By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Dec. 06, 2023) -- Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III today hosted bilateral discussions at the Pentagon with Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov. The meeting comes on the heels of the Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference today in Washington, D.C., and also aligns with today's announcement of another security assistance package for Ukraine.
The two leaders most recently met in November in Kyiv, where they discussed military operations as well as Umerov's near- and mid-term goals and objectives for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. Before closed-door discussions began, Austin publicly reiterated U.S. support for Ukraine.
"As I said in Kyiv, the United States stands with Ukraine as you fight back against the Kremlin's aggression and cruelty," Austin said. "Ukraine has taken back more than half the territory grabbed by Russia since its unprovoked invasion began in February 2022. So we will stand with Ukraine for the long haul. I'm confident that our allies and partners will be there as well."
Today's bilateral discussion built on conversations that occurred last month in Kyiv, and included Ukraine's strategic goals for the coming year and a long-term vision for a future force.
"To support Ukraine's immediate needs, I am announcing our 52nd drawdown of equipment and services from U.S. stocks," Austin said. "The package includes additional munitions for your defense -- artillery and tank weapons, and small arms munitions."
This most recent security assistance package, worth $175 million, includes, among other things, AIM-9M and AIM-7 missiles for air defense, ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 155 mm and 105 mm artillery rounds and High-speed Anti-radiation missiles, also known as HARMs. The United States has committed more than $44.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Austin also discussed the significance of the Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference. The two-day conference, co-hosted by the White House, Commerce and Defense Departments, brings together U.S. and Ukrainian industry and government representatives to discuss ideas that could bolster Ukraine's defense industrial base.
"We discussed ways to strengthen partnerships among Ukraine and the U.S. defense industry," Austin said. "This just underscores America's commitment to a free and sovereign Ukraine -- one that can defend itself today and deter further Russian aggression in the future."
Umerov thanked Austin for hosting the bilateral discussions and for organizing the industrial base conference.
"We consider this conference ... a significant breakthrough in the development of our military/technical cooperation," Umerov said. "It's one of our key elements of increasing self-sufficiency in Ukraine."