Austin says US wants to see Russia’s military capabilities weakened

By Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler, CNN

Updated 2013 GMT (0413 HKT) April 25, 2022

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, attend their meeting Sunday, April 24, 2022, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
It was “under pretext of an invitation from the Athenians to protect them from the king of Macedon that the ambitious republic secured a foothold in Greece.” 7 To all appearances this was a piece of disinterestedness not common among nations; but it was only “to all appearances.” “The barbarous tribes on the north and west of Macedonia were also led, by the temptation of plunder, to join the confederacy; and their irruptions served to distract the councils and the forces of Philip.” 8 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, attend their meeting Sunday, April 24, 2022, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Further Reading:

Rome became imperial because she was unable or unwilling to extend the privileges of her constitution to the nations which she conquered. This was the cause of her imperialism. The result to the Roman people themselves was that “their own liberties perished.” In refusing the privileges of her constitution to the peoples whom she had conquered, Rome denied a fundamental law of her own governmental being, and nothing else could logically follow but ruin of her government, of her constitution; that is, the ruin of the republic of Rome.

To-day the republic of the United States is coursing over the same track to the same goal. But when the tape at the end of the track is reached, the dead line of republican life will have been passed. The nation is riding for a fall just as certainly as did ancient Rome, that other great republic of the West. The one lesson which history teaches, “that free nations can not govern subject provinces,” is now being ignored and scoffed at, as if it were the veriest fairy-tale, totally unworthy of contemplation by reflective and intelligent minds. It is now being seriously urged that this nation is not “unwilling,” but only “unable,” to extend her privileges to the “conquered races.” This inability is said to be caused, not by any inherent weakness or lack upon the part of the conqueror; but because of the conditions and circumstances of the conquered. Precisely the same thing was argued in the Roman times; but such arguments availed nothing to prevent loss of liberty to the people of Rome themselves, and ruin to her constitution. Rome violated a natural law of her being, and all violations of natural law, governmental as well as physical, bring, by nature, punishment upon the transgressor In the Declaration of Independence this nation declared that she “assumed among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitled her.” The very foundation stones of this nation then are laid in natural law. That natural law is “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The United States is now engaged in a war, the avowed purpose of which is to deprive a poor people of “liberty,” their “unalienable right.” But the natural law by means of which this nation came into existence and being declares that “to secure this right,”—liberty,—“governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But now, the government of the United States is being “instituted among men,”—the Filipinos,—not to “secure” to them, but to “deprive” them of their “rights.” If this is not the violation of a natural law of our own national being, then there never has been such a thing in the history of the world. PRUS 139.1

“Goethe compares life to a game at whist, where the cards are dealt out by destiny, and the rules of the game are fixed; subject to these conditions, the players are left to win or lose, according to their skill or want of skill. The life of a nation, like the life of a man, may be prolonged in honor into the fulness of its time, or it may perish prematurely, for want of guidance, by violence or internal disorders. And thus the history of national revolutions is to statesmanship what the pathology of disease is to the art of medicine. The physician can not arrest the coming on of age. Where disease has laid bold upon the constitution, he can not expel it; but he may check the progress of the evil if he can recognize the symptoms in time. He can save life at the cost of an unsound limb. He can tell us how to preserve our health when we have it; he can warn us of the conditions under which particular disorders will have us at disadvantage. And so with nations: amid the endless variety of circumstances there are constant phenomena which give notice of approaching danger; there are courses of action which have uniformly produced the same results; and the wise politicians are those who have learned from experience the real tendencies of things, unmisled by superficial differences, who can shun the rocks where others have been wrecked, or from foresight of what is coming can be cool when the peril is upon them.” 3 PRUS 140.1

In so many ways the times when Rome fell from her lofty estate as a republic and degenerated into a military empire are akin to our own. No historian has discerned this so clearly as Froude, and his delineation of that drama is powerful beyond description. He says:— PRUS 140.2

