Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said nations of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group are even "more united and resolved to keep up our support for Ukraine's right to defend itself."
The secretary and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed the media at the conclusion of the contact group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, today.
The nations of the group pledged to help Ukraine fight the battles it faces with Russia and build the force necessary to defend itself into the future.
Some fifty nations attended the meeting. Austin said the contact group arrived with momentum and left with more momentum. The group pledged to find "new and innovative ways to support Ukrainian military and Ukrainian people as they defend their country, their lives and their freedom," the secretary said.
Austin announced the newest U.S. pledge to Ukraine of up to 675 million dollars of drawdown authority. This will provide missiles for high-mobility artillery rocket system, more 105 mm howitzers, artillery ammunition, up-armored Humvees, armored ambulances and much more.
The contact group heard from Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Ukrainian Deputy Chief of Defense Lt. Gen. Yevhen Moisiuk. "It's deeply meaningful to have them here with us in person as Ukraine begins its counter-offensive in Kherson, and I want to thank my brave Ukrainian colleagues for sharing their insights from the battlefield," Austin said.
The secretary said the Ukrainians are making good use of the military capabilities partner nations have given them. He specifically spoke of the HIMARS and M270 rocket systems which have been effective in Ukraine's push to regain sovereign territory that Russia took.
Russia is responding to the Ukrainian offensive "with a campaign of cruelty," he said. "I'm especially concerned that Russia is creating … conditions around Ukrainian nuclear plant of Zaporizhzhia that's deeply reckless, and it could have grave consequences," he said.
The contact group does far more than just provide equipment and Austin also spoke of how partners are meeting needs for training, maintenance and sustainment. This will be key to success into the future, he said. "I want to especially thank the [United Kingdom] for establishing a basic training program for new Ukrainian recruits," the secretary said. "Getting more trained professional soldiers into the fight is key especially as Russia sends more and more untrained soldiers into battle."
He thanked Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia for reinvigorating their industrial bases to meet Ukraine's self-defense needs. The three nations have coordinated production to supply Ukraine the ammunition, spare parts and materiel the country needs to continue the fight. Overall "we're going to move even faster and push even harder," Austin said. "So I'm proud to announce that in the next few weeks in coordination with NATO, United States will host a special session under the auspices of this contact group to bring together our senior national armaments directors. They will discuss how our defense industrial bases can best equip Ukraine's future forces with the capabilities that they need."
Ukraine's fight against Russia is about more than simply repelling a Russian invasion, Austin said. It is about defending the international rules-based order that has preserved the peace since the end of World War II. "So the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine today and tomorrow. And along with our allies and partners, we will increase the momentum."
Milley said the Ukrainians have withstood brutal assaults on their capital and other major urban areas. They have paid a heavy price with tens of thousands killed and wounded and about 15 million people displaced or having to flee the country. "The Ukrainian people have suffered tremendously and yet they remain a free, independent, sovereign," the general said. "Ukraine remains strong and free because of the bravery of its people, the competence of its military, and the support the international community."
The chairman said the Russians have achieved minor tactical success in various parts of eastern Ukraine. "But, so far, Russian strategic objectives have been defeated," he said. "Despite being outgunned and outmanned, the Ukrainians have demonstrated superior technical proficiency and they've demonstrated a superior will to fight."
The general said the Ukrainian offensive is in its early stages, and it is too early to give a full assessment. "But today, Ukraine is effectively using their fires to shape the ground maneuver as they continue their offensive in the south," he said.