Brussels (CNN) – The United States is awaiting more announcements of arms and equipment packages that will be sent to Ukraine to help it fight Russia at a meeting of nearly 50 countries in Brussels on Wednesday, according to a senior US defense official.
Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia is gaining ground in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, specifically in the city of Severodonetsk, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting recently. Without a greater influx of arms, some Ukrainian officials have said it will be increasingly difficult to halt Russia’s creeping advance or reclaim occupied territories in the region.
“We hear what they are saying, and we certainly hear what they are saying,” said the senior defense official, speaking of the “urgency” of the Ukrainian contact group meeting in Brussels.
The official declined to reveal details of which countries would announce new security packages or what those shipments would include, but said the United States was working “closely” with its allies to find out what the Ukrainian military needed and then find those systems to deliver.
The official also did not say whether the United States would make a new announcement, but said the Biden administration was already working on the next arms package.
“It’s a constant request because it’s an ongoing battle” with “urgent requirements that are constantly evolving,” the official told a group of reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The administration announced the latest weapons package in early June, including the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a system capable of launching multiple rockets and missiles that Ukraine had urgently ordered for weeks. The $700 million package was the first time the administration turned to last month’s $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, which received bipartisan support in Congress.
Immediately after the announcement of the weapons package, a small group of Ukrainian soldiers began training with HIMARS. But the system, which requires three weeks of training, has yet to see combat. The senior defense official only stated that he would enter Ukraine “soon”.
Army Secretary Christine Wormott said earlier this month that the United States had taken “some risks” to its military readiness by sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine, but that it “wasn’t an unacceptable level of risk at all.”
The senior defense official said the United States and its allies have a large amount of equipment still available to send to Ukraine.
“We are far from exhausting resources and security assistance from various countries for this battle on Ukrainian soil,” the official said.
Zelensky asks for more
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged in a late-night speech on Monday that Ukraine would liberate all Russian-occupied territories, including Crimea, which Russia annexed shortly after taking office in 2014. But that can only happen . Weapons are sent to Ukraine.
“You just need enough weapons for that to happen,” Zelensky said. “And the partners have them. In sufficient quantities. And we are working every day to achieve the political will to give us those weapons.”
Ukrainian officials have said that between 100 and 200 soldiers are killed in action every day, a number that raises some questions about the ability of the Ukrainian armed forces to withstand such losses. The US official said they had no doubts about the number of casualties.
“The numbers do not contradict what is expected for this type of artillery battle,” the official said. “It is not surprising that the numbers cited by the Ukrainians are so dire,” he added.
But the official said the United States has not seen a drop in Ukrainian morale to remain in combat, even as the conflict has turned into a brutal artillery battle that may favor Ukrainian firepower and manpower. The official made a more optimistic note about the state of the war, even as Russia appears to be gaining momentum in the Donbass region.
Morale problems, lack of leadership, and supply problems have plagued the Russian army since the beginning of the invasion. Russia was able to mask some of these problems when the focus shifted to eastern Ukraine, where the battlefield was adjacent to Russia, which facilitated sending supplies over short distances to units on the front lines.
Much of the advanced Russian equipment has already been destroyed, the official said, forcing them to rely on outdated models. At the same time, Russia’s stocks of precision ammunition dwindled, which led to the use of more artillery, which had serious consequences due to its lack of accuracy. The official said sanctions and export restrictions have made it difficult to renew its advanced capabilities.
Despite all the challenges the Russians faced, both those created by them and those caused by Ukraine’s counter-attacks, Moscow still retains its greatest advantage: the sheer size of its army. But this does not mean that Russia is guaranteed victory, although Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no indication that he is considering lowering his goals.