Austin: Expected Russian spring offensive is just weeks away

(NewsNation) — There’s a race to arm Ukraine before the next wave of Russian attacks this spring.

Some on Capitol Hill have expressed concerns over how long the U.S. can keep supporting Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia almost a year ago.

President Joe Biden said the U.S. will back Ukraine as long as it takes, while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin drove home Tuesday that this is a crucial moment in the war.

“We will move out at the urgency that the moment demands,” Austin said.

Austin is at NATO headquarters in Belgium this week for a meeting of allied defense leaders, where 54 countries are represented. At Tuesday’s meeting, he warned that allies need to rush more weapons into Ukraine before an expected Russian spring offensive.

“That’s just weeks away, and so we have a lot to get done,” Austin said. While Ukraine is expected to launch a counteroffensive of its own, Austin said, to do it, the country will need more help from the West.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, however, said the reality is “that we have seen the start” of Russia’s offensive already.

“It’s urgent to provide Ukraine with more weapons,” he told reporters in Brussels.

Ukraine is burning through ammunition faster than allies can supply it.

“This has been a tough fight throughout, and Ukraine has been at this for a year,” Austin said. “We’re going to do everything we can working with our international partners to ensure that we get them as much ammunition as quickly as possible.”

The latest U.S. weapons package includes more ammunition for artillery and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS — a U.S.-made rocket system.

Heavy weapons like the Patriot Air Defense System and Abrams tanks aren’t yet in Ukraine.

Valentyna Samoilenko reacts next to the body of her son Dmytro, 34, during his funeral in Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. Dmytro Samoilenko, a civilian who was a volunteer in the armed forces of Ukraine, was killed in the fighting in Bakhmut area. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

This week, Ukrainians are training on the German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

One senior Ukrainian official says the timing of these deliveries is critical to the country’s success.

Oleksandr Merezhko, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Ukraine’s Parliament, said this year will be a decisive one.

“We all hope that this year will be victorious to us, but a lot depends on heavy weaponry — whether we receive on time heavy weapons, like tanks, F-16s,” Merezhko said.

No decision on sending F-16 jets was made at Tuesday’s meeting of defense ministers, despite Ukraine’s pleas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

War in Ukraine

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