By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 17, 2023) -- This Friday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will again host a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The meeting will come in the latter half of a four-day trip in Europe, which will also include Sweden.
This is the eleventh meeting of the UDCG, and the first meeting of the group since the American public and international community became aware there'd been a leak of U.S. classified military information that, in part, involved operations in Ukraine.
A U.S. senior defense official said today it's unlikely that public knowledge of the contents of those leaked classified documents will hamper the ongoing efforts of the UDCG to support Ukraine as it fights to maintain its sovereignty in the face of Russia's illegal invasion last year.
"What we have heard from allies and partners is that ... they're determined -- and we welcome this -- not to allow any kind of negative information or spinning of negative information to undermine our unity and our focus and strength of purpose," the official said.
As in past meetings of the UDCG, the official said discussions are likely to revolve around providing continued support to Ukraine both for now and for its future defense, while at the same time ensuring that nations involved in providing that support can backfill whatever they've sent to Ukraine so they can maintain their own defense.
"Countries really are also doing both at the same time," the official said. "I expect it to be a very practical [discussion] based on a common understanding of the importance of unity and unity of purpose."
The first meeting of the UDCG was in April 2022. Since then, as many as 50 nations have participated in the meetings to work together to provide security assistance to Ukraine.
Prior to Thursday's UDCG meeting, Austin will visit with Swedish leaders to, in part, express America's support for Swedish accession into NATO, the official said. Austin will also participate in meetings to discuss the bilateral defense relationship between the U.S. and Sweden.
"It's also going to be an opportunity for the secretary and for the delegation to view some of Sweden's extraordinary advanced military capabilities, which we regularly exercise in maritime and air domains with Sweden, bilaterally and multilaterally, and which, once Sweden is a member of NATO, will significantly enhance NATO's military capability -- particularly in the north and in the ... Baltic Sea region."
During his trip to Sweden, Austin is expected to meet with the Swedish prime minister, the Swedish minister of defense and the Swedish chief of defense.