U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's next visit to Ukraine on September 6-7 was traditionally unexpected, but also traditionally surprised no one. It was not announced, of course, for security reasons. Although the danger did not escape the American high-ranking official: while he was traveling by train from Poland, Moscow launched a massive missile attack on Kyiv, though unsuccessfully. It also shelled a market in Kostiantynivka, with known tragic consequences. Blinken arrived in Kyiv to "meet again with Ukrainian partners to discuss the counteroffensive, future assistance and recovery efforts, and above all, to reinforce the United States' unwavering support for Ukraine," he said upon arrival in the capital.
Oksana Markarova, Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, summarized the first day of his fourth visit since the full-scale war.
"The first day of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's visit to Kyiv is very full of positive signals and practical agreements," she wrote on Facebook.
Among the key points, she said, were a meeting with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and the Presidential Administration team to discuss the strategy for further strategic political and military support; talks with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal with a focus on protecting energy infrastructure, strengthening economic cooperation and humanitarian support, enhancing cooperation with business, reforming and rebuilding; talks with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, discussing with him key areas of cooperation ahead of important international events; a new defense assistance package from the United States, which, among other things, includes depleted uranium tank shells for Abrams; a powerful speech at the First Ladies and Gentlemen Summit on the power of resilience.
Markarova also emphasized that the visit began with the commemoration of fallen Ukrainian heroes at the Berkovets cemetery.
"And there is much more behind the scenes," she added.
Obviously, the visit of a high-ranking official of the United States, a key partner of Ukraine in countering Russian aggression, is not only an important event from a practical point of view, but also a strong political signal - both for Ukrainian society and for our enemy.
IN THE CONTEXT OF A COUNTEROFFENSIVE
For obvious reasons, defense assistance is the main point for us.
In all analytical reviews, Blinken's visit is linked to the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which has been going on for more than three months.
Contrary to all sorts of voices and complaints in the West, Blinken praised the military actions of the Ukrainian defense forces.
He stated that his primary purpose in being there was to demonstrate long-lasting and resolute support for Ukraine at a time when it is facing this aggression. He mentioned that they observed significant progress in the counteroffensive, acknowledging its complexity. Blinken articulated their desire to ensure that Ukraine possesses everything necessary, not only to conduct a successful counteroffensive but also to have robust defense capabilities in the long term, with the aim of preventing similar aggressions from happening in the future.
He sees military assistance in two ways.
First, it is about meeting the immediate needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the context of counteroffense and air defense.
Blinken, according to the AP, spoke about this with President Zelensky, who recently visited the front line.
The President informed his interlocutor in detail about the situation on the frontline and the urgent defense needs of Ukrainian defenders, particularly in long-range weapons, artillery and armored vehicles.
Given the continuation of Russia's missile terror, they also discussed the need to strengthen Ukraine's air defense.
This topic was also raised during the talks with Kuleba.
"We didn't spend much time discussing air defense needs, because it's obvious that the need is extremely important. I only voiced the number of air defense systems that are needed to protect the grain corridor, our cities, and our people," the minister said at a joint press conference with Blinken, where they almost familiarly called each other Anthony and Dmitry.
Kuleba said that the issue of transferring long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine was also discussed in detail.
"We had a very substantive conversation, and I am glad that this option remains open. We hope that discussions within the US administration will lead to a positive decision. Today, we focused on this separately," he explained, without specifying Blinken's position on the matter, who also did not explain anything on the matter.
On the same day, the Pentagon announced (not coincidentally, of course) that it would provide Ukraine with another $175 million defense aid package.
The package includes additional equipment for air defense, artillery ammunition, missiles for HIMARS, anti-tank weapons, including depleted uranium shells for the previously promised Abrams tanks, and more.
TO DISCOURAGE RUSSIA
Secondly, the United States continues to emphasize its active participation in strengthening the Ukrainian army in the future, so that Russia does not have the desire and ability to repeat its aggression. In this context, they are considering, in particular, providing Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets and training Ukrainian pilots in Western countries.
The assistance announced by Blinken in Kyiv, worth more than $1 billion, is also aimed at strengthening Ukraine in the future.
According to the State Department, it includes, among other things, $100 million for long-term military needs, $90.5 million for demining, and $300 million to support law enforcement efforts to restore and maintain law and order in the liberated territories.
Interestingly, this billion includes $5.4 million for the confiscated assets of oligarchs, which will be used to support and rehabilitate veterans.
Another $203 million is aimed at ensuring transparency and accountability of institutions, strengthening key reforms related to the fight against corruption, the rule of law and justice, and investigating war crimes committed by Russia.
During the visit, it was announced that U.S. arms companies will participate in the first Defense Industries Forum to be held this fall in Kyiv.
"I informed the Secretary of State of our plan to hold the first Defense Industries Forum in Kyiv, where Ukrainian and foreign companies will join forces to jointly produce and maintain weapons. I also emphasized that, in fact, we are talking about the integration of the Ukrainian defense industry into the NATO defense industry. And I thank the Secretary of State for confirming that the United States and American companies will take part in this important event," Kuleba said at the press conference.
GRAIN, ENERGY, MENTAL HEALTH
The second set of issues raised during the visit was economic and humanitarian.
Ukrainian officials apparently discussed with the Secretary of State energy issues related to the expected intensification of Russian shelling of critical infrastructure in the winter.
Experts from both countries will hold consultations on the use of existing or the creation of new international legal instruments to free civilian hostages taken by Russia.
They also discussed the issue of Ukrainian grain exports, which Moscow is blocking in every possible way. Ukraine and the United States consider the Danube corridor to be the most promising in this regard and will work to develop it, Kuleba said.
In addition, the Secretary of State took part in the Third Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen: "Mental Health: Resilience and Vulnerability of the Future"
The United States is committed to helping Ukraine with mental health during and after the war, he said in his speech at the summit.
Blinken stated that he was there on behalf of President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to convey a message to the Ukrainian people. He mentioned that they wanted to emphasize that the mental health consequences of the conflict would persist even after the war ends and assured that the United States would continue to assist in addressing these hidden emotional scars. Blinken reiterated the commitment that when they say "America is with you all the way," it is a genuine pledge of support.
ON THE EVE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The foreign ministers apparently also talked about coordinating efforts in the international arena.
As you know, the next session of the UN General Assembly will soon open, and a high-level week with the participation of heads of state and government from around the world will traditionally take place from September 19 to 25.
The President of Ukraine is also expected to come to New York to talk about the Peace Formula, the creation of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression, and a compensation mechanism for losses. A large number of bilateral meetings are expected, including with leaders of the Global South.
REFORMS, FIGHTING CORRUPTION, AND MORE
At the press conference, Blinken briefly noted that the United States will fully support anti-corruption measures in Ukraine.
We can assume that the parties paid a lot of attention to this topic, given how sensitive it is for the American establishment, especially in the context of the upcoming election campaign. It is being actively promoted by representatives of the conservative wing of the Republicans, criticizing Biden for allegedly over-supporting Ukraine.
"Secretary Blinken... called for further progress on reforms in Ukraine, including fighting corruption and ensuring the independence and integrity of Ukraine's anti-corruption agencies and courts," the State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.
Blinken was probably also interested in the prospects for elections in Ukraine and personnel changes in the government, as new government officials, especially the defense minister, will have to deal with international partners on a regular basis.
Obviously, as Markarova noted, some aspects of the visit remain behind the scenes.
Perhaps they will remain so. Or they will "spill out" after a while, citing informed sources in the American media.
Volodymyr Ilchenko, Kyiv - New York