President Joe Biden and his leaders at the Pentagon are doubling down on their support of Ukraine despite a failing military counteroffensive, amid a push to get Congress to approve $24 billion more for the war.
Biden argued in front of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that if Ukraine was not safe, no nation would be safe, and that investment in Ukraine’s future was an investment in the future of any country that seeks a rules-based world order.
“Can any member state feel confident that they are protected if we allow Ukraine to be carved up? Is the independence of any nation secure?” Biden said.
Later that day, his top Pentagon leaders made a similar argument, that the war in Ukraine was much larger than one nation.
“Ukraine’s fight is one of the great causes of our time,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a press conference in Germany, adding:
It’s not just a fight for the survival of one embattled democracy, it’s also a fight for a world where autocrats cannot just rewrite borders by force. It’s a fight to avoid a grim new era of chaos and tyranny, and it’s a fight for a world where rules are upheld and rights are protected and aggression is punished.
“Ukraine has the great strategic advantage of a just cause. And as President Biden has said, our support for Ukraine will not waver,” Austin said, urging nations to “dig deep” into their stockpiles for more air defense munitions for Ukraine.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who was asked if there was enough industrial capacity to help Ukraine, said the U.S. and its allies were “rich, powerful, with significant resources.”
We can continue to do this, and the United States and its allied countries are rich, powerful, with significant resources, military resources that are capable of sustaining this fight, in President Biden’s words, as long as it takes, and that’s what the intent is of our political leadership of all of the nations of Europe and around the world, actually, and the United States, and that’s exactly what we, the military, will do. We’ll do what we’re directed to do, and we’re going to do it as long as it takes.
Milley ended his opening remarks at the press conference with “Slava Ukraini,” which means, “Glory to Ukraine.”
General Milley yesterday: “Slava Ukraini” pic.twitter.com/mkpYwUjZsb
— Kristina Wong 🇺🇸 (@kristina_wong) September 20, 2023
Their proclamations of indefinite support are despite Ukraine’s counteroffensive not achieving its goals.
According to an August 17 report by the Washington Post:
The U.S. intelligence community assesses that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach the key southeastern city of Melitopol, people familiar with the classified forecast told The Washington Post, a finding that, should it prove correct, would mean Kyiv won’t fulfill its principal objective of severing Russia’s land bridge to Crimea in this year’s push.
About a week ago, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the BBC it was “way too early” to say if the counteroffensive failed but admitted that Ukrainian forces have not achieved what they wanted to accomplish and predicted they had about 30 days before the weather interferes.
Republicans in Congress are deeply divided on the issue of more U.S. aid to Ukraine, with Senate Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling for more support and a faction of House Republicans against it.
Congress has already committed $113 billion to Ukraine since February 2022, and the additional $24 billion is expected to last through the end of the calendar year.
As the war has dragged on, there are signs the American public is growing weary of supporting Ukraine. A recent CNN poll showed a majority of Americans oppose more U.S. aid for Ukraine.
Nevertheless, Austin and Milley expressed certainty that the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine.
Asked about fears that Congress would not approve more funding, Austin responded, “We will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. You’ve heard the president say that. You heard me say that. We’re not going to change that.”
“As I said earlier, I fully expect and hope that we will continue to enjoy bipartisan support from Congress, but we don’t take anything for granted. We’ll continue to work with Congress to make sure that they have a full understanding of, you know, our work here and they know the importance of this work,” Austin concluded.
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