Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group to coordinate aid for Ukraine’s defense after Russia’s unprovoked invasion, July 20, 2022.
Welcome you all this morning for the Ukraine Defense Contact group meeting. I very much want to extend a warm welcome to our Distinguished Ministers and Chiefs of Defense. Thank you for joining us today. This is the 4th meeting of the UDCG. I’m celeste Wallander, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and I’ll serve as a facilitator for today’s contact group. I would especially like to extend a warm thank you to Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, Alexey Reznikoff for joining us virtually today. From Ukraine, we deeply value your presence and we are looking forward to hearing your thoughts here shortly. But first please let me introduce Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to deliver opening remarks. Mr. Secretary.
Thanks Secretary Waldner and good morning, it’s great to see everyone on screen today. Welcome to our 4th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. We’re meeting as Ukraine is about to enter the six month in its fight against Russia’s cruel and unprovoked invasion. And it’s an important forum for discussing the urgent requirements that Ukraine needs to defend itself, its citizens and its sovereign territory. Our assistance is making a real difference on the ground. But let’s start by taking a step back and remembering how we got to this.6 months into a war of choice that the Kremlin thought would be over in days. on 24th February Russia deployed a massive invasion force to counter the entire country to conquer the entire country of Ukraine and they failed. Russia poured its troops and steel in into taking Kiev and they failed. Russia tried to topple the democratically elected government of Ukraine and they failed and then Russia retooled and and thought it could easily seize the Donbass. They failed and throughout Russia trying to crush the spirit of the free people of Ukraine and they failed. And as we have seen time and again over these past months of war, Ukrainian forces are frustrating Moscow’s combat objectives and they are defending their democracy in their homeland with bravery, resolve and valor. We’re all here because we understand the grave threat that Ukraine still faces. But let’s also remember that Putin has consistently overestimated Russia’s military prowess and he has consistently underestimated the power of a free people fighting to defend their homeland and the will of the international community to stand with them. And so as this fight rages on, the contact group will keep finding innovative ways to sustain our long term support for the brave men and women of the Ukrainian armed forces and we will tailor our assistance to ensure that Ukraine has a technology, the ammunition and the sheer firepower to defend itself. You know, this is a critical phase of the, of the conflict and so our collective support for Ukraine is vital and urgent Russia thinks that it can outlast Ukraine and outlast us. But that’s just the latest in Russia’s string of miscalculations. We stand united in our support. We stand firm in our commitment and we will rise to this occasion. Now, one month ago, in brussels, this group met in person to reaffirm our dedication to Ukraine self-defense. And we heard from many countries undertaking important new initiatives In more than 30 countries have now sent lethal military assistance to Ukraine in its hour of crisis. And we continue to make important headway and we’re seeing the results on the ground From our meeting in Brussels. Until now, the United States has committed more than $2.6 billion dollars in security assistance to Ukraine. Our assistance includes a total of 12 High Mars multiple launch rocket systems to further strengthen Ukraine’s long range fires capability. And I want to underscore the impact that they’ve made. We’ve also committed to Nissan’s air defense systems to help Ukraine protect its forces and its civilians against Russian missile attacks. The United States is also committed to sending more high MARS munitions, precision guided artillery, ammunition and tactical vehicles and other urgently needed support. And we’ll continue to provide historic levels of security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself. And later this week we’ll roll out our next presidential drawdown package of weapons, ammunition and equipment for Ukraine. It will be our 16th drawdown of equipment from D. O. D Inventory since August 2021. It will include four more high mars advanced rocket systems which the Ukrainians have been using so effectively and which have made such a difference on the battlefield and it will include more rounds of MlRS and artillery ammunition in other countries have continued to step up their support as well, including the important area, any important area of long range fires. The UK is uh M 2 70 M. R. S systems are now in the fight and Germany systems will soon be on the battlefield as well. And Poland has also recently transferred three battalions of 155 millimeters self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, which are already making a difference on the front lines. And I want to especially thank Norway for its close cooperation with the United States. On our nice Sam’s transfer, Ukrainian armed forces have repeatedly repeatedly demonstrated their skill in operating high mars In them to 70 and 155 millimeter howitzers and those capabilities have been crucial in the Donbas fight. Ukraine has also made real gains on the ground with other equipment that members of this contact group have provided. For example, Ukraine has definitely employed donated harpoon systems against Russia’s navy and the Black Sea and those systems help Ukraine reclaim Snake Island. So I look forward to today’s discussion on how we can continue to rush Ukraine more critical capabilities and urgently urgently needed ammunition and here to help us understand those critical requirements are my close friends and colleagues. Ukrainian Minister of Defense Olexiy Reznikoff and Deputy Chief of Defense Lieutenant General moisture. Mr. Reznikoff and I have been in close and ongoing touch about Ukraine’s combat requirements in progress since our last in person meeting in brussels and gentlemen, I want to thank you and your teams for joining us. In today’s meeting. We deeply admire your tireless commitment to your country’s defense and we deeply appreciate your close cooperation over these past few months. I’m also honored to be joined again by ministers and chiefs of defense from some 50 countries. The contract group continues to make a real difference in real time and that’s a testament to our collective resolve to stand up to Russia’s assault on democracy, sovereignty and the rules based international order that keeps us all secure. So let me thank everyone for joining us. And now we’ll say goodbye to our friends from the media and following the departure of the media, I’ll turn the microphone over to my dear friend, Minister Reznikoff. Thank you very much.