Ukraine’s allies on Friday pledged further military support to Kyiv but failed to iron out divisions on sending battle tanks to the embattled country during a high-level meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the meeting particularly focused on Ukraine’s needs for air defense and armored vehicles, and allies made significant pledges to bolster the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
“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,” he said.
Austin also said France, Germany and the UK announced that they will send air defense systems to Ukraine, including Patriots, and Canada procured NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems for the country.
Asked about Ukraine’s demand for heavy equipment and battle tanks from the allies, the US defense chief said there has not been a decision on this issue but he underlined that talks will continue.
“We have a window of opportunity here, between now and the spring,” he said, adding that allies already decided to send armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine, and some allies were continuing discussions on supplying main battle tanks.
“I don’t have any announcements to make on M1 (Abrams tanks), and you heard the German Minister of Defense say that they’ve not made a decision on Leopards,” he said.
Ukraine’s requests for heavy weapons, armored vehicles, and German-made Leopard tanks were among the key issues of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at the US air base.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended the meeting via video link and underlined that allies should speed up the delivery of weapons and especially provide modern battle tanks to fight Russian forces.
But German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters after the meeting that Berlin and allies need more time to make a decision on sending battle tanks to Ukraine.
He dismissed media criticisms that Germany was blocking Leopard tank deliveries at a time when they are urgently needed by Ukraine.
“We’re not really hesitating, we’re just trying to balance all the pros and cons carefully,” he said, adding that Germany was not alone, and Berlin’s concerns were also shared by others in the group.
Around 50 defense ministers and senior officials attended the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, including Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
Source: Anadolu Agency