Of all the arts, air defense is the most important – Newspaper Kommersant No. 190 (7391) dated 10/13/2022

On October 12, Brussels hosted the sixth meeting of the contact group on the defense of Ukraine in the Ramstein format, which brought together representatives of over 50 countries at NATO headquarters. During the meeting, it became known that NATO and other allies of Kyiv decided to reconsider the priorities of their support and focus primarily on the supply of modern air defense systems (ADS). At the same time, as at all previous similar meetings, Kyiv’s partners promised to support him “as much as needed.”

NATO defense ministers at the two-day meeting that started on Wednesday should dive into a fairly broad agenda of global issues, not limited to the conflict in Ukraine alone. Nevertheless, the first day of the Brussels meeting was notable not for the discussion of global problems in a narrow circle, but for a broad discussion about further support for Ukraine. It took place as part of the sixth meeting of the contact group on the defense of this country in the Ramstein format (named after the US military base in Germany of the same name, where the group’s first meeting was held in the spring).

However, judging by the public statements and moods that prevailed before the start of the meeting, it was as if there was no discussion as such – the representatives of the countries gathered in Brussels were generally of the same opinion that Ukraine should be supported “as much as needed.” So, before the start of all discussions, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declaredthat Kyiv’s allies are unshakable and “ready for a long journey.”

As for directly affairs within the alliance, the defense ministers planned to consider the issues of replenishing their own stocks of ammunition and weapons, which have thinned due to the active support of the Ukrainian army. According to Jens Stoltenberg, “it was done right”, but now it’s time to “decide how to replenish these supplies.”

Perhaps the most remarkable was the statement by Mr. Stoltenberg that the alliance intends to reconsider the priorities of military assistance to Kyiv and to focus on the supply of air defense systems.

The need for Ukraine to strengthen its air defense was raised after the massive Russian strikes on the country’s critical infrastructure on 10 October. Berlin responded more promptly than others to Kyiv’s request, which had previously been criticized for delays in the supply of weapons. Already on October 11, Germany delivered one of the four promised IRIS-T air defense systems to Ukraine. After that, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that now “a new era is coming” for Ukraine’s air defense. According to him, in addition to German systems, “American NASAMS are already on the way, and this is just the beginning,” and protecting “the sky over Ukraine from Russia is a moral imperative.”

Meanwhile, representatives of NATO countries and other states participating in the Ramstein-6 meeting were pulling up to the headquarters of the alliance in Brussels. Many were divided into groups and discussed something actively and even, it seemed, too positively. At some point, it might have seemed that those gathered at any moment would start not at all discussing what and how they should do with a large-scale military conflict in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the meeting itself was somewhat delayed, since everyone was waiting for the arrival of the chairman of the contact group, the head of the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin, and they had to occupy themselves with something. At the same time, when Mr. Austin finally appeared in the hall, some did not pay attention to him at all, and those who nevertheless noticed the head of the Pentagon, nodding for decency, continued their conversations. And in such a fuss, it was completely incomprehensible how Lloyd Austin, who had already taken his place between the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Alexei Reznikov, should begin his speech. But suddenly, in the hands of Mr. Austin, as a judge, was a wooden mallet, with which he immediately knocked, and all those gathered in the hall instantly fell silent and took their seats in a matter of seconds.

The massive Russian missile strike against Ukraine has rallied the West in its determination to support Kyiv, the Pentagon chief said, and the Ukrainian military has made “extraordinary gains and changed the dynamics of the war.”

Mr. Austin also noted that since the entry of Russian troops into the territory of Ukraine on February 24, the United States has provided Kyiv with $16.8 billion in military assistance and is not going to stop there, but now the Allies see it as their primary task to strengthen Ukrainian air defense.

The head of the Pentagon also assured that Washington will support Kyiv for as long as necessary, and assistance to Ukraine does not depend on the outcome of any particular battle or season. “We will expand Ukraine’s defense capabilities both based on its urgent needs now and with an eye to the future,” Mr. Austin said.

NATO defense ministers will continue discussing Ukraine and other issues, but already in the North Atlantic Circle on October 13. They will also be joined by representatives from Finland and Sweden, countries that are currently going through the process of joining the alliance.

Alexey Zabrodin

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