US Secretary of Defense affirms United States’ support for Ukrainians in Kyiv

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is greeted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit to Kyiv, Nov. 20, 2023.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III underscored the United States’ steadfast support for Ukraine as the European republic defends itself from Russian aggression during talks with senior leaders in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, yesterday.

The Pentagon chief met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Defense Minister Rustem Umerov during an unannounced visit to the country.

The leaders discussed Ukraine’s current operations and near-term and midterm goals and objectives, Austin told reporters following the talks.
“I wanted to reassure the leadership that the United States of America will continue to support Ukraine,” he said. “We talked about the things that we’re going to continue to do to make sure they have what they need to be successful on the battlefield.”

He added that the discussions were an opportunity for the leaders to refocus and ensure that to maintain alignment between the ongoing operations and objectives on the battlefield.

Austin’s visit marks his third to Ukraine as defense secretary and second since Russia’s invasion.

While in Kyiv, he announced a new security assistance package for Ukraine valued at up to $100 million.  

The package includes additional air defense capabilities, artillery ammunition, antitank weapons and other materials to help Ukrainian forces defend their territory amid Russia’s ongoing assault.  

It marks the 51st drawdown of U.S. inventory for Ukraine since August 2021. The U.S. has provided $44.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the war.  

Austin also underscored the continued support from the U.S.-led group of nearly 50 countries known as the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group, which has rallied in support of Ukraine.

The international coalition has provided about $36 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, further enabling Ukrainian forces to defend their nation’s sovereignty and regain more than half of the territory seized by Russian invaders.

A group of people gather at a table.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit to Kyiv, Nov. 20, 2023. Austin met with Ukrainian leaders and reinforced the staunch support of the United States for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression, while also discussing a long-term vision for Ukraine’s future force. (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

“That group has roared into action, and we have continued to work together to provide much needed security assistance in the form of [High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems], other artillery platforms, tanks [and] munitions,” Austin said. “And so, really good work on the part of our allies.” 

Austin will host the 17th meeting of the Ukranian Defense Contact Group later this week. 

Austin’s visit comes as Congress takes up President Joe Biden’s request for supplemental funding to continue to support Ukraine.  

While Congress continues to work through the request, Austin said he is confident there is bipartisan support for Ukraine in both chambers of Congress.  

“I know that there are some things that we need to continue to work through to get the supplemental request approved,” he said. “And we’ll continue to work with Congress to do that.”

The secretary added that continued support for Ukraine is imperative. 

“What happens here matters not just to Ukraine, but to the entire world,” Austin said. “This is about the rules-based international order. This is about … not living in a world where a dictator can wake up one day and decide to annex the property of his peaceful neighbor. That’s not the world we want to live in.”

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