About 20 nations agree to send fresh military aid to Ukraine, US says

US troop presence in Europe has risen to 102,000 from 78,000, Pentagon's top officer says

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About 20 nations have pledged to send additional military aid to Ukraine, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin announced on Monday after a meeting of dozens of allied countries.

Mr Austin led the online “contact group” meeting attended by 47 countries, following an in-person event he hosted last month at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

“Everyone here understands the stakes of this war. And they stretch far beyond Europe,” Mr Austin said, noting that “some 20 countries announced new security assistance packages”.

He credited Denmark for agreeing to provide Harpoon anti-ship missile systems and the Czech Republic for a recent donation of helicopters, tanks and rocket systems.

Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Ireland and Kosovo are new to the group. Mr Austin also mentioned Italy, Norway, Poland and Greece among those sending “critically needed artillery systems and ammunition” to Ukraine.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited Washington last week.

“Our combined efforts will also fortify and modernise Ukraine's armed forces to help them deter future Russian aggression,” Mr Austin said.

The group will host its third meeting on the margins of the Nato defence ministerial in Europe in mid-June.

Speaking alongside Mr Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley described an increase in US military readiness in Europe. He said the number of American troops across the continent has increased from 78,000 in the autumn to 102,000.

He said more than 15,000 sailors are in the Mediterranean and in the Baltic on 24 warships and four submarines, an increase from six warships late last year.

“The Ukrainian military's capacity to defend their homeland against Russian attack is directly tied to the quality and quantity of the assistance they're receiving,” Gen Milley said.

But he stressed that no US trainers or forces are inside Ukraine and the reintroduction of those troops anytime in future would require a presidential decision.

He also welcomed the reopening of military-to-military communications with Russia.

Gen Milley spoke with his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov last week, right after Mr Austin and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu talked for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

“I don't share the contents and detail of that discussion, but that it was done is important and it was personal and worthwhile,” Gen Milley said.

Updated: May 23, 2022, 7:27 PM