US to Ukraine: ‘Heed our words, not our actions’

11:31 22.03.2024 •

Ukraine Defense Contact Group

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin didn’t have much to offer Kyiv during a meeting of allies organizing military aid for Ukraine, notes POLITICO.

“I need ammunition, not a ride,” was what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reportedly said when the U.S. offered to evacuate him at the start of Russia's invasion more than two years ago.

True or not, the defiant response motivated a broad coalition of more than 50 nations, led by the United States, to help Kyiv fight Russia by providing ammunition, weapons and training.

Lately, however, the U.S. has been offering more words than ammunition.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin talked a good game ahead of Ukraine Defense Contact Group gathering, promising that the world's democracies won’t let Kyiv down.

But he didn't have much concrete help to offer, given that a $60 billion emergency military aid request has been blocked for months in the U.S. Congress.

"Our allies and partners continue to step up, U.S. must also. Today, Ukraine's survival is in danger and U.S. security is at risk, they don’t have a day to waste and we do neither," he told reporters at Germany's Ramstein air base.

"We certainly would hope this supplemental [aid package] would be passed soon. I am optimistic we will see some action moving forward, but this is a thing you can’t predict."

Lloyd Austin addressed meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group at the US airbase in Germany Ramstein with one central message: NATO’s proxy war against Russia in Ukraine must be won, no matter what the cost.

Austin came with two messages from Washington, both dictated by a crisis that is imperilling fundamental US imperialist war aims — that America is fully committed to the war, but Europe must step forward.

The paralysing of the Biden administration’s funding for the Ukraine war demands that the European powers step into the breach if Ukraine is to avoid a threatened catastrophic military defeat.

Austin was tasked with calming European fears that Washington’s ability to wage war against Russia is threatened by infighting between the Democrats and Republicans today, and that it could be shipwrecked if Donald Trump were elected president in November.

A $95 billion supplementary military aid package, with $60 billion scheduled for the Ukraine war, was passed by the US Senate last month. But it has been blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives, who have made acceptance conditional on the Biden administration enacting Trump’s anti-immigrant measures on the US-Mexican border.

The delay has accelerated the rout suffered by Ukraine’s military and damaged confidence in US imperialism in Europe’s capitals. The US is by far the biggest funder and supplier of the war, committing over $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the NATO-provoked Russian invasion on February 24, 2022—around $2 billion a month. Yet Ramstein saw Austin forced to hail $300 million in additional security assistance for Ukraine that he admitted the US “were only able to support… by identifying some unanticipated contract savings.”

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said this would provide Ukraine with ammunition to last maybe “a couple of weeks.”

Austin admitted that while Ukraine waits for the political deadlock in Washington to break, Russia has made a series of battlefield gains.

But EU heavyweights France and Germany were keen to downplay the absence of funding from the U.S.

"We all know that there are a few difficulties in the Congress, and yet Lloyd Austin... is here, we need him, we mustn't throw the baby out with the bathwater," said French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu, echoing comments by his German counterpart Boris Pistorius, who said the "Ramstein format," in which military aid is organized through the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, still worked.

Austin isn't the only American attempting a positive spin. Earlier this week, U.S. Republican Senator Lindsay Graham was in Kyiv only a few weeks after he voted against his country's emergency aid package for Ukraine.

He informed Zelenskyy that “given the crisis at the United States’ southern border and its overwhelming state debt, President Trump’s idea of turning aid from the United States into a no-interest, waivable loan is the most likely path forward.”

He also urged the Biden administration to send longer-range artillery and accelerate F-16 fighter jet training for the Ukrainians — a call the White House can’t answer until the blocked supplemental bill is passed.

Ukraine came to the 20th meeting of the Ramstein format with a laundry list of asks. Ukraine did come out of the meeting with a new €500 million military aid package from Germany and more pledges from Poland and other members of the coalition.

Concern over a Ukrainian defeat was reinforced by last month’s withdrawal from the eastern city of Avdeevka, after a four-month conflict. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns told Congress that Ukrainian units have told him they were down to their last few dozen artillery shells.

Burns spoke for the CIA alongside Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to a meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that was extensively reported by the official US government propaganda outlet Voice of America.

$60 billion military aid package “is absolutely critical to Ukraine’s defense right now” and “territorial losses in the past few weeks have exposed the erosion of Ukraine’s military capabilities….”

Ramstein was the focus therefore of demands by Austin that the European powers “dig deeper to get vital security assistance to Ukraine.”

He may have been anxious to publicly praise European efforts, but he will have made clear in private that far more is demanded of them. German thinktank the Kiel Institute reported the estimate of the latest Ukraine Support Tracker that Europe would have to double its current level and pace of arms assistance to Ukraine to compensate for lost US funding.


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