KYIV, Ukraine – U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday in a high-profile effort to keep money and weapons flowing into Ukraine, even as U.S. and international community resources are strained by new global risks posed by Israel and from Hamas, the conflict is exhausted.
Austin, who traveled to Kiev by train from Poland, is scheduled to meet with senior Ukrainian officials and publicly address Ukraine’s urgent military needs as another tough winter of fighting lies ahead.
This is Austin’s second trip to Kiev, but it comes under very different circumstances. Be first visit occurred in April 2022, just two months after Russia’s full-scale invasion. At the time, Ukraine was experiencing a wave of global anger over Moscow’s invasion, and Austin launched an international effort that now has 50 countries meeting every month to coordinate what weapons, training and other support could be brought to Kiev.
“I am here today to deliver an important message: The United States will continue to stand with Ukraine in its fight for freedom against Russian aggression, both now and in the future,” Austin posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
But the conflict in Gaza could Attract attention and resources from the Ukraine fight. The United States has worked feverishly since Hamas’ attacks on Israel on October 7 and Israel’s subsequent weeks of devastating bombings of Gaza, which killed more than 10,000 civilians, to prevent those attacks from becoming a regional war.
The U.S. has already deployed two aircraft carrier strike groups, numerous fighter jets and thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East and has had to shift its force posture and conduct airstrikes against Iranian-backed militant groups that now attack U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria regularly.
To date, Ukraine has received more than $44 billion from the U.S. and more than $35 billion from other allies in weapons ranging from millions of bullets to air defense systems to advanced European and U.S. battle tanks and finally commitments for Weapons are enough F-16 fighter jets.
But Ukraine needs more, and after nearly 20 months of arms shipments to Ukraine, cracks are beginning to show. Some European countries such as Poland have done this reduced support, noting that they must maintain sufficient combat capability to be able to defend themselves.
Ukrainian officials have vigorously rejected suggestions that they are in a standoff with Russia after a long-awaited summer counteroffensive failed to radically shift battle lines on the ground. During a visit to Washington last week, Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential office, did not provide details but confirmed that Ukrainian forces had done so finally enforced to the eastern bank of the Dnieper, which has essentially served as an immobile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces for months.
However, as winter begins, ground conditions make it more difficult for both sides to make big gains. This could further negatively impact Ukraine if U.S. lawmakers realize there is still time before more funding is needed.
Fred Kagan, a senior researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, said that would be a mistake.
“If we stop providing aid to Ukraine, the stalemate will not continue. “The aid is actually essential to prevent the Russians from again maneuvering in a way that could allow them to defeat Ukraine,” Kagan said. “So the price of cutting aid is that Russia wins, Ukraine loses and NATO loses.”
Making matters worse is that the Pentagon has little money left in this year’s budget to continue sending weapons to Ukraine, and Congress is months late in passing a new budget and has not adopted an additional spending package , which would include aid to Ukraine.
Since the war began in February 2022, the United States has provided Ukraine with weapons worth more than $44.2 billion, but the funds are almost exhausted. The Pentagon can send additional weapons and equipment worth around $5 billion from its own stocks. But it only has about $1 billion in funding to replace those shares. As a result, recent gun support announcements have amounted to much smaller dollar amounts than in previous months.
“You saw smaller packages because we have to sort those out,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Thursday. “Because we don’t know when Congress will pass our supplemental package.”
Officials have pushed Congress to provide additional money, but a growing number of Senate Republicans rejected additional aid for Ukraine without securing support for other unrelated provisions such as tougher immigration laws and additional funding for border control. An emergency aid law passed last week to avoid a government shutdown over the holidays did not include any money for Ukraine.