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U.S. Defense Secretary Praises NATO Allies for Commitment to Ukraine

WorldEuropeU.S. Defense Secretary Praises NATO Allies for Commitment to Ukraine

With additional American aid still in doubt, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Tuesday called for “creative, adaptable and sustainable ways” to continue arming Ukraine and praised European allies who were trying to bolster Kyiv’s military as the war against Russia entered a critical stretch.

Mr. Austin, in Germany for the start of a semiregular meeting of nearly 50 nations who are supplying Ukraine’s forces, said that allies would “dig deeper to get vital security assistance to Ukraine.” He singled out Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden for recent donations of weapons and noted the Czech Republic’s efforts to provide 800,000 artillery shells — the first tranche of which could arrive on the battlefield within weeks.

Germany’s defense minister, Boris Pistorius, said Berlin would send Ukraine 10,000 rounds of badly needed artillery shells, 100 armored infantry vehicles and transport equipment in a new infusion of support worth 500 million euros, about $544 million.

“Things are progressing sometimes in small steps, sometimes in larger steps, but the main thing is the constant supply of ammunition,” Mr. Pistorius told journalists in Germany, according to local news reports.

The United States remains the single largest donor of military support to Ukraine, and last week, Washington pledged an additional $300 million of air defense missiles, artillery rounds and armor systems. The latest package also included attack missiles with a range of about 100 miles that dispense clusters of small munitions and can do damage over a wide area, though they are still at least a week from arriving.

Yet Ukrainian forces are expected to burn through the new American aid within a few weeks, and it is unlikely that the Biden administration will be able to send much more unless Republicans in Congress agree to a $60 billion emergency spending plan to ship additional weapons to Ukraine and bolster armament production in the United States.

At the meeting, held at Ramstein Air Base, an American military hub in Germany, Mr. Austin said, “Ukraine’s battle remains one of the great causes of our time.”

“The Ukrainian people do not have a day to waste, and neither do we,” he added. “So we continue to build creative, adaptable and sustainable ways to support Ukraine’s defenders.”

But Ukraine’s soldiers are already running out of many munitions: A shortage of artillery shells forced a retreat in the eastern city of Avdiivka, and air defense missiles have been rationed around the highest-priority cities and infrastructure to protect against Russian strikes.

On Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said, “The needs are quite obvious: Patriots, ATACMS, F-16s, and, of course, artillery,” ticking off a list of missiles, fighter jets and shells. Speaking at a meeting in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, Mr. Zelensky urged allies to supply them quickly.

The $60 billion aid package for Ukraine has been blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives. In his own summary of the Monday meeting in Kyiv, Mr. Graham predicted that at least some American assistance to Ukraine would arrive as loans, as former President Donald J. Trump has urged, instead of donated outright.

“I know Americans want to help our friends and allies, but I also believe we must consider our economic situation as we help others,” Mr. Graham said in a statement on Monday. He said he would also demand that the Biden administration send longer-range missiles to Ukraine, enabling its forces to strike Russian-held territory, and speed training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 warplanes.

The uncertainty over the American commitment to Ukraine has largely left European allies to try to fill the gap, but production of key weapon systems and artillery ammunition has struggled to ramp up and is unable to keep pace with the demand.

Some European leaders — especially in the Baltics, Nordic countries and nations that border Ukraine — have also raised alarms about the specter of Russia’s invading NATO territory should it win the current conflict.

Mr. Austin echoed those concerns ahead of the meeting in Ramstein, where he sat next to Ukraine’s defense minister, Rustem Umerov. It was Mr. Austin’s first in-person return to the group since two hospitalizations this year, including a dayslong stint in January related to complications from prostate cancer surgery that he did not disclose to the White House, prompting criticism.

“Let’s not kid ourselves: Putin will not stop at Ukraine,” Mr. Austin said. “But as President Biden has said, Ukraine can stop Putin if we stand with Ukraine and provide the weapons that it needs to defend itself.”

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.

#U.S #Defense #Secretary #Praises #NATO #Allies #Commitment #Ukraine

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