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The United States wants to see Russia “weakened to the degree that it cannot do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday.
Blinken and Austin returned to Washington Monday after visiting Ukraine for the first time since Russia launched its unprecedented multi-front war against the country in February.
The meeting with Blinken, Austin, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also included Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, Ambassador Oksana Makarova, General Valerii Zaluzhny, head of presidential administration Andrii Yermak, and presidential aide Andrii Sybiyha.
Secretary Austin brought Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of Defense, and Lt. Gen. Randy George, his senior military aide. Tom Sullivan, deputy chief of staff for policy at State and the brother of National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, accompanied Blinken.
“We want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a Democratic country, able to protect its sovereign territory,” Austin said. “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (L), Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Center), U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) (Office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy)
Austin said that Russia has “already lost a lot of military capability” and “a lot of its troops.”
“We want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability,” Austin said.
Austin also noted that the Biden administration wants the international community to become “more united, especially NATO.”
“We’ve been seeing that, and that is based upon the hard work of, number one, President Biden, but also our allies and partners who have willingly leaned into this with us as we’ve imposed sanctions, as we’ve moved very rapidly to demonstrate that we’re going to defend every inch of NATO,” Austin said.
Blinken said that even as Russia “continues to try to brutalize” Ukraine, the Ukrainians are “standing up, they’re standing strong, and they’re doing that with the support that we coordinated from literally around the world.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy)
“The strategy that we’ve put in place, the massive support for Ukraine, the massive pressure against Russia, in solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts, is having real results,” Blinken said. “And we’re seeing that when it comes to Russian war aims.”
Blinken added: “Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding.”
Blinken noted that Russia has sought, as its “principal aim” to “totally subjugate Ukraine to take away its sovereignty, and its independence.”
“That has failed,” Blinken said. “It sought to assert the power of its military and its economy.”
Blinken said, though, that the U.S. is “seeing just the opposite.”
“The military that is dramatically underperforming, an economy as a result of sanctions as a result of a mass exodus from Russia, that is in shambles, and it sought to divide the West and NATO,” Blinken explained. “Of course, we’re seeing exactly the opposite. An alliance more united than I’ve ever seen it. And indeed, new countries considering applying for membership.”
Blinken added: “The bottom line is this. We don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene.”
“And our support going forward for Ukraine will continue until we see final success,” Blinken said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting on the current situation in Russia’s iron and steel industry via video conference in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday. (AP/Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo)
Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the United States “intends to obligate more than $713 million in Foreign Military Financing for Ukraine and 15 other Allied and partner nations in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkan region.”
Price said that includes $650 million in funding provided by the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022. Price said more than $322 million in this obligation would be for Ukraine, and would “provide support for the capabilities Ukraine needs as Russia’s forces train their focus on the Donbas.”
“This assistance will also help Ukraine’s armed forces transition to more advanced weapons and air defense systems,” Price said, adding it would also help NATO Allies with “backfilling capabilities they have donated to Ukraine from their own stockpiles.”
Price also noted that Blinken informed Zelenskyy that the Biden administration notified Congress of a Foreign Military Sale of up to $165 million for non-standard ammunition for Ukraine.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that, during the trip, Austin informed the Ukrainian government that the Pentagon will “expand military training for Ukrainian service members in the region on certain weapons systems being provided.”
As for U.S. diplomatic efforts, Blinken said U.S. diplomats will return to Ukraine this week–a move Price said “demonstrates our support for Ukraine and is part of the U.S. commitment to return our diplomats to our Embassy in Kyiv as soon as possible.”