United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Sunday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and several other Ukrainian officials, as well as “demonstrate the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in their struggle against Russian aggression.” The surprise visit marked the highest-level American visit to the country since the outbreak of the Russian invasion on February 24.
Several key announcements were made during the meeting, which was said to have lasted around three hours. According to a release by the U.S. State Department, Bridget Brink, the current American Ambassador to Slovakia, would be nominated by President Joe Biden to be the next ambassador to Ukraine. In the same vein, Secretary Blinken also announced that American diplomats would be returning to Ukraine starting this week. The process will involve a gradual return of diplomats to Lviv, with the ultimate goal of returning to the embassy in Kyiv over the span of several weeks. American diplomatic evacuations began in Ukraine nearly two weeks before the start of the invasion, in which staff were sent to Poland to continue operations. The State Department stated that moving American diplomats back to Ukraine will “ strengthen the Department’s ongoing commitment to facilitate humanitarian relief efforts and the delivery of assistance to the Government of Ukraine, while providing enhanced support to U.S. citizens.” While Kyiv, in the time being, no longer faces the threat of attack by Russian ground forces, missile strikes continue on a frequent basis.
Secretary Blinken also announced that the “United States intends to obligate more than $713 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Ukraine and 15 other Allied and partner nations in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkan region. This includes $650 million in funding provided by the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022. More than $322 million in this obligation is for Ukraine and will provide support for the capabilities Ukraine needs as Russia’s forces train their focus on the Donbas; this assistance will also help Ukraine’s armed forces transition to more advanced weapons and air defense systems. This assistance will also help NATO Allies with backfilling capabilities they have donated to Ukraine from their own stockpiles.” Additionally, $165 million in “non-standard ammunition” has been sold to Ukraine, which includes anti-tank missile systems and loitering munitions.
Lastly, Secretary Austin stated that the U.S. will “expand military training for Ukrainian service members in the region on certain weapons systems being provided,” as well as “continue to coordinate the shipment of additional heavy weaponry, ammunition and spare parts from other nations.” U.S. led training of Ukrainian forces is being conducted in Poland, which includes learning how to operate weapons systems sent over by NATO members and other allied nations.
While speaking to reporters, Secretary Blinken stated that “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,” adding “When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.”