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Austin Convenes Contact Group at 'Pivotal Moment' for Ukraine

June 15, 2022 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III convened the third meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Belgium and urged nations to "not lose steam" in their efforts to supply Ukraine with the means to defend itself from the Russian invasion.

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Austin told the more than 45 nations gathered at NATO headquarters that the stakes are too high to fail in this effort.  

"Ukraine is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield," he said. "We're seeing what [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy warned us about: after failing to take Kyiv and after reassessing its combat aims, Russia has shifted its focus to the Donbas." 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov also attended the meeting. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III sits with his Ukrainian counterpart at a table in front of U.S. and Ukrainian flags.
Supporting Ukraine
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attend the third meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Jun. 15, 2022.
Photo By: Chad McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 220615-D-TT977-0228
Officials sit at a large round table.
Contact Group Meeting
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts the third meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at NATO headquarters in Brussels, June 15, 2022.
Photo By: Chad McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 220615-D-TT977-0104

Russia has also changed tactics using long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions in the region. This calls for different systems, different training and different logistics for Ukraine to succeed. 

"Russia continues to indiscriminately bombard Ukraine's sovereign territory and recklessly endanger Ukrainian civilians," the secretary said. "So, we must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine's self-defense. And we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory." 

The unprovoked Russian attack on Ukraine is not just a danger to that nation, but to European security and the global rules-based international order that has worked so well since World War II, he said. 

Ukraine's soldiers and citizens "are defending their homeland with resolve, grit and ingenuity," Austin said. "They've inspired us all, and they need our help." 

Austin has kept in near constant contact with his Ukrainian counterpart, and he is well-versed on Ukraine's needs. "We're working in lockstep to meet Ukraine's requests for new capabilities — particularly its need for long-range fires, armor and coastal defense," he said. 

A civilian truck driver secures a military vehicle.
Securing Vehicles
A civilian truck driver secures an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier to a flatbed trailer at Stones Ranch Military Reservation, East Lyme, Conn., April 27, 2022. This M113 is one of 200 armored personnel carriers the Defense Department is supplying to Ukraine as part of an $800 million aid package.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Matthew Lucibello
VIRIN: 220427-Z-QC464-0079

The United States has already provided Ukraine with howitzers, Javelins, ammunition, unmanned aerial systems, Mi-17 helicopters, counterartillery radars, tactical vehicles and electronic jamming equipment. 

U.S. forces are also training Ukrainian forces on new capabilities. "And we're committed to do even more," Austin said. "We are providing Ukraine's defenders with HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems that will significantly boost Ukraine's capabilities — especially when combined with additional donations of NATO-standard rocket systems from the United Kingdom and our other allies." 

Austin praised the more than 45 allies and partners that have rushed aid to Ukraine. He said the response is a reflection of the global outrage over the invasion "and it's a reflection of global commitment to reinforcing an international order rooted in rules and respect."

Three female soldiers wearing face masks carry backpacks across the tarmac. A large airplane is in the background. A long line of soldiers stretches behind them.
NATO Deployment
About 160 soldiers from the Army's III Armored Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, deploys to support the NATO response force, March 7, 2022. Deploying personnel includes personnel from the 96th Transportation Company (heavy equipment transport), the 297th Inland Cargo Transfer Company, and the 11th Corps Signal Brigade at Fort Hood. These forces will augment forces in the European theater and are trained and equipped for various missions to reinforce the U.S. European Command's posture on NATO’s eastern flank.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Herman
VIRIN: 220307-A-AL574-1213C

Austin took stock of what the contact group has accomplished since the last meeting three weeks ago. 

The United States and allies are providing Harpoon launchers and missiles to bolster Ukraine's coastal defense. The United Kingdom is providing M270 multiple-launch rocket systems and training to help Ukraine defend the Donbas. "Several of our allies and partners are providing howitzers and artillery ammunition," he said. Other forms of military assistance — from tanks to helicopters — continue to flow into Ukraine. 

"So, we've got a lot done," Austin said. "But … we don't have any time to waste. So, we're here to dig in our spurs." 

"By working together, we can help Ukraine defend itself from Russia's cruel assault," Austin said. "We can strengthen Ukraine's security for the long haul, and we can rally together to show that rules matter and that might does not make right."