During today’s meeting of the #Ukraine Defense Contact Group at #Ramstein Air Base Germany, continued air defense support to Ukraine was a top priority, said the secretary of defense.
“At today’s meeting, I urged allies and partners to dig deep and donate whatever air defense munitions they can, as Ukraine heads into another winter of war,” said Lloyd J. Austin III at the meeting’s conclusion.
The fifteenth meeting of the group was also the first time that new Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov was in attendance, Austin said. “I want to thank him for being here.”
Air defense, Austin said, remains critical to the success Ukraine has already experienced on the battlefield.
“Air defense will continue to be Ukraine’s greatest need to protect the skies, its civilians, and its cities — as well as innocent people far away from the battlefield,” he said.
So far, Austin said, the U.S. and partner nations have provided to Ukraine air defense systems, such as the Patriot; Hawk; IRIS-T; National/Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System, or NASAMS; and Gepards.
“These air defense capabilities are protecting Ukraine’s forces, its civilians, and its critical infrastructure,” he said.
Austin also highlighted other materiel support the U.S. and partners in the UDCG have provided to help Ukraine in its fight to reclaim its sovereignty over territory occupied by Russian forces since their illegal invasion in February 2022.
U.S.-made M-1 tanks, he said, will soon arrive in Ukraine, and will likely operate alongside Germany-provided Leopard tanks already in country. Also, Austin said, collective training for Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 fighter jet is beginning. The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have announced their intent to donate F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine.
Poland, Austin said, has provided Ukraine with additional mine-clearing equipment and more than 100 armored personnel carriers, in addition to tens of thousands of munitions; Sweden last month announced a military aid package consisting of ammunition and spare parts worth more than $300 million. And yesterday, Austin said, Germany announced a $420 million package with ammunition and mine-clearing equipment and other critical capabilities.
Denmark also recently announced an $833 million package including ammunition and armored capabilities, Austin said.
“This coalition of like-minded countries continues to move heaven and earth to get Ukraine what it needs right now and over the long haul,” Austin said. “We’ve also ramped up our industrial base to support the demand, and we won’t let up.”
Austin said during the meeting that he challenged fellow UDCG ministers to look deeper into their stockpiles of 155 mm ammunition and key air defense systems and interceptors to ensure everything possible is being done to assist Ukraine.
“Our long-term support for Ukraine will continue to evolve through dedicated capability coalitions like the ones that we started for armor and F-16 training and information technology,” he said. “These important coalitions will help Ukraine continue to build up a combat-credible force for the future.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley also attended the meeting. It will be Milley’s last contact group meeting before his retirement.
“My tenure may be ending, but the mission for this group continues until the end-state of a free and sovereign Ukraine is attained,” Milley said. “This group’s success hinges not on any single individual, but on the unified commitment and the values of all of our collective nations. The end goal remains crystal clear: Support Ukraine until Putin’s unwarranted, illegal and ruinous war of choice comes to an end. Our commitment to Ukraine as a free, independent and sovereign nation with its territory intact remains as ironclad as ever”. defense.gov writes.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley Hold Press Conference Following Ukraine Defense Contact Group, Ramstein Air Base, Germany
STAFF: Thank you very much for being here, everyone. It’s my pleasure to introduce Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.
The secretary and the chairman will deliver opening remarks, and then we’ll have time to take a few questions. Please note that I will moderate those questions and call on journalists. And due to time constraints, I would ask those I call upon to limit follow-up questions to give your colleagues a chance to ask their questions.
And with that, I will turn it over to Secretary Austin.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for being here. We just held another highly successful meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. This was our 15th meeting. And every time I’m struck by the dedication of the 50 countries represented here today to help Ukraine fight to defend itself.
We were joined for the first time by Ukrainian Minister of Defense Umerov, and I want to thank him for being here. I also look forward to hosting President Zelenskyy at the Pentagon on Thursday.
And I especially want to commend the Ukrainian forces who continue to make steady progress in a very difficult fight. And I want to underscore this contact group’s commitment to them. We remain intensely focused on our near-term support for Ukraine’s brave fighters, even as we work together with Ukraine’s leaders to plan for its long-term defense and deterrence, as the United States, along with our allies and partners from around the world, will continue to support a free and sovereign Ukraine.
