Russia will achieve victory in Ukraine unless the US continues to send aid to Kyiv, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday, warning that American troops could ultimately end up on the front lines in Europe if President Vladimir Putin succeeds.
“I can guarantee that without our support, Putin will be successful,” Mr Austin said during a Senate budget hearing.
“If we pull the rug out from under them now, Putin will only get stronger and he will be successful in doing what he wants to do.”
President Joe Biden's administration has requested $106 billion to fund plans for Ukraine, Israel and US border security. The White House request also includes money for Taiwan, which is facing threats from China.
Continued funding for Ukraine enjoys bipartisan support in the US Senate, but Republicans in the House of Representatives are increasingly against sending more money to Kyiv.
House Republicans on Monday introduced legislation that would send $14.3 in security aid to Israel, but it provides nothing for Ukraine.
The US has supplied Ukraine with more than $100 billion in military and other funding since Russia invaded in February 2022.
Mr Austin said there was “no doubt” in his mind that Mr Putin would potentially attack a Nato country if he is “allowed to continue to act with impunity”. If that happens, Nato would be obligated under its mutual defence charter to go to war with Russia, with US troops ending up on the front lines.
“If Putin is successful, he will not stop and Ukraine and if you're a Baltic state, you're thinking, 'I'm next',” the Pentagon chief said, warning that Ukrainian troops were in “dire” need of more munitions.
“There's no question in my mind that sooner or later, [Mr Putin] will challenge Nato, and we'll find ourselves in a shooting match.”