CNN town hall on Russia’s war in Ukraine

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference in Tallinn, Estonia, on February 16.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference in Tallinn, Estonia, on February 16. (Serge Gritz/AP)

In an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States believed the training and equipment it provided to Ukraine would “change the dynamics on the battlefield” against Russia and allow Kiev troops “break through Russian defenses”. “CNN this morning.”

“We’re training and equipping several mechanized infantry brigades — that’s a pretty impressive capability,” Austin said. “On top of that, there are more artillery pieces, so they will have the ability to break through Russian defenses and maneuver, and I think that will create a different dynamic.”

Austin’s comments come as the war in Ukraine enters the one-year mark with no end in sight. It comes after President Joe Biden made a highly secretive surprise visit to Kiev aimed at sending a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the strength of the two countries’ alliance.

Austin echoed to CNN a sentiment shared by other U.S. officials, including Biden, reiterating that the U.S. will hold out for Ukraine if needed.

“As long as Ukraine continues its operations and continues its efforts to retake its sovereign territories, we will be with them,” he said, adding, “Once the fighting stops, the international community will stand with Ukraine.”

The U.S. and its allies have provided Ukrainians with billions of dollars worth of munitions, weapons systems and training since the war began a year ago — $29.8 billion of which has come from the U.S. alone since the Russian invasion began. More recently, these have included important programs such as the Patriot missile system and the M1 Abrams tank, although both require extensive training and maintenance capabilities.

Those extra features will make all the difference, Austin said.

“I think what we’re doing, the capabilities we’re delivering — again, capabilities, not just a platform — I think the capabilities we’re delivering will allow the Ukrainians to start changing the dynamics on the battlefield,” he said “So instead of stalemate, you might see Ukrainians shaping the fight so they can create opportunities for themselves and take advantage of them in the future. ”

Austin said in Brussels last week that the countries involved in the Ukrainian Defense Liaison Group have been “working hard” to ensure Ukraine has the capabilities needed to create “the battlefield effects they want to create,” especially in the new offensive he envisions. Will launch this spring.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials say China may be preparing to provide deadly military aid to Russia. Austin said he hadn’t seen China do that, but China “certainly didn’t take it off the table.”

“I approached my opponent very early on and told him that it would be a very serious mistake if China did this. It would complicate things,” he said.

Ultimately, the war is likely to “end with some sort of negotiation,” Austin told CNN. The prospect of talks has seemed unlikely in recent months as Russia has continued to bomb Ukraine’s infrastructure and population centers.

“[W]The Ukrainians are interested in getting the Russians out of their sovereign territory,” he said. “I think that might be their entry point, but I’ll let the Ukrainians speak for themselves.

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