Representatives from more than 50 nations pledged to provide more military capabilities to Ukraine’s armed forces in the fight against Russian invaders, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in Brussels today.
Austin chaired the third meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. The group wants to give Ukraine what it needs to fight the struggle unfolding in the country’s Donbass region.
Austin and Chairman of the Army Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley briefed the media following the meeting at NATO Headquarters.
“I am particularly pleased that defense leaders from approximately 50 countries are gathered here today,” Austin said. “It’s a testament to the impact of this local outreach group that it continues to grow.”
Austin announced that President Joe Biden has approved a $1 billion security aid package for Ukraine. This includes several rocket launcher ammunition, 18 more 155mm M777 towed howitzers and the tactical vehicles to tow those howitzers, and 36,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition.
“This package also includes $650 million in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds, which will help Ukraine defend itself with two additional Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems and thousands of secure radios, night vision goggles, thermal imaging sights and other optical devices.” , said the minister.
Allies and partners are also expanding Ukraine’s military capabilities. Austin said Germany will supply Ukraine with three multiple rocket systems and guided MLRS munitions. “Slovakia has announced a significant donation of MI-series helicopters and much-needed missile ammunition,” Austin said. “We also discussed important new artillery donations from many countries, including Canada, Poland and the Netherlands.”
In order to be able to act militarily, a weapon system, a trained crew and ammunition are required. The contact group works on the training part of this equation.
“To date, we have trained 420 Ukrainians on the M777 howitzer, 300 Ukrainians on the M109 self-propelled howitzer, 129 on the M113 armored personnel carrier, 100 on unmanned aerial systems, and 60 most recently graduated on the (High) Mobility Artillery Rocket System )” Milley said.
The contact group works hand in hand with Ukrainian defense leaders. Today, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attended the meeting.
Milley said that since the Russian invasion began, the Ukrainians had claimed ten artillery battalions. “Twelve artillery battalions were delivered,” he said. The Contact Group has also delivered 97,000 anti-tank systems. “That’s more than there are tanks in the world,” he said.
“They asked for 200 tanks; they got 237 tanks,” he continued. “They asked for 100 infantry fighting vehicles, they got over 300. We delivered about 1,600 air defense systems and about 60,000 air defense missiles.”
The HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) will be an important addition to the arsenal of Ukraine. The US military is training HIMARS crews train by train in Germany. “By the end of this month, we will transfer HIMAR systems, ammunition and trained crews for operational use in the defense of Ukraine,” Milley said.
Ukraine is making unbelievable sacrifices in defense of its country. “It is reported in the media that Ukraine claims 100 dead and 100 or 200 or 300 injured per day,” he said. “I would say that’s within the range of our assessments.”
He was asked if, given these losses, Ukraine could continue the fight. “This is an existential threat for Ukraine,” Milley said. “They are fighting for the life of their country. So your ability to endure suffering—your ability to endure loss—is directly proportional to the goal you want to achieve. If the goal to be achieved is the survival of the country, then “They will see it through — as long as they have leadership and the means to fight.”
The Ukraine Defense Contact Group first met in April at a meeting at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. There was a virtual meeting of the group last month. “Since the Contact Group first met nearly three months ago, we have built tremendous momentum for donations and the delivery of military assistance,” Austin said. “And after the discussions this afternoon, not only will we maintain this momentum, but we will move even faster and apply even more pressure.”
The group will seek to deepen cooperation and coordination to bring needed capabilities to Ukraine. “We will strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine to help them repel Russian aggression now and in the future,” the minister said. “We will therefore continue to work closely and intensively with this contact group. We will continue to increase our support for Ukraine’s self-defense and remain committed to the rules-based international order that protects us all.”