U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin criticized those endorsing "an American retreat from responsibility" at the Reagan National Defense Forum, emphasizing the necessity for consistent U.S. leadership to contribute to a world that remains as safe, free, and prosperous as possible.
Austin delivered a lengthy defense of U.S. support to Ukraine in its war against Russia and Israel in its war against Hamas on Dec. 2.
"In both Israel and Ukraine, democracies are fighting ruthless foes who are out to annihilate them," Austin said. "And we will not let Hamas or Putin win. And we will not let our enemies divide or weaken us. So as we surge support into Israel, we remain focused on Ukraine. And we remain fully able to project power, to uphold our commitments, and to direct resources to multiple theaters."
Austin said that in the 21 months "into Putin's unsuccessful conquest, the Russian military has significantly weakened, thanks in large part to Ukraine's courageous troops." The achievements, he said, are also result from bipartisan U.S. leadership and the coalition of approximately 50 countries formed.
Since the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022 the U.S. has delivered about $44 billion worth of security aid to Ukraine. As the U.S. Congress has recently failed to approve any new financial support for the wars in Ukraine and Israel and has managed to pass only a short-term budget bill, Austin emphasized that "we still urgently need bipartisan support in Congress to pass the supplemental to rush security assistance to our partners in Ukraine, Israel, and elsewhere."
Defense secretary said that "Putin also thinks that he can outlast us" as the Russian president believes Ukraine's western coalition will splinter. "But once again, Putin is wrong. And we must continue to be clear to the American people about the stakes in Ukraine. Ukraine matters profoundly to America and to the entire world," Austin said.
"If we do not stand up to the Kremlin’s naked aggression today, if we do not deter other would-be aggressors, we will only embolden them—and we will invite even more bloodshed and chaos. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine offers a grim preview of a world of tyranny and turmoil that should make us all shudder."