So far, the United States and Ukraine’s global partners have provided more than $76 billion in direct security assistance. And we’re ensuring accountability of U.S. contributions through robust end-use monitoring. And we’ll continue to work closely with our Ukrainian partners to ensure that all assistance is used effectively and safeguarded.
Our assistance has included artillery, armor, air defense, ammunition and other key pieces of military equipment to help Ukraine mount its counteroffensive to push back dug-in Russian invaders.
And I want to underscore the importance of the life-saving air defense systems that we have provided together, systems such as the Patriot and HAWK and IRIS-T and NASAMS and Gepard. Now, these air defense capabilities are protecting Ukraine’s forces, its civilians and its critical infrastructure.
Over the past year, the whole world has seen Russian’s vicious attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. And the Kremlin has tried in vain to use cold and darkness to break the will of the Ukrainian people. But Russia has also brought danger and misery to innocent civilians far beyond Ukraine.
First, the Kremlin abandoned the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Then Russia took its assault on global food security to a new low, targeting grain supplies with air strikes. That has unleashed dangerous ripple effects in other countries and continents uninvolved in Putin’s campaign of imperial aggression.
So, air defense will continue to be Ukraine’s greatest need, to protect its skies, its civilians and its cities, as well as innocent people far away from the battlefield.
But throughout this war, ground-based air defense has also been one of Ukraine’s biggest success stories. Ukraine is valiantly protecting its critical infrastructure and keeping global grain exports flowing.
So at today’s meeting I urged allies and partners to dig deep and donate whatever air defense munitions they can, as Ukraine heads into another winter of war. Now, the members of this group remain clear-eyed about what brought us all together at Ramstein again. Putin launched a series of reckless and needless and lawless attacks on his peaceful, sovereign neighbor Ukraine.
And the Kremlin is sending thousands of its own citizens to die in a war of choice that they never asked for. Again, Putin is betting that he can bide his time and wait us out. He is wrong.
In Putin’s war of aggression, time is not on his side. The world will never accept the idea that the imperial ambitions of bullies and tyrants should outweigh the sovereign rights of U.N. member states. And that’s why some 50 nations of goodwill from around the world have gathered here today to stand-up, united for Ukraine’s right to defend itself.
It’s no wonder that Putin has been forced to rely on the likes of Iran and North Korea. Countries around the world continue to stand together to resist Moscow’s campaign of conquest. The Kremlin cannot outlast the resolve and the courage of Ukraine and its many partners.
And that brings me to another key point that we discussed today, this coalition’s long-term support for Ukraine. You’ve all heard me say before that we will support Ukraine for the long haul. And our fellow contact group members have made clear our long-term commitment to the cause.
Back in June, President Biden joined the leaders of the G7 in a joint declaration condemning, and I quote, “Russia’s illegal, unjustifiable and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.”
Those leaders committed to working together with Ukraine on long-term bilateral security commitments and arrangements to help secure its future. Since June, more than 22 countries have signed on to this statement and they’ve started working to further deepen their support for Ukraine now and in the years to come.
And we’re putting this long-term commitment into action today. American M1 tanks will be arriving in Ukraine soon, and that will add another formidable armored capability to join the Leopards that are already on the battlefield. And meanwhile, we are beginning our collective training on Ukraine’s future F-16 pilots, and that’s even more evidence of our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s right to defend itself.
And other nations of good will have stepped up with their own critical donations for both the near-term and the long haul. The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway have recently announced their intent to donate F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine, an important commitment to Ukraine’s long-term security.
And today, we heard from Poland, which, since our last meeting, has provided Ukraine with additional and much needed mine-clearing equipment and more than 100 armored personnel carriers and tens of thousands of munitions.
I also want to recognize Sweden, which last month announced its latest military aid package consisting of ammunition and spare parts worth more than $300 million. And yesterday, Germany announced a $420 million package with ammunition and mine-clearing equipment and other critical capabilities. And Denmark recently announced an $833 million package including ammunition and armored capabilities.
So this coalition of like-minded countries continues to move heaven and earth to get Ukraine what it needs right now and over the long haul. We’ve also ramped up our industrial base to support the demand, and we won’t let up.
