One of Washington’s goals in responding to the Ukraine crisis is to erode Russia’s ability to carry out future military actions akin to the now three-month-old invasion of Ukraine, Defense Secretary of State Lloyd Austin said Monday upon returning from a stealth visit to Kyiv.
“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Mr. Austin told reporters in Poland, where he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived early Monday after traveling by train to the Ukrainian capital.
Security was tight for this trip, which was the most high-ranking U.S. delegation’s visit to Kyiv since the Russian invasion. The details of the visit were not revealed by the Biden administration until Mr. Austin had returned from a meeting late Sunday night with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“We took a train into Kyiv from southwestern Poland, so [we] didn’t see a lot except looking out the train windows on our way in,” Mr. Blinken told reporters upon returning to Poland. “In Kyiv itself, we went right to the presidential palace. We met President Zelenskyy and his senior staff for three hours. That was the entire focus of our visit.”
“We had an opportunity to demonstrate directly our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,” Mr. Blinken said. “This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there, to have face-to-face conversations in detail.”
He added that the discussion with Mr. Zelenskyy was wide-ranging and included an emphasis on “President Biden’s intent to nominate a new ambassador to Ukraine, Ambassador Bridget Brink.”
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“When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” the secretary of state said. “Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.”
Ahead of the Blinken-Austin visit, Mr. Zelenskyy had made headlines by publicly calling on the U.S. officials not to arrive “empty-handed.”
“We are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes,” the Ukrainian president had said over the weekend.