US seeks to ‘weaken’ Russia as it promises more military aid to Ukraine – POLITICO

Visiting Kyiv for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, senior US officials said they had a new mission: a “weakened” Russian military unable to attack its neighbors.

En route to Poland on Monday, a day after visiting Kyiv, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters: “We want Ukraine to remain a sovereign country, a democratic country capable of protecting its sovereign territory , we want Russia to be weakened to the point where it can no longer do things like invade Ukraine.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Austin promised more military aid to Ukraine and a return of US diplomats to Kyiv this week during a secret visit on Orthodox Easter, a holy day in Ukraine.

As the Russian invasion enters its third month, Western allies rush in supply heavy weapons, with US, France and Canada sending artillery, and Britain considering a deal with Warsaw to send tanks. The war that Russian President Vladimir Putin started on February 24 is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as NATO increases its presence on the eastern flank and previously non-aligned countries like Sweden and Finland consider joining the military alliance .

The high-level stop by US officials in Kyiv comes after a spate of Western leaders visited the country, including European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell, followed shortly by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers were the first to go to Ukraine after the invasion began. EU Council President Charles Michel also paid a visit last Wednesday.

In a reading at the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “personally thanked” US President Joe Biden as he welcomed the American promise. “We share the same understanding as the United States: when democracy wins in one country, it wins around the world. If freedom is defended in one country, it will be defended all over the world,” Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram on Monday.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed US diplomats will return to Ukraine this week, with the US announcing the appointment of a new ambassador, Bridget Brink, who currently serves as US ambassador to Slovakia.

After Ukraine and Poland, Austin will travel to Germany Tuesday for a meeting of allied defense ministers to discuss Kiev’s longer-term security needs.

David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting. US seeks to 'weaken' Russia as it promises more military aid to Ukraine - POLITICO

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