Today, I challenge my fellow ministers to once again look into their stockpiles of 155 millimeter ammunition and key air defense systems and interceptors, to ensure that we are all giving everything that we can to prepare Ukraine for the upcoming winter.
Meanwhile, our long-term support for Ukraine will continue to evolve through dedicated capability coalitions, like the ones that we started for armor and F-16 training and information technology. And these important coalitions will help Ukraine continue to build up a combat-credible force for the future.
And I am mindful that even as we gather here, brave Ukrainian men and women are fighting and dying on the frontlines carved by the Russian invaders. Ukraine’s troops are showing the moral power of a free people fighting to defend themselves from aggression and autocracy. So I salute Ukraine’s brave forces and we’ve got their backs.
Ukraine’s fight is one of the great causes of our time. It’s not just a fight for the survival of one embattled democracy, it’s also a fight for a world where autocrats cannot just rewrite borders by force. It’s a fight to avoid a grim new era of chaos and tyranny, and it’s a fight for a world where rules are upheld and rights are protected and aggression is punished.
Ukraine has the great strategic advantage of a just cause. And President —as President Biden has said, our support for Ukraine will not waver.
Now, let me add just one final word. I’m about to turn it over to General Milley, as I have for the past 14 contact groups, but since this is his last time here as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I want to thank him for the leadership and the passion that he has brought to this contact group.
General Milley, we’re going to miss your expertise, your professionalism, your commitment, and the great example that you’ve set. So thank you for all that you have done to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces in their fight for freedom. And thank you for your lifetime of heart-felt service to the United States of America.
General Milley, for one last time in Ramstein, the floor is yours.
GENERAL MARK A. MILLEY: Thank you, Secretary. I appreciate that. And good afternoon to everyone and thank you for being here for the 15th Contact Group of the — in support of Ukraine. Today, we had over 50 countries represented here, to include some organizations of both NATO and the EU.
But first, let me express my thanks to Secretary Austin, whom I’ve served with off and on for over three decades in peace and war. This group would not exist without his personal leadership. It was formed with his vision, and with his enormous integrity and personal resolve, this Contact Group has made unbelievable contributions in the last 572 days of this armed conflict and it’s —would never have happened without the personal leadership, the personal drive of Secretary Lloyd Austin. So thank you, sir. And also just mention that Secretary Austin has also served his country continuously since 1975, in uniform and out of uniform. And for that, all of us should be forever thankful.
I also want to recognize all the ministers and chiefs of defense that were here today. Their continued involvement in solidarity over the last 18, 19 months has been truly remarkable. And today, we welcomed new Ukrainian Minister of Defense Umerov. He will carry forward, no question in my mind, the unflinching spirit of the Ukrainian people and the will of the Ukrainian military, to lead with determination onto a Ukrainian victory.
This group’s support for Ukraine embodies our shared democratic values and the unwavering commitment to uphold the so-called rules-based international order. That order, the so-called rules-based international order, has been critical to preventing great power war in the European continent for 80 years, since the end of World War II.
Rooted in that international order is a critical principle. It’s actually its first principle – that every nation, no matter its size or power, has an innate right to sovereignty and self-determination. And countries cannot be allowed to change international borders with military force and they cannot attack other countries unless in self-defense.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an unprovoked war of aggression against a country that posed no military threat to Russia. And today is the 572nd day of that war crime. It is a blatant and illegal violation of international norms, and it is literally a frontal assault on the very principles that all of our countries pledged to support eight decades ago.
As Ukraine’s counteroffensive continues, it is easy to get focused on the numbers, the charts, the data, the arrows on a map. But we must remember that war, first and foremost, is a human endeavor. And each Ukrainian advancement, every inch of reclaimed territory, only happens because of the bravery, the honor and the incredible sacrifice made by the Ukrainian people and their military.
Ukraine continues to make deliberate, steady progress in liberating their homeland from Russian occupation. To date, Ukraine has liberated over 54 percent of Russian-occupied Ukraine, and they continue to retain the strategic initiative as of today.
Amidst the fog and friction of war, Putin’s unprovoked aggression casts a bleak and lonely echo, while Ukraine’s spirit shines brightly, undiminished, and has been an inspiration for the world’s free peoples.
