Blinken and Austin highlight U.S. commitment on Kyiv visit

NEAR THE POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday after a secret visit to kyiv that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy is committed to winning his country’s fight against Russia and that the United States will help achieve this goal.

“He has the mindset that they want to win, and we have the mindset that we want to help them win,” Austin told reporters in Poland the day after the head-to-head encounter. three hours with Zelenskyy in Ukraine.

Austin said the nature of the fight in Ukraine has changed now that Russia has moved away from the forested northern regions to focus on the eastern industrial heartland of Donbass. Because the nature of combat has evolved, Ukraine’s military needs have also evolved, and Zelenskyy is now focusing on more tanks, artillery and other munitions.

Read more: A foreign fighter on life on the Ukrainian front lines

“The first step to winning is believing you can win,” Austin said. “We believe they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we’re going to do everything we can… to make sure that gets to them.”

The trip by Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was the highest-level American visit to the capital since the invasion of Russia in late February.

They told Zelenskyy and his advisers that the United States would provide more than $300 million in foreign military funding and had approved a $165 million ammunition sale.

“We had the opportunity to directly demonstrate our continued strong support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,” Blinken said. “It was, in our opinion, an important moment to be there, to have face-to-face conversations in detail.”

Blinken said their meeting with the Ukrainians lasted three hours for wide-ranging discussions, including the help the country needs in the coming weeks.

“The strategy we have put in place, the massive support for Ukraine, the massive pressure against Russia, the solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts has real results,” Blinken said.

“As far as Russia’s war aims are concerned, Russia is failing. Ukraine succeeds. Russia has sought as its main objective to completely subjugate Ukraine, to strip it of its sovereignty, to strip it of its independence. It failed.

Read more: Ukrainians want to hold Russia accountable for wartime rapes

Asked what the United States considers a success, Austin said that “we want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country capable of protecting its sovereign territory, we want to see Russia weakened to the point where it does not can’t do things like invade Ukraine.

They also said Biden would soon announce his candidate for ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, and that US diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would begin returning to the country next week. The United States Embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the time being.

Brink, a career foreign service officer, has been ambassador to Slovakia since 2019. She previously held positions in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Uzbekistan as well as on the White House National Security Council. The position must be confirmed by the US Senate.

Journalists who traveled with Austin and Blinken to Poland were not allowed to report on the trip until it was completed, were not allowed to accompany them on their overland journey to Ukraine and were not allowed to specify where in southeastern Poland they met the Cabinet. members upon their return. State Department and Pentagon officials cited security concerns.

Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military funding for Ukraine and 15 allies and partners; some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv. The rest will be split among NATO members and other countries that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.

Such funding is different from previous US military assistance to Ukraine. This is not a donation of depleted stocks from the US Department of Defense, but rather money that countries can use to purchase supplies they may need.

The new funds, along with the sale of $165 million in non-U.S.-made ammunition compatible with Soviet-era weapons used by Ukrainians, bring the total amount of U.S. military aid to Ukraine to $3.7 billion since the invasion, officials said.

Biden has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of genocide for the destruction and death inflicted on Ukraine. Last Thursday, Biden said he would provide a new $800 million military aid package to Ukraine, including heavy artillery and drones.

Read more: War in Ukraine alters Europe’s enthusiasm for nuclear energy

Congress last month approved $6.5 billion in military aid as part of $13.6 billion in spending for Ukraine and its allies in response to the Russian invasion.

From Poland, Blinken plans to return to Washington while Austin travels to Ramstein, Germany, for a Tuesday meeting of defense ministers from NATO and other donor nations.

This discussion will focus on battlefield updates from the ground, additional security assistance for Ukraine, and longer-term defense needs in Europe, including how to increase military production to fill the gaps caused by the war in Ukraine, officials said. More than 20 nations are expected to send representatives to the meeting.

Associated Press writer David Rising contributed to this report from Bangkok

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