U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Ukraine on Monday, where he will meet with Ukrainian officials to deliver a message of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, saying that the United States firmly supports the Eastern European country in its war with Russia.
After an 11-hour train ride from Poland to Ukraine, Austin walked out onto the platform, where he shook hands with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink. United States Defense Attaché, Brig. General Kipling Kahler was also present to greet him.
“I just arrived in Kiev to meet with Ukrainian leaders,” Austin wrote on the social media site aggression, both now and in the future.
This is Secretary Austin’s second trip to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. His last visit was in April 2022.
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The Department of Defense issued a statement confirming that Austin would meet with Ukrainian leaders to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Ukraine.
“During his visit, Secretary Austin will engage in high-level discussions with Ukrainian leaders. Discussions will focus on further strengthening the strategic partnership between the United States and Ukraine, to include ensuring that Ukraine’s armed forces have the field capabilities to battle they so desperately need to winter and defend their country against future Russian threats,” the Defense Department said.
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The Department added: “Later this week, Secretary Austin will also host the 17th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group virtually from the Pentagon, continuing the vital work of international coordination and support to Ukraine, in which expects almost 50 nations to participate.
Also traveling is NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, US General Christopher Cavoli.
Austin’s trip to Ukraine comes as the Pentagon continues to urge Congress to approve additional funding to support Ukraine’s military effort.
“I am pleased that the passage of another continuing resolution has dispelled the threat of a funding disruption,” Austin said Friday, Nov. 17. “Its enactment will ensure that our brave troops and dedicated civilian workforce are paid during the holidays. “However, I continue to urge Congress to pass year-round appropriations, which is still the best thing Congress can do for our national defense. “As we have long made clear, operating under short-term rolling resolutions cripples the Department’s staff and programs and undermines both our national security and competitiveness.”
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He added: “I also urge Congress to accept and approve supplemental funding to strengthen our national security as soon as possible. Our supplemental request directly supports our allies and partners, including Israel and Ukraine, during a critical period and makes key investments in our industrial base throughout the country. These investments will mean greater prosperity at home and greater security abroad.”
To date, Ukraine has received more than $44 billion from the United States and more than $35 billion from other allies in weapons, ranging from millions of bullets to air defense systems, advanced European and American battle tanks. and promises of F-16 fighter jets.
On Thursday, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh held a news conference in which she said the Pentagon has been releasing smaller weapons packages to Ukraine because of the uncertainty on Capitol Hill.
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Asked for a preview of the upcoming meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, an alliance of 54 countries that meets monthly to receive updates on the ongoing conflict with Russia, Singh said an announcement was expected in the coming days. .
“In terms of aid packages, you’ve seen us implement aid packages for Ukraine pretty consistently. We’ve had to pass on our support and our security assistance to Ukraine because we don’t have additional funds, because the supplemental ones haven’t. So we just implement our latest presidential retrenchment authority, and I think that was last week,” the deputy press secretary continued.
Singh added that the United States is aware that Ukraine needs “continued support” in its war against Russia.
“So we know we have to do that. We know we have to continue to meet their needs. And that is something that will certainly be discussed in the next Ukrainian Defense Contact Group,” he said. “But in terms of a preview of the package, I simply have nothing more to announce today.”
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A reporter at the press conference also asked how long the Pentagon can support Ukraine until Congress needs to allocate new funds.
“Smaller packages have been seen, because we need to analyze them,” Singh said Thursday. “Because we don’t know when Congress will pass our supplemental package. I mean, frankly, that’s why we requested an emergency supplemental package to provide funding for our security assistance to Ukraine and also to replenish our own reserves.”
The Pentagon can send about $5 billion more in weapons and equipment from its own stockpile. But it only has about $1 billion in financing to replace those shares.
“The supplemental package, again, is in Congress. We continue to urge Congress to pass a supplemental package together because it is an emergency request. It is not part of the budget process. That’s why we have a large amount that we want Congress to authorize for Ukraine .and for Israel. And for our investments in the Indo-Pacific and, of course, for our own investments in our defense industrial base. So that’s something we’re going to continue to urge Congress to pass. But you’re absolutely right “You’ve seen smaller packages because we have to distribute them because we don’t know when Congress will pass our supplemental package. That is why we continue talking with allies and partners. We are not the only country here contributing to Ukraine’s urgent needs on the battlefield. As you know, the Ukraine Contact Group is made up of more than 50 nations. So it’s not just the United States supporting Ukraine, But the president has been very clear that we are going to support Ukraine for as long as possible.”
Singh was also asked to give a timeline for how long American taxpayers can expect to continue contributing money to the Ukraine-Russia war, but was unable to do so.
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“I’m not going to predict how long that’s going to last. That certainly wouldn’t do the Ukrainians any good. That would really benefit the Russians. So I’m just not going to be able to give you a timeline on how long we can have these packages in place.” .
Monday, November 20, will be day 635 since Russia first invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Fox News’ Liz Friden, Jessica Sonkin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.