KIEV, Nov 20 (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced $100 million in new military aid to Ukraine on Monday during an unannounced visit to Kiev, pledging long-term U.S. support amid growing concerns about the sustainability of vital American assistance.
Austin announced the aid package after a day of meetings with Ukrainian officials, saying it included weapons such as anti-tank weapons and air defense interceptors.
Austin, accompanied by the top American general in Europe, was photographed smiling and shaking hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. It marked Austin’s first visit to kyiv since April 2022.
“The message I bring to you today, Mr. President, is that the United States of America is with you. We will be with you for a long time,” Austin told Zelenskiy after an overnight train ride to Ukraine from Poland.
US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said the visit showed Washington’s “unwavering support for Ukraine in its fight for freedom.”
Zelenskiy told Austin that his visit was “a very important signal” for Ukraine.
“We count on your support,” Zelenskiy told Austin.
The United States has provided more than $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February 2022.
The trip comes amid a growing divide over aid to Ukraine in the US Congress, with a US presidential election in November 2024. Some US lawmakers are prioritizing aid to Israel even as defense officials Americans emphasize that Washington can support both allies simultaneously.
Privately, some senior Ukrainian officials have expressed concern that military aid deliveries could become less frequent, reflecting broader concerns about the levels of support needed to sustain the war against Russia. Ukraine’s budget for next year has a deficit of more than $40 billion that needs to be covered.
PROVISIONAL EXPENDITURE LAW
President Joe Biden had asked Congress to approve more money for Ukraine last month. Its omission from a stopgap spending bill approved by lawmakers last week raised concerns that funding for Ukraine could never be appropriate, especially after the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill that it included assistance for Israel but not for Ukraine.
A vocal bloc of Republicans opposes sending more aid to Ukraine. Opponents of the aid have said American taxpayers’ money should be spent at home, but a majority of Republicans and Democrats in Congress still support aid to Zelenskiy’s government.
A joint Ukraine-U.S. military industry conference in Washington, taking place Dec. 6-7, aims to boost Ukraine’s domestic arms production as the war approaches two years.
Earlier in the day, Austin spoke with Defense Department personnel at the U.S. Embassy.
“When you think about the beginning of this, no one thought Ukraine could survive more than a week. So here we are much later,” Austin said.
“Now everyone is wondering why Ukraine had not dominated Russia, which is a much larger country with much more capacity. But just think about that change in mentality,” Austin added.
Russia now controls almost a fifth of Ukraine. The West sent military equipment and Ukraine mounted a counteroffensive this year to recapture occupied territory, but has not made a breakthrough.
Reporting by Max Hunder and Tom Balmforth in kyiv and Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham, Bernadette Baum and Alex Richardson
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