The U.S. remains determined to work alongside its allies to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said today as he convened the 18th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
The secretary praised the continued support among Ukraine’s allies and implored the international community not to drop its guard as war enters its third year.
“Let’s be clear: Our support for Ukraine’s struggle makes all of our countries more secure,” Austin said as he kicked off the virtual meeting from Washington. “If we lose our nerve, if we flinch, if we fail to deter other would-be aggressors, we will only invite even more bloodshed and more chaos.”
“A sovereign and secure Ukraine is critical to global security,” he said. “And we must not waver in our support for Ukraine.”
In December, the U.S. announced its 54th drawdown security assistance package for Ukraine valued at up to $250 million, including air defense capabilities, artillery and anti-tank weapons and other equipment.
The announcement came amid negotiations on Capitol Hill over President Joe Biden’s supplemental request to Congress to continue critical funding for military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
As those negotiations continue, the U.S-led coalition of nearly 50 countries that comprise the Ukraine Defense Contact Group remain committed to meeting Ukraine’s immediate battlefield needs and supporting its long term security.
Austin commended recent announcements by Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom to send packages totaling billions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine since the last meeting of the contact group.
But he warned that as fighting continues throughout the winter, Russia will seek to demoralize Ukraine’s defenders who remain steadfast in their fight for their sovereignty.
“Putin continues to sacrifice staggering numbers of Russian troops in his rash and reckless war of choice,” Austin said. “And Putin hopes that missiles and drones will demoralize the Ukrainian people and break the fighting spirit of Ukrainian military.
“So, I urge this group to dig deep to provide Ukraine with more lifesaving ground-based air defense systems and interceptors.”