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Austin Urges Nations to Continue Ukraine Support for Long Haul

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III thanked the 50 nations that have provided Ukraine with training and equipment. That support will need to continue for the long haul as "Ukraine's fight is a marathon, not a sprint," he said.


He spoke today at the start of the 13th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels, Belgium. 

"I ask this contact group to continue to dig deep to provide Ukraine with the air-defense assets and munitions that it so urgently needs to protect its citizens," he said. 

Austin thanked the Netherlands and Denmark for spearheading the effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation aircraft, including the F-16. He also thanked Germany and Poland for their efforts to help sustain Ukraine's Leopard tanks. 

The United States has been steadily supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, he said. Last week, a package of more than $2 billion under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative was announced. That package included additional munitions for Patriot and HAWK air-defense systems and additional 105 mm and 203 mm artillery rounds. 

Also, President Joe Biden on Tuesday authorized a $325 million package in security aid from Defense Department stocks, which includes munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and dozens more Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and Stryker armored personnel carriers. 

"We will also continue to adapt our assistance to meet the changing circumstances on the ground and the changing needs of Ukraine's forces," he said. 

Austin also emphasized it's become increasingly clear that Ukraine needs a force that is interoperable with ally and partner militaries. Discussions at the contact group will focus on how this can be accomplished. 

Three men sit next to each other at a long table.
Ukraine Meeting
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts the 13th Ukraine Defense Contact Group at NATO headquarters in Brussels, June 15, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders
VIRIN: 230615-D-XI929-1007

Russian missile attacks and destruction of the dam near Kherson, Ukraine, last week are reminders of the war's devastating consequences to innocent Ukrainian civilians. 

"But the people of Ukraine continue to inspire us with their courage and resilience. And Ukraine continues to fight to liberate its sovereign territory from Russian occupation," Austin said. 

The secretary thanked Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who attended the contact group, for his leadership, Austin said that reflects the determination of the Ukrainian people. 

When Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin thought that he would easily prevail. 

"But [Putin] was wrong. The Ukrainians won the battle of Kyiv, and they liberated Kharkiv and Kherson. And, today, Ukraine stands well-positioned for the challenges ahead," Austin said. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke to the media prior to the contact group meeting. He said discussions next month at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, will include urging all member nations to contribute at least 2% of their nations' gross domestic product to defense spending. Some already do, and some others are close to that target figure. 

Stoltenberg also mentioned that constructive talks with Turkey continue regarding Sweden's entry into NATO. 

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