Kommersant: Pentagon chief gets Kiev’s hopes up

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who is currently on a tour of post-Soviet countries and Eastern Europe, has made a stop in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. His talks with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and Defense Minister Andrei Taran gave a new impetus to bilateral defense cooperation….

The Pentagon chief’s visit to Kiev came shortly after a series of large-scale Ukraine-NATO drills, which took place in the former Soviet nation in the past 12 months and reached their peak this fall. The Ukrainian port city of Odessa hosted the Unbreakable Stability exercise on September 13-20, which, according to Kiev, was aimed “at ensuring the safety of critical infrastructure on the Black Sea.”

Ukraine’s defense cooperation with the US and NATO was stepped up following the ascent of Joe Biden and his administration to the White House in January and the Verkhovna Rada’s passing of a bill that made it possible for foreign troops to enter Ukraine to participate in drills. The bill was later signed by President Zelensky.

“Lloyd Austin’s mission in Kiev and Tbilisi was to assure Ukraine and Georgia of the United States’ unconditional support for them and to boost their confidence in Washington as a reliable ally, which was shattered by the Afghan fiasco,” Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies Vladimir Vasilyev pointed out.

According to the expert, the United States seeks to increase its military presence in the Black Sea region. “Constant statements about NATO’s doors being open to both Ukraine and Georgia, and at the same time, unwillingness to provide membership to them, create a one-way street situation where these countries have obligations to NATO but don’t have any rights…,” the expert emphasized.