Our commitment remains unwavering. President Biden has directed us to continue our training initiatives and our material support as long as Ukraine requires in order to defend its sovereign territory.
This is Ukraine’s fight. It is their story, their battle. Ukraine has not asked any other country to fight for them. All they are asking for is help, help with materiel and training. And we, collectively, are all here to support Ukraine so they may remain free, independent and sovereign.
In the beginning, it was Javelins and Stingers that helped stop the initial Russian onslaught. Then air defense munitions and artillery enabled them to protect their skies and impose heavy costs on the invaders. Long-range fires and GMLRS and HIMARS followed, which allowed the Ukrainians to strike critical nodes deep in the Russian rear.
Next was armor and mechanized infantry fighting vehicles, breaching equipment, all of which strengthened Ukrainian maneuver warfare and allowed them to conduct the current counteroffensive. As we approach winter now, each nation today committed to continuing their support with a focus on the top three priorities of air defense, artillery and (mechanized) armor.
And behind every weapon, we should all remember, there’s a brave Ukrainian soldier. And their resolve is equally unwavering. Their courage is extraordinary. And through the many different phases of this war, although we have provided training and equipment, it is they, the Ukrainian people and their military, that have suffered the most in their need to be free.
And as President Biden and Secretary Austin have said many, many times over, we, the United States, will continue to provide support to Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Today was my last Ukrainian Defense Contact Group meeting before I retire. And my tenure may be ending, but the mission for this group continues until the end state of a free and sovereign Ukraine is attained.
This group’s success hinges not on any single individual but on the unified commitment and the values of all of our collective nations. The end goal remains crystal-clear. Support Ukraine until Putin’s unwarranted, illegal and ruinous war of choice comes to an end.
Our commitment to Ukraine as a free, independent and sovereign nation, with its territory intact, remains as ironclad as ever.
Nations across the world have come together to support Ukraine in their fight for sovereignty against this unprovoked aggression, and that commitment is not just about the present, it also sets a precedent for the future in other parts of the world, a beacon for other nations and a clear message to any adversaries that the rule of law will always triumph over the rule of force, as light always triumphs over the darkness.
Thank you, and Slava Ukraini.
STAFF: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, General Milley. Our first question will go to Lita Baldor, Associated Press.
Q: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, to you, you mentioned very specifically air defenses and the need for them in your remarks a couple of times today, but there’s also, as you know, been a lot of discussion about longer-range missiles and Ukrainian leaders’ desire for them.
Do you believe right now that this is not a legitimate or appropriate need for the battlefield at this moment, during the winter offensive in the campaign? And can you tell us what is perhaps a better alternative?
And to you, General Milley, we’ve heard a lot of people talk about the unlikelihood that Ukraine would regain all of the territory that Russia has taken in this counteroffensive. Did you hear anything today that is different to that? And can you say what you think it would take, what advances Ukraine needs to make during this winter offensive in order to force Russia to the bargaining table?
SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Lita. In terms of whether or not that request is a legitimate request, you know, I —I won’t endeavor to evaluate Ukraine’s request, if they requested that they believe that they need it.
What we have been focused on and what we remain focused on is what Ukraine’s most urgent needs are. You know, you heard General Milley and I months ago talk about the pressing need for air defense capability.
And while Russia had, at that point, not started doing what you’ve seen them do over the last several months, we knew that this was possibly coming. And so we hustled to get as much as much air defense capability and artillery platforms and capability as possible.
And that’s paid dividends. That continues to be a pressing need, Lita, for the Ukrainian forces. And we are committed to doing everything that we possibly can to make sure that they can be successful in this current fight. And as you heard me say earlier, we’re also building for the future simultaneously.
So —I think we’ve done a credible job of getting some air defense capability but there’s much more work to be done, and that’s the message that we conveyed to our colleagues earlier today. And I have every belief that they will go back and dig a bit deeper.
GEN. MILLEY: So Lita, a couple of comments. One is, you know, you asked how long will this take? Nobody knows that. It’s impossible to predict the exact lengths of time of wars. Wars are an interaction between two competing political wills to assert their will on the other by the use of organized violence. I mean, that’s what the essence of war is all about.
