CNN

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he believed Ukraine was “making progress” in the country’s Kherson region as it resisted Russia’s offensive and that there had been “kind of a change in the dynamics of the battlefield.”

Austin attributed the change to the skills of Ukrainian soldiers and their strategic use of weapons provided by the US and NATO allies, particularly the use of High Mobility Air Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. He made the comments in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Farid Zakaria that aired on “Farid Zakaria GPS” on Sunday.

“What we’re seeing now is kind of a shift in the dynamics of the battlefield,” Austin said. “They have done very well in the Kharkiv area and have moved to take advantage of opportunities. The fighting in the Kherson region is slowing down a bit, but they are making progress.”

Austin said the Ukrainian military has used “technologies like HIMARS” and used them “in the right way” to attack things like logistics stores and command and control, taking away significant capabilities from the Russians.

By doing so, the Ukrainians have “changed the dynamic and created an opportunity for the Ukrainians to maneuver,” he added.

Asked why the U.S. has not supplied the long-range weapons the Ukrainians have requested, Austin said he communicates “regularly” with his Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, and believes the U.S. is “very effective in providing them.” Things that are very effective on the battlefield.

The US has provided Ukraine with HIMARS and guided multiple launch rocket systems, or GMLRS, for use with the HIMAR system, while Ukraine has asked for Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, which have a longer range than the US GLMR system. provided so far.

ATACMS has a range of about 185 miles. The weapons supplied to Ukraine by the US have a maximum range of about 49 miles.

Austin praised the successes of the Ukrainians on the battlefield and noted that they were using the weapons and technology provided to them by the United States “in the right way.”

“It’s not just about the equipment you have. It’s about how you use those devices, how you synchronize things together to create battlefield effects that can create opportunities,” he said.

Austin said it was difficult to predict what would happen in Ukraine, but said the U.S. would “continue to provide security assistance to the Ukrainian people as long as they need it.”

“The Ukrainian people have amazed the world with their ability to fight, their ability to take initiative, their commitment to defending their democracy,” he said. “And the will to fight has mobilized the international community in an effort to help provide them with security assistance so that they can continue to fight.”

Austin said he did not see an “aggressive attack” by China on Taiwan, but he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping used US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Aug. 3 visit to the self-governing island “as an opportunity to start trying to build.” A New Normal.”

Pelosi was the first US House speaker to visit the island in 25 years. China responded by launching military exercises at sea and in the air around Taiwan.

“We saw several intermediate crossings of the Taiwan Strait by their aircraft, and that number increased over time. We have seen more activity with their surface vessels in and around Taiwan waters,” Austin said.

China’s ruling Communist Party considers Taiwan a part of its territory, even though it has never ruled it, and has vowed to “reunify” it with mainland China if necessary by force.

Austin said he had spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Chinese National Defense Minister Wei Fenge, “on the phone and in person” during his time as defense secretary, but the communication channel between the two was currently “not open.”

“We’ll do everything we can to signal that they want to open that channel, and I hope China will lean in a little bit more and work with us,” Austin said.

Asked if the U.S. military is ready to defend Taiwan, Austin said the military is “always ready to defend our interests and live up to our commitments.”

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired last month, President Joe Biden reiterated his earlier pledge to defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion, but clarified that “US men and women” would participate in the effort.

“I think the President was clear in his answer to a hypothetical question. But, again, we’re working to make sure we have the right capabilities in the right places to help our allies maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Austin said.

Austin reiterated that the Biden administration’s policy on Taiwan, a China policy, “has not changed.”

Under the “One China” policy, the US accepted China’s position that Taiwan was part of China but never officially recognized the Communist Party’s claim to the 23 million island. The US supplies Taiwan with defensive weapons but has remained deliberately ambiguous about whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.

“Under the Taiwan Relations Act, you know, we’re committed to helping Taiwan develop the ability to defend itself, and that work has been ongoing over time,” he said.

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