraine’s energy grid. Its affected hydroelectricity capabilities. And so, while I don’t have anything to announce today, I can say that this is under discussion in terms of how the U.S. and allies and partners can assist. And again, without getting ahead, you know, looking at things like generators, water purification, heaters, things like that. So, when we have something to announce we’ll be sure to put that up.

Thank you.

Sir?

Q: Thank you, sir.

General, regarding to Iraq, recently a U.S. citizen has been killed in Baghdad. How much you have a concern about the security situation in this country on the stability in the region, especially for the U.S. citizen and U.S. interests there? And — everybody knows there is some soldiers — U.S. soldiers in Iraq. How the DOD have concerns the — do you have high concerns about their safety in Iraq, especially on in (inaudible). My last question, does Iran still threaten the U.S. interest on allies in the region?

Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks very much.

So, in terms of the reports about a U.S. citizen being in — being killed in Baghdad, to my knowledge this person was not associated with the U.S. military. So, I’d refer you to the State Department or the embassy there for any questions on that.

In terms of U.S. personnel assigned in Iraq, certainly, force protection and the safety of our service members is always a priority. And, you know, there’s no specific concerns out of the standard when we’re deployed overseas. And, so, again, we’ll continue to — to place an emphasis on force protection. And working closely with our Iraqi partners whom, by the way, we’re there at their invitation. So hopefully that helps to address.

Thank you very much.

Tom?

Q: Thanks, sir.

Today there are news reports says as there have been recently that the Russians are apparently moving civilians out of Kherson and other areas for whatever reason. Does the Pentagon know where those civilians are being relocated? Are they in occupied Ukraine or in Russia?

GEN. RYDER: So I don’t have any information on that specifically, Tom. Again we continue to keep an eye on the situation there. From what we’ve seen in terms of Russian forces specifically near Kherson is, as we previously mentioned, they’re digging in and preparing their defenses. In terms of civilians moving out of there, that area, again, we — we’ve seen what Russia has said on that, something that we continue to monitor. We do assess that it has not been large-scale in terms of the numbers of civilians. But, again, we’ll continue to keep an eye on that.

Q: Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Thank you.

Now let me go back to the phone. Joe Gould, Defense News?

Q: Thanks, Pat. I appreciate it.

Wanted to ask you if you can react to ABC’s reporting that Ukraine is asking for C-RAM systems. It’s a trailer-mounted gun and radar system said to be cheaper than NASAMS as a means of fighting back against the — the drones that are striking civilian infrastructure. Is that something that the Pentagon is considering?

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Joe.

I did — I did see the — the report. What I would tell you, again, we will take into account a lot of different considerations and systems as we explore Ukraine security assistance needs. Process-wise, the way that works is Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense provides its list to the Department of Defense which we then consult with a variety of teammates within the government and our allies and partners in terms of fulfilling those needs.

So, again, air defense continues to be a priority. It’s something that we will speak about with our Ukrainian partners, with our allies in terms of how we can best support them. And so when we do have something new to announce that we haven’t already, we’ll be sure to put that out.

Thank you.

Let me go to Alex Horton, Washington Post.

Q: Hey thanks, Pat.

You know, we’ve heard from folks in the building who said, you know, the next two to three weeks is pretty important for Ukraine to — to enlarge the ground they’re taking, especially in the south. Can you give us sort of a military — military strategy viewpoint of what they need to accomplish? What are some of the challenges they face as they head into the winter?

And two, on the Russian defenses that they’re building that you just mentioned, can you also give us a military analysis on — on those preparations, what they look like, and what they’re intended to do?

Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Alex.

Well, as I’m sure you can appreciate, I don’t want to get in it to any future operations or speak for the Ukrainians when it comes to what they plan to do on the ground in Ukraine.