So when —in this case, when the end state that’s been defined by the allied nations of the coalition that are supporting Ukraine and by President Zelenskyy is met, that’s when the war will end. When Ukraine is a free, independent, sovereign country with their territory intact, that’s when the war will end.
The Ukrainian people, in my mind, will fight until that end state’s achieved. The Ukrainian people have been free and independent since 1991. So if you’re my age —I’m 65 —you’re my age, you were in your 30s when you became free and independent. If you are in your 50s, you were in your 20s and probably participated in some of that. And if you’re a 40 or below, you’re military age sort of thing, out there on the frontline, you’ve known nothing basically in your adult life except a free and independent, sovereign Ukraine.
The Ukrainian people are going to fight. They’re going to fight until they achieve that end state. Of that, I have zero doubt. And I think that Russia has made one of the greatest strategic errors Russia’s ever made. They’ve invaded a country that’s been free and independent, and that country’s not going to quit until they too are free and independent once again.
There’s about a couple of hundred thousand Russian troops that remain in Russian-occupied Ukraine. They’ve suffered a tremendous amount of casualties in their ground forces over time. I’d be hesitant to put exact numbers on it, but there’s various estimates, but they’ve suffered a tremendous amount —the Russians have, a tremendous amount of casualties.
But as you know, President Putin went ahead and did a mobilization last year of a couple hundred thousand, replaced his losses, and that’s who’s in those trenches right now. They’re not extraordinarily well trained, not extraordinarily well led, lots of challenges with sustainment, logistics and so on, but they are there.
And for Ukraine to militarily eject those 2 or 300,000 Russian troops that are still there, that’s a tough fight. They’ve liberated 54-plus percent of Ukraine but there’s a lot left to go. So this is a tough fight, a hard fight, and Ukraine is making slow, steady progress every single day towards the end state that has been defined by their President and supported by all of the other international partners.
So this fight is not yet over. The fight right now is —still got plenty of fighting weather left. And then as you get into the winter, the grounds will get muddy but then it’ll freeze and there’s still —you know, in the conversations I’ve had, there’s no intention whatsoever by the Ukrainians to stop fighting during the winter. They have the strategic initiative right now and they intend to continue to do that until their end state’s achieved.
STAFF: Thank you, gentlemen. Our next question will go to Ute Spanaberger, ARD.
Q: Well, Mr. Secretary, here in Ramstein, Ukraine is receiving lots of support. At the UN General Assembly and within the Republican Party in your country, this is not the case, at least not for everybody. Do you have the impression that the mood changes, that more and more countries and more and more politicians also in the U.S. want this war to stop now?
And a question to Mr. Milley. In recent weeks, in my impression, criticism of the Ukrainian military leadership increased. Would you like to have more consultation? They are fighting with your weapons.
SEC. AUSTIN: Well, thanks.
In terms of domestic support, we’ve enjoyed bipartisan support throughout up to this point. We would hope that we would continue to enjoy that.
In terms of whether or not countries will continue to support around the globe, a reminder —there were 50 countries present in this meeting today. Some of those countries had to travel quite a distance to be here, and they’re here because they care, they understand that Ukraine matters, and they want Ukraine to be successful.
And so what I witnessed today was overwhelming support, continued support for Ukraine. And you just heard me cover a number of contributions that countries are providing and they had made those decisions in some cases before we got to the meeting. And so their governments are still providing, you know, incredible amounts of support, and we would hope to continue to enjoy that going forward.
I pointed out before that Mr. Putin is going around with a tin cup to countries like Iran and North Korea. There are 50 countries in the meeting that we just held. And again, all those countries can’t bring the same amount of contributions to the table, but they want to contribute, they want to remain engaged and they want to continue to back Ukraine, and I think that’s really, really important, so thanks.
GEN. MILLEY: So thanks for the question on the consultations. With respect first to the criticism piece, I’m not 100 percent sure exactly what criticisms you’re talking about. I think there’s been a lot of discussion out there in the media about how slow things are going, et cetera, in this counteroffensive. Counteroffensive’s been going on for about 90 days, and it is taking longer than planners in the wargames, et cetera, or than the Ukrainian planners in the war games anticipated. But that’s the difference between war on paper and real war. There are real human beings in real vehicles moving across real minefields getting blown up, killed, wounded, et cetera. When that happens —and Secretary’s a veteran of combat. I’m a veteran of combat. Many people in this room are veteran of combat. Things tend to slow down on both sides. So it’s not particularly surprising that this offensive, the Ukraine offensive, is going a little bit slower than previously anticipated.
