Defense leaders pleased by progress of Ukraine Contact Group

U.S. Defense Leaders pleased by progress of Ukraine Contact Group
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III answers a question during a news conference following a Ukrainian Defense Contact Group meeting May 23, 2022. Photo credit U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders

In just over a month, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group has proven its worth with donations and deliveries to the embattled country, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said after a virtual meeting with leaders of the group.

Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the meeting, which had participation from 47 nations as well as representatives from NATO and the European Union.

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The secretary also announced there will be an in-person meeting of the contact group in Brussels next month.

"After today's discussions, I'm pleased to report that we're intensifying our efforts," Austin said. "Moving forward we'll continue to deepen our coordination and cooperation so that Ukraine can sustain and strengthen its battlefield operations. Our combined efforts will also fortify and modernize Ukraine's armed forces to help them deter future Russian aggression."

It has been three months since Russia's unprovoked and cruel invasion galvanized countries from around the world to support Ukraine. "The bravery the skill and the grit of the Ukrainian people have inspired people everywhere," Austin said.

Russia launched its attacks against Ukraine aiming at capturing the capital and deposing the democratically elected government. At the meeting today, the defense leaders heard from Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexei Reznikoff, Ukrainian military leaders and Ukrainian intelligence officials. The briefings from the Ukrainian leaders talked about the fight in the Donbas region and elsewhere, and what capabilities the Ukrainian military needs to defeat the enemy.

Right now, Austin said, this is a long-range firefight and artillery is extremely important. "Many countries are donating critically needed artillery ammunition, coastal defense systems and tanks and other armored vehicles," Austin said. "Others came forward with new commitments for training Ukraine's forces and sustaining its military systems."

Many nations pledged aid to Ukraine, and Austin mentioned a few. He thanked Denmark which will provide a Harpoon launcher and missiles to help Ukraine defend its coast. "I'd also like to thank the Czech Republic for its substantial support, including a recent donation of attack helicopters, tanks and rocket systems," Austin said.

Italy, Greece, Norway and Poland announced donations of critically needed artillery systems and ammunition. The secretary also recognized the United Kingdom – not only for its donation of equipment but also for the leading role it plays to coordinate security assistance.

"I'm deeply grateful to these countries and to all the countries that have stood up today," Austin said.

"We had several important conversations today about the latest battlefield conditions about progress towards meeting Ukraine's priority requirements, about de-conflicting security assistance deliveries on the ground, and about how to help Ukraine maintain and sustain the self-defense capabilities that we all supply," Austin said. "Everyone here understands the stakes of this war, and they stretch far beyond Europe. Russia's aggression is an affront to the rules-based international order and a challenge to free people everywhere."