U.S. predicts Ukraine will get through winter; allies beef up air defenses

BRUSSELS, Oct 12 (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday Ukraine was expected to weather a harsh winter trying to retake more territory from Russia as allies announced the delivery of new air defense systems and promised more aid. After the Russian missile attack.

Military analysts are watching to see if fighting subsides during Ukraine’s harsh winter, which could provide an opportunity for armies on both sides of the conflict to resume fighting after months of brutal fighting since February 2 in Russia. 24 Invasion of Ukraine.

But Austin, speaking at a rally at NATO headquarters in Brussels of about 50 countries that provide military aid to Ukraine, said he expected Kyiv to push as far as it could after retaking territory occupied by Russian troops in recent weeks.

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“I expect Ukraine will continue to do what it can through the winter to retake territory and play a role on the battlefield,” Austin said at a news conference.

“And we will do everything we can to make sure they have what they need to be effective.”

A senior U.S. defense official said there was “substantial” support to help Ukraine through the winter fighting months, including providing winter clothing.

“But what about those Russian troops? What kind of support will they have through the winter? Right now, the Russians are alone,” the official said.

Many countries condemned the invasion, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called a “special military operation” to ensure Russia’s security and protect Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Ukraine and its allies have accused Moscow of waging war to seize territory and even occupy pro-Western neighbors.

missile attack

Two days ago, Austin sat next to his Ukrainian counterpart at the opening of a NATO meeting and condemned Putin’s deadly missile attack on “targets with no military purpose” in Ukraine.

U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the attack met the definition of a war crime under international rules of war. Kyiv and its allies have repeatedly accused Russian troops of war crimes and targeting civilians, charges Russia has rejected.

“Russia has deliberately attacked civilian infrastructure with the aim of harming civilians,” Milley told reporters.

“Their targets are the elderly, women and children of Ukraine. The indiscriminate and deliberate targeting of civilian targets is a war crime under the international rules of war.”

With Russia’s latest airstrikes killing 19 people and wounding more than 100 in Ukraine and knocking out power across the country, Kyiv’s long-standing calls for an air defense system to protect its city have added new urgency.

Germany has announced that the first of four IRIS-T air defense systems has arrived in Ukraine. German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht called it “a very important support for Ukraine’s fight against missile attacks”.

“Body response”?

The Brussels meeting was also NATO’s first major meeting since Moscow announced in September the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, mobilizing and issuing a covert nuclear threat — moves NATO classifies as a clear escalation of the war.

A senior NATO official said a Russian nuclear strike would change the course of the conflict and would almost certainly trigger a “physical reaction” from Ukraine’s allies – “probably from NATO itself”.

The official did not elaborate on the possible consequences of the physical reaction.

NATO’s nuclear programme team will meet behind closed doors on Thursday, but the alliance has not released details on what will be discussed.

Ahead of a two-day meeting of coalition defense ministers, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO would conduct its annual nuclear readiness exercise next week.

He was referring to the “Resolute Noon” exercise, in which the NATO air force practises the use of U.S. nuclear bombs stationed in Europe, training flights, and no live ammunition.

Stoltenberg said canceling the exercises because of the war in Ukraine would send a “very wrong signal”.

“This is an exercise to ensure our nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” he said, adding that NATO’s military might was the best way to prevent tensions from rising. Moscow has accused the West of fueling the conflict by supporting Kyiv.

Europe is already on edge after the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline running under the Baltic Sea, although it is unclear who was behind the blast.

NATO has said it will respond to attacks on allied critical infrastructure with a “united and determined response” and has doubled its presence in the Baltic and North Seas, with more than 30 ships supported by aircraft and undersea activities.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Philip Blenkinsop and Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by John Chalmers and Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Nick Macfie, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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