Having said that, it has made continuous, steady progress. This is a defensive series of belts that the Russians have put in with complex obstacles, minefields, dragon’s teeth, barb wire, strong points and so on and so forth. It’s a defense in depth. And generally speaking, the Ukrainians have penetrated several layers of this defense. It is not 100 percent penetrated yet, but they’ve penetrated several of the layers and they’re going very slow, preserving their combat power and very deliberately through this defensive belt that stretches the entire length and breadth of Russian-occupied Ukraine.
So for the critics that are out there, I would say that there’s plenty of fighting weather left. There’s plenty of combat power remaining, and the Ukrainians have absolutely no intent to stop. They are going to go until the end state is achieved.
With the consultations, I regularly speak to General Zaluzhnyi one to two times a week. General Cavoli, the supreme allied commander of Europe, he and our —and our commander of EUCOM, he meets, physically meets with General Zaluzhnyi frequently, and he also communicates by other means very frequently. General Aguto, who’s —he’s in charge of the advisory group that has been set up to support and facilitate the materiel and the training. He is routinely communicating with our Ukrainian counterparts. So we do lots —the United States does lots of consultations at multiple layers.
Same is true of our allies and partners. All of the countries that border Ukraine that are involved in this and many of the countries in NATO speak directly to General Zaluzhnyi or his subordinates at various levels.
So there is a lot of consultation at the tactical and the operational and the strategic level back and forth very, very routinely. And I know that holds true also at the interagency level and the policy levels of our government. So there’s a lot of consultation. So I would say that I’m quite satisfied with the level of consultation and transparency that we have with Ukraine at this time.
STAFF: Thank you, gentlemen. For our next question, we’ll go to Jack Detsch, Foreign Policy.
Q: Thank you. Secretary Austin, you’ve said that Senator Tuberville’s holds of military nominees are impacting readiness, and there are fears that Congress won’t continue to fund the government or approve additional funds for Ukraine. To what extent are these actions by Congress impacting national security?
And for the chairman, if I may, President Zelenskyy said this weekend that U.S. military aid to Ukraine is arriving far too late. Do Ukraine’s military partners have the industrial capacity to enable Ukraine to make major gains in another fighting season?
SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Jack. We will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. You’ve heard the president say that. You heard me say that. We’re not going to change that.
As I said earlier, I fully expect and hope that we will continue to enjoy bipartisan support from Congress, but we don’t take anything for granted. We’ll continue to work with Congress to make sure that they have a full understanding of, you know, our work here and they know the importance of this work.
But what I continue to emphasize to everyone around the globe is that Ukraine matters, Jack. It matters not just to Ukraine; it matters to the world. This is about the rules-based order, and I think people around the world get that. And again, that’s why you see people from —or leaders from Japan and the Republic of Korea participating in this meeting by VTC. They’re half way around the world but they maintain an interest in what’s going on here and whether or not we can —we’re doing the right things —to support Ukraine.
So again, we don’t take anything for granted in terms of support, but we would continue to emphasize that it’s vital and we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
GEN. MILLEY: And Jack, I didn’t actually hear President Zelenskyy’s comment, but frankly, not surprising. If you’re in a fight, right, if you’re in the contact, you’re in combat, help never can arrive fast enough. If your house gets broken into, the police never arrive fast enough, right? But I can tell you with 100 percent surety that all of the nations, to include the United States, are moving as fast as we can to deliver the aid that both Ukraine has asked for and to deliver it on time and to deliver it when they need it and where they need it.
There’s a lot of factors that go into this. This isn’t just something that you just say, “I want this, I want that”, and all of a sudden, it magically shows up. There’s a lot of mechanical issues in terms of assembly, transportation, movement, bring it into transition points or getting across the border, getting into Ukrainians hands, getting it all the way to the frontline (inaudible).
So issues of it not arriving on time, frankly, if you’re in the fight, if you’re President Zelenskyy, if you’re General Zaluzhnyi, that’s a perfectly rational and appropriate response, and I’m not surprised at it. But I can tell you that the allied coalition and the United States is moving heaven and earth every single day.
