“Wheels down in Kyiv,” wrote Mr. Austin in Twitter. “I am here to reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations ‒ and to express our commitment to build Ukraine’s capacity to deter further Russian aggression.”
In the Ukrainian capital city, the head of the Pentagon held talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and Defense Minister Andriy Taran.
With his Ukrainian counterpart, Mr. Austin discussed Ukraine’s progress in implementing reforms in the sphere of defense and the military-industrial complex which are so needed to realize the country’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. They also focused on issues of cooperation with their allies and partners in the region of the Black Sea. The high-profile American official stressed that the United States firmly supports its European allies and partners in the face of destabilizing actions of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea Region.
Defense Secretary Austin and President Zelenskyy discussed a wide range of important issues, particularly partnership in the sphere of security. “I’d like to thank you for your coming on a visit to Ukraine as we agreed earlier in Washington. We are thankful to President Biden for his continued support for Ukraine, its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
They also discussed ways of deepening mutual cooperation between Ukraine and the United States in the sphere of security and defense as it was stipulated by agreements reached during the last visit of the Ukrainian President to Washington.
“The United States is the chief partner of Ukraine in the sphere of security and defense”, Zelenskyy stressed and thanked the American side for financial and technical assistance which proves to be indispensible for strengthening military capability of the Ukrainian armed forces in their fight against Russian aggression.
In the opinion of observers, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin came to Ukraine specifically to discuss all aspects of practical strategic partnership which was the major point of the documents signed by the Defense Ministry of Ukraine and the Pentagon this August. Back then, two agreements were signed in Washington: the Defense Ministry of Ukraine and the U.S. Department of Defense signed the strategic defense framework and the governments of Ukraine and the United States concluded a master agreement on research, development, testing and evaluation projects.
The day before Mr. Austin’s arrival in Ukraine, Andriy Taran actually confirmed that one of the main goals of his visit would be talks to find ways of practical implementation of the reached agreements. “We’ve signed these documents and then prepared proposals on their realization. Now we are going to discuss which way we choose to go and what we will do in accordance with the agreements reached,” the Ukrainian minister explained.
While in Kyiv, the U.S. security chief made a number of statements the significance of which were highly evaluated by Ukrainian officials. For instance, the head of the Pentagon said during a joint briefing with his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Taran, “Let's be clear that Russia started this war and Russia is the obstacle to a peaceful resolution. They began to violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."
The U.S. security chief assured that the United States would continue supporting Ukraine in the conflict with Russia. He went on to say, “We will do everything possible to support Ukraine, develop its ability to defend its territorial integrity and inviolability.”
The American Defense Secretary gave a direct answer to the announcement of Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, who said the other day that Ukraine’s accession to NATO is “a red line” which will make Russia take “active measures.” Lloyd Austin stressed, “No third country has the right to veto NATO membership. Ukraine has the right to decide its future foreign policy without external interference. I will say that our support for Ukrainian sovereignty is unshakable and we will continue to work together in order to assure that we are in the right place, and Ukraine can defend itself."
Ukrainian political analyst Kyrylo Sazonov responded to the “threatening” announcement of the press-secretary of the Russian President. Sazonov wrote, “We have been trying to stay neutral for a long time believing that it will be a guarantee of our security. I’m afraid, we made a mistake. In 2014, Russia unleashed an aggressive war against Ukraine, occupied the Crimea and part of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Now, we have no more faith in peace that neutrality will give us.” That’s why Ukraine builds its own army and seeks powerful allies.
Sazonov concluded, “NATO and the United States are at the top of a list of our potential allies. It is foolish for the Kremlin to speak about some ‘red lines.’ After all, by its actions the Russian Federation has convinced Ukrainians that Russia is their enemy. Yes, we need allies to protect themselves from such a neighbour.”
Note: Early this March, the Pentagon allocated 125 million dollars of financial aid to Ukraine to help her enhance her security sphere. The aid package provides the Ukrainian military with weapons and military equipment as well as with consultations. The intention was confirmed to give Ukraine defensive lethal weapons. In July, the U.S. Defense Department approved the second aid package to the sum of 150 million dollars.
On July 30, the House of Representatives supported the decision to increase this year the amount of financial assistance to Ukraine to a total of 481.5 million dollars, including 125 million of military assistance. For the bill to come into force, it has to be approved by Senate and signed by President Biden.
On the eve of Zelenskyy’s visit to the United States, the American President instructed the State Department to provide Ukraine with additional 60 millions of military assistance from the Pentagon’s budget. The package includes anti-tank missile systems Javelin.
The newspaper Voice of Ukraine