Austin: US believes Ukraine ‘can win’ war with Russia

Austin’s remarks come after he and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday and announced several new US moves, including expanding the country’s diplomatic presence and increasing military funding.

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, speaking from Germany, elaborated on Austin’s latest assessment of the conflict, telling CNN that Ukraine’s victory was “certainly assured.”

“I think victory is very clearly defined by Ukraine, whose sovereignty is fully respected, whose territorial integrity is not violated by Russia or any other country for that matter,” Kirby said. “And they can win, as the secretary said. And they certainly believe they can do it.”

Kirby said that the 40 countries that participated in the Austin advisory group on Tuesday “also believe” that Ukraine can defeat Russia.

“It’s not just the West. … It’s not just NATO,” Kirby continued. “There are countries from all over the world, including from the Indo-Pacific region, who are committed to helping Ukraine win this war.”

Ultimately, that victory “will be determined” by the Zelensky and Ukrainian people, Kirby said.

Zelenskiy has previously expressed confidence that Ukraine will win and repel a Russian invasion that has dragged on for 62 days. “Yes, of course, and [we] will,” he told CNN this month.

But Zelenskiy also insisted that Ukraine was unwilling to cede territory in the eastern part of the country to end the conflict.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reaffirmed Zelenskiy’s position on Tuesday, telling MSNBC that US aid 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 they could, and everything was enough to achieve this victory,” Kuleba said.

Kuleba made a stronger prediction, saying: “Ukraine will win.”

“It will be a European, democratic country,” Kuleba continued. “And Russia will be restrained. He 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 ready to do it, because this is also the price for our independence.”

After retreating from Kyiv in northern Ukraine this month, Russian forces last week launched their anticipated offensive in the southeastern region of Donbass.

There are two breakaway territories in the Donbas that are largely held by Moscow-backed separatists: the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. The 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 “definitely defeated” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “strategic goals” so far.

“It’s hard to watch this fight and [conclude] that Russia won, that Mr. Putin achieved his goals,” Kirby said. “He’s not. The Ukrainians fought him off at almost every turn.”

The statements by Pentagon officials in Germany are the latest escalation of Washington’s military rhetoric against Moscow.

On Monday, after his and Blinken’s meeting with Zelensky, Austin said the United States wants “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do what it did in the invasion of Ukraine.”

To put it bluntly, Russia “has already lost a significant military capability and most of its troops,” Austin told reporters in Poland. “And we want to make sure they don’t have the ability to replicate that opportunity very quickly.”

Kirby echoed Austin’s claims about a “weakened” Russia on Tuesday, saying: “We want Russia to no longer be able 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 can have such a detrimental influence in Europe. or anywhere in the world.