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US Gathers Forty Allies to Help Ukraine

Help Goes Beyond NATO and Germany Conducts U-Turn

A day after the US had called for a “weakened” Russia, Washington gathered forty nations to provide arms to Ukraine as part of a larger – and informal – alliance which goes beyond NATO.

On 26 April, defence ministers and chiefs of staff from forty countries met in the ‘Ukraine Defense Consultative Group’ at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany. Among them, the 30 NATO countries, their “close neighbours” Sweden and Finland, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Morocco, Kenya, Liberia, Tunisia as well as Jordan and Israel (which until now declared themselves neutral).

The main objective was to protect Ukraine’s long-term security by boosting weapons deliveries to Kyiv. The US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, stressed the urgency of the deliveries. With the “right equipment,” he said, Ukraine could win the war: but time plays in Russia’s favour. “We got to move to the speed of war,” he warned, while Russia is focusing its attacks on southern Ukraine.

When it comes to weapons delivery to Kyiv, the ‘Ramstein coalition’ goes beyond NATO. One reason for this might be that, due to Putin’s characterisation of NATO as instigator of – and proxy actor in – the war, the Alliance has become a negative symbol of Russian propaganda.

At the same time, this informal US-led alliance looks like a new geopolitical reality, a ‘broader’ coalition of countries of the Free World, and also from the Middle East and the Pacific, ready to stand together against Russia (and tomorrow, perhaps, China). Indeed, Austin made no secret of US intentions to see Russia “”weakened,” to prevent the country from posing further threats to its neighbours. The Ukraine Defense Consultative Group, Austin said, will meet again, becoming a monthly “contact group” to continue providing long-term support for Ukraine.

Weapons

The meeting led to a very pertinent result: the German decision to send heavy weapons to Kyiv.

According to German Defence Minister, Christine Lambrecht, Berlin will send 50 Gepard anti-aircraft vehicles – with twin radar-guided 35mm cannon. Simultaneously, Rheinmetall has offered ‘dozens’ of Leopard MBTs, currently in storage. Despite its “historic” decision to send weapons to Ukraine two months ago, Berlin has lately been reluctant to provide heavy weapons, due to strong internal pressure – from both political and military quarters, the latter linked to a perceived lack of capability – and external pressure, mostly from Russia.

But now Germany, with a strong legacy in armoured materiel, has changed its mind, and Austin welcomed the decision by calling the country a “great friend and ally“.

Among other states, the US announced on Monday €667 million in military financing for Ukraine, while France is sending its effective Caesar mobile howitzer. Canada said it will deliver precision-guided Excalibur munitions, which have a range of 40 kilometres.

To help Ukraine, Western countries aim to support the country’s transition from its Soviet-era equipment to more advanced weaponry, hoping that Kyiv will thus  be able to defend itself and, eventually, counterattack.

In the meantime, on 26 April, Moscow reacted to the Ramstein meeting by excluding Poland and Bulgaria from its gas supply. Warsaw and Sofia did not seem too concerned by the move!

Caterina Tani reporting from Brussels for MON

 

 

Lloyd J Austin III, US SecDef, speaking at the meeting at Ramstein AFB on 26 April. (US DoD)

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Publish date

04/27/2022

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