Defense Secretary Austin Visits Ukraine as Pentagon Urges Congress to Pass Additional Aid to Fight Russia U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Ukraine over the weekend as the Pentagon urged Congress to pass additional weapons and support programs to deter Russian aggression. In a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, General Andriy Taran, Secretary Austin reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s defense and security. He urged not only Congress but also other countries to provide military and economic support to the nation as it continues to face hostility and aggression from its neighbor. Ukraine has been in an ongoing war with Russian-backed separatist forces in the east for over seven years. It has been an extremely bloody and costly conflict with more than 13,000 lives lost. The Pentagon is requesting Congress to pass a $250 million package of support for Ukraine to bolster its defenses against Russia. This includes funding for additional weapons and military equipment, such as Javelin missiles, as well as training and security cooperation. This package of assistance is intended to help Ukraine modernize its forces and increase its combat readiness. This, in turn, would strengthen Ukraine’s deterring capabilities against Russia and, ultimately, allow its forces to more effectively defend their country. The Pentagon is also asking Congress to approve $125 million in non-military aid for the country. This would include support for political and economic reform in Ukraine, as well as assistance with day-to-day activities such as health care and transportation. In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine naval standoff in November 2018, the U.S. government has been working to strengthen Ukraine’s defense and security capabilities. Secretary Austin’s visit to the nation is just another indication of this increased engagement from the U.S. government. The Pentagon’s call for additional aid for Ukraine has been met with a mixed response from Congress. While some have shown full support for the idea, others have expressed doubts and concerns over the proposal. Nevertheless, Secretary Austin believes that an increased commitment of support from the United States and other countries is necessary in order to protect Ukraine from Russia’s aggression. Only then can Ukraine stand on its own feet and find a lasting solution to the conflict.