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Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Fifth Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)

Good morning everyone. It’s great to be here with you all for our fifth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. 

Thank you all for being here today. And let me especially thank my friends and colleagues, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov and Deputy Chief of Defense Lieutenant General Moisiuk. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have inspired the world with their determination to defend their democracy. And you, my friend, have inspired everyone in this Contact Group with your resilience and courage. So thanks again for being here with us in person today. 

Today, we’re back at Ramstein, where this Contact Group was founded. And we’re here to renew our commitment—and intensify our momentum—to support the brave defenders of Ukraine for the long term. 

Now, our group first came together four months ago—at a turning point in Russia’s reckless and ruthless war of choice against Ukraine. Back then, Russia had lost its battle to take Kyiv, to conquer a peaceful neighbor, and to overthrow the democratically elected government of Ukraine. And during that initial phase of the war, we joined with nations of goodwill from around the world. And together, we surged in critical military aid to help Ukraine defend itself from flagrant Russian aggression.

In late April, Russia shifted to massive artillery strikes against sovereign Ukrainian territory in the Donbas. And this Contact Group responded swiftly to the changing character of Russia’s war of choice. To help Ukraine defend its territory, we’ve committed unprecedented security assistance. The United States has swiftly delivered a broad range of capabilities—including Stinger anti-aircraft systems, armored personnel carriers, grenade launchers, Mi-17 helicopters, body armor, and millions of rounds of small-arms munitions. 

To take just one example among many, consider howitzers. In April, the United States delivered our first batch of M777 howitzers—introducing NATO-standard artillery pieces to Ukraine for the first time. And today, the United States has delivered 126 of those howitzers. And along with countries around the world, we’ve increased the number of howitzer systems for Ukraine’s defenders by more than 18-fold. 

And since our first Contact Group meeting, the United States and our allies and partners have delivered a total of 26 long-range rocket artillery systems and the associated GMLRS rockets. 

And all these capabilities have demonstrably helped Ukraine fight back against Russia’s aggression. And they have enabled Ukraine to resist Russia’s ongoing onslaught. So we’ve come a long way by working together.

And today, four months after our initial Contact Group meeting, the war is at another key moment. 

Russian forces continue to cruelly bombard Ukrainian cities and civilians with missiles and artillery fire. But Ukrainian forces have begun their counteroffensive in the south of their country. And they are integrating the capabilities that we all have provided to help themselves to fight and reclaim their sovereign territory. 

So it’s fitting that we’re meeting back here at Ramstein. 

We established this Contact Group as the free world was racing to meet Ukraine’s most urgent requirements. But today, this Contact Group needs to position itself to sustain Ukraine’s brave defenders for the long haul. And that means a continued and determined flow of capability now. It means moving urgently to innovate—and to push all of our defense industrial bases to provide Ukraine with the tools that it will need for the hard road ahead. And it means renewing and deepening our resolve to stand by Ukraine—with support and strength that doesn’t hinge on any one particular battle. 

We’re here because we refuse to live in a world where big powers trample borders by force. Our support for Ukraine’s bedrock right to defend itself doesn’t waver based on any given clash. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the face of the war is changing. And so is the mission of this Contact Group.

We will work together to train Ukraine’s forces for the long haul.

We will work together to help integrate Ukraine’s capabilities and bolster its joint operations for the long haul. 

We’ll work together to upgrade our defense industrial bases to meet Ukraine’s requirements for the long haul.

And we’ll work together for production and innovation to meet Ukraine’s self-defense needs for the long haul. 

Now, we’re seeing the demonstrable success of our common efforts on the battlefield. And every day, we see the resolve of the allies and partners worldwide who are helping Ukraine resist Russia’s illegal, imperial, and indefensible war of conquest. And we must evolve as the fight evolves. 

In the weeks since the Contact Group last met, the United States has committed another $6.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.

And yesterday, the President approved the latest tranche of U.S. assistance to Ukraine, valued up to $675 million. 

And this is the Biden Administration’s twentieth drawdown of equipment from U.S. stocks for Ukraine since last August. 

The latest package includes more GMLRS, 105 millimeter howitzers, artillery munitions, HARM missiles, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems, small arms, and more. 

And since our last meeting in July, many Allies and partners have come forward with their own important new deliveries of advanced radars, and tanks, and armored personnel carriers. 

The U.K. has sent a second tranche of M270 MLRS launchers and munitions. And that brings British assistance to Ukraine to a total of 2.3 billion pounds.

Germany and Denmark have both also announced significant packages of military assistance. And let me especially thank Minister Lambrecht for Germany’s recent commitment to boosting Ukraine’s air defenses.   

I’d also like to thank Poland for serving as a linchpin of our efforts to support the Ukrainians and for its generous donations of military equipment. Earlier this summer, for example, Poland transferred three battalions of 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. 

And meanwhile, Slovakia, North Macedonia, and several other countries have announced their own critical donations of tanks and other heavy armor.  

So I look forward to building on that momentum and finding more innovative ways for all of us to support Ukraine’s defenders. 

That means reinvigorating our defense industrial bases to match both Ukraine’s priorities and our own needs. And it means coming up with new ways to accelerate our production of key capabilities.

And so in our discussions today, we’ll also talk through the next steps in standing up an international training mission for the Ukrainian forces. 

And we’re also going to talk about a new push to bring together our national armaments directors under the auspices of this Contact Group to intensify our efforts to meet Ukraine’s long-term needs.

Ladies and gentlemen, just looking around the table, I can see our unity of purpose. I see determined Allies and partners who are just as resolute in supporting Ukraine as we were in April when we first met here at Ramstein.

So we’ve got a lot of work to do today. 

But I know that we’re all going to leave Ramstein this time with even greater momentum. 

We’ve done so much. And we’re determined to do even more. 

And I know that we’re going to deepen our shared resolve to help the people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom.

Thank you very much.