By C. Todd Lopez
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (April 21, 2023) -- This morning, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov for a bilateral discussion in advance of the 11th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The first such meeting was held last April, also at Ramstein.
"It's been nearly a year since this group first met, right here at Ramstein," Austin said. "And I hear that many of you refer to this as the 'Ramstein forum.' So, it feels right that we're back here to reaffirm our shared unity and resolve."
During his opening remarks, Austin reminded attendees that their combined efforts in the past year to provide security assistance to Ukraine have greatly enhanced that country's ability to fight and to retain its sovereignty in the face of Russia's illegal invasion.
"Our common efforts have made a huge difference to Ukraine's defenders on the battlefield," Austin said. "And they underscore just how badly the Kremlin miscalculated. Putin thought that he could easily topple Kyiv's democratically elected government. He thought that the wider world would let him get away with it. He thought that our unity would splinter. But he was wrong -- on each and every count."
Plans for the day-long UDCG event include among other things, briefings by participating nations regarding the security assistance they plan to provide to Ukraine, and an update from Reznikov on Ukrainian battlefield progress.
"Oleksii, we're looking forward to hearing directly from you and your team on the state of the battlefield and your most urgent requirements," Austin said. "I also want to thank each country joining us today. You've shown that nations of goodwill from all around the world reject Russia's cruelty and aggression."
Austin said this most recent meeting of the UDCG would focus on air defense, ammunition and enablers.
"Ukraine urgently needs our help to shield its citizens, infrastructure and forces from Russia's missile threat," he said.
The secretary also noted a recent agreement among European nations to ramp up the production of ammunition to support Ukraine and said that other nations outside Europe are also boosting production of much-needed ammunition.
Over the past months, Austin said, the UDCG has provided equipment and training that has allowed for an additional nine armored brigades in Ukraine.
"That has already strengthened Ukraine's position on the battlefield," he said.
Additionally, both European nations and the United States are donating tanks to the Ukrainians. The U.S. has committed a total of 31 Abrams tanks, for instance -- expected to be delivered before the end of the year.
The UDCG has also continued to provide air-defense systems to help Ukrainian fighters defend their skies, citizens and critical infrastructure, Austin said. Included there are Patriot systems donated by the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands; National/Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems from both Canada and Norway; and SAMP/T systems from Italy and France.
On Wednesday, the U.S. also announced $325 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, using presidential drawdown authority, or PDA, which pulls hardware from existing U.S. military stocks.
This latest PDA, which is the 36th of its kind, includes, among other things, additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems; 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds; tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missiles -- also called TOW missiles; AT-4 anti-armor weapon systems; anti-tank mines; and over nine million rounds of small arms ammunition.
"For more than a year, Ukraine's forces have defended their country and their fellow citizens," Austin said. "But they've also defended the basic principle that autocrats don't just get to assault their smaller neighbors. And the valor and skill of Ukraine's troops have inspired the world. From the battle of Kyiv to the liberation of Kherson, Ukraine has shown again and again the power of a free people fighting to defend their rights."