The United States does not believe that Vladimir Putin has any desire to fight N.A.T.O., Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday, as the Russian president struggles to achieve his goals in Ukraine.
He gave his view to lawmakers during a congressional hearing beside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley who said Russia’s use of hypersonic weapons was not having ‘really significant or game-changing effects.’
Three months into the Russian invasion, Moscow this week reportedly launched hypersonic missiles on the port city of Odesa.
But Putin’s aim of capturing the capital Kyiv has failed and he has instead been forced to concentrate his war machine on the eastern Donbas region.
Austin was asked what would happen if Putin decided to attack a N.A.T.O. member state.
‘As you look at Putin’s calculus, my view – and I’m sure the chairman has his own view – but my view is that Russia doesn’t want to take on the N.A.T.O. alliance,’ Austin told members of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.
‘He’s got a number of troops arrayed in the region right now, on the Ukrainian border. And he had some in Belarus and still has some there.
‘But there are 1.9 million forces in N.A.T.O.
‘N.A.T.O. has the most advanced capabilities of any alliance in the wold, in terms of aircraft, shups, types of weaponry that the ground forces uses.
‘So this is fight that he really doesn’t want to have.’
Two of the country’s top military officials appeared before lawmakers Wednesday. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (R) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley (L) gave evidence before the House Appropriations subcommittee
‘As you look at Putin’s calculus, my view – and I’m sure the chairman has his own view – but my view is that Russia doesn’t want to take on the N.A.T.O. alliance,’ Austin said
A shopping mall is destroyed as a result of rocket strikes launched by Russian troops, Odesa, southern Ukraine. As reported, one person was killed and five more were injured as Russians fired seven missiles on Odesa Monday
Earlier this week, the Center for Defense Strategies, a Ukrainian think tank, said Moscow used hypersonic Kinzhal air-to-surface missiles in strikes on Odesa.
Hypersonic weapons are capable of flying five to 25 times the speed of sound and can outmaneuver missile defense systems.
However, a senior defense official said on Tuesday that the U.S. had not seen evidence that Russia used such weapons on Odesa, but did confirm that Mosco has launched as many as 12 hypersonic missiles against Ukraine in the conflict so far.
A day later, Milley said he did not believe the weapons were having a big impact on the war.
‘Other than the speed of the weapon, in terms of its effect on a given target, we are not seeing really significant or game-changing effects to date with the delivery of the small number of hypersonics that the Russians have used,’ he told lawmakers
Austin said he agreed and saw no reason to think that Putin would escalate from hypersonics to nuclear weapons.
‘I think he’s trying to create a specific effect with the use of that weapon,’ he said.
‘And as the chairman has pointed out, it moves at a speed that makes it very difficult to interdict. But it hasn’t been a game-changer.’
In the meantime, the White House said it was focused on strengthening Ukraine’s position in order to give it the best chance of achieving peace.
‘It’s clear that Putin has not been able to accomplish the objectives he’s laid out before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,’ said White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Hypersonic missiles differ from ballistic ones in that they travel closer to the earth and as such can largely avoid radar detection
The missile can carry conventional weapons and nuclear warheads, and can be launched from fighter jets. Pictured: The missile is seen being carried by a MiG-31K during a fly-over of Moscow’s Red Square in 2018
Pictured: A video screen grab showing a test of the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, dubbed ‘an ideal weapon’ by Vladimir Putin (file photo)
Two police officers are pictured on the premises of a shopping mall destroyed as a result of rocket strikes launched by Russian troops, Odesa, southern Ukraine
‘Russia has failed to overthrow the Ukrainian government. They lost the battle for Kyiv and were forced to retreat and re refocus elsewhere.
‘And they have failed to divide the West …
‘Diplomacy is the only way to end this conflict.
‘Russia has shown no signs that they are willing to seriously engage in negotiation.
‘So we are focused on strengthening Ukraine’s hand as much as possible on the battlefield so that when the time comes, they have as much leverage as possible at the table.
‘But again, as we’ve said, over and over again, this is Russia’s war.
‘They created this war, they invaded Ukraine in a brutal way.
‘And so what Ukraine is doing is they are defending themselves and their democracy.
‘This is for Russia to end this war.’