Blinken and Austin Visit Kyiv. Nato Ships Arrive in Finland.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made a swift trip to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Sunday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support for the embattled leader. The two men are the highest-level U.S. officials to meet with Zelensky (an extraordinary wartime meeting) since the war began with Russia’s invasion 61 days ago. The two U.S. officials came bearing gifts: $322 million in new military financing and $165 million in new ammunition. Those announcements bring total U.S. military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7 billion since the war began.
President Joe Biden is expected to request even more Ukraine funding from the U.S. Congress in the coming days, after he warned last week that the initial allocation is already running low. U.S. weapons could flow to Ukraine with even less friction if Congress passes a bill to reboot the World War II-era Lend-Lease program. The Senate approved the bill before the two-week recess, and the House of Representatives is set to take it up this week now that Congress is back in session. As well as providing Ukraine with easier access to U.S. weaponry, the bill’s text includes “governments of Eastern European countries” also impacted by the invasion as potential recipients.
The U.S. diplomatic presence in Ukraine will also be upgraded, with diplomats set to inch back into the country from Poland to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. NATO warships arrived Monday at Finnish port to train with Finland’s navy, as Helsinki considers the possibility of joining the U.S.-led alliance amid increased tensions with Russia over Ukraine. reports Reuters.