RAMSTEIN AIRBASE, GERMANY – After a day-long conference of more than 40 nations assisting Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said similar high-level meetings will be held each month going forward to respond quickly. on the changing changes. the nature of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“We will expand this forum beyond today,” Mr Austin said, announcing the formation of what he called Ukraine’s contact group. The group will be led by the United States and will include defense ministers and military commanders who meet either in person or virtually.
“The group will be a tool for nations with a good will to intensify our efforts, coordinate our assistance and focus on winning today’s match and the upcoming matches,” he said after meeting Tuesday in Germany at Ramstein Air Base.
The creation of the group is just an outward sign of how the Biden administration is adapting to a war that has lasted much longer than originally estimated and has consumed huge amounts of ammunition and money. Since Russia invaded on February 24, President Biden has approved eight “extractions” of weapons from Pentagon stockpiles for Ukraine and approved a total of $ 3.7 billion in total aid to Kiev.
Austin’s announcement comes at the end of a three-day tour that began with a potentially dangerous visit to Kiev with Foreign Minister Antony J. Blinken to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky. The journey, which involved driving into Ukraine from Poland and taking long train journeys to and from Kiev, was to begin in secret, but Mr Zelensky spoke publicly about it on Saturday while Cabinet secretaries flew to Poland.
After returning to Poland early Monday, Mr Blinken and Mr Austin spoke in a warehouse filled with humanitarian aid as well as ammunition for the Soviet-designed weapons used by Ukrainian troops. Mr. Blinken indicated that it would all be inside Ukraine within a day as more military equipment continued to arrive in Kiev.
That afternoon, Mr. flew. Austin to Ramstein, where he was joined by General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to prepare for the day-long conference with other Chiefs of Defense.
When he opened the meeting, Austin praised the bravery of the Ukrainian troops, noted Russian atrocities against civilians and promised his continued support for their country.
Speaking to the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, Oleksii Reznikov, who was sitting next to him, Mr Austin said: “We are all here because of Ukraine’s courage, because of the innocent civilians who have been killed and on because of the sufferings that your people have. “Still endure.”
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has tried to justify the invasion he ordered by claiming that Ukraine is ruled by Nazis and that ethnic Russians in the Donbas region of Ukraine have been victims of genocide. Early attempts to capture the capital Kyiv were repulsed with heavy Russian losses, and fighting is now concentrated in the Donbas in the east and in southern Ukraine.
“Putin had never imagined that the world would gather behind Ukraine so quickly and safely,” he said. Austin to uniformed and civilian officials gathered in a ballroom of the Ramstein Officers Club. He said “no one is being fooled” by Mr Putin’s “false allegations about the Donbas” and that “Russia’s invasion is indefensible and so are Russian atrocities.”
“We are all starting today from a position of moral clarity,” he said.
The meeting included representatives – some who participated at a distance – from more than 40 nations, including Israel, Morocco and Qatar, as well as NATO and the EU.
With a protracted struggle expected in eastern and southern Ukraine, the goal is to strengthen Ukraine’s military in the long run, Mr Austin said.
Russia-Ukraine war: key developments
Venues for future meetings of the new group are likely to rotate among member states, a senior U.S. defense official said. Its efforts will build on those already under way at the US European Command, where a task force led by a Navy Rear Admiral in Stuttgart coordinates much of Ukraine’s requests for assistance and arranges the supply of weapons and other materiel.
Austin stood by comments he made in Poland on Monday when he said the United States now wanted Russia “weakened” to such an extent that it could not invade its neighbors in the future. He said it was not a new position.
“I think we’ve been pretty clear from the start,” he said. Austin. “We want to make it harder for Russia to threaten its neighbors and leave them less able to do so.”
During the 62-day battle, he noted, Russia’s forces have suffered significant losses, lost equipment, used many of their precision-guided ammunition, and endured the sinking of the cruiser Moscow in the Black Sea.
“And so they are, in fact, in terms of military capability, weaker than when it started,” Mr Austin said. “It will be more difficult for them to replace some of this capacity as they move forward because of the sanctions and trade restrictions that have been imposed on them.”
“So we want to make sure again that they do not have the same ability to bully their neighbors that we saw at the beginning of this conflict.”