Ukraine forces employing Western arms to devastating effect - U.S. top general

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Ukraine is using its modern Western weapons to devastating effect, striking hundred of Russian targets with the U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket system alone, General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday.

"We are seeing real and measurable gains from Ukraine in the use of these systems. For example, the Ukrainians have struck over 400 targets with the HIMARS and they've had devastating effect," Milley told reporters after a meeting of dozens of defence ministers at Ramstein air base in Germany.

The ministers met to discuss how to support Kyiv with military aid over the long haul as the six-month-old conflict, which has killed thousands and reduced Ukrainian cities to rubble, has settled into a war of attrition fought primarily in eastern and southern Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden approved an additional $675 million weapons package for Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the meeting.

The latest U.S. package includes more ammunition, humvees and anti-tank systems.

Washington has already provided more than $10 billion in military assistance to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's government since Russian troops invaded on Feb. 24.

"This contact group needs to position itself to sustain Ukraine's brave defenders for the long haul," Austin said, referring to the meeting. "That means a continued and determined flow of capability now."

Separately, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will announce $2 billion in new U.S. military financing to Ukraine and 18 other countries at risk of future Russian aggression, a senior State Department official said. read more


Ukraine has been carrying out a counteroffensive in the south, though details about it are sparse.

"I would characterise it as a very deliberate offensive operation that is calibrated to set conditions and then seize their objectives," Milley said, speaking of steady progress the Ukrainians had been making.

"I don't think they are particularly overstretched per se," he added.

U.S. officials say they are aware that Russia is hoping that Western unity will be tested in the coming months with European countries squeezed by reduced supplies of Russian natural gas and the upcoming November mid-term elections in the United States.

Control of the U.S. Congress is at stake in November's mid-term elections, along with Biden's remaining policy agenda. Those advocating for Ukraine are concerned that Washington's attention may turn to domestic issues as November nears and voters may be more driven by issues closer to home such as the economy.

The White House earlier this month said Biden would request $11.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to provide weapons and budget support to Ukraine.

"I fully expect that we'll continue to receive broad bi-partisan support because our leaders recognise... how important it is that we continue to help Ukraine have the ability to protect itself and its territory," Austin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the campaign a "special operation" to demilitarize Ukraine, while Kyiv accuses Moscow of an imperial-style land grab to retake a pro-Western neighbour that shook off Russian domination when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.

Reporting by Idrees Ali, Sabine Siebold and Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing John Stonestreet, Frances Kerry, Mark Porter and Alex Richardson

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Thomson Reuters

National security correspondent focusing on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Reports on U.S. military activity and operations throughout the world and the impact that they have. Has reported from over two dozen countries to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.