“With such vividness, with such transparent clearness, the age stands before us of Cato and Pompey, of Cicero and Julius Cæsar; the more distinctly because it was an age in so many ways the counterpart of our own, the blossoming period of the old civilization, when the intellect was trained to the highest point which it could reach; and on the great subjects of human interest, on morals and politics, on poetry and art, even on religion itself, and the speculative problems of life, men thought as we think, doubted where we doubt, argued as we argue, aspired and struggled after the same objects. It was an age of material progress and material civilization; an age of civil liberty and intellectual culture; an age of pamphlets and epigrams, of salons and dinner parties, of senatorial majorities and electoral corruption. The highest offices of state were open in theory to the meanest citizen; they were confined, in fact, to those who had the longest purses, or the most ready use of the tongue on popular platforms. Distinctions of birth had been exchanged for distinctions of wealth. The struggles between plebeians and patricians for equality of privilege were over, and a new division had been formed between the party of property and the party who desired a change in the structure of society. The free cultivators were disappearing from the soil. Italy was being absorbed into vast estates and held by a few favored families, and cultivated by slaves, while the old agricultural population was driven off the land, and was crowded into towns. The rich were extravagant, for life had ceased to have practical interests except for its material pleasures; the occupation of the higher classes was to obtain money without labor, and to spend it in idle enjoyment. Patriotism survived on the lips, but patriotism meant the ascendency of the party which would maintain the existing order of things, or would overthrow for a more equal distribution of the good things which alone were valued. Religion, once the foundation of the laws and rule of personal conduct, had subsided into opinion. The educated, in their hearts, disbelieved it. Temples were still built with increasing splendor; the established forms were scrupulously observed. Public men spoke conventionally of Providence, that they might throw on their opponents the odium of impiety; but of genuine belief that life had any serious meaning, there was none remaining beyond the

circle of the silent, patient, ignorant multitude. The whole spiritual atmosphere was saturated with cant-cant moral, cant political, cant religious; an affectation of high principle which had ceased to touch the conduct, and flowed on in an increasing volume of insincere and unreal speech. The truest thinkers were those who, like Lucretius, spoke frankly out their real convictions, declared that Providence was a dream, and that man and the world he lived in were material phenomena generated by natural forces out of cosmic atoms, and into atoms to be again dissolved. PRUS 140.3

“Tendencies now in operation may a few generations hence land modern society in similar conclusions, unless other convictions revive meanwhile and get the mastery over them; of which possibility no more need be said than this, that unless there be such a revival, in some shape or other, the forces, whatever they be, which control the forms in which human things adjust themselves, will make an end again, as they made an end before, of what are called free institutions. Popular forms of government are possible only when individual men can govern their own lives on moral principles, and when duty is of more importance than pleasure, and justice than material expediency.” 4 PRUS 142.1

Then it was that there came upon the Romans that extraordinary spirit of expansion, which led them to believe that theirs was a manifest destiny to rule the entire world; and in a few short years, from being a snug little country, locked in the arms of twin seas, Rome was transformed into an imperialism, set for the despoliation of every conquerable nation. On this point Froude has said:— 

“Italy had fallen to them by natural and wholesome expansion; but from being sovereigns of Italy, they became a race of imperial conquerors. Suddenly and in comparatively a few years after the one power was gone which could resist them, they became the actual or virtual rulers of the entire circuit of the Mediterranean. The southeast of Spain, the coast of France from the Pyrenees to Nice, the north of Italy, Illyria and Greece, Sardinia, Sicily, and the Greek islands, the southern and western shores of Asia Minor, were Roman provinces, governed directly by Roman magistrates. On the African side, Mauritania (Morocco) was still free. Numidia (the modern Algeria) retained its native dynasty, but was a Roman dependency. The Carthaginian dominions, Tunis and Tripoli, had been annexed to the empire. The interior of Asia Minor up to the Euphrates, with Syria and Egypt, were under sovereigns, called allies, but like the native princes in India, subject to a Roman protectorate. Over this enormous territory, rich with the accumulated treasures of centuries, and inhabited by thriving, industrious races, the energetic Roman men of business had spread and settled themselves, gathering into their hands the trade, the financial administration, the entire commercial control of the Mediterranean basin. They had been trained in thrift and economy, in abhorrence of debt, in strictest habits of close and careful management. Their frugal education, their early lessons in the value of money, good and excellent as these lessons were, led them, as a matter of course, to turn to account their extraordinary opportunities. Governors with their staffs, permanent officials, contractors for the revenue, negotiators, bill-brokers, bankers, merchants, were scattered everywhere in thousands. Money poured in upon them in rolling streams of gold. The largest share of the spoils fell to the Senate and the senatorial families. The Senate was the permanent council of state, and was the real administrator of the empire. The Senate had the control of the treasury, conducted the public policy, appointed from its own ranks the governors of the provinces. It was patrician in sentiment, but not necessarily patrician in composition. The members of it had virtually been elected for life by the people, and were almost entirely those who had been quæstors, ædiles, prætors, or consuls; and these offices had been long open to the plebeians. It was an aristocracy, in theory a real one, but tending to become, as civilization went forward, an aristocracy of the rich. How the senatorial privileges affected the management of the provinces will be seen more and more particularly as we go on. It is enough at present to say that the nobles and great commoners of Rome rapidly found themselves in possession of revenues which their fathers could not have imagined in their dreams; and money, in the stage of progress at which Rome had arrived, was convertible into power.” 5 PRUS 142.3

