By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Sept. 11, 2023) -- Today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III telephoned newly appointed Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov to discuss Umerov's new role and ongoing U.S. support as Ukraine continues to fight against Russia's illegal invasion.
"The secretary congratulated the minister on his new position and reiterated our steadfast support for Ukraine," said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder today during a media briefing. "[The secretary] provided an update on U.S. security assistance efforts and exchanged views with the minister on priorities to support Ukraine's immediate battlefield needs and capability requirements over the long term."
Also part of the call was a discussion of the next meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, scheduled for Sept. 19 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Austin will again host that meeting and plans to meet Umerov in person there, as well.
"As you know, the contact group brings together nearly 50 nations to discuss Ukraine's most urgent battlefield needs, as well as the longer term support required to maintain their defense and security," Ryder said.
The first meeting of the UDCG occurred in April 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. At the meeting, Austin said plans were made to hold a monthly working group meeting.
"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 last year.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. has committed more than $43.7 billion in defense support to Ukraine through both the presidential drawdown authority and the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
Warfighting equipment provided under the president's drawdown authority is pulled directly from U.S. military stocks. Under USAI, the U.S. contracts with industry to have new weapons systems built that are then sent overseas.
The last tranche of security assistance for Ukraine was announced last week and totaled $600 million. That package included, among other things, additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 105 mm artillery rounds, mine-clearing equipment, and electronic warfare and counter-electronic warfare equipment.