US secy Austin meets Zelenskyy to show steadfast support for Ukraine
WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday in a high-profile push to keep money and weapons flowing to Ukraine even as US and international resources are stretched by the new global risks raised by the IsraelHamas conflict. Austin, who travelled to Kyiv by train from Poland, met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and was scheduled to meet with Defence Minister Rustem Umerov and Chief of Staff Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi. US officials said Austin intended to tell Ukrainian officials that American support for efforts to defeat Russia’s invasion is steadfast and will continue, even as the world’s attention is drawn to the Middle East and signs of fatigue set in with the almost 21-month war. This is Austin’s second trip to Kyiv, but he’s making it under far different circumstances. To date, Ukraine has received more than $44 billion from the US and more than $35 billion from other allies in weapons, ranging from millions of bullets to air defence systems, advanced European and US battle tanks and, finally, pledges for F-16 fighter jets. But Ukraine still needs more, and after almost 20 months of shipping arms to Ukraine, cracks are beginning to show. Some European countries such as Poland have scaled back support, noting their need to maintain adequate fighting ability to defend themselves. As winter sets in it will become more difficult for either side to make large gains due to ground conditions. That could further work against Ukraine if US lawmakers perceive there’s time to wait before more funds are needed.