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US steps up aid to Ukraine, sees ‘success’ on battlefield

GERMANY (AFP) – The United States yesterday announced $675 million in additional military equipment for Ukraine, saying allied efforts to reinforce Kyiv were now visibly paying off on the battlefield.

Welcoming a new round of talks with partners in Germany, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Kyiv was now not only resisting Russian invaders but mounting a counteroffensive in the south.

“It is normal that we meet here in Ramstein,” he said, referring to the US air base in western Germany where the first of the meetings of the “Contact Group for Ukrainian Defence” on the coordination of armament support in Kyiv.

“Now we see demonstrable success of our common efforts on the battlefield,” he said, stressing that the allies are in it “for the long haul.”

The meeting came hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his forces had recaptured several settlements in the northeast Kharkiv region from the Russians.

Ukraine also claimed to have taken over several villages in the south of the country where it has been carrying out a counter-offensive since last week.

Kyiv has repeatedly urged its allies to use more heavy weapons as it continues its pushback.

Prime Minister Denys Shmygal reiterated this request during his visit to Germany last Sunday.

Ukrainian firefighters work in a destroyed building after the latest Russian rocket attack in central Kharkiv, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

Among the issues to be raised in Ramstein are the challenges of weapons production and resupply, as “there is a significant consumption of ammunition in the conduct of this war that is taking place in Ukraine,” US General Mark Milley said.

The aim would be to look at what stocks are available in which countries and what should come from industry, he said.

Artillery proves decisive in warfare and projectiles of all kinds are in great demand.

As Ukraine and Russia wage a war of ammunition attrition, stockpiles are also a crucial factor.

Having already exhausted all of its Russian-made weaponry, Ukraine is now entirely dependent on Western military support.

Russia, under heavy sanctions, is turning to North Korea for huge quantities of rockets and artillery shells, Washington said.

The United States has been Ukraine’s largest arms supplier. Its latest package would include 105mm howitzers, precision-guided GMLRS rockets and artillery ammunition.

It comes on top of $13.5 billion worth of miscellaneous weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles and shells compatible with NATO artillery systems.

Among the most effective weapons recently sent by Washington are the HIMAR multiple rocket launch systems, combined with GMLRS rockets that can hit targets up to 80 kilometers away.

But Kyiv is looking for ATACMS – a medium-range, precision-guided tactical missile that can be launched by HIMAR systems and is capable of striking at 300 kilometers.

The United States has so far refused because it fears the missiles will land on Russian territory, sparking an even bigger conflict.

“At this time, the policy of the United States government is that we do not send ATACMS,” Milley said. “We had this conversation several times with my counterpart and other members of the Ukrainian government.”

Rather, he noted that the HIMARS and GMLRS “proved to be very, very effective systems…against Russian forces.”

“The range of HIMARS is sufficient to meet the needs of Ukrainians as they are currently fighting,” he added.

US command spokesman Dave Butler also felt that while Russia fired its artillery at a higher rate than Ukraine, that of Kyiv “is more effective”.