US defense chief visits Kyiv, announces $100m military aid package | News of war between Russia and Ukraine
The US will send to Ukraine anti-tank weapons, air defense equipment and an additional HIMARS system.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv where he unveiled a new $100m military aid package for Ukraine.
Austin, on his first visit to Kyiv since April 2022, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as well as Defense Minister Rustem Umerov and Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi on Monday and pledged long-term support to the United States.
“The message I bring to you today, Mr. President, is that the United States of America is with you. We will stay with you for the long haul,” Austin told Zelenskyy.
Austin said that Ukraine’s effort to defeat Russian forces is “important to the rest of the world” and that US support would continue “for the long haul”.
The new aid package includes anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft defenses and a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
Zelenskyy told Austin that his visit was a “very important milestone” for Ukraine.
“We depend on your support,” said the Ukrainian president.
Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the US has provided more than $44bn – and an additional $35bn – in security assistance ranging from millions of bullets to air defense systems, European and US advanced battle tanks and, finally, commitments for F-16 fighter jets.
But there are concerns that the allies’ support is emerging amid the devastating war between Israel and Gaza and a perceived lack of progress in the Ukrainian conflict that began in June.
Fighting has subsided in the east of the country around devastated towns such as Bakhmut and Adviidka, although Ukraine has reported significant success in the southern Kherson region, where it has established a base the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, and in the Black Sea.
However, as the cold weather sets in, it will become more difficult for either side to gain a significant advantage due to the terrain.
“I think they are ready to fight in the winter,” Austin told reporters after his meetings, adding that Russia was expected to be “even more aggressive.”
Last year, Moscow launched a relentless attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and power grid, leaving millions of Ukrainians in the cold and in the dark at a time when temperatures are often below zero.
Fred Kagan, senior scholar in residence at the American Enterprise Institute, said it would be a mistake to think there is time to wait.
“If we stop supporting Ukraine, the situation will not continue. The support is absolutely necessary to prevent the Russians from moving again in ways that allow them to defeat Ukraine,” Kagan told the Associated Press news agency. “So the cost of cutting aid is that Russia wins and Ukraine loses and NATO loses.”
Austin’s visit comes amid a growing divide over support for Ukraine in the US Congress. Some lawmakers want support for Israel a priority, although US defense officials stress that Washington can support both alliances at the same time, while a small but vocal group of Republicans against sending more aid to Ukraine, saying taxpayers’ money should be spent at home.