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PATCH BARRACKS, Germany, May 24 (Reuters) – Two blocks from a casino and Burger King is a medium-sized room covered with a blue carpet that until four months ago was occasionally used to welcome personnel starting their jobs at the United States’ European Command headquarters.
The fourth-floor room in the General Bernard Rogers Conference Center on a U.S. Army base in Germany has become the center of Western efforts to give billions of dollars in weapons and nonlethal aid to Ukrainian forces to help Kyiv push back against Russia’s invasion of the country.
Two text journalists accompanying U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks were given access to the U.S- and British-led weapons transfer center for the first time on Tuesday.
The room, which operates 24 hours a day and holds about 100 military personnel from two dozen countries, is lined with television monitors attached to the ceiling, with small teams working on different parts of the mammoth operation to move weapons into Europe and eventually into Ukrainian hands.
The United States alone has rushed $3.9 billion worth of armaments to Ukraine since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed a bill to send $40 billion in additional military, economic and humanitarian aid to Kyiv.
None of the weapons are physically located at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, and the room acts as a logistics hub for coordinating the flow of weapons.
One group of soldiers, sitting next to British, American and Ukrainian flags, is responsible for intelligence on Russia’s operations in Ukraine.
Another group sitting close by a “Secret” sign on the wall tracks weapons and nonlethal aid moving into and around Europe from more than 40 countries. Other troops log onto a newly created computer system that allows Ukrainian forces to put in requests for weapons.
In a sign of how the United States and its allies are preparing for the conflict to continue well into the future, a new team was recently created to try to anticipate Ukraine’s future needs.
Less than five Ukrainian service members work in the center as liaisons, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“(It) probably began as simple deconfliction, but now I think really in terms of optimizing the capability that the international community can bring to bear,” Hicks told the reporters after visiting the coordination room.
As it became evident in November that Russia was putting troops in place to potentially invade Ukraine, a senior U.S. defense official struggled to give Kyiv speedboats.
“(I) had to make 5,000 phone calls,” the official said.
“Since then, it has become better organized.”
When the coordination center first began its work in March, British and U.S. officials said, it was relatively easy to move smaller weapons like Javelin anti-tank missiles.
As the war has progressed and the fighting has largely moved to eastern Ukraine, longer-range and heavier weapons like howitzer artillery systems have become the primary focus.
“It has become more complex. At first it was ‘give us anything,’ and now we’re more focused on the capabilities,” a British official said.
Reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Jonathan Oatis
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