KYIV — U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Monday where he reassured the Ukrainian government the U.S. will continue to help it fend off the Russian invasion — a pledge that appears to be wobbling as aid for Ukraine becomes embroiled in political battles in Washington.
“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 in a statement upon arrival.
Austin arrived only two days ahead of the 17th meeting of Ukraine’s Defense Contact Group, also known as the Rammstein meeting, planned for Wednesday. He will host the meeting via video conference with some 50 countries to coordinate military aid for Ukraine.
In Kyiv, Austin focused on bolstering the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Ukraine, including ensuring that Ukraine’s armed forces have the battlefield capabilities they need both for this winter and to defend their country against future Russian threats, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
Although the Biden administration continues to strongly back Ukraine, aid to Kyiv has come under fire from parts of the Republican Party in Congress and was not included in the supplementary spending bill to keep the U.S. government open.
Austin has been calling on Congress to approve aid to Ukraine and Israel, and insisted the U.S. — the world’s largest donor of military kit to Ukraine — will not slack off.
“Our supplemental request directly supports our allies and partners, including Israel and Ukraine, during a critical period and makes key investments in our defense industrial base across the country. These investments will mean greater prosperity at home and greater security abroad,” Austin said.
Ukraine expects to get more ammunition from its partners, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said in a statement following a phone call with Austin last week.
He thanked the United States for the air defense systems now protecting Ukrainian skies.
“I also emphasized the current needs of Ukraine: more ammunition for our soldiers,” Umerov said.