US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kyiv on Thursday, September 8, to pledge $2 billion in fresh security aid, including support the Biden administration hopes will bolster a Ukrainian counteroffensive aimed at pushing back Russian forces in the south and east.
Blinken’s second visit to the Ukrainian capital since Russia’s February invasion comes as Ukraine reported progress in its effort to retake territory seized by Russia near Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv.
Meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at his fortified presidential administration building in Kyiv, Blinken said his visit came at a “pivotal moment” for Ukraine, noting the counteroffensive was proving effective, according to a pool reporter who was present.
Zelensky said Ukraine was grateful for the United States’ “enormous support,” which he said was helping Ukraine “return our territory and lands.”
Blinken also met Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and visited a children’s hospital, where he met youngsters injured in Russian bombardments.
In a statement, Blinken said Washington would support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and announced a new $2.2 billion foreign military financing package for Ukraine and 18 other countries deemed at risk of future Russian aggression. An official earlier said the package would be worth $2 billion.
Approximately $1 billion would be allocated to Ukraine, an official said. The rest would be divided among Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
The money is intended to defend sovereignty, modernize security forces, enhance partnerships with transatlantic military alliance NATO, and strengthen capacity “to counter Russian influence and aggression,” the official said by email.
The aid comes in the form of US grants and loans that enable countries to purchase weapons and defense equipment made in the United States. It requires US Congress to be notified.
President Joe Biden also approved a separate $675 million in weapons to Ukraine, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced earlier on Thursday as ministers met in Germany to discuss how to support Ukraine long-term.
The latest tranche of weapons will include more ammunitions, Humvees and anti-tank systems, officials said.
The latest aid brings total US security assistance to Ukraine to $15.2 billion since Biden took office in January 2021, Blinken said.
“All of this security assistance (to Ukraine) is trying to help ensure that Ukraine is successful in this
counteroffensive,” said another State Department official, who briefed reporters in southeastern Poland ahead of the visit.
Blinken had travelled to Poland with reporters but officials did not allow media to accompany him into Ukraine, citing security reasons.
Regaining territory currently occupied by Russia would put Ukraine in a stronger position in potential future talks to end the war, a third State Department official said.
“Right now, the Ukrainians do not have a viable map from which to negotiate,” the official said.
“That’s why we’re supporting this counteroffensive…to put them in the strongest possible position, and have (Russian President Vladimir) Putin understand that after hemorrhaging all this money, all this capital, all these weapons, all these young Russian boys – who have also been chewed up along with
Ukrainians – that it’s time for him to come to the table in good faith.”
The trip also comes ahead of the United Nations General Assembly later this month in New York, where Blinken will address world leaders as Washington attempts to hold together opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Meeting Ukraine’s leaders would help Blinken push back on concerns about the economic impacts of the war, including in the global south where the raised cost of grain and fertilizer have led to food security concerns, the US officials said.
Blinken travels to Brussels on Friday to rally support among US allies for Ukraine as Europe braces for a winter of high energy prices and possible shortages with reduced gas inflows from Russia, the officials said. NATO said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Blinken would hold a joint news conference. – Rappler.com