Austin’s remarks, when he opened a US-organized assembly of more than 40 countries to discuss Ukrainian defense needs for the fight against Russia, came as the US announced more military aid and plans to reopen its embassy in Ukraine’s capital, Poland said it would send tanks , and Germany planned to send armored anti-aircraft vehicles.
“We all have your back,” Austin told Ukraine in comments following his own trip to Kiev.
Senior defense officials from NATO and non-NATO countries attended the meeting, which is part of the new Ukraine’s defense consultative group. Some nations, such as Israel and Qatar, had representatives at the table, even though they were not on the official list of participants. The involvement of non-NATO countries such as Kenya, Tunisia and Japan was part of an effort to extend substantial and symbolic support to Ukraine beyond Europe and the Alliance.
In separate remarks to the group, General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a sharp picture of the next phase of the war as Russia seeks to take full control of southeastern and southern Ukraine. “Time is not on Ukraine’s side,” Milley said in closed-door comments given to journalists traveling with him. “The outcome of this struggle, right here, today, depends on the people of this space.”
Live updates: US general says ‘time is not on Ukraine’s side’; Putin must meet with UN chief
World leaders are trying to pressure Putin to stop the war, which is now entering its third month. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who is in Moscow to meet with Putin and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, on Tuesday called for a ceasefire and said everything must be done “to end the war as soon as possible.”
Lavrov, meanwhile, sounded the alarm bells when he told state television that the risk of the conflict escalating into nuclear war “is serious, it is real” – but added that Moscow’s position is that nuclear war is unacceptable. Lavrov accused NATO of fighting a proxy war by donating weapons to Kiev, saying weapons flowing from allies into Ukraine would be considered “a legitimate target” for Russia’s military.
The U.S. goal of the gathering was to share what Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called a “common understanding” of the current battlefield and Ukrainian defense capabilities and requirements, as well as the capabilities of national industrial bases.
The United States wants the Russian military ‘weakened’ from Ukraine’s invasion, Austin said
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov headed a delegation from Kiev, which Austin and Foreign Minister Antony Blinken visited on Sunday.
“That visit only underscored my sense of urgency, a necessity that I know we all share,” Austin said at the meeting. He stressed that he would like this whole group today to leave with a common and transparent understanding of Ukraine’s short-term security requirements, because we will continue to move heaven and earth so that we can meet them.
Last week, President Biden announced an additional $ 800 million in weapons aid to Ukraine, including heavy artillery and high-tech offensive drones targeting the new battle in the south and southeast. US military officials have estimated that the Russians, who have withdrawn to these areas after their inability to occupy Kiev, will try to surround the Ukrainian forces there in a major battle on the ground.
“My trip to Kiev reinforced my admiration for the way in which the Ukrainian armed forces are deploying” the help they are receiving, Austin said in his opening statement. “Ukraine clearly believes it can win. And so does everyone here.”
Milley was less definitive after reporters left the room. “The next two, three, four weeks will shape the overall outcome of this match,” he said.