“It’s an ongoing process,” Kirby said of the arms supply to Ukraine. “It’s almost near real time as we continue to follow events on the battlefield and talk to Ukrainians about what they need.”
Ukraine’s strike campaign has strained Russian forces which have already suffered at least 15,000 military fatalities since invading Ukraine in February, and which are suffering hundreds of deaths and injuries every day, according to Western estimates.
Among those combat losses are thousands of lieutenants and captains, hundreds of colonels and “many” generals, a senior US defense official said. Like others in this story, the official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules established by the Pentagon.
Ukraine has already struck more than 100 “high-value” Russian military targets, including command posts, ammunition depots, air defense sites, radar and communication nodes and artillery positions in long range, the top US defense official said. While Russia continues to launch thousands of artillery rounds a day, the official said, Moscow “cannot go on forever” and has now committed 85% of its army to the war in Ukraine. and left other parts of Russia without military forces.
“They spent a lot of smarter munitions,” the senior defense official said, referring to precision-guided weapons. “Their abilities are getting dumber.”
Ukraine, meanwhile, continues to build its own cache of precision weapons, relying heavily on HIMARS, which can launch rockets from the back of a truck and then move quickly to avoid being attacked. be attacked. As of Thursday, Russia had not destroyed a single HIMARS supplied to Ukraine, although it’s likely they’ll “get lucky” and do so at some point, the top US defense official said .
A senior US military official, speaking to reporters on Friday, said the Pentagon was seeing signs that the Russian military was trying to adapt to Ukraine’s strike campaign and dampen the attack capability of the Ukraine. Moving their forces more frequently and using camouflage to disguise units and weapons are part of their tactics.
“I couldn’t tell you what level of effect they have, but it doesn’t look that good,” the US military official said. “We know from the way the Russians fight that they need someone to tell them what to do, and when you’re able to kill the people who tell them what to do, you can stop those people from killing them. to advance.”
The HIMARS are “not a silver bullet” to defeating Russia, the senior US military official said, but they make it more difficult for Russia to carry out offensive operations. There are signs that Russian forces are digging where they are “in the hope that they might be attacked”.
Russia made no significant gains in Ukraine last week, the senior military official added. Ukraine, meanwhile, has started to retake parts of some villages around the southern city of Kherson, the official said.
Ukrainian officials have requested dozens of additional HIMARS to help them launch a counteroffensive against Russia. Kirby declined to say the maximum number of HIMARS the United States could provide to Ukraine.
“As you have heard me say many times, we are in constant dialogue with the Ukrainians, almost every day at different levels of the chain of command, talking about their capability needs so that we can be as responsive as possible. , ” he said.
Since the Biden administration took office, the United States has supplied Ukraine with more than $8.2 billion in weapons. The Allies provided additional weapons, including other multiple launch rocket systems with similarities to HIMARS.
Senior US and allied officials are discussing how to supply Ukraine in a sustainable and long-term way, a second senior US defense official said on Friday. The United States has already provided Phoenix Ghost drones to Ukraine and will send 580 more starting in August, the official said.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said this week that US officials and their allies are discussing whether to supply Ukraine with fighter jets. Westerners and training to use them.
For “immediate combat” in Ukraine, that’s not something the Pentagon is considering, the second-highest U.S. defense official said on Friday. But U.S. officials are involved in a broader discussion with Ukrainian officials about their future military needs, including aviation, the official said.
Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said on Friday that the gap between Russia’s military capabilities and their goals in Ukraine “has widened over the months”, and credited both the Ukrainians and “the enormous amount of sophisticated weapons and training on these weapons”. ” that Western nations have provided.
Sullivan said if he was a senior Ukrainian official, he would demand more weapons for his country, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his administration have done.
“Who wouldn’t be a patriot for his country?” said Sullivan, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “It’s their job.”
Sullivan said he doesn’t believe the United States has “undersupplied” Ukraine.
“We have moved billions of dollars worth of equipment…at what any reasonable historical analysis would say is lightning speed, and we will continue to do so.”
Karen DeYoung and Karoun Demirjian in Washington contributed to this report.