RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a gathering of military leaders from 40 NATO and non-NATO countries that Russian President Vladimir Putin “never imagined that the world would rally Ukraine so swiftly and surely” — as the United States pledged military aid, Poland announced it would send tanks, and Germany planned to send armored antiaircraft vehicles.
In separate remarks to the group, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a stark picture of the next phase of the war, as Russia attempts to take full control of southeastern and southern Ukraine. “Time is not on Ukraine’s side,” Milley said in closed-door comments provided to reporters traveling with him. “The outcome of this battle, right here, today, is dependent on the people in this room.”
World leaders are seeking to pressure Putin to stop the war now grinding into its third month. UN Secretary General António Guterres, who is in Moscow to meet with Putin and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, called for a cease-fire on Tuesday and said everything must be done “to end the war as soon as possible.” Lavrov, meanwhile, set off alarm bells when he told state television that the risk of the conflict escalating into nuclear war “is serious, it is real” — but added that Moscow’s position is that nuclear war is unacceptable. Lavrov accused NATO of fighting a proxy war by donating weapons to Kyiv and said weapons flowing from allies into Ukraine will be considered “a legitimate target” for Russia’s military.