By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 26, 2022) -- In a forum hosted today in Germany by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, nearly 40 nations met to discuss current and future efforts to provide support for Ukraine in maintaining its sovereignty.
"We're all coming away with a transparent and shared understanding of the challenge that the Ukrainians face," Austin said during a press briefing that followed the conference. "I know that we're all determined to help Ukraine win today and build strength for tomorrow. The work that we've done together in record time has made a huge difference on the battlefield."
During the briefing, Austin announced that several nations have agreed to step up support for Ukraine, even beyond the valuable work they are already doing.
The German government, for instance, agreed to provide 50 Cheetah anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine. The British government also agreed to provide Ukraine with anti-aircraft capabilities, Austin said, along with Canada's offer of eight armored vehicles.
"That's important progress," Austin said. "We're seeing more every day. I applaud all of the countries that have risen and are rising to meet this demand. But we don't have any time to waste. The briefings today laid out clearly why the coming weeks will be so crucial for Ukraine, so we've got to move at the speed of war. And I know that all the leaders leave today more resolved than ever to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression and atrocities."
Before the conference kicked off, Austin said he believed all participants started off from the same position of "moral clarity."
"Nobody is fooled by Putin's pretexts or by his phony claims on the Donbas [region]," Austin said. "Let's be clear -- Russia's invasion is indefensible, and so are Russian atrocities. We all start today from a position of moral clarity: Russia is waging a war of choice to indulge the ambitions of one man."
What Russia is doing, Austin told participants at the meeting, affects more than just Ukraine.
"Russia's invasion is baseless, reckless and lawless," he said. "It is an affront to the rules-based international order. It is a challenge to free people everywhere. And, as we see this morning, nations of goodwill from around the world stand united in our resolve to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia's imperial aggression. And that's the way it should be."
While the meeting today in Germany lasted just one day, Austin said a decision was made to extend the forum so more work could be done. Going forward, Austin said, there will be a monthly "contact group" to further discuss how best to assist Ukraine.
"The contact group will be a vehicle for nations of goodwill to intensify our efforts, coordinate our assistance, and focus on winning today's fight and the struggles to come," Austin said. "The monthly meetings may be in-person, virtual or mixed. And they'll extend the transparency, the integration and the dialogue that we saw today."
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Austin said, more than 30 allied and partner nations have committed to providing more than $5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. The U.S. alone provided some $3.7 billion in assistance.
"Ukraine needs our help to win today. And they will still need our help when the war is over," Austin told meeting participants. "As President Biden says, our security assistance has gone 'directly to the frontlines of freedom ... and to the fearless and skilled Ukrainian fighters who are standing in the breach.' My Ukrainian friends, we know the burden that all of you carry. And we know, and you should know, that all of us have your back. And that's why we're here today -- to strengthen the arsenal of Ukrainian democracy."