Apr 26, 2022 - World

Austin: West will "keep moving heaven and earth" to arm Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaking during a meeting with defense leaders at Ramstein Air Base on April 26.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at a Ramstein Air Base meeting with NATO and non-NATO defense leaders on April 26. Photo: Andrew Pain/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Tuesday that Western countries will "keep moving heaven and earth" to help Ukraine defend against Russia's unprovoked invasion.

Why it matters: Austin and Joint Chiefs chairman Mark Milley held a meeting with more than 30 defense officials from dozens of NATO and non-NATO countries at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to coordinate military aid for Ukraine as Russia's invasion shifts to an offensive against the country's Donbas region.

  • During the meeting, German Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht announced that Berlin would send Ukraine an unspecified number of anti-aircraft tanks.

What they're saying: "I would like this whole group today to leave with a common and transparent understanding of Ukraine’s near-term security requirements because we are going to keep moving heaven and earth so that we can meet them," Austin said during his opening remarks for the meeting.

  • "We're all here because of Ukraine's courage, because of the innocent civilians who have been killed and because of the suffering that your people still endure," he said to Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine's minister of defense.
  • "Your country has been ravaged, your hospitals have been bombed, your citizens have been executed, your children have been traumatized. But Ukraine has done a magnificent job at defending its sovereignty against Russia's unprovoked invasion."
  • "Ukraine's valor and skill will go down in military history."

The big picture: Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv late Sunday, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. officials to visit the country since the invasion.

  • After that meeting, Blinken said he believes Russia is "failing" in its war aims and that Ukraine can fully thwart the invasion "if they have the right equipment, the right support."
  • Austin said the U.S. would like to see Russia's military "weakened to a degree" during its war in Ukraine so that it cannot invade another country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday accused NATO of engaging in a proxy war with Russia through Ukraine and said the threat of a nuclear conflict "should not be underestimated."

  • A Russian general said last week the Kremlin seeks full control of the Donbas and southern Ukraine, which would give it a land bridge to Transnistria, referring to the unrecognized breakaway state internationally recognized as part of Moldova.

Go deeper: U.S. diplomats to begin returning to Ukraine this week

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