And then you asked about the capacity. Can we continue to do this? The short answer is yes, we can continue to do this, and the United States and its allied countries are rich, powerful, with significant resources, military resources that are capable of sustaining this fight, in President Biden’s words, as long as it takes, and that’s what the intent is of our political leadership of all of the nations of Europe and around the world, actually, and the United States, and that’s exactly what we, the military, will do. We’ll do what we’re directed to do, and we’re going to do it as long as it takes.
STAFF: Okay, we have time for one more question. We’ll go to Christel Haas, ZDF.
Q: Hello. My question to Secretary is according to new ranking by the Kiel Institute of Global Economy, for the first time Europe has surpassed the U.S. in terms of military and economic aid. What is your comment on that?
And to the Chairman, how much in a military view, how much does the Western aid actually advance the counter-offensive of Ukraine? And is something crucial missing? And how do you ensure accountability with regard to the use of military aid?
SEC. AUSTIN: Well, thanks, Christel. I would point out that we’re not in a race with any country or organization to provide more aid to Ukraine than somebody else. This is an international effort, and we have —the Chairman and I have worked hard to make sure that it’s an international effort. As a matter of fact, I’m sure that the people in the United States would be happy to know that other countries are stepping up.
But what I would also say is that, you know, when I provide numbers of things that we have done, these are dollars that we have spent —not commitments, but dollars we have spent and things that we have purchased or moved in support of Ukraine.
So commitment’s one thing. Actually doing it is a different issue. And the United States of America should be and is proud of everything that we have done in support of Ukraine, as a part of an international effort.
But I emphasize that this must remain an international effort and that we are not in competition with each other. We’re in competition —we are working hard to make sure that Ukraine —who is the competitor here with the —with its adversary Russia, that Ukraine is being successful.
So they are the ones that are in competition. Our job is to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to support them with as much as we can.
GEN. MILLEY: So you asked about how are the weapons, materiel, et cetera contributing to the fight? I would tell you that I think Ukraine would fight no matter what but I don’t think that they would have —and they have had at least partial success to date in this counter-offensive —they couldn’t have done that without the support of the West.
Let’s just go down a couple of things here. One is intelligence. The West has provided a tremendous amount of real time intelligence. The Ukrainians are picking targets, they make all the decisions, but it’s enabled by intelligence that’s being supported and the intelligence of the Ukrainian people that’s being supported on a day-to-day basis.
What they’re doing is an offensive operation, which is extraordinarily difficult, and to do that, you have to have fires and maneuver. So in terms of fires, artillery, for example, literally several millions of rounds of artillery —various types of artillery —155, 105, 152, et cetera —have been provided to Ukraine. And they could not be executing the operation that they’re doing without those munitions. They just couldn’t do it.
Then, in terms of their vehicles, armored and mechanized vehicles, there’s several thousands of armored and mech vehicles from many different countries that have made a contribution, and those are directly impacting the current fight.
If you go to air defense weapons, those frontline units are under attack from Russian attack helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. They’re being protected by weapons that have been provided by the West for those units.
And then, finally, training. The winter was spent working with Ukrainian units that were brought to various countries. Germany is one of those, but there were other countries as well. And all of that training has proved effective, and in breaching and smoke and engineering equipment, et cetera. All of that together has enabled the success that they’ve achieved so far. So they wouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing right now unless all of that happened.
In terms of accountability, we have a variety of means of accountability of various systems. It’s not perfect because we don’t have people with their units, right? So we’re not going to be able to see —you know, with (assurance), we’re not counting up every —every gun and weapon that’s out there, and munition. But there’s a variety of ways, through reporting, through a retraining and reporting system. And we do have liaison officers in Kyiv with their Ministry of Defense.
So are confident that we have reasonably decent accountability of the weapons and support that we, the United States and the other countries, have provided to Ukraine.
The real proof of accountability is the destruction of the Russian military. If you really want the accountability, it’s on the battlefield. And the accountability of those munitions is showing up in the Russian ground forces or air forces that have been killed or wounded since the beginning of this war.
STAFF: Secretary Austin, General Milley, thank you very much, gentlemen.