Ukraine military aid to continue in the long term, Austin tells allies at Ramstein Air Base
(Alexander Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Ukraine military aid to continue in the long term, Austin tells allies at Ramstein Air Base

President Joe Biden has approved new military aid to Ukraine worth up to $675 million, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday at a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact group comprising senior officials from 50 nations.

The arms package comes on top of $2 billion in new long-term Foreign Military Financing that the White House says will be supplied to Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia.

“We’re here to renew our commitment and intensify our momentum to support the brave defenders of Ukraine for the long term,” Austin said.

It’s the group’s fifth meeting since it first gathered at Ramstein in late April, about two months after Russia launched its full-fledged invasion of Ukraine. Austin chairs the group, which was established to discuss ways allies and partner nations could collaborate to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia.

Austin said the latest U.S. aid package includes 105mm howitzers, artillery munitions, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, small arms and more.

The added weaponry brings total U.S. aid to Ukraine to $15.2 billion since Biden took office.

It’s the 20th time the Biden administration has earmarked equipment from U.S. military stocks to aid Ukraine since August last year, Austin said.

“Now we’re seeing the demonstrable success of our common efforts on the battlefield,” Austin said.

But “the war is at another key moment,” he said, with Ukrainian forces launching a counteroffensive in the south of the country while Russian forces continue to bombard Ukrainian cities and civilians with missiles and artillery fire.

“The face of the war is changing and so is the mission of this contact group,” he said. “We must evolve as the fight evolves” and commit to “renewing and deepening our resolve to stand by Ukraine – with support and strength that doesn’t hinge on any one battle.”

That includes pushing “all of our defense industrial bases to provide Ukraine with the tools that will need for the hard road ahead,” Austin said, while speaking at the Ramstein Officers’ Club. He was joined by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, among other leaders.

Austin briefly touched on what the group planned to discuss Thursday, to include the next steps since standing up an international training mission for Ukrainian forces.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do today but I know that we’re all going to leave Ramstein this time with even greater momentum,” he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unscheduled visit to Kyiv on Thursday, where he told Ukrainian officials that the Biden administration had notified Congress of its intent to provide the $2 billion in Foreign Military Financing to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors. They include NATO members and regional security partners, that are “most potentially at risk for future Russian aggression," according to an Associated Press report.

Foreign Military Financing allows recipients to purchase U.S.-made defense equipment.

Pending expected congressional approval, about $1 billion of that will go to Ukraine and the rest will be divided among Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the State Department said.