UDCG 8: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and General Mark A. Milley Press Conference Following Ukraine Defense Contact Group Meeting, Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Jan. 20, 2023
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III travels to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to conduct an in-person meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. This was the eighth meeting of the UDCG and the fifth in-person session since the international group was formed in April 2022. They joined ministers of defense and chiefs of defense from nearly 50 nations from around the world to discuss Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, and the continued close coordination to provide the Ukrainian people with the means necessary to defend their sovereign territory.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and General Mark A. Milley Press Conference Following Ukraine Defense Contact Group Meeting, Ramstein Air Base, Germany

STAFF: Good evening, everyone, and thank you for being here today. It’s my pleasure to introduce Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. The secretary and the chairman will each deliver opening remarks, and then we’ll have time to take a few questions. I will moderate those questions and call on journalists, and would ask that we limit follow-ups due to our tight schedule. Thank you for your assistance. With that, (inaudible). SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Thank you all for joining us today at Ramstein. We’ve just concluded the eighth Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, and it was great to start the new year by deepening our coordination as we work together for Ukraine’s self-defense. As President Biden has said, this is a decisive decade for the world and this is a decisive moment for Ukraine’s struggle to defend itself. So this Contact Group will not slow down. We’re going to continue to dig deep, and based upon the progress that we’ve made today, I’m confident that Ukraine’s partners from around the globe are determined to meet this moment. The United States remains committed to leading in this coordinated effort, and this morning, I was pleased to announce another major round of U.S. security assistance designed to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield requirements, and this $2.5 billion package is one of our largest yet. It helps Ukraine meet its air defense needs with additional NASAMS munitions and eight Avenger air defense systems. And this package also helps tackle Ukraine’s urgent need for armor and combat vehicles. It includes 59 additional Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers, 53 MRAPs and 350 up-armored Humvees, and it will provide thousands round — thousands more rounds of artillery. Now, we were honored to hear this morning from President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, and let me also thank several other brave Ukrainian leaders for joining us today. And that includes my good friend, Minister Oleksii Reznikov, the ministry of defense, and Lieutenant General Moisiuk, the deputy chief of defense. Their presentations gave us a first-hand account of what Ukraine’s military and citizens are facing. Today’s meeting focused on Ukraine’s needs for air defense and armor. We also pushed hard on how to synchronize those donations and turn them into fully-operational capabilities, and that means every step, from donation, to training, to maintenance, and then to sustainment. We also focused hard on how our collective and individual training efforts would be prosecuted. So as you heard President Biden recently announce the latest U.S. training initiative, and it builds on U.S. programs to train Ukrainian troops dating back to 2014. Other countries are stepping up with their own initiatives, and many are joining the European Union’s military assistance mission. And meanwhile, we’re also continuing to strengthen our defense industrial bases through the work of the National Armaments Directors under the auspices of this Contact Group. And all of these efforts underscore how much we’ve deepened our cooperation since the Contact Group began last April. Our work shows how much nations of goodwill can achieve when we work together, and it shows our long-term commitment to supporting Ukraine against Russia’s unprovoked aggression. Now, as we saw again just days ago in Dnipro, Russia continues its assault on Ukraine’s civilian and critical infrastructure, and Russia continues to bombard Ukraine’s cities with cruise missiles and drones. But the Ukrainian people stand defiant and strong, and Ukrainian troops are bravely defending their country and their fellow citizens. As Russia’s cruelty deepens, the resolve of this Contact Group grows, and that’s clear from the announcements that we’ve heard today, and I’ll start with air defense. Several countries have come forward with key donations that will help protect Ukraine’s skies and cities and citizens, and France and Germany and the U.K. have all donated air defense systems to