Lloyd Austin served 41 years in the US Army, but the former four-star general-turned-secretary of defense is no stranger to pathos. “The Ukrainian people are looking at us, the Kremlin is looking at us and history is also looking at us,” he said at the beginning of the meeting of the international Ukraine contact group. For the third time since Russia’s war of aggression began, Austin welcomed defense ministers and high-ranking military officials from about 50 countries supporting Kyiv’s fight against Russia to the US air base Ramstein. This time, the Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Resnikov is sitting to his left. He should explain to the group behind closed doors which weapons they need most urgently.
The Western partners should then coordinate as closely as possible who will deliver what, when and how much, so that the Ukraine can defend against Moscow in the best possible way. Experts also advise on questions of continuous replenishment and logistics as well as the delivery of spare parts. Efficiency and speed, these are the goals.
The choreography of the Ramstein sessions includes the presentation of long lists of military equipment for Ukraine. The current package from the USA, which Austin proudly presents, includes 2.3 billion euros. Ukraine will receive 59 more armored personnel carriers of the type in addition to the 50 already promised bradley. Its 25mm autocannon can also fire armor-piercing uranium ammunition. In addition, the United States is supplying armored personnel carriers of the type stryker as well as ammunition for their rocket launcher artillery systems (Himars), eight Avengers-Air defense systems, tens of thousands of artillery shells and 2000 anti-tank missiles. The aid package increases the total amount of US support to almost 25 billion euros.
Other governments had also announced in advance how they intend to continue supporting Ukraine. So Great Britain enters 14 main battle tanks of the type challenger 2 away. Estonia promises more howitzers, ammunition and grenade launchers worth 113 million euros – Overall, Estonian aid to Kyiv since the outbreak of the war has amounted to more than one percent of economic output. Helicopters and drones are coming from Latvia and the NATO candidate Finland has announced a further 400 million euros in military aid. For security reasons, no details are given, but it is about “heavy artillery and ammunition”.
Like Poland and Spain, Finland has also publicly declared that it will use main battle tanks of the type leopard 2 to want to hand over – if Germany would approve this. According to Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren, the Netherlands is ready to provide money to those countries that Leo’s want to deliver to Kyiv. The example of battle tanks shows the limits of the Ramstein format meetings, which have been taking place almost every month since the end of April and are also held virtually or in Brussels: by no means all the wishes of Ukrainian politicians and military are fulfilled. Defense Minister Resnikov had previously shared a statement with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kulebadedicated to “We need leopard-Panzer and immediately”. But in the afternoon it became clear: the decision will be postponed.
Additional goals: More ammo and training
The question of how Europeans in particular can produce more weapons and ammunition in the future was also debated in Ramstein. The national armaments directors of the NATO members had already discussed this several times, and now Austin has put the topic on the agenda of this meeting.
To increase industrial production in this area, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is also promoting this, who only traveled to Rhineland-Palatinate as a participant. In the spring of 2022, it was consciously decided that the USA would act as organizer – and not them Nato. This is intended to counteract Moscow’s propaganda that Russia is also fighting the defense alliance in Ukraine. And of course the following still applies: NATO does not want to be drawn into the conflict.
There are also close agreements on the training of Ukrainian soldiers. The EU has launched its own mission for this purpose, as has Great Britain: London wants to train around 20,000 recruits with international partners in 2023. Earlier this week, US Chief of Staff Mark Milley visited the US Army’s Grafenwoehr Training Area. Since the beginning of the year, 500 Ukrainian soldiers have been trained there on modern US weapons, artillery systems, vehicles and tanks. The graduates of the course should not only learn how to stop Russian attacks as effectively as possible. They should also be prepared to retake those territorieswhich Russia has captured since February, Milley told the AP news agency.