Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Pentagon hopes the Russian military will be “weakened” by its invasion of Ukraine, The Washington Post reports.
“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin told reporters in Poland after he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a secret trip to visit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.
“It has already lost a lot of military capability and a lot of its troops, quite frankly, and we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability,” Austin said of Russia.
Austin said he also hopes to see the “international community more united, especially NATO” in response to the invasion.
He also expressed optimism that Ukraine can win.
The US wants to see “Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country, able to protect its sovereign territory,” he said.
US sends diplomats back:
Blinken after the trip said that the State Department would return its diplomats to Ukraine after they fled the country after Russia’s invasion.
“We will have American diplomats back in Ukraine starting next week,” Blinken said. “They’ll then start the process of looking at how we actually reopen the embassy itself in Kyiv.”
Blinken said reopening the embassy may take “a couple of weeks.”
“We’re doing it deliberately, we’re doing it carefully, we’re doing it with the security of our personnel foremost in mind — but we’re doing it,” he said.
Leaders tout support:
The two officials stood in a plane hangar filled with aid for Ukraine as they touted the NATO alliance’s support for the country.
“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. “And we’re seeing that when it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding.”
“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, and our support for Ukraine going forward will continue … until we see final success,” Blinken added.