KYIV, Nov 20 (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced $100 million in new military aid to Ukraine during an unannounced visit to Kiev on Monday, raising the stakes for the sustainability of vital U.S. aid. Amid growing concerns about gender equality, the United States pledged long-term support.
Austin announced the aid package after a day of talks with Ukrainian officials and said it would include weapons such as anti-tank weapons and air defense interceptors.
Accompanied by America’s top general in Europe, Austin was photographed smiling and shaking hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. This will be Austin’s first visit to Kyiv since April 2022.
“Mr. President, my message to you today is that the United States is with you. We are with you for the long term,” Mr. Austin told Zelenskiy after taking an overnight train from Poland into Ukraine.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said the visit demonstrated the United States’ “unwavering support for Ukraine in its fight for freedom.”
Zelenskyy told Austin that his visit was a “very important signal” for Ukraine.
“We look forward to your support,” Zelenskiy told Austin.
The United States has provided more than $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February 2022.
The visit took place amid growing disagreements in the U.S. Congress over aid to Ukraine ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November 2024. Some U.S. lawmakers are prioritizing aid to Israel, as U.S. defense officials stress that the U.S. government can support both allies at the same time.
Some Ukrainian government officials have privately expressed concern that military aid may be delivered less frequently, reflecting broader concerns about the level of support needed to sustain the war against Russia. . Ukraine has a deficit of more than $40 billion in next year’s budget that needs to be filled.
extraordinary spending bill
President Joe Biden asked Congress last month to approve additional funding for Ukraine. Funding will never be appropriated for Ukraine, especially after the Republican-led House passed a bill that included aid to Israel but not Ukraine, due to the country’s omission from the interim spending bill passed by lawmakers last week. There was growing concern that this might happen.
A vocal group of Republicans opposes sending more aid to Ukraine. Opponents of the aid argue that U.S. taxpayers should be spent domestically, but a majority of Republicans and Democrats in Congress still support aid to Zelensky’s government.
Joint military industry meeting of Ukraine and the United States held in Washington. deadline The military exercises, to be held on December 6 and 7, are aimed at increasing Ukraine’s domestic arms production as the war moves toward its second year.
Mr. Austin met with Pentagon officials at the U.S. Embassy early in the day.
“If you think back to the beginning of this, no one thought Ukraine would last more than a week, so we were so far behind,” Austin said.
“Now everyone is wondering why Ukraine didn’t overwhelm Russia. Russia is a much bigger country and has much more capabilities. But thinking about that change in mindset. I want you to see it,” Austin added.
Russia currently controls nearly a fifth of Ukraine. Western countries sent military equipment this year and Ukraine launched a counteroffensive to retake occupied territory, but no significant progress has been made.
Max Hunter and Tom Balmforth report from Kiev, and Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali from Washington.Editing: Will Dunham, Bernadette Bohm, Alex Richardson
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