Ukraine, and that includes a Patriot battery from Germany. And that’s especially important, coming alongside our own contribution of a Patriot system. And the Netherlands is also donating Patriot missiles and launchers and training. And meanwhile, Canada has procured a NASAMS system and associated munitions for Ukraine. And so these air defense systems will help save countless innocent lives. We’re also pushing hard to meet Ukraine’s requirements for tanks and other armored vehicles. The UK has announced a significant donation of Challenger 2 tanks for Ukraine, and this is the first introduction of Western main battle tanks into Ukraine. And I also commend our British allies for making this decision. And Sweden announced it’s donating CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicles and an additional donation soon of Archer howitzers. We’ve also heard inspiring and important new donation announcements from several other countries, and that includes Denmark, which will donate 19 howitzers, and Latvia is donating more Stingers and helicopters and other equipment, and Estonia is providing Ukraine with a significant new package of much-needed 155 millimeter howitzers and munitions. Now, all of today’s announcements are direct results of our work at the Contact Group and these important new commitments demonstrate the ongoing resolve of our allies and partners to help Ukraine defend itself, because this isn’t just about Ukraine’s security, it’s also about European security and it’s about global security. It’s about the kind of world that we want to live in and it’s about the world that we want our children and grandchildren to inherit. The members of this Contact Group are standing up for a world where rules matter and where rights matter and where sovereignty is respected and where people can choose their own path, free from tyranny and aggression, and I’m confident that this group will remain united. And we’ll continue to build momentum, we’ll support Ukraine against Russian aggression for the long haul, and we’ll continue to work toward a free and secure Ukraine and a stable and decent world. And with that, let me turn it over to the Chairman for his comments. GENERAL MARK A. MILLEY: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you, Secretary Austin, for your leadership in this eighth Ukrainian Contact Group, in support of Ukrainian freedom. And thanks, as well, to all of the ministers and the CHODs, the Chiefs of Defense, that were here who represented 54 different countries today. A special thank you also to the Ukrainian Minister of Defense Reznikov and Deputy Chief of Defense General Moisiuk. I had — recently had an opportunity to meet with General Zaluzhnyi in Poland and General Moisiuk was here representing him. They all represent the exceptional bravery of the Ukrainian Army, and most importantly, the Ukrainian people. This week, after meeting General Zaluzhnyi, I had an opportunity to visit some of the training and the mech infantry that we are doing at Grafenwoehr here in the training area in Germany. Also had an opportunity to do some coordination meetings in Wiesbaden and then attended the NATO CHODs Military Committee Meeting, where all of the members of all of the CHODs of NATO had an opportunity to meet, with one of the primary topics being support to Ukraine. And then, of course, this week — ending it today this week with the Contact Group. I think that, over my 43 years in uniform, this is the most unified I’ve ever seen NATO, and I’ve dipped in and out of NATO over many, many years. The war has evolved over the last 11 months but the mission of this group, this Contact Group under General Austin’s leadership — under Secretary Austin’s leadership, has remained the same. We are effectively committed to support Ukraine with capabilities to defend itself against the illegal and unprovoked Russian aggression. In the words of President Biden, Secretary Austin, and many other national leaders, as much as it takes for as long as it takes in order to keep Ukraine free, independent, and sovereign. These Contact Group meetings play an important role as we support Ukraine in the defense of its territory and they are a clear, unambiguous demonstration of the unity and resolve of the allied nations. Yesterday, as Secretary Austin just mentioned, President Biden released our 30th security assistance package, signifying our continued commitment to Ukraine, and this package, combined with our previous one, includes combined arms maneuver capabilities with supporting artillery, equivalent to at least two combined arms maneuver brigades or six mech infantry battalions, 10 motorized infantry battalions, and four artillery battalions, along with a lot of other equipment. This package — this U.S. package, along with the allied donations that were indicated today, signify our collective resolve and our commitment to Ukraine to protect their population from the indiscriminate Russian attacks and to provide the armor necessary to go on the offensive, to liberate Russian-occupied Ukraine. Additionally, this week in Germany, we