Broadly speaking, the challenges, I think, that — that they will confront are the weather. As things — as we get further into winter, aspects like the terrain, whether mud, snow, ice are going to present challenges not only for the Ukrainians but also for the Russians. And so you continue to see Ukraine press their counter offensive to take advantage of time. And in the meantime, not surprisingly, you continue to see Russians try to solidify their defenses and hold the territory that they have.

And so our focus will continue to be on supporting the Ukrainians in that fight as we go into the winter time so that they have the best chance of — of taking back their territory.

Thank you.

Let me get to Patrick Tucker, Defense One.

Q: Hey, thanks for doing this.

Over the summer the Ukrainians were using, and the coalition was providing a lot of 155 rounds and the Ukrainians were using them pretty much as quickly as they could get them.

From the Pentagon’s perspective, are the Ukrainians continuing to use 155 rounds at the same pace that they were at the beginning of the summer counter offensive? And also, officials at the Pentagon and also in Europe were talking about the stockpiles of those rounds getting sort of low from their perspective.

If there’s a pause is there a plan now to replenish some of those 155 stockpiles or what does the stockpile situation look like.

Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Patrick.

So on your latter question first, we’re going to continue to work with our allies and our partners to explore Ukraine’s ammunition needs and we’re going to continue to insure that they have the ammunition that they need to be successful on the battlefield.

As you know, we recently had our national armaments directors meet to discuss not only how best to support the Ukrainians but also to ensure that our own domestic stockpiles were replenished. So in other words; the United States and our allies and our partners.

And so that will be work that continues to be ongoing for the foreseeable future. In regard to the Ukrainians’ use of ammunition on the battlefield, again, as I’m sure you can appreciate, I’m not going to get into munition expenditure rates for operation security reasons. And so I’ll — I’ll refer you to the Ukrainians on that.

Thank you. Sir. Yes, that’s you, Mike.

Q: Okay. Thanks.

Okay, there are some reports that President Zelenskyy is — says he’s open to talking to the Russians in some cases. Is the Pentagon supporting this and is the administration — is the support for Ukraine in anyway contingent on him being able to, you know, talking to the Russians?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Mike.

So, our focus, as I mentioned, is on supporting Ukraine with its security assistance needs and we’re going to continue to do that. In terms of the topic of negotiations, Ukraine will decide when they’re ready to negotiate.

Our focus is on trying to insure they have the security assistance and the capability that they need to defend their sovereign territory and have a strong position when it does come to talks.

Thank you.

Okay, let me go back out to the phone here. Howard Altman.

Q: Yes, thanks, Pat.

I have a couple questions. First one is on in Kherson Oblast imagery is showing that the Russians are building a long line of defensive, almost like Atlantic wall kind of fortifications: gun, fence, et cetera, three levels on the eastern bank of Dnieper. Is the Pentagon seeing this and does that give you any indication of Russian plans? And then I have another question.

GEN. RYDER: So as I mentioned, we do know that the Russians are establishing defenses. Again, in terms of what their plans may be, you know, it could be one of two things, Howard.

And I’m going to break my rule and I’m going to speculate here a little bit. It could be that they are looking to defend that territory for the long term, or it could be part of a rear guard action as they look to retrograde out of that area.

Regardless, you continue to see the Ukrainians apply pressure on them, and as I have mentioned, our focus is on ensuring they have what they need on the battlefield right now to be successful. So, something that we’ll continue to keep an eye on but that’s about as much as I’m going to be able to provide right now.

Q: My second question is the Ukrainian head of the Intel told me that the — the Iranian missiles that they’re — coming to Ukraine are much more accurate and dangerous than the Russian missiles. Has Ukraine asked for any additional missile defense systems? And can you tell me the status of that request and what could be fulfilled?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Howard.

Again, I don’t have anything to announce. As I mentioned, we have regular dialogue with the Ukrainians in terms of what their needs are. And so that includes a variety of capabilities, from artillery to armor to air defense. And so, you know, again, when we have something new to announce in that regard, we certainly — we certainly will.

