US considers boost to security aid for Ukraine, says Blinken

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WASHINGTON ― U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration will consider Ukraine’s expected request to buy American missile defense systems and other weaponry in the wake of a Russian military buildup on its border.

In an interview with Radio Free Europe on Thursday, amid his one-day visit to Ukraine, Blinken said the Pentagon is in the midst of “a very active consideration” of how to boost security assistance to Ukraine.

The comments from America’s top diplomat came after Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN he planned to discuss a “list” of U.S. military support with Blinken, including a request for air defense systems and anti-sniper technology.

“I want to make it clear that it’s not only about receiving it from the United States, but also about buying it from the United States,” Kuleba said. “We want this partnership to work both ways. It should be mutually beneficial.”

The Pentagon last month announced a $125 million military aid package to Ukraine, including two Mark VI patrol boats as well as “counter-artillery radars and tactical equipment.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for bolstered support toward its membership with NATO. “The path to NATO membership is absolutely on the table already. ... NATO membership does not come in a day. We have plenty of time to settle the conflict,” Kuleba said. “But we have to have a clear step-by-step road map of our accession to NATO. And this is where the United States can help us.”

$250 million aid package to Ukraine will support US security too, defense experts say

Ukraine has seen an increase in hostilities in its eastern region in recent months. Ukraine’s military says 35 of its soldiers were killed by rebel attacks this year, a significant rise from the latter part of 2020. Russia, which claims it has no soldiers in eastern Ukraine, fueled the tensions this year by massing troops and conducting large-scale military exercises near the border.

Blinken reaffirmed Washington’s support for Ukraine at a meeting Thursday with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Blinken said at a news conference that Ukraine’s “Euro-Atlantic aspirations” were discussed with Zelenskyy and that the U.S. is “actively looking” at strengthening its security assistance to Ukraine, but he didn’t give details.

Zelenskyy also said the military support and the financial support from the U.S. “is increasing,” but he didn’t elaborate.

Both noted that while Russia has pulled back some of its forces from the border, a significant number of troops and equipment is still there. Blinken said Washington is watching the situation “very, very closely,” as “Russia has the capacity, on fairly short notice, to take aggressive action if it so chooses.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.