Austin says US support for Ukraine remains resolute even as security aid remains stalled in Congress

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized Tuesday that the US “will not let Ukraine fail,” as Congress continues to delay critical funding for Ukraine aid.

Speaking in Germany at the 20th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Austin said Ukraine’s military continues “to degrade the Kremlin’s capabilities.”

“Ukraine won’t back down, and neither will the United States,” said Austin, while seated next to Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov. “So, our message today is clear: The United States will not let Ukraine fail. This coalition will not let Ukraine fail. And the free world will not let Ukraine fail.”

A senior US defense official told reporters Friday that Ukraine is “heavily outgunned on the battlefield.”

In the absence of the supplemental, the Pentagon announced a $300 million aid package last week due to financial savings from other US Army contracts. Austin called the package an “extraordinary measure,” and said the US and its allies would work together “to identify gaps, to manage cross-cutting needs, and to help Ukraine build a formidable future force.”

A US defense official told CNN on Tuesday that aid from that $300 million package began arriving in Ukraine last week, the first tranche of which included artillery components.

The visit to Germany is Austin’s first official trip abroad since his prostate cancer procedure in December. He participated in the last two contact groups virtually, after he was hospitalized on January 1 due to complications from his December procedure.

CNN has previously reported that Russia is producing nearly three times more artillery munitions than the US and Europe — roughly 3 million a year, compared to the US and Europe’s estimated 1.2 million, according to a senior European intelligence official.

“Russia’s output is 24/7. I mean, huge, immense,” a European lawmaker told CNN. “We should not underestimate their will to outlast us with patience, and with resilience.”

Austin said during a press conference later on Tuesday that Russia has made “a series of incremental gains” against Ukraine, though they have come “at significant cost in terms of personnel and equipment.”

Asked on Friday how long Ukraine might be able to keep up the fight against Russia without more US support, the official said it depended on a number of factors, including how Russia takes advantage of the situation.

“But I do want to be clear,” the official said, “this is not a question of years, this is a question of weeks and months.”

Still, Austin pointed to a number of stats demonstrating Russia’s losses. At least 315,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded since February 2022, Austin said, and Russia “has squandered up to $211 billion to equip, deploy, maintain, and sustain its imperial aggression against Ukraine.” Austin also said the war would cost Russia $1.3 trillion “in previously anticipated economic growth through 2026.”

“Ukraine has sunk, destroyed, or damaged some 20 medium-to-large Russian Navy vessels,” Austin said Tuesday. “And Ukraine continues to down Russian warplanes.”

Austin reiterated later Tuesday at the press conference that his Ukrainian counterparts “feel confident in their ability to continue to defend their sovereign territory and hold the line.”

“Of course, they need munitions,” he said, “they need support in order to be able to continue to do that.”

The future of supplemental aid in Congress remains unclear. House Speaker Mike Johnson told Republican senators last week during their closed-door retreat that he was committed to finding a path ahead for Ukraine aid in the House of Representatives, a sign GOP senators took to mean that aid to the embattled country isn’t yet dead in Congress.

Sen. Markwayne Mullin, a Republican from Oklahoma, told CNN that Johnson made clear “he understood the importance and the urgency of it and was looking for a path forward.”

And officials have been blunt that the $300 million announced last week would not last Ukraine long. President Joe Biden said the package was “not nearly enough,” and national security adviser Jake Sullivan said it would provide Ukraine ammo to last maybe “a couple of weeks.”

“Ukraine’s survival is on the line,” Austin said Tuesday. “And all of our security is on the line. So we will continue to stand together to resist Putin’s campaign of conquest, and we will continue to keep the faith with the people of Ukraine.”

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