Austin’s comments came after he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capital of kyiv on Sunday and announced several new US actions, including an expanded diplomatic presence in the country and more funding. military.
On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, speaking from Germany, elaborated on the latest assessment of the Austin conflict, telling CNN that a victory for Ukraine “is certainly on the cards.”
“I think that winning is very clearly defined by a Ukraine whose sovereignty is fully respected, whose territorial integrity is not violated by Russia or any other country,” Kirby said. “And they can win, as the secretary said. And they certainly believe they can do it.”
The 40 nations that participated in the Austin consultative group on Tuesday “also believe” that Ukraine can triumph over Russia, Kirby said.
“It’s not just the West. … It’s not just about NATO,” Kirby continued. “There are countries all over the world, including the Indo-Pacific region, that are engaged in trying to help Ukraine win this war.”
Ultimately, that victory “will be defined by” Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people, Kirby said.
Zelenskyy has previously expressed confidence that Ukraine will achieve victory and repel Russia’s invasion, which has dragged on for 62 days. “Yes, of course, and [we] it will,” he told CNN this month.
But Zelenskyy has also insisted that Ukraine is not willing to give up territory in the eastern part of the country to end the conflict.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reiterated Zelenskyy’s position on Tuesday, telling MSNBC that US assistance to Ukraine “will never be enough until Russian soldiers leave their footprints on Ukrainian soil.”
“The moment we liberate our country, the moment we win this war, I will say that the United States did everything it could and everything was enough to achieve this victory,” Kuleba said.
Kuleba went on to issue a more forceful prediction, saying: “Ukraine will win.”
“It will be a European and democratic country,” Kuleba continued. “And Russia will be contained. She will not be able to pose a threat to any country in the world. We will pay the price for the safety of the world. But we are willing to do it, because it is also the price of our own independence.”
After withdrawing this month from the outskirts of kyiv in northern Ukraine, Russian forces last week launched their anticipated assault on the southeastern Donbas region.
The Donbas is home to two breakaway areas largely in the hands of Moscow-backed separatists: the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. A Russian commander reportedly said last Friday that Russia plans to take full control of the region and southern Ukraine.
Asked Tuesday whether Ukraine is currently winning the war against Russia, Kirby said Ukrainian forces have so far “certainly defeated” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “strategic objectives.”
“It’s hard to watch this fight and [conclude] that Russia won, that Mr. Putin achieved his goals,” Kirby said. “He hasn’t. The Ukrainians have beaten him in almost every way.”
The comments in Germany by Pentagon officials are the latest escalation in Washington’s war rhetoric towards Moscow.
On Monday, after his and Blinken’s meeting with Zelenskyy, Austin said the United States wants “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do the kinds of things it has done by invading Ukraine.”
Russia “has already lost a lot of military capability and a lot of its troops, quite frankly,” Austin told reporters in Poland. “And we want them to not have the ability to reproduce that ability very quickly.”
Kirby echoed Austin’s remarks about a “weakened” Russia on Tuesday, saying: “We want Russia to be unable to threaten its neighbors in the future. That’s what we’re talking about here.”
Austin “doesn’t want to see a Russia that can invade its neighbors and threaten and coerce other countries on the continent,” Kirby said, adding: “We don’t want a Russia that is capable of exerting that kind of malign influence in Europe. or anywhere in the world.”