began battalion and brigade collective training that I had an opportunity to visit at the Combined Arms Maneuver Training Center here in Grafenwoehr, in support of the Ukrainian Army. That training, in addition to the equipment, will significantly increase Ukrainians’ capability to defend itself from further Russian attacks and to go on the tactical and operational offensive to liberate the occupied areas. With the training that the United States and our partners are doing, the Ukrainians will advance their command and control, their tactics, techniques and procedures, their ability to integrate fires with maneuver, and they will more effectively synchronize all of the combined arms in order to execute maneuver-based operations. The support that we discussed today in this Contact Group meeting, the training that we discussed today and the way ahead, is really an extension of what’s been going on since 2014, and today signifies the very real and tangible difference in the — Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself. International aggression, where large countries use military force to attack smaller countries and change recognized borders, cannot be allowed to stand. Eventually, President Putin, Russia, will realize the full extent of their strategic miscalculation, but until Putin ends this war, his war of choice, the nations of this Contact Group will continue to support the defense of Ukraine in order to uphold the rules-based international order. Thank you and I welcome your questions. STAFF: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Chairman. Our first question will go to Utesh Spaneberger from ARD. Q: Mr. Secretary of Defense, my question is, many of us thought that today we will have a breakthrough in the discussion about heavy battle tanks. You didn’t mention that at all. We didn’t talk about Leopard 2 or Abrams tanks. So did you talk about that today? SEC. AUSTIN: I think you heard the — you may have heard the German minister of defense say earlier that they’ve not made a decision on the provision of Leopard tanks. What we’re really focused on is making sure that Ukraine has the capability that it needs to be successful right now. So we have a window of opportunity here, you know, between now and the spring when I — you know, when — whenever they commence their operation, their counteroffensive, and that’s not a long time, and we have to pull together the right capabilities. And you heard the chairman walk through some of the substantial combat power that we and some of our allies have offered to provide. There are tanks in that — in that — those offerings. Poland, for example, is — continues to offer tanks and will provide tanks, and other countries will offer some tank — tank capability, as well. I don’t have any announcements to make on M1s, and you heard the — the German minister of defense say that they’ve not made a decision on Leopards, so — STAFF: Thank you. Next question will go to Idrees Ali, Reuters. Q: Mr. Secretary, over the past week, a number of European countries have publicly pleaded with Germany to allow the transfer of their tanks. You met with your German counterpart yesterday and like you said, today they still have not made a decision. Are you disappointed in the German position? And how can Germany still be seen as a reliable ally, given what is widely perceived as them dragging their feet on something so simple? And for the chairman, is there any prohibition on the use of American weapons by the Ukrainians in Crimea currently? And you’ve talked about how this war, like many others, has to end through a negotiated settlement. Is now the time for the Russians and Ukrainians to come to the table to talk about that? SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Idrees. First, let me say that this isn’t really about one single platform, and so our goal, and I think we’ve been fairly successful at doing this and bringing together capability, is to — is to provide the capability that Ukraine needs to be successful in the near term. And so you’ve heard us talk about two battalions of Bradley infantry fighting vehicles — very capable platform, three battalions, or a brigade’s-worth of Strykers. So you add that up, that’s two brigades of combat power that the U.S. is providing, along with enablers and other things. So you look at Sweden providing a battalion of CB90s. That’s an armored personnel carrier. The Germans are providing Marders, and the — the Poles are providing a — a battalion’s-worth of mechanized capability. You heard the chairman highlight four battalions of — of artillery, mechanized artillery that’s being provided. So this is a — this is a very, very capable package and they — you know, if — if employed properly, it will be — it will enable them to be successful. Now, we’re going to sure — ensure that we’re doing everything necessary to ensure that they have the ability to employ it properly. You heard us talk about training, additional training that we’re going to do. This is something that we haven’t been able to do in the past. So you know, as we