Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday predicted that Ukraine will be on the offensive throughout the winter and vowed the US would continue supporting Ukraine with weapons in the “difficult weeks, months, and years ahead.”
Austin made the comments in Brussels after leading a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which consists of military officials from about 50 nations.
“I expect that Ukraine will continue to do everything it can throughout the winter to regain its territory and to be effective on the battlefield, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that they have what’s required to be effective,” Austin said.
Ukraine recently made gains in the southern Kherson region and eastern Kharkiv region. Its offensives have now stalled, and Russia is reinforcing its positions after Russian President Vladimir Putin called up 300,000 fresh troops and annexed the territories Russia controlled in Ukraine.
Russia responded to a truck bombing on the Crimean Bridge by launching missile and drone strikes across Kyiv targeting infrastructure, marking an escalation in the war. Ukraine’s energy minister said Russia hit about 30% of the country’s energy infrastructure in strikes on Monday and Tuesday.
Austin said that the Russian missile barrage increased the “resolve” to support Ukraine, and Kyiv’s Western backers have been pledging to send more air defense systems. Germany announced Wednesday that the first shipment of IRIS-T air defense systems had arrived in Ukraine, and the White House said a day earlier that it was expediting the shipment of National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS).
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley also attended the meeting in Brussels and pledged open-ended support for Ukraine despite the risk of provoking Moscow. “As President Biden has said and many other national leaders have said, we will do as much as we can for as long as we can and we will do as much as it takes for as long as it takes,” he said.