US unites global allies to help Ukraine fight back against Russia

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So far, it’s not quite the Coalition to Defeat Putin—and the name is admittedly modest, if not unfortunate: Ukraine’s Defense Advisory Group.

However, if the US eventually forms a global alliance to actively fight Russia, its core is likely to be some 40 nations convened on Tuesday by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.

The group included dozens of ministers and heads of defense departments, mostly from European countries. Austin has brought them together to show visible support for Ukraine and improve coordination between countries rushing to provide massive military assistance, including heavy weapons, to help Kyiv fight back against Russian invaders.

At a press conference Tuesday night, Austin said the group would meet monthly going forward, a sign that Ukraine’s allies are preparing for a protracted conflict.

“We are all determined to help Ukraine win today and build strength for tomorrow,” he said at a press conference following the day’s meetings.

“To ensure that we continue to build on our progress, we are going to extend this forum beyond today,” he continued. “I am proud to announce that today’s meeting will be a monthly contact group on Ukraine’s self-defence, and the contact group will be a vehicle for nations of goodwill to step up our efforts, coordinate our assistance, and focus on winning today’s battle. and future difficulties.

The meeting point, at a US air base in Germany, seemed partly intended to refute Moscow’s version that Russia was waging a de facto war with NATO, which senior Russian officials say is using Ukraine as a puppet.

“NATO is essentially waging war with Russia through proxies and arming those proxies,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told state media on Monday evening. “War is war.” The comments were startling in part because the Kremlin refused to acknowledge that it was waging war in Ukraine and instead insisted on “special military operation” as a euphemism.

However, the list of participants in Germany, although mostly NATO countries, has expanded worldwide to include Australia, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, South Korea and Tunisia. There were no countries from Central or South America.

In contrast, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which the United States launched in 2014, includes 84 countries.

The EU and NATO also took part in the meeting on Tuesday in Germany, although NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was unable to attend due to cold symptoms.

Austin traveled to Ramstein after a Sunday visit to Kyiv with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov also attended the event on Tuesday.

“Ukraine has done an excellent job of defending its sovereignty against an unprovoked Russian invasion,” Austin said in his opening remarks. “And the valor and skill of Ukraine will go down in military history. You know, the battle for Iwo Jima lasted 36 days. The Battle of the Bulge lasted 40 days. And Ukraine has been fighting off the Russian military for 62 days. Your resistance has brought inspiration to the free world, even greater NATO resolve and glory to Ukraine.”

He added that since the beginning of the Russian invasion, more than 30 allies and partners have provided more than $5 billion worth of equipment to support Ukraine. Of these, the United States allocated about $3.7 billion.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Austin was also asked to clarify comments he made Monday in Poland that the US wants Russia to be weakened.

The defense secretary said the US goal is to ensure that Russia can no longer wage aggression against its neighbors.

“We really want to make it harder for Russia to threaten its neighbors and make it impossible for them to do so,” Austin said, before describing the heavy losses Russia suffered during its invasion of Ukraine. He added: “So we would like to make sure once again that they don’t have the same ability to intimidate their neighbors that we saw at the start of this conflict.”

Austin was also asked about fears that Russia might use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, fears exacerbated by occasional threats from some Russian politicians and TV commentators.

“You heard us say several times that this kind of rhetoric is very dangerous and useless,” Austin said. “No one wants a nuclear war. This is a war in which, you know, all sides are losing, so saber-rattling and, you know, dangerous rhetoric is clearly useless, and we will not deal with this.”

The US Defense Secretary also praised Germany, which announced on Tuesday in Ramstein that it would send heavy weapons, including tanks, to Ukraine.

“These systems will provide a real opportunity,” he said.

Hans von der Burchard contributed to this article.

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