US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Monday (25/4) in an interview with journalists in Poland that he hopes to see Russia “weakened” so that it cannot repeat in other countries what it is doing in Ukraine. .
“We want Ukraine to remain a sovereign country, a democratic country capable of protecting its sovereign territory,” said the retired four-star general.
“We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do the kind of thing it did in invading Ukraine,” he added.
According to BBC correspondent James Landale, Austin’s comments about a weakened Russia are “unusually strong” for a US defense secretary.
“It is one thing to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression and another to talk about the weakening of the capacities of the Russia“, said Landale.
In an apparent response to Austin’s remarks, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West of trying to “divide Russian society and destroy the Russia inside”an argument he has used repeatedly over the years.
Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev on Sunday (4/24), marking the highest-profile visit to Ukraine. by US authorities since the invasion began more than two months ago.
The meeting between representatives of the US and Ukrainian governments, which lasted more than three hours, comes as Russia intensifies its military campaign in the south and east of the country.
The Pentagon chief assured that his country believes Ukraine can win the conflict with “the right team” and “proper support”.
He also announced that the US would allocate another US$713 million (R$3.5 billion) in military aid to Ukraine and other European nations.
According to Austin, of this amount, almost US$ 332 million will be destined for Kiev.
With that amount, the total security assistance provided to Ukraine by the US since the beginning of the invasion amounts to more than US$ 3.7 billion (R$ 18 billion).
Zelensky has been urging Western leaders to increase the flow of military equipment for weeks, promising that Ukrainian forces can outrun Russian forces if they receive fighter jets and other weaponry.
Last week, the US confirmed that for the first time it had provided Ukrainian troops with artillery cannons and anti-artillery radar.
Russia’s ambassador to Washington said his country had sent a diplomatic note demanding an end to US arms supplies to Ukraine.
“We want Ukraine to remain a sovereign country, a democratic country capable of protecting its sovereign territory,” Austin said.
Blinken announced that some US diplomatic officials will begin returning to Ukraine starting next week.
They are expected to initially settle in Lviv, in western Ukraine, as they implement a long-term plan to reopen the US embassy in the capital Kiev.
President Joe Biden intends to name Bridget Brink, a career diplomat, as ambassador to Ukraine, a post that has been vacant for more than two years.
Blinken also defended the US diplomatic strategy, claiming that the alliance of Western countries formed by Biden put pressure on the Putin government.
“The strategy we have implemented, the massive support for Ukraine, the massive pressure against Russia, the solidarity with more than 30 countries involved in these efforts are having real results,” Blinken said.
“And we’re seeing that when it comes to Russia’s war goals, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding. A sovereign and independent Ukraine will be on the scene much longer than Vladimir Putin,” added Blinken.
Analysis by Jonathan Beale, BBC Defense Correspondent
President Biden has always made it clear that the United States will not directly intervene in the Ukraine war and will not send American troops to join the war. But the truth is that the US is increasingly involved. And this was highlighted by the words of the Secretary of Defense.
You U.S dramatically increased the supply of weapons to the Ukraine in the last few weeks. Despite Russian warnings, it is clear that it will send more.
Austin’s statements make it clear that the United States is not a spectator in this war. The United States wants to see Russia defeated.
More than that, they want to see Russia’s military machine reduced to such a point that it cannot threaten any other European ally in the future.
The fear, shared by NATO allies, is that any kind of defeat in Ukraine will only encourage Putin’s ambitions.
Austin has now made it clear that the US has its own strategic goals for this war, even if theoretically it doesn’t participate.
The aim is to deter Putin and weaken Russia’s military to the point where it is no longer capable of threatening other nations.
To some extent, this has already happened.
Military experts already believe it will take years for Russia to recover from its military losses. It could also send a signal to another nation the United States is increasingly concerned about: China.