20 nations pledge more military aid to Kyiv at US-organized forum
Washington, May 23 (EFE).- Some 20 countries on Monday announced that they will donate more military aid to Ukraine at a virtual meeting organized by the United States and attended by the top defense officials of about 50 nations.
Without getting into many details, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at a press conference following the meeting that many countries had reported that they will provide Kyiv with artillery ammunition, coastal defense systems, tanks and armored vehicles of all kinds.
“Russia’s unprovoked and cruel invasion has galvanized countries from around the world,” Austin said. “Everyone here understands the stakes of this war. And they stretch far beyond Europe,” going on to note that certain countries had made new commitments to train Ukrainian forces and supply mililitary equipment.
The Pentagon chief especially thanked Denmark for providing Ukraine with Harpoon anti-ship missiles and other systems to defend its coastline and the Czech Republic for its support, which includes helicopters, armored vehicles and rockets.
He said that several countries on Monday anounced donations of artillery systems – which are crucial in helping Ukraine’s defense – along with ammunition for them, including Italy, Greece, Norway and Poland.
A total of 47 nations, including Colombia and Spain, participated in this second meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which was launched by the US defense secretary in late April at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, a major US military facility.
Also participating in the meeting by videolink were Ukrainian officials including Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov; the deputy commander of the country’s armed forces, Yevhen Moisiuk, and a representative from Ukrainian military intelligence.
During the meeting, the participants spoke about the situation on the ground in Ukraine and the country’s needs, as well as about how to maintain the former Soviet republic’s self-defense capabilities.
Regarding those needs, Austin said that there were no significant differences among the participants at the meeting vis-a-vis the first meeting of this kind that they had held, including Ukraine’s need for armored vehicles, tanks, personnel transport vehicles and drone capabilities.
Austin added that the current phase of the war is very much being “shaped by artillery.”
In light of the contributions of military materiel and Ukraine’s requests, Austin said after the meeting that he was pleased upon seeing that allied efforts to help Kyiv are intensifying.
The US defense secretary was accompanied at the press conference by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, who said that Washington has resumed its top-level military contacts with Moscow to avoid an escalation of tensions between the two powers.
As part of these efforts, the US reopened communications in the military sphere and he called his Russian counterpart, Milley said although he provided no details about the content of that conversation.
He also said that this was a significant step that is “worth the effort” to prevent an increase in tensions with Moscow, although the US remains “committed” to supporting Ukraine.
The general provided figures about that support and noted that last autumn, before Russia invaded Ukraine, Washington had had 78,000 troops under the US European Command.
That figure has been increased by 30 percent in recent months to 102,000 US troops deployed in various countries in Europe.
Currently, he said that the US has 15,000 Marines in the Mediterranean and the Baltic on board 24 surface combat ships and four submarines, adding that last fall Washington had only six military surface vessels in the area.
Regarding the air force, the US currently has in Europe 12 fighter jet squadrons, two combat aviation units and six Army brigade combat teams, along with their division and corps leadership elements, Milley said.
In response to a reporter’s question about what the limit of the aid might be and when the war might be deemed to have ended, Austin said that for the moment the Pentagon’s efforts consist of doing everything possible to strengthen Ukraine against Russia on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.
The defense chief said that the end of the war will be defined by Kyiv, not Washington, and that the US would let Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his leadership team speak about how that would evolve.