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Ukraine Defense Contact Group Members Remain Unified in Support to Kyiv

There is no lessening of the solidarity of members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said at the conclusion of the 14th meeting of the group, today.

Austin and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to the press about the virtual meeting of 50 nations committed to supporting Ukraine as the country seeks to drive Russian forces from its soil.


The group meeting comes after the successful NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Austin said, where the allies discussed their determination to support Ukraine in its counteroffensive.

"Today, we recommitted to supporting Ukraine during this crucial counteroffensive and for the long haul," Austin said. "This is no time to slow down. The United States and our allies and partners have moved mountains to provide Ukraine with critical air defense systems, munitions and more. Coming out of today's meeting, I'm grateful to all of our allies and partners for their commitment and their clarity."

The secretary said contact group members have dug deep in their military stocks to provide Ukraine critical military equipment and ammunition. These capabilities support "Ukraine's sovereign right to live free today and for the future," he said.

A man stands behind a podium in front of flags.
Austin Briefing
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III holds an on-camera press conference following a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the fourteenth such meeting of defense leaders from around the world at the Pentagon, July 18, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 230718-D-XI929-4003R

The contact group members discussed plans to ramp up production at both national levels and at the multinational level through the European Union's important initiative to produce more ammunition, Austin said. The group also heard from representatives from Denmark and the Netherlands who lead the effort to train and supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter capability.

These moves and commitments underscore just how badly Russian President Vladimir Putin miscalculated when he invaded Ukraine last year. Austin said three of his blunders are especially clear today. "First, Putin thought that he could take Kyiv in days and force a new government of Russian puppets on the Ukrainian people," he said. "But Ukraine chose to fight back. Ukrainian armed forces have defended their country with courage and skill."

Second, Putin bet that the world would just live with his cruel assault on Ukraine. "But Russia's aggression and atrocities have shocked the world including even Moscow's long-term partners," Austin said. "Putin's final miscalculation [is] he thought that Ukraine's friends would waver or flee. Instead, nations of goodwill from around the world have stood up for Ukraine's sovereign right to defend itself. And by joining together, we have achieved something extraordinary. And today this contact group stands as united and firm as ever."

A long line of several tanks sit on an elevated wooden platform.
Ukraine Offload
U.S. M1A1 Abrams tanks needed for training Ukrainian forces await offloading at Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 14, 2023. The M1A1 training is expected to last several weeks. The 7th Army Training Command will facilitate the training at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in Germany on behalf of the U.S. Army, Europe and Africa.
Photo By: Army Spc. Christian Carrillo
VIRIN: 230514-A-MC970-1007

Milley discussed Ukraine's counteroffensive. Many critics are concerned that Ukraine's military operations are not successful enough and worry that a stalemate might be developing. "We are reminded that real war is not war on paper: Real war is unpredictable," the general said. "It's filled with fear, fog and friction. Real war is brutal."

Combat causes enormous costs in terms of those killed or wounded, he said. Ukraine has had millions of its citizens driven from their homes, and "yet despite the enormous costs, Ukrainians are advancing steadily and deliberately, braving brutal and bloody battles to reclaim their homeland," Milley said.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive will be slow, the chairman said. Ukrainian service members are fighting their way through dense Russian minefields and obstacles.

Two men stand behind podiums in front of an audience.
Austin and Milley
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hold an on-camera press conference following a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the fourteenth such meeting of defense leaders from around the world at the Pentagon, July 18, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 230718-D-XI929-4019R

Meanwhile, there are robust Ukrainian reserve forces waiting to be committed at the optimal time in a place of Ukraine's choosing, the general said. "The Ukraine contact group's assistance goes beyond mere words or symbolic gestures," Milley said. "We are committed to helping them where it matters most."

The group has trained 17 brigade combat teams, 63,000 Ukrainian troops and training continues. The training includes "individual non-commissioned officers and officers and staff training along with artillery, air defense, artillery, engineers, logistics, medical and of course putting it all together in combined arms maneuver at night," Milley said. "This training has developed tangible skills that have helped create capable Ukrainian leaders and units that are having a measurable impact on the battlefield today."

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