The Russian attack in Ukraine today that hit a Kyiv children’s hospital highlights the need to continue to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin and get support to Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said today.

The attack came as the NATO summit in Washington is set to begin, marking 75 years of the alliance. Ryder called NATO “the greatest defensive alliance in history” and said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be a focus of the discussions.

The attack on the hospital is not the first time Russia has struck clearly civilian targets in Ukraine. It highlights “what Russia has done to the Ukrainian population throughout this war,” Ryder said.  

The attack is also a reminder of why the United States remains committed to working with allies and partners to get Ukraine the air-defense capabilities it needs to defend its citizens and sovereignty, the general said. 

Ryder emphasized that while getting this aid to Ukraine quickly is important, there also must be a long-term plan to help Ukraine defend itself in the future. The United States last week announced a package of aid to Ukraine that includes air-defense capabilities along with artillery.

“I think what you’ll see coming out of the summit this week is a demonstration of the strength, unity and resolve of the NATO alliance, particularly as it applies to assisting Ukraine in terms of enabling them to defend themselves and their sovereignty,” he said. 

Ryder said the Ukrainian military has risen to the occasion in defending their people. Ukraine is getting air-defense systems from a variety of nations, and they have managed to cobble together an integrated air-defense system that incorporates different systems, radars, launchers and more, Ryder said.  

Unfortunately, the volume of fire Russia has employed against Ukraine has stressed this system, he said.  

The NATO summit officially begins tomorrow at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington where the treaty forming the alliance was signed April 4, 1949. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will join President Joe Biden for many of the events during the week. The secretary will support the president as the discussions continue at the Washington Convention Center.  

“He will be engaged on discussions to ramp up transatlantic defense industrial production, ensure adequate defense investments from allies, and the deepening of practical cooperation between NATO and its Indo-Pacific partners, to include Australia, Japan, New Zealand and … [South] Korea,” Ryder said.

Earlier today, Austin welcomed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the Pentagon for a meeting. Following the meeting, the secretary presented Stoltenberg with the Defense Department’s Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the highest honor that a secretary of defense can present to a non-U.S. citizen.  

The award was “in recognition of Secretary General Stoltenberg’s decade of skillful, principled and visionary leadership of the NATO alliance through one of the most challenging periods in its history,” Ryder said.

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