The United States does not believe Vladimir Putin has any desire to fight NATO, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday, as the Russian president struggles to achieve his goals in Ukraine.
He was addressing lawmakers during a congressional hearing alongside Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, who said Russia’s use of hypersonic weapons was not having “a truly significant or groundbreaking impact.”
Three months after the Russian invasion, Moscow reportedly fired hypersonic missiles at the port city of Odessa this week.
But Putin’s goal of seizing the capital, Kyiv, failed and he was instead forced to focus his war machine on the eastern Donbass region.
Austin was asked what would happen if Putin decided to attack a NATO member state.
“If 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 NATO alliance,” Austin told members of the Defense Subcommittee on House of Representatives Appropriations.
‘He’s just deployed a number of troops in the region near the Ukrainian border. And he had some in Belarus and still has some there.
“But there are 1.9 million forces in NATO
“NATO has the most advanced capabilities of any alliance in the world in terms of aircraft, shups and types of weapons used by ground forces.
“So that’s a fight he really doesn’t want to have.”
Two of the country’s top military officials appeared before lawmakers on Wednesday. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (R) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley (L) testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee
“If 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 NATO alliance,” Austin said
A shopping center is destroyed by rocket attacks by Russian troops, Odessa, southern Ukraine. One person was reportedly killed and five others injured when Russians fired seven rockets in Odessa on Monday
Earlier this week, the Center for Defense Strategies, a Ukrainian think tank, said Moscow had used hypersonic Kinzhal air-to-surface missiles in attacks on Odessa.
Hypersonic weapons can fly at five to 25 times the speed of sound and outmaneuver missile defense systems.
However, a senior defense official said on Tuesday that the US had seen no evidence that Russia had used such weapons on Odessa, but confirmed Mosco had fired no fewer than 12 hypersonic missiles against Ukraine in the conflict so far.
A day later, Milley said he didn’t think the guns had much of an impact on the war.
“Apart from the speed of the weapon in terms of its effect on a given target, so far we’re not seeing any really significant or groundbreaking impact in delivering the small number of hypersonic devices that the Russians have deployed,” he told lawmakers
Austin said he agrees and sees no reason to believe Putin would escalate from hypersonic to nuclear weapons.
“I think he’s trying to achieve a certain effect with this weapon,” he said.
“And as the Chairman has pointed out, it’s moving at a speed that makes a ban very difficult. But it wasn’t a game changer.’
Meanwhile, the White House said it was focused on strengthening Ukraine’s position to give it the best chance of peace.
“It is clear that Putin was unable to achieve the goals he had set before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Hypersonic missiles differ from ballistic missiles in that they fly closer to the earth and can thus largely evade radar detection
The missile can carry conventional weapons and nuclear warheads and can be launched by fighter jets. Pictured: The missile is carried by a MiG-31K during an overflight of Moscow’s Red Square in 2018
Pictured: A video screengrab showing a test of the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, dubbed the “ideal weapon” by Vladimir Putin (File Photo)
Two police officers are pictured at the site of a shopping mall destroyed by rocket attacks by Russian troops, Odessa, southern Ukraine
“Russia failed to overthrow the Ukrainian government. They lost the battle for Kyiv and were forced to withdraw and re-focus elsewhere.
“And they failed to divide the West…
“Diplomacy is the only way to end this conflict.
“Russia has shown no signs of being ready for serious negotiations.
“So our focus is on strengthening Ukraine’s hand on the battlefield as much as possible, so that when the time comes, they have as much clout at the table as possible.
“But again, as we have said over and over again, this is Russia’s war.
“They caused this war, they invaded Ukraine in a brutal way.
“And Ukraine is defending itself and its democracy.
“This is for Russia to end this war.”