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Pentagon chief to persuade allies of US commitment to aid Ukraine

Pentagon chief to persuade allies of US commitment to aid Ukraine US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (photo: Getty Images)

At the 20th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Ramstein format on March 19, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will try to convince European allies that the Biden administration remains committed to supporting Ukraine, according to Reuters.

High-ranking Pentagon officials told the agency that Austin, during his first foreign trip since his recent illness, will reaffirm Washington's commitment to Ukraine.

They also noted that the lack of US funding for Ukraine's defense needs is already affecting the situation on the front lines - the Armed Forces are having to optimize scarce weapon resources.

"I think our allies are acutely aware of our funding situation and the Ukrainians more so than anyone because of the shortages that are resulting from us not being able to supply them," said a senior US defense official.

According to experts, Lloyd Austin will face a skeptical audience in Europe during his visit to the Ramstein meeting.

"It's becoming harder and harder for US leaders to travel to Europe, with the message that the US is committed to Ukraine in the long-term. The message of this long-term financial, military, economic commitment flies in the face of the reality of what's happening on Capitol Hill," said Rachel Rizzo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Europe Center in Washington.

According to American officials, the reality is that without the US, European support for Ukraine will be insufficient to resist Russian forces.

"There isn't a way that our allies can really combine forces to make up for the lack of US support," said a senior representative of the US Defense Department.

The next in-person meeting of the Contact Group on Defense Issues of Ukraine in the Ramstein format will take place at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on March 19, 2024.

Issues with US aid for Ukraine

The US Congress has been unable to approve new funding for aid to Ukraine for several months now, delaying arms shipments. This is due to the stance of some Republican congressmen who refuse to bring the document to a vote and approve it.

After the failure to pass a bill by Joe Biden for $106 billion in aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan in early February this year, a new bill was developed for aid to the three countries for $96 billion, but without the complex for protecting the southern border of the US with Mexico. It allocates over $60 billion for Ukraine's needs.

On February 13, the Senate approved this document. However, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson refuses to bring the bill to a vote in the lower house of Congress.

Furthermore, Johnson stated that the House of Representatives would unblock the bill for aid to Ukraine, but the document would be significantly different from the Senate-approved $95 billion package. In particular, assistance to our country will be provided under a loan or credit program.

On March 12, the administration of the President of the US announced the allocation of a new package of military aid to Ukraine worth $300 million. This is the first package of military aid to Ukraine from the US since December 2023.

The White House noted that this funding will be enough to purchase weapons for the Armed Forces of Ukraine for only two weeks.