Blinken makes surprise visit to Ukraine amid counteroffensive push

Sep 6, 2023, 6:19am EDT
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling by train to Kyiv, Ukraine on September 6, 2023. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Pool via REUTERS
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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kyiv on a surprise visit Wednesday. His trip comes amid mounting Western concerns that Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia has moved slowly and without major gains for Kyiv.

Support for Ukraine in its war with Russia is waning among the American public, and it is expected that Blinken's visit will aim to bolster enthusiasm, an unnamed U.S. official told CNN. "We want to see, hear, how they intend to push forward in the coming weeks," the official told the broadcaster.1 That work to shore up support could unravel if former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to office: Fears are mounting that funding for Ukraine's war effort would be significantly stripped back if the Republicans take the presidency.2

Western criticism of Ukraine's counteroffensive has often come from unnamed U.S. officials, a fact that has frustrated Kyiv.3 But Blinken plans to stay in Kyiv overnight — which would make him the first U.S. official to do so since the war began — as a show of support for Ukraine's continued offensive push. Sources close to the secretary of state said that while the U.S. has been concerned by some setbacks on the battlefield, overall, they are "generally encouraged" by Kyiv's military abilities.4

Western governments have been engaged in "doublethink" in regards to the war, political scientist Borys Kowalsky argued in a recent column in The Kyiv Independent. Western nations simultaneously behave as if they have a crucial stake in the war and that they do not — resulting in sweeping pledges of support for Ukraine, but not enough equipment to help Kyiv succeed. "The result could well be an indefinite prolonging of an increasingly dangerous and devastating war," Kowalsky writes.5