BRUSSELS — As Russia unfolds a massive bombing campaign against Ukraine’s vital public infrastructure, Kyiv’s international backers say they work to accelerate defense assistance — and provide Kyiv with air defense.
Following a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said members of the 50-nation Ukraine Defense Contact Group were doing “everything they can” to produce additional hardware and equipment.
“We’ve talked about air defense, the requirement for additional air defense capabilities. (The group members) will do whatever they can, where they can,” Austin said on Oct. 12.
The meeting follows the outbreak of Russia’s mass missile strikes throughout Ukraine, including downtown Kyiv, which was launched on Oct. 10 and caused severe electricity and water supply shortages across the nation.
Over 100 missiles and kamikaze drones have been fired, killing at least 20 people. The campaign’s brutality not seen since the beginning of Russia’s all-out invasion in February again made Kyiv seek Western air defense assistance.
The West made a decision to answer Ukraine’s call, according to the U.S. defense secretary.
“In the past few days, Putin has given us all another grand preview of a future in which the appetites of aggressive autocrats outweigh the rights of peaceful states,” Austin said.
“We would all be less secure in a world where big powers can assault their peaceful neighbors and trample their borders by force.”
Amid the Russian missile terror, Germany said it had already provided Ukraine with the first IRIS-T advanced air defense system. Three more such systems are expected to be transferred in 2023.
Ukraine also expects to receive the first batch of the NASAMS short-range systems from the U.S. in the coming weeks. Besides, The Netherlands’ Ministry of Defense said on Oct. 12 it will provide Ukraine with air defense munitions worth 15 million euros.
Austin said he expects “more capabilities to come forward” for Ukraine.
On Oct. 12, the U.S. officials in Brussels also had meetings with their Ukrainian counterparts, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Major General Eduard Moskaliov, who is in charge of combat operations in Ukraine’s east.
In his evening video address aired on Oct. 12, President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the Western partners for deciding to reinforce their support for Ukraine.
“The more audacious and cruel Russian terror becomes, the more obvious it is to the world that helping Ukraine to protect the sky is one of the most important humanitarian tasks for Europe of our time,” Zelensky said.
“I believe that we will tackle this task.”
Ukraine asked that the West helps it develop an integrated air missile defense grid — which includes systems covering short- medium- and long-range systems protecting the airspace at low, medium, and high altitudes, according to Mark Milley, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“The mix of all these will deny the airspace for Russian aircraft, fixed-wing, and rotary-wing aircraft, and (missiles),” the top U.S. general said.
So far, General Milley added, Ukraine has been very effective at denying Russian air superiority and therefore impeding ground maneuvers with Soviet-made air defense systems.
Many nations in the West have more advanced systems, so the task of helping Ukraine build and sustain an integrated air missile defense system is “achievable,” he said.
The meeting of Ukraine’s backers, the sixth since the beginning of Russia’s all-out invasion, coincided with the summit of NATO defense ministers, in which air defense for Ukraine was also a central issue.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called this “a pivotal moment for our security.”
“I welcome that NATO Allies are providing air defense systems,” the official said.
“Allies have provided air defense, but we need even more.”
“And then, of course, Ukraine is a big country, many cities, so we need to scale up to be able to help Ukraine defend even more cities and more territory against the horrific Russian attacks against their civilian population.”