Conflicts & War

Allies rush to improve Ukraine air defense ahead of Russian offensive

Brussels, Feb 14 (EFE).- A total of 54 countries that support Ukraine militarily coordinated their efforts on Tuesday at a meeting in Brussels chaired by the United States, with a view to improving Ukrainian air defenses against the offensive that Russia is expected to launch in spring, without yet including fighter jets.

“At today’s contact group we joined again with our valued allies and partners to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs when it needs it,” US Secretary of State for Defense Lloyd Austin told a news conference at the end of the ninth meeting of the contact group for Ukraine.

The meeting, which was held at Nato headquarters ahead of a two-day meeting of allied defense ministers, allowed Ukraine’s partners to hear from Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov – who, upon his arrival, displayed a handkerchief with a picture of an airplane on it – about his country’s most pressing needs and to coordinate their contributions.

Nato Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, stressed at the beginning of the meeting that “the urgent need now is to deliver what has always been promised”, and that the equipment should function properly and have the necessary ammunition.

US Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mark Milley said that 11 countries have pledged tanks, 22 have pledged infantry fighting vehicles, 16 have offered artillery and ammunition, and nine have offered air defense artillery.

Austin said that the countries supporting Ukraine have committed a combined nearly $50 billion in donations of military materiel since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24.

The US, Germany and the Netherlands are collaborating to provide Ukraine with Patriot air defense systems, while France and Italy are working to provide a SAMP/T air defense system.

France also announced that it will work with Australia to accelerate production of 155-millimeter ammunition, according to Austin, who also said that Norway has committed €7.5 billion in military and surveillance assistance to Ukraine over the next five years.

Also, a consortium of countries including Germany, Poland, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands is collaborating to supply Leopard tanks.

Meanwhile, the US, Czech Republic and the Netherlands are jointly supplying more than 90 T-72 battle tanks, plus Poland’s latest donation of T-70 tanks, while the UK is to provide a company of Challenger tanks.

“All these capabilities will continue to be important to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield (…) It’s not about one single capability, it’s about delivering all the capabilities that we promise. It’s about integrating all these systems together. It’s about working with the Ukrainians to help them fight for their freedom,” Austin said, adding that “I don’t have any announcements to make about aircraft today.”

Several ministers agreed that the priority is to deliver the aid already committed to Ukraine as soon as possible and, in particular, to improve its air defense, although they are not considering the possibility of delivering fighter jets in the short term. EFE


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