This is a crucial and tumultuous time for Ukraine, but western leaders are demonstrating they will stand by Ukraine as it faces the challenge from Russia.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Jan. 20 praised the result of the eighth meeting of Ukraine Defense Contact Group, saying the more than 50 nations involved are standing strong alongside Ukraine.
At the conclusion of the meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Austin said the contact group members deepened their coordination and commitment to Ukraine, and the nations are working together very smoothly to deliver to Ukraine the equipment it needs to defend its citizens and expel Russia from Ukraine’s borders.
“This contact group will not slow down,” Austin said. “We’re going to continue to dig deep. And based upon the progress that we’ve made today, I’m confident that Ukraine’s partners from around the globe are determined to meet this moment.”
Austin is chairman of the contact group, which first met at Ramstein in April 2022. The secretary was able to share the most recent tranche of equipment President Joe Biden authorized to send to Ukraine. This amounts to around $2.5 billion worth of gear, including Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, Stryker armored personnel carriers, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, Humvees and more.
Maintaining the impetus to defeat the Russian invasion of Ukraine requires munitions and supplies. Included in the U.S. package are 20,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery shells and 600 precision-guided 155 mm artillery rounds.
The presidential drawdown authority also transfers 95,000 105 mm artillery rounds and about 11,800 120 mm mortar rounds to Ukraine. The package also will deliver more ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems and 12 ammunition support vehicles.
The Ukrainian military will also receive more than 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition.
The United States will transfer a number of high-speed, anti-radiation missiles to Ukraine. These missiles are designed to home in on antiaircraft radars.
The contact group focused on Ukraine’s need for air defense. Many nations have provided military capabilities in this area. The group works to “synchronize those donations and turn them into fully operational capabilities,” Austin said. “And that means every step —from donation to training to maintenance and then to sustainment.”
How these capabilities work together in an integrated air defense system was also discussed.
“Several countries have come forward with key donations that will help protect Ukraine skies and cities and citizens,” the secretary said. “France, Germany and the [United Kingdom] have all donated air defense systems to Ukraine. And that also includes a Patriot battery from Germany that’s especially important coming alongside our own contribution of a Patriot system. The Netherlands is also donating Patriot missiles and launchers and training.”
In addition, Canada has procured a National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System and associated munitions for Ukraine. “These air defense systems will help save countless innocent lives,” Austin said.
The contact group also discussed Ukraine’s requirements for tanks and other armored vehicles. Austin noted the United Kingdom is sending Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine — the first Western nation to do so. Sweden announced it is donating CB-90 infantry fighting vehicles, and Denmark will donate 19 howitzers.
Latvia — a frontline state — is donating more Stingers, helicopters and other equipment to Ukraine.
Finally, Estonia, also a frontline state, is providing Ukraine with a significant new package of much needed 155 mm howitzers and munitions.
“Now, all of today’s announcements are direct results of our work at the contact group,” Austin said. “And these important new commitments demonstrate the ongoing resolve of our allies and partners to help Ukraine defend itself because this isn’t just about Ukraine’s security; it’s also about European security, and it’s about global security.”
Milley said he was impressed by the unity of NATO members and the contact group. “I think that, over my 43 years in uniform, this is the most unified I’ve ever seen NATO,” he said.
He noted that the war has evolved over the last 11 months. “Still, the mission of this contact group under Secretary Austin’s leadership has remained the same: We are effectively committed to support Ukraine with capabilities to defend itself against illegal and unprovoked Russian aggression,” the chairman said.
Milley said the United States is in this operation for the long haul. The contact group is a “clear, unambiguous demonstration of the unity and resolve with the allied nations,” he said.
Milley also said the recent security assistance package combined with earlier ones includes combined arms maneuver capabilities with supporting artillery that is equivalent to at least two combined arms maneuver brigades, or six mechanized infantry battalions.
“Eventually, Russia will realize the full extent of their strategic miscalculation, but until Putin puts an end to this war — his war of choice — the nations of this contact group will continue to support the defense of Ukraine in order to uphold rules-based, international order,” he said.