US, Ukraine 'largely aligned' on Ukraine defense needs, Blinken says
WASHINGTON : The United States and Ukraine are "largely aligned" on what military equipment Ukraine believes it needs to fight the Russian invasion and what Washington can provide, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.
Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he discussed those needs with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy when the two met on his trip to Ukraine on Sunday with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the first official U.S. visit since the Russian assault began on Feb. 24.
"I think we're largely aligned in what they say they need and what we think we're able to provide," Blinken told the annual hearing on the State Department budget and diplomatic priorities.
Members of the committee, both Republicans and President Joe Biden's fellow Democrats, said they were amenable to providing additional aid to Ukraine.
Blinken said weapons were getting to Ukraine with greater speed. In the past, Blinken said it could take weeks. Now he said it can take 72 hours between Biden's decision to send materiel and its arrival in Ukrainian fighters' hands.
"The nature of the battle has changed from what was necessary for Western Ukraine and in Kyiv, to where things are now," Blinken told the hearing.
Washington has ruled out sending its own or NATO forces to Ukraine but Washington and European allies have supplied such weapons to Kyiv as drones, Howitzer heavy artillery, and anti-aircraft Stinger and anti-tank Javelin missiles.
Zelenskiy has asked repeatedly for heavy weapons to ward off what Russia calls its "special operation."
Blinken said there is "increasingly deep skepticism" in Europe over China's response to Russia's invasion.
"This is something we're looking at very, very carefully. I think you're seeing that China is having to deal with the significant reputational risks that it is already incurring by being seen as - in the most charitable interpretation - on the fence, and more practically, supportive of Russia," he said.
He declined to provide more details in public.
"But for now, we're not seeing significant support by China for Russia's military actions," Blinken said.
China and Russia have grown increasingly close. Beijing has blamed the Ukraine crisis on NATO's eastward expansion.
Blinken said U.S. diplomats were going back to the Ukrainian city of Lviv this week and the State Department would begin to assess how they can most securely reopen the embassy in Kyiv.
Russia told the United States on Monday to stop sending more arms to Ukraine, warning that large Western deliveries of weapons were inflaming the conflict and would lead to more losses.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Humeyra Pamuk, Doina Chiacu; Editng by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller)