Apr 26, 2022 - World

What Blinken will tell Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Monday. Photo: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his first public appearance since returning from Kyiv, will be questioned by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday morning about the Biden administration's response to the war in Ukraine.

Why it matters: Blinken is expected to shed more light on the administration's plans to send American diplomats back to Ukraine this week, as well as President Biden's decision to nominate Bridget Brink, the current U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, to fill the ambassadorial post in Kyiv that’s been vacant since 2019, a senior State Department official tells Axios.

  • Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were the highest-ranking U.S. officials to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky since the war began on Feb. 24.

What they're saying: Blinken will "share his impressions of his time traveling the countryside and arriving in Kviv. This is territory that Russia thought it could conquer within hours. Instead, it’s free of Russian forces with life returning to normal precisely because the Ukrainians, aided by our security assistance, are winning and pushed the Russians out," the official said.

  • "It’s a testament to the fact that our strategy is working. Ukraine is winning. Ukraine will win."

What to watch: Blinken will also urge members of the panel to pass the State Department's full aid request to Ukraine.

  • He'll argue the significance of the full budget is "to not only to overcome Russia, but to deter future aggression from others seeking to follow their lead," the official said.
  • Austin said Monday that Ukraine can win the war if it gets “the right equipment.”
  • Biden announced last week that the U.S. will send another $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including heavy artillery, bringing the total U.S. military aid since Russian invaded to around $3.4 billion.

Blinken will also discuss "his commitment to critical priorities" such as U.S.-Chinese relations and ending conflicts in Yemen and Ethiopia, two areas where the State Department has made "significant progress" in recent weeks, the official added.

The backdrop: While Blinken is on Capitol the Hill, the U.S. will be hosting a conference of allies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, aimed in part at streamlining the process of getting arms to Ukraine.

  • The conference will also focus on Ukraine’s defense needs after the war — such as transitioning away from Soviet-era weaponry, Axios' David Lawler reports.

What's next: Blinken will also appear publicly on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Thursday to testify before other congressional committees.

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