US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reassures Kyiv amid aid concerns and opposition, emphasizing continued significant US support for Ukraine’s defense efforts. This support persists despite international attention being diverted by the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday to reassure Ukraine that Washington will continue supporting its fight against invading Russian forces. The United States has provided tens of billions of dollars in security aid for Ukraine, repeatedly pledging to back Kyiv for “as long as it takes.” However, opposition from Republican lawmakers has raised doubts about the future of American assistance.

The Pentagon stated that Austin “traveled to Ukraine today to meet with Ukrainian leaders and reinforce the staunch support of the United States for Ukraine’s fight for freedom.” The statement emphasized Austin’s intention to underscore the continued US commitment to provide Ukraine with the security assistance it needs to defend itself from Russian aggression.

This is the Pentagon chief’s second visit to Kyiv since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Washington is the largest donor of military assistance to Kyiv, and a reduction in American aid would pose a significant challenge for Ukraine as it prepares for the second winter of the war.

Despite opposition from some Republican lawmakers, Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged sustained support for Ukraine during a hearing in October, with the US Defense Chief emphasizing that “without our support, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will be successful.” However, new support for Ukraine was omitted from a temporary deal passed by Congress last week to avert a US government shutdown.

Former Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh noted earlier this month that assistance packages “have been getting smaller because we have had to meter out our support for Ukraine.”

In addition to domestic US political opposition, the conflict between Israel and Hamas, along with increased attacks on American forces in the Middle East, has diverted international attention from Ukraine. Nevertheless, the United States maintains that it can provide assistance to both countries, emphasizing that there is no competition or trade-off between US support for Ukraine’s defense and Israel’s defense against their adversaries.

Ukraine’s supporters have also offered training to Kyiv’s troops. Moreover, the United States, along with other nations, have imposed stringent sanctions on Russia, targeting financial institutions, technology imports and energy exports.

Miroslava Salazar, with AFP