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15th Ramstein meeting: Allies recognizing Ukraine’s war is a “marathon”

Ukraine’s defense partners including Germany and USA focused on winter aid pledges and maintenance rather than major offensive weapons at the first Ramstein meeting attended by Ukraine’s new Defense Minister Umerov
Ramstein meeting umerov Ukraine
Ukraine’s new Defenes Minister Rustem Umerov took place in his first Ramstein meeting of Ukraine’s defense allies on 19 September 2023. Photo: Screenshot from video
15th Ramstein meeting: Allies recognizing Ukraine’s war is a “marathon”

Ukraine’s new Defense Minister Rustem Umerov attended his first Ramstein meeting, where around 50 partner nations gathered to coordinate military aid for Ukraine, on 19 September.

As US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin opened the 15th meeting of Ukraine’s military allies since Russia’s 2022 invasion, he thanked former defense minister Oleksiy Reznikov and welcomed Umerov, with whom Austin held separate talks the day before.

Austin acknowledged Ukraine’s counteroffensive is “making steady progress in the face of stiff resistance,” according to the Pentagon. The US will provide Abrams tanks, help train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, and has committed $2 billion in assistance since the last Ramstein meeting. Austin also thanked members of armored vehicle, air, and IT coalitions, urging partners to focus on air defense and artillery ammunition, Liga.net reported.

Top US General Mark Milley stressed artillery, air defense, and armored vehicles are top priorities now. He and Austin repeatedly warned winter is coming, and Russia may repeat attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Military aid and IT coalition

Prior to and during Ramstein, partners announced new military aid packages for Ukraine:

  • Norway will supply 50 M548 tracked cargo carriers.
  • Germany pledged €400 million ($392 million) in ammunition, vehicles, mine clearance gear, clothing, and generators.
  • The Czech Republic will supply Ukraine with Czech weapons with financial support from Denmark and the Netherlands. As part of this agreement, Denmark will purchase 15 upgraded T-72 tanks.
  • Separately, Denmark will supply Ukraine with 30 Leopard 1 tanks.
  • Lithuania’s new defense package will include demolition systems, naval surveillance radars, and ammunition for the Carl Gustaf anti-tank grenade launcher.
  • Latvia will provide additional mortars, air defense systems, and large-caliber ammunition.
  • The United Kingdom announced its intention to deliver tens of thousands more artillery shells to Ukraine in 2023.
  • Spain will increase the number of Ukrainian servicemen who will be trained this year to 4,000, supply new APCs, inflatable command boats, launchers, and missiles for air and anti-ship defense and ambulances.

At the Ramstein meeting, Lithuania and Latvia also signed a declaration of intent to join the IT Coalition, the formation of which was announced in June by Luxembourg and Estonia. The participating countries plan to create a unified digital system for combat management and management of the defense resources of Ukraine’s Army. Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia, and Denmark have also joined this coalition.

“Thanks to secure IT infrastructure, Ukrainian soldiers will be more effective on the battlefield,” Umerov tweeted.

Allies increasingly recognize war is becoming long marathon

The emphasis on maintenance and logistical support signals recognition the war is becoming a “long marathon,” according to Defense Express chief editor Oleg Katkov, Liga.net reports. He said Ramstein meetings traditionally announce commitments already made, while the most important negotiations happen privately.

Umerov’s participation let him establish personal contacts with defense ministers of partner nations, Katkov explained. Umerov brought along the head of Ukraine’s defense industry, perhaps to address reports some old Western equipment is difficult to maintain.

According to Spiegel, Ukraine last week rejected a batch of 10 Leopard 1A5 tanks because they were in poor condition, with no maintenance staff or spare parts.

Katkov does not rule out such problems not only with the older version of the Leopards.

“The war is becoming protracted, this is a long marathon,” Katkov said. “Maintaining equipment and combat readiness is key. We need to solve strategic problems – how the equipment should be serviced in Ukraine, what spare parts will be produced here. Because in the West, it takes longer and is more expensive… Such a minister should be involved objectively.”

Capabilities Coalition: support for Ukraine’s own production

In a Facebook post, Umerov announced the creation of a “capabilities coalition,” the goal of which is “to prepare the Ukrainian Defence Forces of the future.” While specific details are unavailable, Umerov said that the Ministry of Defence has identified five clusters that will require priority attention:

  • air defence
  • artillery
  • aviation
  • Navy
  • armored vehicles.

No breakthrough on long-range missiles

The meeting did not produce announcements on longer-range missiles like ATACMS or German Taurus rockets. Austin evaded questions on ATACMS, stressing partners are focused on more urgent needs.

Germany avoided Taurus discussions, citing low stockpiles. Sources tell German magazine Spiegel only 150 of the 600 missiles purchased a decade ago remain operational.

“How many of 150 can they transfer? 15?” Katkov said. “This will be in reports on the German government website. And the opposition will ask before elections, why just 15? What happened to the other 600?”

Defense Express: Berlin refrains from sending Taurus to Ukraine over low stockpile

Katkov believes these weapons are highly politicized, hindering transfers. Talks have dragged on over a year, distracting from useful alternatives like increased-range GMLRS rounds, with an extended range of up to 150 km, which are being tested and are due to go into mass production soon.

Further weapons negotiations will continue in coming hours and days. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is visiting the US and will see Biden at the White House. Zelenskyy insists Ukraine needs ATACMS this fall to sustain its counteroffensive. 

Katkov expects new systems like F-16 armaments will garner attention this winter and spring. He predicts air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, and other munitions will come before offensive weapons.


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