Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the United States will work with allies and partners to ensure Ukraine has the capabilities it needs to defeat Russian aggression, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a news conference today.
Austin and Zelenskyy met at the Pentagon earlier in the day.
Austin updated the Ukrainian leader on the security assistance the United States is providing. Austin highlighted "his personal commitment and involvement and working with international leaders on that front," Ryder said. "There was also an opportunity to discuss Ukraine's longer term capability requirements and how to support them in the future in terms of deterring Russia."
Ryder was asked about the Polish decision to suspend arms shipments to Ukraine. "It's a sovereign decision for any country to decide what level of support that they're going to provide," the general said. "I will highlight, however, that Poland has been one of the leading countries when it comes to providing security assistance to Ukraine, and not only security assistance but also in terms of providing significant humanitarian aid and support for more than a million displaced Ukrainians who have gone to Poland as a result of Russia's unprovoked invasion."
Support for Ukraine is still strong, Ryder said, pointing to the recent Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. More than 50 countries participated in that meeting and "unity and resolve is still very strong within the international community," he said. "We still see very strong international support across the board."
In the U.S. Congress, Ryder said, bipartisan support for Ukraine is still strong. He noted that Austin and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went to Congress yesterday to brief the elected representatives on the situation in Ukraine and efforts to help the nations.
"We will continue to work very closely with Congress to ensure they have the information they need to make informed decisions," Ryder said.
Some surveys show a softening of support for arming Ukraine in the general American public. "I think it's important again, to re-emphasize why Ukraine matters," he said. "In addition to helping our Ukrainian partners to defend themselves from unprovoked aggression, the implications not only on European security but also on U.S. and international security are very stark."
If Russia succeeds in conquering Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin won't stop there, Ryder said. "You only have to look at other gray zone efforts in places like Moldova, Belarus, Georgia and other places to see that if they can get away with subsuming or invading other nations — to include threatening NATO nations — they will."
He has no doubt that Chinese leaders are watching and seeing how the United States and the international community have rallied and responded in support of Ukraine. "So, there's definitely a deterrent effect there as well," Ryder said.