speak, you know, troops are being linked up with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and they’ll train for weeks not only on just how to operate the vehicles, but also on how to properly set conditions for maneuver, and then maneuver, and then, you know, how to exploit opportunities, how to breech obstacles. So I think this’ll be a really, really capable package that we’ve put together and I really do believe that it will enable the Ukrainians to be successful going forward. So this is not dependent upon a single platform. This is a combined-arms effort that we’ve brought together that I — I truly believe is going to provide them the best opportunity for success. GEN. MILLEY: And as the — on your first question, typically we’re not going to discuss — I don’t discuss either prohibitions or permissions, authorities on the use of weapons, et cetera. That — that has — that goes towards rules of engagement, and we don’t typically discuss those in a public forum. On the second question, President Biden, President Zelenskyy and most of the leaders of Europe have said that this war is likely to end in a negotiation. And from a military standpoint, this is a very, very difficult fight. This fight stretches all the way from right now, as the front line goes from all the way from Kharkiv down to Kherson, and there’s significant fighting ongoing. And it’s more or less a static front line right this minute, with the exception of Bakhmut and Soledar, with a significant offensive action going on really from both sides. The distance that — for the United States, that’s about from, I guess, Washington, D.C. to Atlanta. So that is a significant amount of territory, and in that territory are still remaining a lot of Russian forces in Russian-occupied Ukraine. So from a military standpoint, I still maintain that for this year it would be very, very difficult to militarily eject the Russian forces from all — every inch of Ukraine and occupied — or Russian-occupied Ukraine. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen; doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it’d be very, very difficult. I think what can happen is a continued defense stabilized in the front. I think it’s possible to clearly do that, and I think it’s, depending on the delivery and training of all of this equipment, I do think it’s very, very possible to — for the Ukrainians to run a significant tactical- or — or even operational-level offensive operation to liberate as much Ukrainian territory as possible, and then what was — then we’ll see where it goes. But I do think at the end of the day this war, like many wars in the past, will end at some sort negotiating table, and that’ll be determined in terms of timing by the leaders of both countries, both Russia and Ukraine. President Putin could end this war today. It — it’s — he started it. It’s his war of choice, and he could end it today because it’s turning into an absolute catastrophe for Russia: massive amounts of casualties, lots of other damage to the Russian military, et cetera. So he should and could end this war right now, right today. STAFF: Thank you. Our next question will go to Ansen Sten, ZDF. Q: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, is Germany doing enough in order to show real leadership in Europe? Thank you. SEC. AUSTIN: Yes, but we can all do more, and you know, the United States and every other member of the UDC can do more. You know, Germany has contributed a lot to this campaign. You know, from the very beginning, we saw them cycle in air defense capability, the Gepards, the Patriots most recently, IRIS-T. They’ve stepped up and offered to provide the Marders. They will provide the — those Marders and conduct the training on those platforms. And we are training Ukrainian soldiers on maneuver and other things and specialty things here in Germany as well, so Germany’s opened it — continues to open its doors and make the training areas and facilities available for us to continue to do the work that we need to do. And Germany is also training troops and training battalion and brigade headquarters. So, you know, they have a — a big oar in the water, like the rest of the — of Contact Group does, and they’re working hand in hand with the — with the rest of our colleagues here. So I think Idrees asked me earlier if — if Germany was a — was a leader. I — was that the right question there, Idrees? Q: Well, I was (inaudible) how do you see them as a reliable ally? SEC. AUSTIN: Oh yeah, okay. Yeah, they are a reliable ally and they’ve been that way for a very, very long time, and I truly believe that they’ll continue to be a reliable ally going forward, not to mention they have — German is host to 39,000 of my troops and their families and also 10,000 civilians here. And so we’ve had a great relationship throughout over the years and I — we’ll continue to have that great relationship and Germany will continue to exercise leadership going forward, so. STAFF: Thank you. Our next question will go to Dan LaMothe, Washington Post. Q: Good evening, gentlemen, thanks for your time