A senior defense official briefed reporters during a Department of Defense background call Monday afternoon attended by American Military News. Here are the latest points from the call.
Russia fires 625 missiles in Ukraine
Russia has now fired 625 missiles in Ukraine since its incursion began. Those 625 missiles are a “mixture of medium-ranged, close-range, surface-to-air-missiles, and cruise missiles.” Previously, the majority of the missiles fired were short-range ballistic missiles, but that is no longer the case, the official noted.
Almost all of Russia’s amassed forces deployed into Ukraine
“Nearly 100 percent” of the Russian forces that had amassed near Ukraine’s borders in recent months are now deployed inside Ukraine, the senior defense official said. That includes nearly all of an estimated 127 battalion groups. While the defense official would not say how many Russian troops were estimated to be included, previous estimated had determined 150,000 Russian troops were amassed outside Ukraine.
Russia recruiting foreign fighters to join their war
The senior defense official confirmed media reporting from Friday suggesting that Russia was preparing to deploy mercenaries into Ukraine. “We believe the reports are accurate,” the official said, noting that Russia was recruiting Syrians, in particular, to join their fight in Ukraine. The official said the U.S. finds it noteworthy that Putin “believes he needs to rely on foreign fighters to supplement” his already significant combat capabilities deployed inside Ukraine.
Russian forces stalled by Ukrainian resistance
Russia’s advancing forces were “basically stalled” over the weekend, according to the senior defense official, who said “Ukrainians are putting up a very stiff resistance.” Additionally, Russian forces are encountering sustainment issues, including their ability to maintain aircraft, though the majority of Putin’s air fleet was still available, the official said.
The official added that Russia’s frustration in response to their stalled efforts “could certainly be one reason they’re trying to recruit Syrians.”
U.S. deploying 500 more troops to Europe
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered an additional 500 U.S. military personnel to deploy from the U.S. to Europe to “augment existing forces that are there,” the senior defense official said. The forces will be “positioned to respond to the current security environment” and deter Russia as it ramps up its aggression.
“These [forces] are enablers,” the senior defense official said, noting that the deployment of additional enabler forces “was always part of the plan,” and not the response to any changing conditions on the ground.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby later revealed that among the 500 troops to deploy would include:
- 300 modular ammunition ordnance personnel from Fort Bragg, N.C. and Fort Stewart, Ga. to Germany
- 150 personnel and multiple KC-135 refueling aircraft out of Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.
- 40 air support operations center personnel from Fort Stewart to Poland and Romania.
100,000 U.S. troops now positioned in Europe
The senior defense official said the U.S. now has roughly 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe “on rotational or permanent orders.”
On February 24 – the day of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine – the Pentagon said 12,000 U.S. troops had deployed from the U.S. to Europe, joining 80,000 U.S. troops already positioned there.