Israel taking part in US-led Ukraine defense summit

Ukraine has been highly critical of Israel for not providing weapons and defensive equipment.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov listens to the opening remarks of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during the Ukraine Defense Consultative Group meeting, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, at US Airbase in Ramstein, Germany, April 26, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH)
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov listens to the opening remarks of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during the Ukraine Defense Consultative Group meeting, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, at US Airbase in Ramstein, Germany, April 26, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH)

Israel is taking part in a US-hosted defense summit at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to discuss international defense aid to Ukraine.

Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Dror Shalom, head of the political security division of the Defense Ministry, is representing Israel at the summit, which is being attended by more than 40 countries, including all NATO members and 14 non-NATO members.

According to Breaking Defense, non-NATO countries attending include Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Qatar, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Tunisia, Sweden and Finland.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov will also attend the summit.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who was invited to the summit, was unable to attend due to the upcoming Holocaust Remembrance Day that begins on Wednesday night.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrives at the Pentagon as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomes him earlier this month. (credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrives at the Pentagon as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomes him earlier this month. (credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Gantz spoke with Reznikov last week and discussed Israel’s role and the international effort to bring an end to the war.

The summit comes shortly after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv for talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, following his call for more powerful weaponry to repel Russian forces.

Following the visit, Austin said that Ukraine can win against Russia “if they have the right equipment, the right support.”

On Tuesday, Austin said that since Russia’s invasion on February 24, more than $5 billion in equipment has been committed to Ukraine.

“We’re all here because of Ukraine’s courage, because of the innocent civilians who have been killed, and because of the suffering that your people still endure. Your country has been ravaged. Your hospitals have been bombed. Your citizens have been executed. Your children have been traumatized,” he said. “But Ukraine has done a magnificent job defending its sovereignty against Russia’s unprovoked invasion. And Ukraine’s valor and skill will go down in military history.”

Prior to the summit, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters that “a key goal” of the talks was to coordinate security assistance to Kyiv including heavy weaponry, such as howitzers, armed drones and ammunition.

“The next several weeks will be very, very critical,” he said. “They need continued support in order to be successful on the battlefield. And that’s really the purpose of this conference.”

Zelensky has been highly critical of Israel for not providing weapons and defensive equipment, asking Knesset members in a Zoom conference last month, “What is it? Indifference? Sitting on the fence? Indifference kills. You can navigate interests but not between good and bad.”

Israel has been trying to strike a balance between Russia and Ukraine. Shalom’s participation in the summit can be viewed as a possible shift in stance by Jerusalem. Israel has been attempting to preserve its close ties with Russia, which is a key player in Syria where the IDF is carrying out airstrikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

Shalom’s participation also comes a week after Gantz announced that Israel would be sending protective vests and helmets to rescue and emergency services in Ukraine. The shipment will not go to the Ukrainian military.

As part of Israel’s help to the embattled country, Jerusalem has set up a field hospital in Lviv and donated several armored and 4x4 ambulances from Magen David Adom rescue services.