This is a good description of the territory of Rome’s expansion, and what she did with it, when once it fell into her possession. The next question that calls for solution is, How did Rome get started in her “expansion policy”? The answer is short, simple, and, with the sound of recently uttered phrases still ringing in our ears, perhaps familiar: the expansion of Rome, which also means the imperialism of Rome, began in a “war for humanity, in the cause of humanity, solely for humanity.” This is the story. PRUS 143.1

When the second Punic war came to an end, with such a disastrous issue for the Carthaginians, and such a favorable outcome for the Romans, the latter determined immediately to crush the power of Philip, king of Macedon. True, peace had been concluded with him two or three years before, “yet the grounds of a new quarrel were soon discovered.” He was accused of having attacked the Athenians and some of the other friends of Rome. At this time the southern part of Greece was divided into a number of small republics, all of which paid more or less tribute to Philip of Macedon. Rome was a republic, a great and a strong republic, and she considered it her duty to assist these poor, little, weak, struggling republics against the tyranny of the king of Macedonia. “The war was undertaken by the Romans chiefly, as was pretended, on their [the small republics of Greece] account.” 6 It was “under pretext of an invitation from the Athenians to protect them from the king of Macedon that the ambitious republic secured a foothold in Greece.” 7 To all appearances this was a piece of disinterestedness not common among nations; but it was only “to all appearances.” “The barbarous tribes on the north and west of Macedonia were also led, by the temptation of plunder, to join the confederacy; and their irruptions served to distract the councils and the forces of Philip.” 8 

(CNN)Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin insisted Monday that Russia was failing in its Ukraine incursion, with Austin explicitly saying that the US wants to see Russia’s military capabilities weakened.

The two top US officials, speaking at a news conference at an undisclosed location in Poland near the Ukrainian border, made the comments following a trip to Kyiv, where they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pledge US support in the war and announce that US diplomats would be returning to Ukraine.

“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said at the news conference. “So it has already lost a lot of military capability. And a lot of its troops, quite frankly. And we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”

Blinken told reporters that Russian attempts to “subjugate Ukraine and take its independence” has “failed.”

“Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence — that has failed. It has sought to assert the power of its military and its economy. We, of course, are seeing just the opposite, a military that is dramatically underperforming and an economy … as a result of sanctions that is in shambles,” Blinken said.

“We don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene,” he said.

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The remarks are the latest in a series of public comments by US leaders challenging Putin’s longevity as Russia’s President and as the war in Ukraine has shifted to a new phrase in the east. US President Joe Biden and the White House have said the US is not officially calling for regime change and officials have also predicted a potentially drawn-out conflict.

Austin’s comments also seem to represent a further extension of US goals, building on past comments from Blinken and other officials about Moscow’s status at the end of the war.

Blinken last week said in a statement that the US’ “continued efforts to ratchet up pressure on Putin’s crumbling economy together will help weaken the Russian Government’s position and further isolate them from the world until Russia ends its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine.”

The White House said Monday that Austin was talking about the US “objective to prevent” the Russian military from taking over Ukraine, and described it as consistent with the administration’s long-held goal.

Asked about the defense secretary’s comments, a National Security Council spokesperson said the US wants Ukraine to win and “that’s why we’re doing everything we can to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to strengthen the Ukrainians’ hands on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”

A senior State Department official told the traveling press Monday that such negotiations are “evolving,” noting that “Russia’s hand has been weakened as a result of these first two months, Ukraine’s hand has been strengthened, that effects the positions that there would be in any negotiation,” but “part of the problem is as best we can tell there is no effective negotiation going on right now.”

US diplomats to return to Ukraine

The visit to Kyiv by Blinken and Austin makes them the highest-level US officials to have traveled to the country since the Russian invasion began in late February.

While in Kyiv, Blinken and Austin met with Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and Interior Minister Denys Monastrysky for an extended, roughly 90-minute bilateral meeting, the senior State Department official said.

