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US unites global allies to help Ukraine reject Russia – POLITICO

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It’s not quite the coalition to defeat Putin yet – and the name is admittedly tame, if not lame: Ukraine’s defense advisory group.

Still, if the United States ends up forming a global alliance to actively fight Russia, the approximately 40 countries convened by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Ramstein Air Force base in Germany on Tuesday are likely to form the core of it.

The group included dozens of defense ministers and chiefs of defense – mainly from European countries. Austin brought them together as a way to demonstrate visible support for Ukraine and to improve the coordination of countries that have accelerated huge amounts of military assistance, including heavy weapons, to help Kiev fight back against the Russian invaders.

At a news conference Tuesday night, Austin said the group would meet monthly in the future – a sign that Ukraine’s allies were preparing for a protracted conflict.

“We are all determined to help Ukraine win today and build strength for tomorrow,” he told a news conference after today’s meetings.

“To ensure that we continue to build on our progress, we will expand this forum beyond today,” he continued. “I am proud to announce that today’s gathering will be a monthly contact group on Ukraine’s self – defense, and the contact group will be a tool for nations with a good will to intensify our efforts and coordinate our assistance and focus on winning today’s battle, and the coming matches. “

The framework of the meeting – at a US air base in Germany – seemed to partially reject a story from Moscow that Russia is waging a de facto war with NATO, which senior Russian officials claim uses Ukraine as a proxy.

“NATO is basically engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming this proxy,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with state-run media on Monday night. “War means war.” The comments were partly striking because the Kremlin has refused to admit that it is waging war in Ukraine and has instead insisted on “special military operation” as a euphemism.

However, the list of participants in Germany, although mostly NATO countries, extended around the globe to include Australia, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, South Korea and Tunisia. There were no countries from Central or South America.

In contrast, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, created by the United States in 2014, includes 84 countries.

The EU and NATO also attended Tuesday’s meeting in Germany, although NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was unable to attend because he had cold symptoms.

Austin traveled to Ramstein after a visit to Kiev on Sunday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov also attended Tuesday’s event.

“Ukraine has done a magnificent job of defending its sovereignty against Russia’s unprovoked invasion,” Austin said in an opening. “And Ukraine’s bravery and skill will go down in military history. You know, the Battle of Iwo Jima took 36 days. The Battle of the Bulge lasted 40 days. And Ukraine has now beaten back the Russian military for 62 days. Your resistance has inspired the free world, even greater determination for NATO and honor for Ukraine. ”

He added that since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, more than 30 allies and partners have committed more than $ 5 billion in equipment to support Ukraine. Of this, the United States has committed about $ 3.7 billion.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Austin was also pressured to clarify the comments he had made in Poland on Monday, saying the United States wanted to see Russia weakened.

The Secretary of Defense said the U.S. goal was to help ensure that Russia can no longer exercise aggression against its neighbors.

“We want to make it harder for Russia to threaten its neighbors and leave them less able to do so,” Austin said, explaining the heavy losses Russia has suffered during its invasion of Ukraine. He added: “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.”

Austin was also asked about concerns that Russia could use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, a fear exacerbated by random threats from some Russian politicians and TV commentators.

“You heard us say a number of times that that kind of rhetoric is very dangerous and inappropriate,” Austin said. “Nobody wants to see a nuclear war happen. It’s a war that, you know, all sides lose, and then the rattle of sabers, and you know, dangerous rhetoric is clearly inappropriate, and something that we do not want to engage in. in.”

The US Secretary of Defense also praised Germany, which announced in Ramstein on Tuesday that it would send heavy weapons, including tanks, to Ukraine.

“These systems will provide real capacity,” he said.

Hans von der Burchard contributed to this article.

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