Thank you.

Okay, let me go to Heather from USNI.

Q: Thank you so much.

I was wondering if you can give us any more detail about Silent Wolverine and Ford’s participation in there?

And then I was wondering if you have any comments about the Russian drone strike on a patrol boat — a Ukrainian patrol boat that happened, I believe, over the weekend?

GEN. RYDER: Okay, thanks, Heather.

So for the exercise, I — I’d refer you to INDOPACOM or the Navy. They should be able to provide you with — excuse me, I’m sorry — EUCOM or the — the Navy. They should be able to provide you with more details on that.

And I’m afraid I don’t have any details on the — on the drone strike.

Thank you.

Janne?

Q: Thank you, sir.

Just for — about the EMP, North Korea think EMP is easier than nuclear weapons use. And to consider about this as much as North Korea use nuclear weapon?

GEN. RYDER: I’m sorry, Janne, can you repeat that last part?

Q: Last part is North — the first part is a follow up to the other — North Korea think EMP is easier than nuclear use. So the United States now consider about this?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, again, we train and prepare and plan for, globally, a wide range of potential contingencies and — and operations. So again, while I’m not going to speak for North Korean or any threats that they may have — North Korea or any threats that they may have made, again, we continue to work very closely with our Republic of Korea allies and our Japanese allies and those in the region to ensure the safety and security.

I think it’s important to highlight here our focus is on ensuring a safe, secure, stable Indo-Pacific region, a free and open Indo-Pacific region, which certainly seems to be at odds with the kind of rhetoric that we see coming out of North Korea.

And so, again, we would call on North Koreans to engage in dialogue and to ensure a — a safe and stable Indo-Pacific region.

Thank you.

All right, let me go to Seungmin Lee, RFA.

Q: Yes, I have a question — North Korea too. It is reported U.S. and South Korea and Japan made agreement on measure to respond if North Korea conduct nuclear tests, which is like a deploying aircraft carrier and unilateral sanction on North Korea. So, can you confirm this, or can you tell me what possible measure U.S. has considered to take if North Korea conduct a nuclear test?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Seungmin.

Again, we’ve been very clear that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable, and we are going to continue to consult very closely with our ROK and Japanese allies, but in terms of potential responses, I’m not going to go into details.

Thank you.

Okay, Mike Brest from Washington Examiner?

Q: Hi. Thanks for taking my question.

Last week, John Kirby said that the U.S. had intelligence to indicate North Korea had attempted to provide weapons to them — or to Russia, excuse me, but was unable to say clearly whether, or not, they had been received. Could you provide an update for us?

Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Mike.

So, I would tell you that I’m not going to have anything new to provide beyond what — what the NSC — and as you highlight, the information we have is that the DPRK is covertly supplying Russia with a significant number of artillery shells. We’ll continue to monitor that situation but I’m not going to have any additional details to provide beyond that.

Thank you.

Okay, let me go to Mike and then one more on the phone.

Q: Some of the Republican leaders up on the Hill were saying that they’re open to continued support for Ukraine but — but that there won’t be a, quote-unquote, “blank check.” Is the — is — is the Pentagon ready — I mean, assuming the election turns out where — where the Republicans take over one or more houses of Congress, are the — is the Pentagon ready for any change of process of doing support with Republicans in control of — of the legislature —

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Mike.

So, I don’t — I don’t want to get ahead of the election results. Certainly, the Department of Defense will continue to work very closely with Congress on this very important issue, Ukraine security assistance.

As I’ve mentioned before, we have very much appreciated the bipartisan support of Congress. And so going ahead, we’ll continue to communicate and work very closely with Congress and the rest of the U.S. government when it comes to support for Ukraine.

Thank you.

And let me go to one last question on the phone here. George Kassel, from The Independent? Maybe not.

All right, thanks very much, everybody. I appreciate your time today.

Q: Thank you.