RELATED: Live Updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

As part of the resumed US diplomatic presence in Ukraine, diplomats will “start with day trips into the Lviv” and “will graduate to potentially other parts of the country and ultimately, to resume presence in Kyiv,” according to a senior State Department official.

Blinken and Austin discussed the Biden administration’s intention to provide $713 million in additional foreign military financing to Ukraine and allied European and Balkan partners, according to the senior State Department official and a senior Defense Department official. Part of that new military assistance funding will help Ukraine transition to NATO-capable systems, the State Department official said. The two secretaries also discussed deliveries of recent US military assistance to Ukraine and the ongoing training for Ukrainian soldiers, the officials said.

Biden on Monday announced that he will nominate Bridget Brink as US ambassador to Ukraine. The post that has been without a confirmed ambassador since Marie Yovanovitch was recalled in May 2019. Brink is the current US ambassador to Slovakia.

Zelensky’s office issued a readout of the meeting on Monday, stressing the importance of the visit and saying the country “counts on the support of our partners.”

“We appreciate the unprecedented assistance of the United States to Ukraine,” Zelensky said, according to the readout. “I would like to thank President Biden personally and on behalf of the entire Ukrainian people for his leadership in supporting Ukraine, for his personal clear position. To thank all the American people, as well as the Congress for their bicameral and bipartisan support. We see it. We feel it.”

Officials reiterate no involvement by US forces

The traveling US press corps did not travel with the secretaries to the Ukrainian capital. In a background briefing, the State and Defense officials made clear that the US military would still not be involved directly in the war.

“The President has been very clear there will be no US troops fighting in Ukraine and that includes the skies over Ukraine,” the defense official said, adding, “This visit does not portend actual involvement by US forces.”

In the Monday press briefing, Austin said the US believes Ukraine can win the war against Russia with “the right equipment and the right support.”

Exclusive: Zelensky rejects 'tall tales' his forces need months of training to operate advanced weapons

Exclusive: Zelensky rejects ‘tall tales’ his forces need months of training to operate advanced weapons

“In terms of their ability to win — the first step in winning is believing that you can win. And so, they believe that we can win. We believe that we — they — can win, if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we’re going to do everything we can and continue to do everything we can,” Austin told reporters.

He said, “we’re going to push as hard as we can as quickly as we can to get them what they need”, adding that the nature of the fight between Ukraine and Russia has evolved. He said “they’re now focused on is a different type of terrain. So they need long-range fire.”

While officials hailed the trip as a testament to the US commitment to Ukraine, they have also faced questions about why Biden did not make the trip himself.

“The President of the United States is somewhat singular, in terms of what travel would require. So it goes well beyond what a Cabinet secretary would or what virtually any other world leader would require,” the State Department official noted.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the country earlier this month. Top officials from the EU and the Baltics have also visited Zelensky in Kyiv.

Fresh training for Ukrainians

What happens to weapons sent to Ukraine? The US doesn't really know

What happens to weapons sent to Ukraine? The US doesn’t really know

Blinken and Austin’s visit came as the first tranche of about 50 Ukrainians will complete artillery training in a country outside Ukraine, the defense official said. Another tranche of about 50 Ukrainians will also begin training soon, the defense official said.

“The first tranche of artillery training is complete,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Sunday who traveled to the region with the secretaries in a briefing in Poland. “We train soldiers that will go back, and their colleagues will be able to follow and be all in on systems.”

Some of the howitzers included in the most recent military assistance package for Ukraine are already in the country, the defense official said. The howitzers are expected to be effective at this stage of the war as it’s shifted to the Donbas, where the terrain is suited to “long range” weaponry, Kirby said.

Kirby noted the speed with which the military assistance shipments has arrived in Ukraine and said that the decision for how to deploy the assistance is up to the Ukrainians.

“It’s not taking more than 24 to 48 hours depending on what’s being shipped and the availability of ground transportation to get it into Ukraine,” Kirby said. “As we’ve said before, when (the assistance is) transferred to Ukrainian hands, it’s Ukrainian property, and we are not dictating to them how fast they get it to the front line or what units get them.”

Military officials described to reporters the ongoing concern among NATO countries about the threat that Russia poses to them.

“Not just here in Poland, I think many of the countries are concerned about Russia’s next steps,” said Lt. Gen. John Stephen Kolasheski, the commanding general of V Corps in Poland. “And are very pleased to have the US military here working side by side — helping them develop their capabilities and capacity. … I think they are recognizing that Russia is currently and will be a threat in the future.”


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