U.S. must “sustain” its involvement in Ukraine war, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says

As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States has to “sustain” its involvement in the conflict — and is “determined” to do so.

Blinken said the U.S. and NATO allies remain committed to ensuring that Ukraine remains free from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s control. 

“Putin’s first objective was to erase it from the map, to absorb it into Russia. That has failed and that will fail,” Blinken said Friday on “CBS Mornings.”

“The main reason is: incredible courage of the Ukrainian people, but also the support that dozens of countries around the world have provided and are determined to continue to provide,” he said.

The U.S. has long been the single largest national provider of aid to Ukraine. From Jan. 24 last year through February this year, the U.S. government says it had committed more than $29.8 billion in military aid alone. According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German think tank, the U.S. had also committed some $16 billion in financial aid and $10.5 billion in humanitarian aid. 

Military aid has included rockets, guns and ammunition — and the Pentagon is stepping up production of critically-needed supplies as it continues to help Ukraine.

Ukraine’s use of artillery shells far outstrips the Pentagon’s capacity to make them, retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian, with the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), told CBS News this week. Precision-fired munitions for the long-range HIMARS system are another need, so Lockheed Martin is gearing up to turn out one new rocket every 10 minutes at its plant in Arkansas.

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With the U.S. struggling to keep Ukraine supplied, there is concern about what could happen if the U.S. were to become involved in a conflict with China. CSIS recently conducted a war game that showed that the U.S. would run out of a key weapon — Long Range Anti Ship Missiles (LRASM) — while trying to stop a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. 

Blinken said Friday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley “are extremely vigilant about making sure that whatever happens, we always have what we need to defend ourselves, wherever it’s needed.”

Blinken was in New York on Thursday to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting, where members voted overwhelmingly to call for a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine and for Russia to withdraw its forces immediately.

But there are concerns that Russia could bolster its assault, with help from China. Blinken told CBS News on Saturday that China is actively considering providing lethal support, including weapons and ammunition to aid Moscow in its war against Ukraine.  

“China is trying to have it both ways. They are trying to present themselves as neutral and a party for peace, while at the same time aiding and abetting Russia’s war effort,” Blinken said.      

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During the Munich Security Conference, an annual event attended by top officials worldwide on defense, Blinken said he told China’s top foreign policy official, Wang Yi, that it would be a “serious problem” in the relationship between the U.S. and China if they do provide aid to Russia. He also said it could result in “a multiplicity of possible sanctions.”

“We’ve tried publicly to, as well as privately, to warn them against it. There is no point in adding fuel to the fire,” Blinken said.

Beijing’s top diplomat met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Wednesday. Chinese President Xi Jinping could be next in paying a visit to Putin, as early as March.  

President Biden made a whirlwind visit to Ukraine and neighboring Poland this week to mark one year since the start of the war. During the visit the Pentagon announced an additional $460 million in aid money to support Ukraine. 

The visit and use of funds were criticized by some GOP members who felt he was neglecting issues in the United States. 

David Martin, Haley Ott, Pamela Falk and Sophia Barkoff contributed to this article. 

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