The U.S.-led international coalition that has rallied behind Ukraine remains undeterred as Russia continues its war of aggression, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today as he convened a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
Collectively, the countries that comprise the group have committed more than $80 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion and will remain steadfast in their support “for as long as it takes,” Austin said.
“We’re focused on supporting Ukraine as it continues its fight through the winter to defend its critical infrastructure,” he said as he kicked off the 17th meeting of the UCDG virtually from the Pentagon.
“Through this extraordinary group of some 50 countries, we remind the world of our shared commitment to support Ukraine today and for the long haul,” he said.
Austin further underscored the imperative for allies and partners to continue to stand behind Ukraine.
“None of us want to live in a world where bullies like Putin can invade their peaceful neighbor with impunity,” he said. “We refuse to let the shape of global security be dictated by autocrats who rely on repression by force at home and coercion abroad.”
That imperative has become more pronounced, the secretary said, as terrorist groups and belligerent dictators seek to upend the rules-based international order elsewhere around the globe.
“Both Ukraine and Israel are facing relentless foes who are out to annihilate them,” Austin said. “And we see that Iran is fueling conflict in both Gaza and Ukraine by arming Hamas and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”
“This is a moment of global challenge,” he added. “But make no mistake, the United States is fully capable of continuing our strong support for Ukraine, even as we stand with Israel in its hour of need.”
Today’s meeting of the UDCG comes days after Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Defense Minister Rustem Umerov during an unannounced visit to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
The leaders discussed Ukraine’s current operations and near-term and midterm goals and objectives, Austin told reporters following the talks.
He added that the discussions were an opportunity for the leaders to refocus and ensure that to maintain alignment between the ongoing operations and objectives on the battlefield.
While in Kyiv, he announced a new security assistance package for Ukraine valued at up to $100 million.
The package includes additional air defense capabilities, artillery ammunition, antitank weapons and other materials to help Ukrainian forces defend their territory amid Russia’s ongoing assault.
It marks the 51st drawdown of U.S. inventory for Ukraine since August 2021. The U.S. has provided $44.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the war.
Austin said today that the broader coalition of countries backing Ukraine would discuss how to further meet Ukraine’s immediate requirements on the battlefield at today’s meeting.
“Putin stands alone, but we stand together,” he said. “And we will continue to support the forces of freedom in Ukraine.”