NATO defense ministers met at NATO HQ in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss further military support for Ukraine, the situation in Israel and the suspected sabotage of the gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea.
The first major event was the 16th meeting of Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG), better known as a Ramstein meeting. In addition to NATO defense ministers, representatives from another 20 supporting nations attended.
Not only did Ukraine’s defense minister, Rustem Umerov, attend but the president, Volodymyr Zelensky, made an unanticipated appearance to lobby for the country’s interests in person.
This is the first time that the Ukrainian leader has personally attended a session of the Ramstein group since its formation.
Prior to the meeting, Zelensky and his team had bilateral meetings with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and the US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, who is also the UDCG chairman.
Following the meeting, the NATO Secretary General again emphasized that air defense is crucial for the protection of cities, the economy, and critical infrastructure of Ukraine.
"What we are seeing now is that President Putin is preparing once again to use winter as a weapon of war, meaning attacking the energy system, the gas infrastructure. We need to prevent that and with more advanced and increased capabilities for air defense, we can make a big difference", he said.
According to Stoltenberg, the NATO allies have already stepped up the production of weapons and ammunition and are constantly working on increasing it to allow Ukraine to continue fighting and to liberate its territory.
In his comments at the start of the meeting president Zelensky stated that the Russian Federation cannot afford a new arms race, while also sharing his vision of a just end to the war in Ukraine.
Some of the key commitments made by UCDG members are summarized below.
Secretary Austin announced a new $200 million military assistance package for Ukraine.
“I’m proud that the United States will announce its latest security assistance package for Ukraine, valued at $200 million,” Austin said alongside President Zelensky at the opening of a meeting of Kyiv’s international supporters in Brussels.
The package includes, according to Austin, air defense munitions, artillery and rocket ammunition and anti-tank weapons, among other items. The Pentagon chief assured there would be a continued steady and uninterrupted supply of all necessary weapons to Ukraine.
Germany had announced prior to the Ramstein Group meeting that it would provide a new package of military aid to Ukraine worth around €1 billion. The package is said to include an additional Patriot air defense system, two IRIS-T systems, as well as three Gepard anti-aircraft installations.
British Defense Secretary, Grant Shapps, announced that equipment from the International Fund for Ukraine (IFU), which is administered by the UK Ministry of Defence on behalf of Norway, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, will provide Ukraine with a new package of military aid totaling more than $120 million. This includes Terrahawk Paladin anti-aircraft systems, minefield breaching equipment, bridging equipment, and other engineering equipment as well as spares to repair and maintain military vehicles. to destroy Russian non-explosive obstacles, said.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced at a joint briefing with President Zelensky the creation of a fund for Ukraine, using income from the taxation of frozen Russian assets, worth €1.7 billion.
“It is important that Belgium has become the first country to launch such a practice of using frozen Russian assets for protection against Russian terror. The funds will be used for security assistance to our country and for fast recovery projects. We would really like to be able to use the funds right now. And the first 1.7 billion euros will be used as early as next year,” the Ukrainian leader said.
The leader of the Belgian government also confirmed the decision to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter aircraft in 2025 to supplement those that Ukraine will receive as early as the spring of 2024.
Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said that Denmark plans to provide the first F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in the spring of next year assuming that the pilots, technicians and infrastructure were ready.
He said in advance of the meeting that “Our expectation is that we will be able to deliver the first combat aircraft to Ukraine in March-April.”
Norway pledged €17.4 million for humanitarian demining Ukrainian territory contaminated with Explosive Remnants of War, including landmines.
“Mine clearance saves lives and protects civilians, including children. It is also a necessary condition for providing other assistance and rebuilding infrastructure,” Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said.
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