At a meeting in Ramstein, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pledged that Western partners would continue to support Ukraine in the war against Russia. “Ukraine urgently needs our help to protect its citizens, infrastructure and units from the threat of Russian missiles,” Austin said at the American military base in the Palatinate. We will support Ukraine for as long as necessary.

The US Secretary of Defense has invited the international contact group for the coordination of military aid to Ukraine to Ramstein for the fourth time since the war began in February 2022. Representatives from more than 50 countries are taking part in the conference on the 422nd day of the Russian war of aggression – including Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

In Ramstein, Stoltenberg spoke out in favor of continuing talks about handing over Western fighter jets to Ukraine. Deliveries by alliance partners must be discussed further. At a meeting in Kiev on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine needed more weapons. These include jets and air defense systems.

So far, Ukraine has received Soviet-designed Mig-29 fighter jets from the west. However, the country’s armed forces want Western-style aircraft for defensive combat against Russia. This could be an F-16 built in the USA, for example.

Stoltenberg: Talking about weapons, not about joining NATO

Stoltenberg made it clear that he currently considers the discussion about further arms deliveries to be much more important than plans for Ukraine to join NATO. “Now it’s all about Ukraine winning,” he said in Ramstein. “Because if Ukraine doesn’t assert itself as a sovereign, independent nation in Europe, then there’s no point in discussing membership.”

That is why it is now a matter of maintaining unity in supporting Ukraine. Stoltenberg again indirectly ruled out Ukraine joining NATO in times of war. According to the Secretary General, Zelenskyy will take part in the NATO summit on July 11-12 in Lithuania. It remains unclear whether the President will travel or take part in deliberations via video conference.

USA: military aid for over 35 billion dollars

The Ukrainian Defense Minister Resnikov announced via Twitter that he wanted to speak in Ramstein, among other things, about the current needs of the Ukrainian armed forces. “We feel the support of our partners and keep striving for victory.”

According to Austin, the efforts of the partners for Ukraine made a big difference on the battlefield and showed how miscalculated the Kremlin was. The United States has provided Ukraine with military aid worth more than $35 billion since the war began, he said.

Before the start of the meeting, Federal Defense Minister Pistorius said that Ukraine’s possible EU or NATO membership was “not an issue at all” in Ramstein. The consultations will focus primarily on financing the repair centers for weapons that have already been delivered to Ukraine. The SPD politician said on Thursday evening in the ZDF program “Maybrit Illner”. Questions such as the further strengthening of Ukraine’s air defense and the delivery of combat aircraft will certainly also be discussed.

Pistorius: “It costs a lot of money”

Regarding the “repair hubs” for systems such as the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, the Leopard battle tank and the 2000 self-propelled howitzer, Pistorius said: “It costs a lot of money, it has to be financed.” In Ramstein you will “have to go around with the collection bag and clarify who will pay for it in the end”.

After reports of a planned end to the deployment of German Patriot air defense systems in Poland in June, the Federal Ministry of Defense made it clear that there would still be talks with NATO partners. “The statements on the stationing plans of our Patriot squadron in Poland and Slovakia referred to original plans,” said the ministry in Berlin.

The Patriot systems are part of NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force, it said. Decisions are therefore made in close coordination with the NATO forces in Europe and always require a separate political decision. In Ramstein, Pistorius will hold intensive discussions with all partners and allies.

The Funke media group had previously reported, citing a spokesman for the ministry, that the Bundeswehr wanted to end the deployment of German Patriot air defense systems in Poland according to current plans by June of this year. The end of the German Patriot mission in Slovakia is planned for the end of the year.