today. Secretary Austin, a number of lawmakers and observers have said that, at this point, it makes sense to send a small number of Abrams tanks, if only to encourage Germany to unlock the Leopard tanks that they have not sent. Is that feasible? And if not, why not? And for the Chairman please, given the amount of armor the United States and allies are sending at this point, how confident are you that they can put together a coherent offensive in coming months? To what extent — to the extent you can, what might that look like? And separately, you just referenced the large number of casualties. Can you give us any update on — on what you’re seeing at this point for casualties on both sides? Thanks. SEC. AUSTIN: I think you heard the German Minister of Defense say earlier today that there’s no linkage between providing M1s and providing Leopards, and I think he was pretty clear about that. So this notion of unlocking — you know, I — in my mind, is not — it’s not an issue, and more importantly in his mind as well. And in terms of providing capability, what we, in the department, always look at is, you know, providing credible combat capability. We don’t do things to — or employ capabilities to — as — as a notion, you know, as a — as — you know, for — for anything other than providing credible combat capability. And that’s where our focus will be in the future, whatever we do, whatever we employ, so. GEN. MILLEY: So Dan, on the — in order to execute a successful offensive operation at the tactical or operational level, which is really what we’re talking about here for the Ukrainians, you’ve got to not only man the unit, which the Ukrainians have the personnel, but they have to be trained. And so they’ve got to be married up with the equipment and then they’ve got to be trained. And if you look at the weather and terrain, et cetera, you can see that you have a relatively short window of time to accomplish both those key tasks. So that’s very, very challenging to do that. For all of these different nations that were here today, to assemble all of the equipment, get it all synchronized, get it — get the Ukrainian troops trained, et cetera, that’ll be a very, very heavy lift. So confident — yes, I think it can be done but I think that it’ll be a challenge. There’s no question about it. So we’ll see. I don’t want to predict one way or the other but the Ukrainian forces so far have executed, at least two and perhaps even more than that, very successful offensive operations, one up around Kharkiv, crossing the Oskil River and over into — in — in — in — into the Russian lines to the east of the — of Kharkiv, and then they’ve run a very successful operation down in Kherson. So it remains to be seen but the equipment’s got to get married up with the people and people have got to get trained on the equipment and all of that’s going to have to get shipped in — into Ukraine, et cetera, all put together inside of a coherent plan. Obviously, General Zaluzhnyi and I and others have discussed what his visions were, not in executable level detail yet but he’s working on that, and we’ll see which way it goes. In terms of casualties, you know, the numbers of casualties in war are always suspect in — but I would tell you that the Russian casualties — last time I reported out — on it publicly, I said it was well over 100,000. I would say it’s significantly well over 100,000 now. So the Russians have suffered a tremendous amount of casualties in their military, and — and that includes their regular military and also their mercenaries in the Wagner Group and — and other type forces that are fighting with the Russians. They have really suffered a lot. Now, you saw that the Russians did a call-up of — called out — I think called up a mobilization of 300,000. I think they were able to get maybe 200, 250,000, something in that range. So they’re replacing their losses, in terms of manpower, but they have suffered a huge amount. Ukraine has also suffered tremendously. You know that there’s a significant amount of innocent civilians that have been killed in a result of the Russian actions. The Russians are hitting civilian infrastructure. There’s a significant amount of economic damage, a significant amount of damage to the energy infrastructure, and the Russian — or the Ukrainian military has suffered a significant amount of casualties themselves. So this is a very, very bloody war and there’s significant casualties on both sides. And this is why I say that I think that — at — sooner or later, this is going to have to get to a negotiating table at some point in order to bring this to a conclusion, and that will have to happen when the end state, which is a free, sovereign, independent Ukraine with its territory intact, is met. When that day comes, then people will sit down and negotiate an end to this. But there’s been a huge amount of suffering on both sides. STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, that is all the time we have available today. Mr. Secretary, General Milley, thank you both, gentlemen. This concludes our press briefing. Thank you.