Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin praised the Ukrainian military for responding to the Russian invasion in a way he said would “go down in military history”.
Austin highlighted alleged atrocities by Russian forces in Ukraine while tweeting praise for the defensive effort on Friday. Despite heavy casualties on both sides, Ukrainian forces managed to hold off the much larger Russian army for over two months, despite many experts predicting a quick defeat early in the war.
‘Ukrainian hospitals have been bombed,’ says Austin tweeted. “Their citizens were executed. Their children were traumatized. And yet, despite all of this, they did a magnificent job of defending their sovereignty. Ukraine’s valor and skill will go down in military history.”
Austin’s tweet echoes remarks he made earlier this week during a speech at Ramstein US Air Force Base in Germany, where he met with military leaders from more than 40 countries as part of the new Ukrainian defense advisory group.
Austin added Tuesday in Germany: “You know, the battle of Iwo Jima lasted 36 days,” he continued. “The Battle of the Bulge lasted 40 days. And Ukraine has now repelled the Russian army for 62 days.”
Austin added that the Ukrainian resistance had “inspired the free world”, while the United States and other countries had provided assistance that Russian President Vladimir Putin “never imagined” would arrive “so quickly and surely”. .
Ukraine’s defense exceeded many’s expectations. Just before the invasion began, three US officials said Newsweek that they expected Kyiv to fall “within days” and for the Ukrainian leadership to crumble about a week later.
An end to the war is currently not in sight, with peace talks between the warring countries stalled after Russia focused on a large-scale attack in Ukraine’s Donbass region.
At a joint press conference with Austin in Poland this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia had “already failed” in achieving its goals while “Ukraine is succeeding” and could win the war.
On Friday, NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană predicted the war could last for many more months or years in an interview with the BBC.
“It is clear that the next days and weeks could prove decisive, but the war would probably take longer,” Geoană said. “It can take weeks, months or even years, it depends on many factors.”
“But, in the end, it will probably be fought and hopefully won by Ukraine on the battlefield,” he added.
Newsweek contacted the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, DC, for comment.