US-led Contact Group increases scale and sophistication of military aid to Ukraine
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley gave a rare press conference on Monday to highlight the results of the second meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group.
The Contact Group was established in April to coordinate support for Ukraine against Russia's assault. The Group's meeting was held virtually earlier on Monday, with the Ukrainian Defense Minister, whom Austin described as "my good friend," in attendance.
The Group's next meeting will be held in person in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO ministerial conference on June 15.
Military Support for Ukraine
In detailing the results of Monday's meeting, Austin stated that Ukraine would receive new deliveries of anti-ship missiles, attack helicopters, tanks, and rocket systems. He also said that five more countries—Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Columbia, Ireland, and Kosovo—had joined the Group, bringing its total membership to nearly 50 members.
Austin stressed the key role that artillery has assumed in the current phase of the conflict as he stated, "We've seen serious exchanges of artillery fires over the last several weeks."
Such exchanges are possible because the US has upgraded its arms shipments to Ukraine. It has already sent the M777 howitzer, which The New York Times described as "the most lethal weapon the West has provided so far."
"Arming Ukraine with more powerful weapons is a politically sensitive issue," the Times report published on Monday explained.
"The United States, France, Slovakia and other western nations have been rushing in artillery and support systems," it continued, "even as Russia accuses the West of fighting a proxy war in Ukraine, and threatens unspecified consequences if weapons shipments continue."
Increased US Forces in Europe
Gen. Milley detailed the increase in the number of US troops and ships that have been deployed to Europe since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
US troops in EUCOM's (European Command) area of operations have risen by over 30,000 since then—from 78,000 to 102,000. US naval vessels in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas have risen from six surface combatant ships to 24, with four submarines as well.
The Blunder and the Stakes
Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, was his party's nominee for Vice-President in 1980 and served as a senator from Connecticut from 1989 to 2013.
"NATO's greatest strategic failure of the past two decades was to play down Mr. Putin's malign intent," Lieberman and Mark Wallace, a former State Department official, wrote Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.
Of course, it was not just NATO—it was pretty much the entire Western world that misread the meaning and significance of the collapse of the Soviet Union in August 1991.
That blunder was epitomized in Francis Fukuyama's flattering and self-serving account of the political handiwork of his generation, "The End of History." The book argued that the contemporary liberal order reflected political perfection, and from now on, everyone, everywhere, would aspire to copy America.
Fukuyama's book has proven no more correct than its predecessor a century before, Norman Angell's "The Great Illusion." First published in 1909—five years before the start of World War I—Angell's book argued that conflict had become so costly that there would be no more wars in Europe, or if one did break out, it would be very short.
Although their theses were extremely appealing, both were quite wrong. Angell and Fukuyama failed to take account of the irrational in human affairs. That is driven, above all, by ego, or vainglory, as the seventeenth-century British philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, argued.
The Biden administration, from the president on down, see extremely high stakes in the Ukraine conflict. At risk is the liberal international order established by the US following the defeat of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan in World War II.
"Everyone here understands the stakes of this war, and they stretch far beyond Europe," Austin said on Monday. "Russia's aggression is an affront to the rules-based international order and a challenge to free people everywhere."