Austin: US, NATO Firm in Support for Ukraine

Austin: US, NATO Firm in Support for Ukraine

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks
Photo by: DoD/Chad J. McNeeley

Speaking Feb. 15 at a NATO ministerial conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia’s “reckless war of choice” represents the worst European security crisis since World War II and requires a “fundamental shift” in the alliance’s collective defense and deterrence efforts.

“We are strengthening our capabilities for the long term to deter and defend against all threats across all domains,” Austin said. “We are upgrading our defense plans and putting more forces at higher levels of readiness,” he added, referring to both U.S. and allied forces.

The goal is to give Ukraine additional capabilities so its troops can be “decisive on the battlefield,” he said.

A big part of this effort is building up ammunition stockpiles and boosting the defense industrial base, Austin said, addressing a major concern about maintaining U.S. readiness and materiel while also aiding Ukrainian forces. “NATO allies have dug deep over the past year,” he said.

Russia is pouring troops into the fight, but Austin said they are largely “ill-trained and ill-equipped.” 

He pledged the U.S. could continue to provide additional weapons to Ukraine and train Ukrainian troops on the new systems. “I think they’ll have a good chance at making a pretty significant difference on the battlefield,” he said.

The U.S. has about 100,000 troops in Europe when counting the roughly 65,000 permanently based forces and those deployed since the Russian assault on Ukraine. This is far less than the 400,000 U.S. troops in Europe at the height of the Cold War.