Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken travelled to Kyiv on Sunday to hold talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior Ukraine officials. They were the most senior Whitehouse representatives to visit the country since the outbreak of the war in February. Mr Austin later bluntly told reporters the US wanted to see Russia weakened so that it could never again unleash such a war in the future.
He said: “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.”
The 68-year-old travelled on to Poland after his visit to Kyiv, where he announced that the Biden Administration was allocating a further $713 (£559m) million of military aid.
The extra funding brings the total amount of US military aid to Ukraine to more than $3.7 billion (£2.9bn).
The US Defence Secretary said the US believed Ukraine could defeat Putin’s army if it received the weapons it needed.
He said: “We believe Ukraine can win if they have the right equipment and the right support.
“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to ensure they’re getting the equipment they need as quickly as possible.”
The Ukrainian President has repeatedly urged the West to supply heavy equipment to help it repel the Russian attack.
Mr Zelenksy has said his army could defeat the Russians if it had access to tanks, artillery pieces and fighter jets.
However, many NATO countries are fearful that providing such weaponry could escalate the crisis.
Mr Austin paid tribute to the courage and bravery of Ukrainians in their fight to defend their freedom and sovereignty.
He noted: “Above all though, we wanted to express our profound admiration for the everyday heroism exhibited by the Ukrainian people.
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“Your support brings closer the victory of freedom and democracy over Russian tyranny!”
It comes as Russia’s ambassador to the US warned Joe Biden to stop sending weapons to Ukraine.
Anatoly Antonov said such arms deliveries were escalating the conflict, while undermining efforts to reach some sort of peace agreement.
He told Rossiya 24 TV channel: “What the Americans are doing is pouring oil on the flames.
“I see only an attempt to raise the stakes, to aggravate the situation, to see more losses.”