WASHINGTON, May 23 (KUNA) -- US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that "some 20 countries announced new security assistance packages" for Ukraine during the second Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting he hosted earlier today.
In a press conference at the Pentagon, Austin affirmed "moving forward we'll continue to deepen our coordination and cooperation so that Ukraine can sustain and strengthen its battlefield operations." He added "our combined efforts will also fortify and modernize Ukraine's armed forces to help them deter future Russian aggression." Furthermore, Austin announced that he will convene "the Contact Group for our third meeting next month and will gather in person this time, on June 15, in the margins of the NATO defense ministerial in Brussels.
"It won't be a NATO event, but we want to keep up the tempo of these meetings and I wanted to use my travel to Europe to ensure that we're building on our momentum," he noted.
In opening remarks at the meeting, the Pentagon chief said "Ukraine's cause has rallied the free world. Since Russia's invasion on the 24th of February more than 40 of our allies and partners from around the globe have stepped up to provide critical security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself, and today we're honored to have defense leaders from 44 countries with us, as well as representatives from NATO and the EU." For his part, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley indicated that 47 countries participated in the contact group's second meeting, saying "that's really significant." Milley stressed that "any reintroduction of US forces into Ukraine would require presidential decision." "We're a ways away from anything like that, we're still developing courses of action," he said.
The first contact group meeting was held at Ramstein Air Base in Germany last month. (end) si.hb