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Austin in Ramstein: 'Russia has paid a staggering cost for Putin's imperial dreams'

by Martin Fornusek March 19, 2024 1:51 PM 2 min read
U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov attend the seventh gathering of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group at Ramstein air base on March 19, 2024, in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin opened the 20th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) held in Ramstein, Germany, on March 19.

The meeting comes at a precarious time for Ukraine and its allies, as Russia ramps up pressure along the front and $60 billion in aid from the U.S., a key military donor, remains stalled by disputes in Congress.

In his opening words, Austin thanked German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius for hosting the event and Ukraine's Defense Minister Rustem Umerov for attending in person.

"Russia has paid a staggering cost for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's imperial dreams. At least 315,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded since Putin's all-out invasion in February 2022," Austin said.

"Russia has squandered up to $211 billion to equip, deploy, maintain, and sustain its imperial aggression against Ukraine."

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According to the U.S. defense chief, the war will cost Russia $1.3 trillion dollars in anticipated economic growth through 2026. Austin noted that Ukraine continues to degrade Russia's military capabilities, destroying or damaging 20 military vessels and a number of warplanes.

"The United States will not let Ukraine fail. This coalition will not let Ukraine fail, and the free world will not let Ukraine fail," Austin pledged.

The defense secretary reminded that Washington has recently announced a defense aid package of $300 million, financed through unanticipated contract savings. A much larger aid bill remains blocked, however, largely due to opposition by parts of the Republican Party and House Speaker Mike Johnson.

"We remain determined to provide Ukraine with the resources it needs to resist the Kremlin's aggression," Austin said, pointing out recent initiatives and defense aid packages from countries like Czechia, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, or France.

The UDCG comprises over 50 countries, including all 32 NATO members, and has been meeting regularly since April 2022 to coordinate military support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression.

The previous meeting was held in a hybrid format on Feb. 14.

US veteran and photographer’s wartime Ukraine memoir tests notion of ‘universal’ truths
Editor’s note: All the photographs in this article are featured for illustration purposes only. “I’m a photographer,” writes U.S. combat veteran and photojournalist J.T. Blatty, “But really, I’m just a human drawn toward the truth, in snapshots of truth.” Blatty’s new memoir “Snapshots Sent Home:

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