Kiev, Nov 20 (AP) US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kiev on Monday as part of efforts to maintain the flow of money and weapons to Ukraine. However, new global risks posed by the Israel–Hamas conflict have strained US and international resources.
Austin, who arrived in Kiev by train from Poland, met President Volodymyr Zelensky and Defense Minister Rustam Umerov. He is also scheduled to meet several other senior Ukrainian officials.
Austin said in Kiev that Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russia’s attack “matters to the rest of the world” and that it will receive US support “for a long time.”
Zelensky said Austin’s visit was ‘a very important signal for Ukraine.’ He thanked the US Parliament, Congress as well as American citizens for their support, saying, ‘We are confident in your support.’
This is Austin’s second visit to Kiev. But this time he is undertaking the journey under very different circumstances. His first visit was in April 2022, just two months after Russia’s invasion. At present, the world’s attention has focused towards West Asia and the Russia-Ukraine war that has been going on for almost 21 months is showing signs of fatigue.
“I am here today to deliver an important message – America will stand with Ukraine in its fight for freedom against Russian aggression,” Austin posted on the social media platform X.
But the conflict in Gaza could drain the supply of attention and resources from the fight in Ukraine. The United States has moved quickly to prevent the attacks from escalating into a regional war since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s devastating weeks-long bombardment of Gaza that followed, killing more than 10,000 civilians. went.
Ukraine has so far received $44 billion in arms from the United States and more than $35 billion from other allies, ranging from millions of bullets to air defense systems, advanced European and American battle tanks, and ultimately F-16 fighter jets. Involves promise of supply.
Ukraine still needs more help, and after almost 20 months of arms supplies to Ukraine, it is beginning to show shortages. Some European countries, such as Poland, have reduced support in view of the need to maintain adequate capabilities for their own defence.
However, as winter sets in, ground conditions will make it more difficult for both sides to make major gains. This could go against Ukraine if US lawmakers feel there is time to wait before requiring more money.
AP Avinash Madhav