Austin: Talks With Russia Important to Avoid Escalation in Ukraine

The United States has been concerned about elevating escalation from the very beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, who held a Pentagon press conference today.

“That’s why we believe that it’s important to communicate with our allies and partners and also with our adversaries. As long as we have the channels of communication open and we are able to communicate what’s important to us, then I think we have an opportunity to manage escalation,” he said. 

If Russia decided to use some type of nuclear weapon, “you would see a very significant response from the international community … and we’re going to continue to communicate that any type of use of a weapon of that sort, or even the talk of the use of a weapon of that sort, is dangerous and irresponsible,” Austin emphasized. 

The Defense Department has not seen anything to indicate that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a decision to use a dirty bomb, nor has the department seen any indications that the Ukrainians are planning such a thing, Austin said.

The secretary said the department will remain focused on making sure it does everything it can to help Ukraine defend its sovereign territory. “We’re going to continue to support them for as long as it takes.”

Austin noted that at the start of the invasion earlier this year, most people doubted that the Ukrainian forces could withstand the Russians, who have much more military capability. 

“I think they have exceeded most people’s expectations. And they’ve done that because we in the international community have really worked hard and moved very quickly to provide [Ukraine] with the capability that they need to defend their sovereign territory, and they have employed it very, very well,” he added.

Austin also mentioned that the most urgent need for Ukraine at this time is air defense capability. The U.S. and international partners are working on that request, which could be delivered as early as next month along with the training that goes with it.

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