The US Secretary of Defense urges countries to delve deeper into the matter and provide Ukraine with more much-needed air defense systems.
RAMSTEN AIR BASE, Germany (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged allied defense leaders Tuesday to “dig deep” and provide more air defense systems to Ukraine, to help the country fend off a growing Russian missile barrage.
But the allies said they would discuss how best to provide assistance Ukraine counterattackThey appear to be no closer to making commitments on the longer-range missiles that Kiev’s leaders insist they need.
“Air defense saves lives,” Austin said while opening a meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He added: “So I urge this group to continue to look deeply into Ukraine’s ground-based air defense. We must continue to press hard to provide Ukraine with air defense systems and interceptor missiles.”
The group consists of defense and military leaders from more than 50 countries, and is the main forum for collecting contributions of weapons, other equipment and training for the war effort in Kiev. It meets about once a month, in person and virtually, and this is the 15th gathering.
President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly urged long-range weapons. Supporters say Ukrainian forces should be able to strike Russian forces and facilities while remaining out of range.
But the United States has continued to hold back, expressing long-standing fears that Kiev might use the weapons to strike deep into Russian territory and anger Moscow. The Army’s tactical missile system, known as ATACMS, could give Ukraine the ability to strike Russian targets from up to about 180 miles (300 kilometers) away, but the United States also has other types of the missile with shorter ranges.
Speaking before the meeting began, Bill Blair, Canada’s defense minister, told reporters that the allies were listening to Ukrainian leaders’ description of their military needs and discussing “new and important ways” to help bolster the ongoing counteroffensive.
Austin said that 31 M1 Abrams tanks promised months ago would soon begin arriving in Ukraine, as expected. A defense official said they had arrived in Europe and would begin crossing the border into Ukraine in the coming days. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the exact location of the tanks is sensitive.
Ukrainian forces began training on similar tanks in June, while tanks that soon arrived were refurbished in the United States.
Defense leaders are working to maintain what they say is unwavering support for Ukraine, despite growing concerns that public and international government support for the war, now in its second year, may begin to wane.
Zelensky will visit Washington, D.C., later this week to meet with President Joe Biden and congressional leaders in a move to bolster support for continued US funding and weapons. Come visit where there is – Increasing partisan division in Congress On continued financing of Ukraine.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters that he wants to discuss more aid to Ukraine on its merits as a standalone bill, rather than tied to other priorities such as government funding. But Senate leaders want to combine the aid with other priorities, such as a short-term spending bill that will likely be needed to avoid a shutdown at the end of September.
Countries are pumping millions of artillery rounds and other weapons into Ukraine, but are concerned about shrinking stockpiles, and the defense industry is struggling to boost production lines. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian forces Make slow progress Breaking through the Russian battle lines in a counterattack did not move as quickly or as well as initially hoped.
“Ukraine’s recent gains also depend on the critical capabilities provided by members of this contact group,” Austin said at the opening of the Ramstein Conference. “Our shared commitment will be vital during the current battles – and for the long road ahead of us.”
Military leaders, including Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have responded to criticism that the offensive has been too slow, arguing that Ukrainian forces are making steady progress in a difficult battle. Milley said this is a real war and that Ukrainian forces are carefully making their way through large and deadly Russian minefields.
At the conclusion of the NATO military commanders’ meeting on Saturday, Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, who chairs the alliance’s military committee, acknowledged that countries must weigh the risks of supplying Ukraine with more weapons without risking its own security needs.
The Ramstein meeting also marks Milley’s final session as chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. He will retire at the end of the month, after four years on the job.
This article originally appeared on apnews.com