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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday in a high-profile push to keep money and weapons flowing to Ukraine even as U.S. and international resources are stretched by the new global risks raised by the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Austin, who traveled to Kyiv by train from Poland, is scheduled to meet with senior Ukrainian officials and publicly press Ukraine’s urgent military needs as it enters another tough winter of fighting.
This is Austin’s second trip to Kyiv, but he’s making it under far different circumstances. His first visit occurred in April 2022, just two months after Russia’s large-scale invasion. At the time, Ukraine was riding a wave of global rage at Moscow’s invasion, and Austin launched an international effort that now sees 50 countries meet monthly to coordinate on what weapons, training and other support could be pushed to Kyiv.
But the conflict in Gaza could pull attention and resources from the Ukraine fight. The U.S. has worked feverishly since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel, and the weeks of devastating bombardment on Gaza by Israel that has followed, killing more than 10,000 civilians, to keep those attacks from turning into a regional war.
The U.S. has already committed two carrier strike groups, scores of fighter jets and thousands of U.S. personnel to the Middle East, and has had to shift its force posture and conduct airstrikes against Iranian- backed militant groups who are now hitting U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria on a regular basis.
To date, Ukraine has received more $44 billion from the U.S. and more than $35 billion from other allies in weapons, ranging from millions of bullets to air defense systems, advanced European and U.S. battle tanks and, finally, pledges for F-16 fighter jets.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine