Just hours after a covert meeting in Kyiv, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared that Russia’s efforts to take over Russia and strip away its independence have “failed.”
“When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” Blinken told reporters in Poland Monday. “Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.
“We don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene.”
Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held three-hour talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top aides Sunday, during which the Americans announced that the Biden Administration would provide more than $300 million in military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of foreign-made ammunition that will be compatible with Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons.
After leaving Kyiv and crossing the border into Poland, Austin and Blinken told reporters that Zelensky is committed to winning the war against Russia, and that the US will help him lead Ukraine to victory.
“We had an opportunity to demonstrate directly our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,” Blinken said. “This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there, to have face-to-face conversations in detail.”
Blinken said their meeting with Zelensky and his advisers touched on wide-raning issues, including what help the country needs in the weeks ahead.
“The strategy that we’ve put in place, massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts, is having real results,” Blinken said.
Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries; some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv. The remainder will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.
In his daily address Monday, Zelensky echoed the Americans’ remarks, saying that his talks with Blinken and Austin were “meaningful, encouraging and, which is important, effective.”
“I am grateful to the people of the United States of America and personally to President Biden for the strong and sincere support we receive,” Zelensky added.
Austin said that the nature of the fight in Ukraine had changed now that Russia has pulled away from the wooded northern regions to focus on the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas region. Because the nature of the fight has evolved, so have Ukraine’s military needs, and Zelensky is now focused on more tanks, artillery and other munitions.
“The first step in winning is believing that you can win,” Austin said. “We believe that they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we’re going to do everything we can … to ensure that gets to them.”
Asked about what the US sees as success, Austin said that “we want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country able to protect its sovereign territory. We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”
The trip by Blinken and Austin was the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia’s President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion on February 24.
President Biden announced Monday that he was nominating Bridget Brink to serve as US ambassador to Ukraine. Brink, a career foreign service officer, has served since 2019 as an ambassador to Slovakia. She previously held assignments in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Uzbekistan as well as with the White House National Security Council. The post requires confirmation by the US Senate.
The announcement comes as American diplomats prepare to return to Ukraine this coming week, although the US embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for now.
A senior State Department official said that diplomats will “start with day trips into the Lviv” and “will graduate to potentially other parts of the country and ultimately, to resume presence in Kyiv.”
Zelensky welcomed the anticipated return of American diplomats to Ukraine, describing it in his latest public remarks as “a very useful gesture of support for our state.”
From Poland, Blinken plans to return to Washington while Austin will head to Ramstein, Germany, for a meeting Tuesday of NATO defense ministers and other donor countries.
That discussion will look at battlefield updates from the ground, additional security assistance for Ukraine and longer-term defense needs in Europe, including how to step up military production to fill gaps caused by the war in Ukraine, officials said. More than 20 nations are expected to send representatives to the meeting.
With Post wires