By DoD News
By Jim Garamone
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”