US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday (Nov 20) that Washington’s backing for Kyiv was long-term. “The message that I have for you today, Mr President, is that the United States of America stands with you, we will stay with you for the long term,” Austin said to Zelensky as he visited Kyiv to comfort Ukraine on US support in its struggle against Russia.
The Pentagon said in a statement that Austin went to Ukraine to see “Ukrainian leaders and strengthen the firm support of the United States for Ukraine’s battle for freedom.”
“He will also emphasize the ongoing US pledge to give Ukraine the security help it requires to protect itself from Russian attacks,” the statement said. This was Austin’s second visit to Ukraine since Russia started an assault last year.
Austin also praised Zelensky for his leadership in defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and fighting bravely.
“You (Zelensky) have inspired the Ukrainian people to do things that most people could not imagine from the start. And so we’ve witnessed grit, ingenuity. We’ve witnessed courage from the Ukrainian people that has amazed the world,” he said.
Since the conflict started, the US has given tens of billions of dollars in security aid to Ukraine and promised to support Kyiv for “as long as it takes.”
But hardline Republican lawmakers have resisted this assistance.
Until now, the US has been the largest giver of military assistance to Kyiv, and a reduction in American aid would be a huge setback for Ukraine as it faces the second winter of the war.
Last month, Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked lawmakers to maintain support for Ukraine, with the US defence chief saying that without Washington’s support, Russian President Vladimir Putin would win.
Besides Ukraine, the US has also claimed that it can help Israel in its escalating conflict with Hamas.