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2-Year Anniversary of Ukraine Defense Contact Group Comes With Billions in New Aid

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (April 26, 2024) -- At the conclusion of the 21st meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said the $95 billion security supplemental bill signed into law Wednesday is already providing benefit to Ukraine, which has for two years now been fighting off an illegal invasion by Russia.

"I'm ... pleased to announce today an additional commitment of $6 billion through our Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative that will allow us to procure new capabilities for Ukraine from U.S. industry," Austin said during a briefing at the Pentagon. "This is the largest security assistance package that we've committed to date."

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The secretary said the USAI package is expected to include counter-drone systems and support equipment, artillery ammunition, air-to-ground munitions, maintenance and sustainment support, and interceptors for Ukraine's Patriot system, as well as their National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, also known as NASAMS.

Materiel support to Ukraine though the USAI involves the U.S. government contracting directly with the defense industrial base to buy, manufacture and deliver new warfighting equipment to Ukraine. 

But this week, the Defense Department also announced a new security assistance package for Ukraine, which was provided though presidential drawdown authority.

The PDA package is worth $1 billion and includes, among other things, RIM-7 and AIM-9M missiles; Stinger antiaircraft missiles; tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided, or TOW, missiles; ammunition for the high mobility artillery rocket system; 155 mm and 105 mm artillery shells; and a variety of combat vehicles.

Assistance provided through presidential drawdown authority is pulled directly from the existing U.S. military's inventory and can be quickly sent overseas. Funding provided in the $95 billion security supplemental bill will be used to purchase new equipment to backfill what was sent by military units to Ukraine.

"The announcements this week underscore America's enduring commitment to Ukraine's defense," Austin said.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of about 50 nations that meets monthly to discuss Ukraine's security needs, first met in April 2022. Since its first meeting, participating UDCG nations have collectively provided more than $95 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, Austin said.

"Our contact group partners have contributed most of the counter-UAS [unmanned aerial] systems provided to Ukraine and most of the 155 mm artillery systems, most of the tanks, most of the armored personnel carriers, most of the infantry fighting vehicles and more," Austin said. "Throughout [Vladimir] Putin's war of choice, these contributions have been crucial, and they've saved countless Ukrainian lives."

The contact group, Austin said, continues to work on quickly providing to Ukraine the capabilities necessary to meet its battlefield needs. It is also helping Ukraine build its defense capabilities to protect itself in the future.

"On that first track, we pushed especially hard today to rush in more air defense systems and interceptors," Austin said. "And on the second, this contact group is working with Ukraine to help it move ... toward a robust, efficient and self-reliant defense industry."

Austin said much of the work related to Ukraine's future defense needs is now delegated to special "capability coalitions" within the contact group, each with a unique defense focus.

"These coalitions are looking for ways to further strengthen Ukraine's capabilities, and they are identifying where and how to boost Ukraine's capabilities," Austin said. "I'm grateful to all the countries heading up the eight capability coalitions that are now up and running."

Focus areas for those capability coalitions include areas such as air defense, air power, artillery, maritime security, armor, information technology, de-mining and unmanned aerial vehicles, Austin said.

Austin said the UDCG's motivation is stronger today than it was two years ago.

"This contact group stands strong, and this coalition stands together, and we will not falter, we will not flinch, and we will not fail," he said.

With today's commitment of $6 billion in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding, Wednesday's announcement of $1 billion in PDA security assistance, and similar tranches of assistance that will come in the future, the United States' intent has been clear now for two years.

"We've said from the very beginning ... that our goal is to see a democratic, independent and sovereign Ukraine that has a capability to defend itself and deter aggression going forward," Austin said. "You see us working towards that end with not only the capability that we're providing Ukraine in the current battle, but the kinds of things that [will help] Ukraine build for the future."

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