U.S. Will Not Back Down on Support for Ukraine

  • Published
  • By Jim Garamone
  • DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said Ukraine will not back down in face of the Russian invasion of the country and neither will the United States. 

Austin today convened the 20th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, praising the "countries of conscience" that are working together to aid Ukraine in its fight. 

Austin and Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with representatives of more than 50 countries and organizations to channel aid, training and capabilities to Ukraine. 

In remarks opening the meeting, Austin detailed the sheer loss that Russian President Vladimir Putin has caused his own country in its brutal war on Ukraine. "For more than two years, Ukraine's forces have fought Putin's aggression with defiance and skill," he said. "Russia has paid a staggering cost for Putin's imperial dreams. At least 315,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded." 

Since the invasion, Russia has wasted up to $211 billion to equip, deploy, maintain and sustain its needless war on its neighbor. "Putin's war of choice will cost Russia $1.3 trillion in previously anticipated economic growth through 2026," the secretary said. "And Ukraine's defenders continue to degrade the Kremlin's capabilities." 

Ukraine is fighting for its life as a sovereign nation, and the Ukrainian military has been effective. Austin noted that Ukraine's military has destroyed or damaged 20 medium to large Russian navy vessels. Ukrainian antiaircraft capabilities continue to down Russian warplanes.  

Ukrainian service members have been fighting valiantly against the Kremlin's invaders, and Ukraine's people have stood up even as Russia has targeted civilians far from the front lines, the secretary said. "The Ukrainian people will not let Putin prevail," Austin said. "And neither will we." 

The stakes in the fight are high, Austin and Brown said at the conclusion of the group meeting. If Putin is successful in Ukraine, he will not stop there, Austin said. "Our allies and partners are here because they understand the stakes," the secretary said. "And Ukraine's friends continue to come up with innovative solutions to make key, new commitments to provide Ukraine with urgently needed capabilities — especially air defense, armor and artillery ammunition." 

The United States recently announced $300 million more in security assistance for Ukraine. This money was available due to savings in replacement of U.S. capabilities that have gone to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's war on Ukraine. Austin said he believes there is a bipartisan consensus in Congress for passing a supplemental bill that will continue to fund U.S. aid to Ukraine. 

New in this contact group meeting was the first meeting of the capability coalition leadership group. That meeting discussed progress and looked to coordinate the way ahead for cross-cutting issues, the secretary said.  

Leading this group is: Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the United Kingdom. "They all stepped up to lead the capability coalitions and to commit resources and personnel to this critical task," Austin said. "And their leadership is a testament to the unity and resolve and our insight today." 

Brown said he was inspired by the Ukrainian stand. "Despite the enormity of the challenge, Ukraine halted initial Russian advances preventing them from taking Kyiv and launched successful and offensive operations that would retake territory in the eastern parts of their country," he said. "Ukrainian forces were able to retake more than half of the territory that Russia temporarily occupied during the early stages of the conflict." 

This winter, Russia has made some incremental gains at a great cost of personnel and equipment, the chairman said. "Ukraine continues retrenching their defenses to fortify their lines and maximize the effects of their ammunition and supplies," he said. "From the beginning, Ukraine has asked for the capability and training to stay in the fight. And for two years, Ukrainian forces have used this coalition's support to repel Russian attacks using innovative strategies and tactics." 

For two years, the contact group has stood together in support of Ukraine. "Russia's plan is to wait out Western will to support Ukraine," Brown said. "This coalition must not let that strategy work." 

Altogether, the contact group members have contributed more than $88 billion in security assistance. "The support doesn't just help Ukraine," the general said. "It strengthens NATO and helps to bolster the defense industrial base in the United States, Europe and the world. It enables our own security. The collective support will ensure Ukraine is successful today and into the future." 

The United States stands by Ukraine because it is the right thing to do and because America cares when freedom is at risk, the secretary said. "But we also stand by Ukraine because it's crucial to our own security," he said. "The United States would face grave new perils in a world where aggression and autocracy are on the march where tyrants are emboldened and where dictators think that they can wipe up a democracy off the map. 

"When we invest in Ukraine security, we invest in our own security, he continued. "And we strengthen this contact group's shared vision of an open world of rules and rights and responsibilities."

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