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US Defense Secretary Austin in Ukraine to promote ties

AFP

3 min read
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Defence Minister Andriy Taran attend a welcoming ceremony before their meeting in Kiev on October 19, 2021.
Gleb Garanich/POOL/AFPUS Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Defence Minister Andriy Taran attend a welcoming ceremony before their meeting in Kiev on October 19, 2021.

A senior defense official said the main point of Austin's visit is to 'emphasize the need for more reforms'

The United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Ukraine Tuesday for talks aimed at underlining Washington's support of Kiev in its conflict with pro-Russia separatists and pressing for more military reforms.

Austin is planning to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky and Defense Minister Andriy Taran, less than two months after both came to Washington to meet President Joe Biden.

Highlighting the US commitment, a fresh allotment of arms and other military equipment was delivered Monday to Ukraine, part of a $60 million package the Biden administration approved.

The delivery is supposed to help Ukraine’s forces maintain their strength against Russia-allied rebels in the country's east.

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But the main point of Austin's visit, a senior US defense official said, is to emphasize the need for more reforms, in regularizing the defense industry, strengthening human resources development in the military, and deepening civilian control of the armed forces.

The human resources reforms are highly important in building the Ukraine military's ability to work closely with NATO.

"The Ukrainian government is committed to advancing these reforms," the official said, adding: "We need to enhance Ukraine's civilian control of the military."

The meetings Tuesday are a "high priority" for the Pentagon, the official said.

"It was important for us to show the Ukrainian people that we are here standing beside them."

Austin's visit is part of a three stop tour of countries on the rim of the Black Sea -- the others are Georgia and Romania -- which feel threats from Russia and whose militaries coordinate with NATO.