Apr 25, 2022
U.S. Aims to Weaken Russia in Ukraine, Austin Says in Kyiv Visit
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. announced additional military aid for Ukraine as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Washington wants to see Russian forces ground down so they can’t attempt a repeat of the war.
Speaking to reporters in Kyiv on Monday during the highest-level U.S. visit to the Ukraine since Russia invaded two months ago, Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken committed a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries. Some $322 million of that sum is earmarked for Ukraine.
With the war now entering a third month despite several rounds of international sanctions and waves of weapons supplied, Austin was asked about U.S. goals in the conflict. Washington wants Ukraine to remain a sovereign, democratic country, able to protect itself, and “we want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” he said.
Russia “has already lost a lot of military capability, and a lot of its troops quite frankly,” Austin said. “We want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”
The U.S. officials traveled to Kyiv on Sunday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as air raid sirens were heard across the country. Russian attacks continued overnight on the besieged city of Mariupol, while Kharkiv and the entire Luhansk region came under artillery fire, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Austin and Blinken also said that American diplomats will return to the country starting next week, and will look into the feasibility of reopening the embassy in Kyiv in the coming weeks. The remainder of the $713 million financing will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, U.S. officials said.
The visit comes with Russian forces shifting to the east and south after failing to take Kyiv or topple Zelenskiy’s government in the early weeks of the conflict launched by President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine has pressured the U.S. and its allies to send more powerful weapons to repel Russia from the eastern Donbas region, where Russian troops are seeking to gain full control of Mariupol.
“When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding,” Blinken said. “We don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign, independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene.”
Zelenskiy discussed matters including defense assistance, security guarantees, stepping up sanctions on Russia and further financial aid with Blinken and Austin, according to the president’s office.
Austin said he and NATO counterparts will address the issue of what more can be done to provide “additional capability” to Ukraine when they meet at the Rammstein airbase in Germany on Tuesday. “We will continue to do everything possible to ensure that you are successful,” he said in a video provided by Zelenskiy’s office.
Earlier: Biden Restocks Ukraine Arsenal With New Arms as Putin Widens War
President Joe Biden last week pledged an additional $1.3 billion in weaponry and economic aid, adding to an $800 million package that included heavy artillery for the first time, as well as additional helicopters. The latest aid shipments will include dozens of howitzers and attack drones.
Biden plans to formally nominate Bridget Brink, currently the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, to be its next envoy in Ukraine, a U.S. official said.
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