On Wednesday, President Joe Biden assembled US military chiefs at the White House for an annual meeting that has taken on new significance as the crisis in Ukraine enters a dangerous new phase and Washington prepares to provide more arms aid.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, and senior military officers will discuss a ‘range of themes,’ according to a National Security Council spokesperson. After a formal West Wing meeting, the event concludes with a dinner in the president’s mansion with the leaders’ spouses.
While the annual military policy gathering rarely makes headlines, this year’s agenda is packed with important topics, including a crisis in Ukraine that many believe will jeopardise European security for years.
Russia has announced that it has entered a new phase of its operation and is working methodically to ‘liberate’ eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Russian’s effort, according to Western allies, could continue months, slow to a halt, and put Ukrainian fighters to the test on the battlefield.
Biden began the conference by praising the Ukrainian military’s toughness and asserting that NATO’s solidarity has surprised Russian President Vladimir Putin.
‘They’re tougher and more proud than I expected,’ Biden said. ‘I’m amazed at what they’re accomplishing with your help. I don’t believe Putin expected it to be able to keep us together.’