US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he believes Ukraine is “making progress,” in the Kherson region of the country as they continue to counter Russia’s invasion, adding there has been a “kind of change in the battlefield dynamics.”
Austin attributed the change to the skill of Ukrainian soldiers and their strategic use of weapons supplied by US and NATO allies, specifically their use of the high mobility air rocket systems, or HIMARS. He made the comments in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that aired Sunday on “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”
“What we’re seeing now is a kind of change in the battlefield dynamics,” Austin said. “They’ve done very, very well in the Kharkiv area and moved to take advantage of opportunities. The fight in the — the Kherson region’s going a bit slower, but they’re making progress.”
Austin said Ukrainian forces have used “technology like HIMARS” and employed it in the “right way” to “conduct attacks on things like logistical stores and command and control, that’s taking away — taken away significant capability from the Russians.”
In doing so, Ukrainians have “changed the dynamics, and it’s created an opportunity for the Ukrainians to maneuver,” he added.
When asked why the US has not supplied longer-range weapons that Ukrainians have asked for, Austin said he communicates with his Ukrainian counterpart, Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, “routinely,” and believes the US has been “very effective in providing them those things that are very, very effective on a battlefield.”
While the US has provided Ukraine with HIMARS and guided multiple launch rocket systems, or GMLRS, to be used with the HIMAR systems, Ukraine has asked for Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, which have a longer-range than the GLMR systems the US has provided so far.
ATACMS have a range of about 185 miles. The maximum range of US-provided weapons to Ukraine is around 49 miles.
Austin praised the successes Ukrainians have had on the battlefield and noted they are using the weapons and technology given to them by the US in the “right way.”
“It’s not just about the equipment that you have. It’s about how you employ that equipment, how you synchronize things together to create battlefield effects that then can create opportunities,” he said.
Austin said what will happen in Ukraine is “hard to predict,” but he said the US will “continue to provide security assistance to the Ukrainians for as long as it takes.”
“The Ukrainians have amazed the world in terms of their ability to fight back, their ability to exercise initiative, their commitment to the defense of their democracy,” he said. “And that willingness to fight has rallied the international community in an effort to help provide them the security assistance so that they can continue to fight.”