By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 21, 2022) -- Next week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will travel to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to meet with his counterparts from a handful of nations to discuss both the current and future defense needs of Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.
"The secretary will be hosting a number of his counterparts for a Ukraine Defense Consultative Group at Ramstein Air Base on [April 26]," Kirby told reporters today. "The goal [is] to bring together stakeholders from all around the world for a series of meetings on the latest Ukraine defense needs and -- and this is critically important -- ensuring that Ukraine's enduring security and sovereignty over the long term is respected and developed."
Kirby said topics of discussion will include, among other things, the latest battlefield assessment of the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine and energizing the defense industrial base in order to ensure a continued flow of security assistance.
Also on the agenda, he said, will be a discussion about what Ukraine will need after the current conflict concludes.
"Part of the agenda will be to talk about Ukraine's long-term defense needs in a postwar environment and what that might look like," Kirby said. "The secretary ... believes that it's not too soon to begin to have a longer-term discussion with allies and partners about what Ukrainian sovereignty needs to look like going forward."
Right now, Kirby said, the list of participants for the meeting is not yet finalized, though he did say participants would include more than just NATO nations.
Also announced today was an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine. This is the eighth "drawdown" security assistance package aimed at Ukraine. Included in this package are 72 M777 155 mm howitzers; 144,000 artillery rounds for those howitzers; 72 tactical vehicles with which to tow those howitzers; more than 121 Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aerial systems; and an array of field equipment and spare parts.
"This commitment, together with the 18 howitzers that were announced on the 13th of April, provide enough artillery now to equip five battalions for Ukraine for potential use in the Donbas," Kirby said. "I want to stress again that what we're providing is done in full consultation with the Ukrainians and that they believe that these systems will be helpful to them in the fight in the Donbas. Where and when they employ them and how they employ them, of course, is going to be up to them."
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February, the U.S. has provided $3.4 billion in security assistance.
"The United States also continues to work with its allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with additional capabilities," Kirby said. "We're going to continue to utilize all available tools to support Ukraine's armed forces in the face of Russian aggression."