After a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters Monday that one of the US’s goals in Ukraine is to see a “weakened” Russia.
“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 when asked what the US goal was in Ukraine.
The New York Times reported that by calling for a weakened Russia, Austin was acknowledging a shift in the US view of the war from a battle for Ukraine to one that pits Washington more directly against Moscow.
Austin made the comments alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who also made the trip to Kyiv to meet Zelensky. Blinken said Russia is “failing” in its war in Ukraine and Austin claimed Kyiv could win “if they have the right equipment” and “the right support.”
Biden administration officials told the Times that the US and its close allies had made a decision to speak optimistically about Ukraine’s chances in the current phase of Russia’s assault, which is focused primarily on the southeast portion of the country, where Moscow should have an advantage.
Pushing the narrative that Ukraine can win helps justify the massive amount of weapons and other military equipment the US and its allies are sending into the country.
Austin said the US would “do everything we can” to help Ukraine win the war. In their meeting with Zelensky, Blinken and Austin pledged more military aid for Kyiv, bringing the total amount of US military assistance for Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24 to a whopping $3.7 billion.
The US and most of its European allies are digging in to support Ukraine and keep Russia under crippling sanctions in the long term. Blinken reportedly told European countries that he believes the war will last through 2022.
Last week, NATO member Turkey said that other members of the military alliance want the war in Ukraine to continue to weaken Russia. “There are countries within NATO who want the war to continue,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. “They want Russia to become weaker.”
The Biden administration has claimed it is doing everything it can to end the war in Ukraine, but in reality, it has abandoned diplomacy with Russia. Blinken hasn’t spoken with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, since February 15, and the Russian ambassador to the US has said the Russian Embassy in Washington is “under blockade.”