Defense Security Lloyd Austin paid a surprise visit to Ukraine amid rising concerns about continuing Western support for the country’s war against Russian invaders.
“’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 posted on social media.
Ukrainian leaders have cautioned that Israel’s war with Hamas is drawing attention away from its 21-month-long war, sparked when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
President Biden and some Congressional leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have backed tying U.S. funding packages for Israel to funding for Ukraine.
However, the latest stopgap funding bill, which keeps some government agencies running through mid-January and others through early February, included no funding for either ally’s military operations. The $106 billion in new spending that President Biden requested to help fund Israel in its war against Hamas, Ukraine in its war against Russia, and to beef up security on the U.S.-Mexico border, was left out entirely.
During his visit, Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who called the get-together “a very important signal for Ukraine.”
In a video message Sunday afternoon, Zelensky said that the “key task” for his country now is to “guarantee that Ukraine maintains sufficient international support in the coming year.”
“I am grateful to all the counties that share our view,” Zelensky added. “We must make it clear to Russia that the world will not tire of defending freedom and international order, no matter what Russia does.”
However, with many hardline Republicans calling for U.S. funds to Ukraine to stop completely, National security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this month that the United States’ ability to support Kyiv is getting “harder and harder” with “each week that passes.”