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Austin, The Defense Secretary, Pays A Surprise Visit To Ukraine

The trip is a high-profile effort to keep money and weaponry coming to Ukraine despite the Israel-Hamas war straining U.S. and international resources.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv unannounced on Monday to keep money and weaponry flowing to Ukraine despite the heightened global hazards posed by the Israel-Hamas war.

Austin, who took the train from Poland to Kyiv, will meet with key Ukrainian leaders and publicly advocate for Ukraine’s military needs as it approaches another winter of conflict.

Austin is visiting Kyiv again but under new circumstances. He visited in April 2022, two months after Russia’s massive invasion. Austin began a worldwide initiative that currently involves 50 nations meeting regularly to organize weaponry, training, and other assistance for Kyiv during the global outrage over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I’m here today to deliver an important message — the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine in their fight for freedom against Russia’s aggression, both now and into the future,” Austin said on Twitter predecessor X.

The Gaza war may divert resources from the Ukraine conflict. Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on Israel and Israel’s weeks-long bombing of Gaza, which killed more than 10,000 people, the U.S. has worked hard to prevent a regional conflict.

The U.S. has sent two carrier strike groups, scores of fighter jets, and thousands of personnel to the Middle East and must now conduct airstrikes against Iranian-backed militant groups that are regularly attacking U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria.

Ukraine has received almost $44 billion in armaments from the U.S. and $35 billion from other allies, including millions of ammunition, air defense systems, modern European and U.S. combat tanks, and F-16 fighter planes.

Cracks are appearing after over 20 months of delivering armaments to Ukraine, but Ukraine still needs more. Poland and other European nations have cut financing to retain their defense capabilities.

After a long-awaited counteroffensive during the summer failed to modify the fighting lines, Ukrainian authorities have denied a stalemate with Russia. In a visit to Washington last week, Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office, confirmed that Ukrainian forces had finally reached the east bank of the Dnieper River, which has been the immovable front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces for months.

As winter approaches, ground conditions will make it harder for either side to make big inroads. U.S. politicians may think Ukraine can wait before requesting further cash, which might hurt Ukraine.

That would be foolish, according to American Enterprise Institute senior resident researcher Fred Kagan.

Stopping assistance to Ukraine won’t prolong the impasse. Kagan said the help is necessary to prevent the Russians from maneuvering again to destroy Ukraine. Russia gains, Ukraine suffers, and NATO loses when funding is halted.

The Pentagon has a limited amount of money remaining in this year’s budget to keep shipping weaponry to Ukraine, and Congress is months late on a new budget and has not authorized a supplemental spending package that would include Ukraine’s help.

The U.S. has sent Ukraine almost $44.2 billion in armaments since February 2022, but the money is virtually exhausted. The Pentagon may send $5 billion extra in weapons and equipment from its inventories. However, it only has $1 billion to replace those equities. In recent months, weapons support announcements have been substantially less in financial quantities.

“You have seen smaller packages because we need to parse these out,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Thursday. Because we don’t know when Congress will approve our additional package.

Officials want Congress to give Ukraine more money, but more Senate Republicans are opposing it without backing for other unrelated measures like harsher immigration laws and border control spending. Ukraine was not funded in a temporary budget agreement enacted last week to avert a government shutdown over Christmas.

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Written by Anthony Peters