Israel is one of 40 countries participating in a U.S.-hosted defense summit to discuss increasing international defense aid to Ukraine, which has been engaged in conflict with Russia for over two months.
Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dror Shalom, head of the political security division of the Defense Ministry, is representing Israel in the meeting, which was opened by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
"As we see this morning, nations from around the world stand united in our resolve to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia's imperial aggression," Austin said. "Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here."
U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said ahead of the talks that a key goal was to coordinate mounting security assistance to Kyiv that includes heavy weaponry, like howitzer artillery, to help it defend against an unfolding and potentially decisive Russian onslaught in the east.
"The next several weeks will be very, very critical," Milley told reporters traveling with him. "They need continued support in order to be successful on the battlefield. And that's really the purpose of this conference."
Austin traveled with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Kyiv on Sunday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy over his call for more powerful weapons needed to repel Russia's invasion two months after it began.
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In a dramatic Saturday evening news conference in an underground metro station, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that "Tomorrow we will discuss this exact list of weapons that are essential for us and the pace of deliveries." He added that Ukraine wants the United States to agree to be one of its security guarantors.
In recent months, Zelenskyy and other senior Ukrainian figures have criticized Israel for failing to provide defensive equipment and weapons to help Ukraine fight Russian troops. Zelenskyy addressed the Knesset last month on Zoom, saying in a critique of Israel's response, “We can ask why we can’t receive weapons from you, why Israel has not imposed powerful sanctions on Russia or is not putting pressure on Russian business.”
Israel announced recently that it was sending a shipment of protective vests and helmets to Ukraine, in an apparent boost and acceleration of aid in light of the criticism and the dissatisfaction of the Biden administration over the matter. Israel has thus far offered defensive and humanitarian assistance and refrained from providing assault weaponry to Ukraine.
Israel received an official invitation to the summit on Sunday. Defense Minister Benny Gantz was unable to attend due to conflicting events with Holocaust Memorial Day, which begins on Wednesday evening.