Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Tuesday vowed that the US will keep moving “heaven and earth” to send weapons into Ukraine as Washington and its allies are pledging to intensify military aid for Kyiv. The Pentagon chief made the comments at a conference at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany that was attended by military leaders from about 40 nations.
“I would like this whole group today to leave with a common and transparent understanding of Ukraine’s near-term security requirements because we are going to keep moving heaven and earth so that we can meet them,” Austin said in his opening remarks at the conference.
Austin, a former Raytheon board member, announced that a similar meeting on arming Ukraine will be held each month in a forum he dubbed the Ukraine Contact Group. “We’re going to extend this forum beyond today,” he said. “The group will be a vehicle for nations of good will to intensify our efforts, coordinate our assistance, and focus on winning today’s fight and the struggles to come.”
The formation of the group is the latest example of the US’s massive support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Since the invasion started on February 24, the US has pledged about $3.7 billion in military aid for Kyiv, and more is coming. The US’s European allies have also pledged to increase aid, including Germany, which announced at the conference that it is sending tanks to Ukraine for the first time.
Austin led the conference in Germany after he traveled to Kyiv with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to meet with Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. After his short visit to the Ukrainian capital, Austin said in Poland on Monday that one of the US goals in Ukraine is to see a “weakened” Russia.
The US and most of its NATO allies have made it clear that they are digging in to support Ukraine against Moscow and isolate the Russian economy for the long term. The campaign is a boon for US arms makers, who are being asked to ramp up production and offer new weapons to meet Ukraine’s needs.
The massive support for Kyiv, which includes intelligence sharing to target Russian troops, risks provoking Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that by giving Ukraine arms, NATO is “essentially entering into a proxy war.”