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Austin: Ramstein summit to focus on artillery, air defenses for Ukraine

by Martin Fornusek February 14, 2024 5:09 PM 2 min read
Illustrative purposes only: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on April 12, 2023. (Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal / Telegram)
This audio is created with AI assistance

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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Feb. 14 opened the 19th Ramstein-format meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG), which is being held in a hybrid format in-person in Brussels and online.

Austin joined the meeting online, as he recently spent several days in the hospital due to bladder-related health issues.

The meeting of over 50 UDCG members takes place as Ukraine faces mounting difficulties in its war with Russia. Russian forces are ramping up pressure on the eastern front, namely around Donetsk Oblast's Avdiivka, and $60 billion in U.S. aid is yet to be cleared by Congress.

In his opening remarks, Austin said that the allies "won't back down" in supporting Kyiv as the war closes to its two-year mark. He also welcomed Ukraine's Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, who joined the summit online.

This is also the first time General Oleksandr Syrskyi has attended a UDCG meeting online as the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces. He replaced Valerii Zaluzhnyi on Feb. 8.

"The Kremlin keeps on betting that we will all lose interest in Ukraine and that our support will flicker and fade. But I am more determined yet than ever, and I know that you are as well," Austin said when addressing the summit.

According to the U.S. defense chief, the 19th Ramstein-format meeting will address Ukraine's short-term urgent needs, namely artillery, ammunition, and air defense missiles.

Austin also highlighted the progress of "capability coalitions," allied initiatives organized under the UDCG to support Ukraine's individual military capabilities, such as the fighter jet coalition or artillery coalition.

The UDCG has been meeting regularly since April 2022 to coordinate military support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. The summits were traditionally an opportunity for Kyiv's allies to unveil new defense aid packages, but the support from the U.S. has mostly dried up as it depends on Congress' approval of additional funding.

The German media outlet Handelsblatt reported on Feb. 9 that Ukraine's allies are considering a change of plan to the format of the Ramstein summits, which would see NATO coordinating military aid instead of the U.S.

Ukraine war latest: US Senate passes Ukraine aid bill, House speaker signals desire to obstruct passage
Key developments on Feb. 13 * Syrskyi: Ukraine shifts to defense to drain Russian troops * US Senate passes $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, but bill faces uphill battle in Republican-led House * Military: Ukraine reinforcing Avdiivka as Russia continues its offensive * Military intelligence: Ru…

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