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The coalition supporting Ukraine will not back down

More than two years after the war, a coalition of more than fifty countries remains committed to ensuring that Ukraine can fend off Russia, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Monday.

The Ukrainian Defense Contact Group met virtually Monday morning to coordinate more military aid to Ukraine as Kiev tries to hold off a Russian offensive in the northeast while launching its own massive assault on the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.

“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is betting that Ukraine will eventually fall, and he’s betting that this contact group will crumble,” Austin said at a Pentagon news conference. “But he’s wrong.”


What you need to know

  • A coalition of more than fifty countries remains committed to ensuring that Ukraine can fend off Russia, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Monday.
  • The Ukrainian Defense Contact Group met virtually Monday morning to coordinate more military aid to Ukraine
  • Austin said much time was spent Monday discussing air defense systems that protect Ukraine from Russian missiles, Iranian-supplied drones and other weapons from North Korea.
  • Ukrainian forces have been fighting to halt Russian advances in the Kharkov region, while also stepping up their offensive attacks on Crimea

Austin said much time Monday was spent discussing air defense systems that protect Ukraine from Russian missiles, Iranian-supplied drones and other weapons from North Korea.

Defense leaders also discussed the long-term challenges facing Ukrainian security, including “laying the foundation for Ukraine’s future military force, which must be strong and durable enough to deter future Russian aggression,” Austin said.

The US defense chief, meanwhile, vowed that US weapons would continue to flow to Ukraine.

The US announced no new aid packages on Monday, even as Ukraine’s armed forces continue to complain that weapons are trickling into the country after months of standstill due to the congressional deadlock over funding. Pentagon officials have said that weapons pre-positioned in Europe entered Ukraine shortly after aid funding was approved.

It is unclear how much of that has reached some of the front lines, where Russian forces have intensified their attack.

In the three weeks since President Joe Biden signed the $95 billion foreign aid package, the US has sent $1.4 billion in weapons from the Pentagon’s stockpiles and announced it was providing $6 billion in funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative . USAI pays for long-term contracts with the defense industry and ensures that the weapons can take many months or years to arrive.

In recent packages, the US has agreed to send High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and missiles for them, as well as ammunition for Patriot and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank ammunition. and a range of armored vehicles, such as Bradley and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

The US is also providing additional coastal and river patrol boats, trailers, demolition munitions, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, protective equipment, spare parts and other weapons and equipment.

And the State Department has approved a proposed emergency sale of HIMARS to Ukraine for an estimated $30 million. According to the state, Ukraine has asked to buy three of the missile systems, which would be financed by the government of Germany.

“We will continue to push for quick solutions to Ukraine’s most pressing needs,” Austin said.

“The outcome in Ukraine is crucial for European security, for global security and for American security,” he added. “None of us would want to live in a world where dictators forcibly redraw borders and launch wars of aggression in an attempt to revive yesterday’s empires.”

Ukrainian forces have been fighting to halt the Russian advance in the Kharkov region, while also stepping up their offensive attacks in Crimea, including on military infrastructure sites on the Black Sea coast and in the Russian-occupied city of Sevastopol.

Ukraine has also struggled to get enough troops to the front lines as the war enters its third year and fighting takes its toll. In an effort to increase troop numbers, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed two laws allowing prisoners to join the military and increasing fines for draft evaders fivefold. The controversial mobilization law comes into effect on Saturday.

Putin said on Friday during a visit to China that Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkov region aims to create a buffer zone but there are no plans to take the city.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. CQ Brown Jr. said the U.S. believes the Russian offensive is intended to divert Ukraine’s attention from other critical areas.

“Ukrainian forces are fighting hard to stop the Russian advance along the front lines,” Brown said. “Ukrainian reserves and supplies are being challenged as they defend against Russian offensive actions, underscoring the urgency of this coalition’s work to simply stay in Ukraine.

“This coalition will not turn around,” Brown added. “We will not falter. We’re not giving up.”